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In Phoenix, D'Backs officials say that Bank One Ballpark "is on schedule," and they "are confident" that the retractable roof and "grow-in-the-dark grass" will be ready for the first exhibition game on March 29, according to Bill Muller of the AZ REPUBLIC. The $354M stadium "is scheduled to be finished with at least three weeks to spare." The roof and grass "present significant hurdles," as both are the "first of their kind." D'Backs officials "are being closemouthed" about when the roof will be tested, as they "want to avoid" a "media circus" (AZ REPUBLIC, 11/23). TAXING THOUGHTS: D'Backs CEO Jerry Colangelo "has decided to install bulletproof glass" in the windows of his Bank One Ballpark office, according to Eric Miller of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Miller called this, and other security measures, "grim echoes of a 3-year old political decision" to approve a quarter-cent sales tax to build the ballpark. The tax will sunset November 30, six months to a year ahead of schedule, and "will end up harvesting more than its allotted" $238M, with extra revenue being used for stadium repairs or renovations. The 2 1/2-year tax, which cost the average taxpayer "an estimated $25 a year," helped "cause the defeat of two politicians and propel another into a race for governor, and it has been blamed for the shooting" of a county supervisor. AZ State Univ. Professor Dorothy Evans said that at "the heart is anger" over the decision to enact the tax without a public vote. Colangelo, on installing bulletproof glass: "We live in a day and age where you have to take a lot of precautions" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/23).
A Miami official confirmed that the city "is trying to sell corporate naming rights to the Orange Bowl," hoping to net more than $600,000 annually. Meanwhile, MLS is seeking a corporate name for Lockhart Stadium, home of the expansion Fusion (Barry Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 11/23).....On Saturday, a MI Stadium record crowd of 106,982 attended the Ohio State-MI football game (DETROIT NEWS, 11/23)....With the Patriots stadium bill "canned" until the next session of the MA State Senate, Will McDonough wrote to "look for Rhode Island to heat up again as the next home for the team" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23)....In San Diego, Don Bauder reported that a county grand jury is "probing" the city's stadium deal with the Chargers (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/22).
The MCI Center, which opens next Tuesday, was reviewed by architectural writer Benjamin Forgey of the WASHINGTON POST, who called it "an unusually attractive, welcoming sports arena. ... This is one of the most inviting athletic buildings anywhere because it is not just an arena. Impressive stores, restaurants and even a sports museum -- all saturated with video images and interactive displays -- surround" its entrance. Forgey added that the "seating bowl is a handsome, commodious affair. Arranged in three tiers, it provides excellent sight lines to the playing floor even from the highest seat in the third tier." More Forgey: "[T]here are negatives. Foremost, to my mind, is the rigid stratification of the seating arrangements." Also, parking "is certain to be a temporary problem. ... And it could become a long-term headache." Forgey's conclusion: "All parties involved ... deserve sizable credit for the jobs they did on the MCI Center. The efforts to make it a welcoming urban neighbor are significant and largely successful" (Benjamin Forgey, WASHINGTON POST, 11/22).
Maple Leafs President Ken Dryden "is leaving the door open to a joint-arena deal" with the Raptors, but said that the team "is committed to a full investigation of a new, proposed arena at Exhibition Place," according to Jim Byers of the TORONTO STAR. Dryden's comment comes "amid reports of what one source called a battle royal amongst Maple Leaf Gardens shareholders." A source said Minority Owners, including Larry Tanenbaum, are "engaged in a battle" with Majority Owner Steve Stavro "to try to convince him to join the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre" (TORONTO STAR, 11/24). Leafs VP/Project Dir Tom Anselmi said that the team "will go to the Canadian National Exhibition board" today with plans for a sports, retail and entertainment complex that would include the new Maple Leaf Gardens" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/22).