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Darlington’s Final Labor Day Race
Not Selling As Well As Expected
NASCAR: In NC, Mike Mulhern reports that SMI Chair Bruton Smith has "put his New York projects on the back burner, in part because until the Texas [Motor Speedway] case [against ISC and NASCAR over a second Winston Cup date] is resolved, there's little point in cranking up to build a track anywhere." Smith: "I'm not involved anywhere in New York at this time. That doesn't mean we might not revive something" (WINSTON SALEM-JOURNAL, 8/26)....Darlington Raceway President Andrew Gurtis said that ticket sales for Sunday's Southern 500 — the final Labor Day weekend race at the track — "have been slower than expected." A few thousand seats remain, but media requests are triple the number from Darlington's Spring race this year (AP, 8/24).
LAMBEAU: The Packers hosted the Panthers last Saturday, the first game after the completion of the $295M renovation of Lambeau Field. Packers COO John Jones said, "We heard very, very positive comments. For the first game out of the box, the comments were overwhelmingly positive" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/26). Packers QB Brett Favre: "I know a lot of teams have upgraded and built new stadiums, but I'm willing to bet there's none better than this" (AP, 8/26). In Milwaukee, architecture critic Whitney Gould noted that the new Lambeau, designed by Ellerbe Becket, is "not the design disaster you might expect," but is "not exactly a breakthrough building. ... Like any work of architecture that can't quite decide what it wants to be, this one makes you wish for more coherence." Gould added that Miller Brewing "gave itself a black eye by slapping enormous red-and-white logos on the upper part of the atrium's glass wall. ... These garish emblems look like cardboard coasters on steroids. They mar the most striking feature of the stadium" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/25).
NOT SO GREAT: White Sox P Scott Sullivan, who was traded to the team from the Reds late last week, said of his former team, "With the new stadium opening [Great American Ball Park], we thought the economic situation would be a little different, and it hasn't been that way." The Reds have also traded 3B Aaron Boone to the Yankees, OF Jose Guillen to the A's and P Kent Mercker to the Braves (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/23).
OR House Approves Ballpark
Bill; Inching Closer To Expos
A 31-24 vote by the Oregon House yesterday moved the state's ballpark financing legislation — Senate Bill 5 — to OR Gov. Ted Kulongoski's desk, where he is expected to sign it this week. In DC, Eric Fisher notes that while the measure "includes less than half of the $350[M] needed for a ballpark in downtown Portland," the ratification of the bill "puts Oregon squarely ahead" in the race for the Expos. But MLB Senior VP/PR Rich Levin said that it was "still too soon to say definitively how this affects the race" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/26). In Portland, John Hunt reports that the bill "uses income taxes on players and owners to generate a projected" $150M for construction. OR Stadium Campaign head David Kahn said, "I think we're much closer today to $250[M] than $150[M]," and added that the projected $60M in revenue from a ticket tax and $25M from a charter seat program is "very gettable." The overall cost of the ballpark is estimated at $300-350M. A funding gap of $65-115M "would be filled, proponents say, by the hospitality industry (hotel/motel, vehicle and restaurant taxes), tax increment financing and contributions from a yet-unnamed owner." Kahn and Portland Mayor Vera Katz "said they will talk later in the week with [MLB] about next season and beyond." Katz said, "We're exploring the possibility with [MLB] to look at playing all or part of their games at PGE Park in 2004" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/26).
COMMUNITY SUPPORT? Trail Blazers President Steve Patterson said that he and the Blazers "officially remain neutral" on the city's MLB bid. Patterson "thinks the state should consider holding a referendum." Patterson: "I think it would be interesting to see some polling about the level of interest statewide toward committing public dollars to building a baseball park" (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 8/22). An OREGONIAN editorial today states, "Portland needs [MLB] to take the community seriously and commit to bringing a team here, preferably next season. Portland needs an owner or owners to step up and become part of the financing, planning and promotion process. The city also needs to firm up its financial plans and present them publicly, and, of course, it needs to settle on a stadium site. All of that's a tall order, and failure on any single item could halt the effort. But legislators planted the seeds on Saturday and Monday. Good for them" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/26).
STATUS QUO FROM COMPETITION: DC Finance Committee Chair Jack Evans said yesterday that "no action will be taken on the city's baseball funding in response to Portland," a sentiment "echoed" by DC Mayor Anthony Williams' spokesperson Tony Bullock. Evans said, "If baseball chooses to go to Portland, it's because they don't want to come to Washington. I and (Williams) stand ready to make this happen." VA Baseball Stadium Authority Chair Michael Frey said that VA "similarly plans no changes in its baseball efforts" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/26).