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SBD/Issue 175/Facilities & VenuesPrint All
FFT Wants To Expand, Modernize Roland
Garros Facilities Or Move Out Of Paris
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) Saturday announced a "major planning effort to expand and modernize" its Roland Garros complex or to "move all operations -- and the French Open -- out of the city" of Paris, according to John Martin of the N.Y. TIMES. French Open Dir General Gilbert Ysern and other federation officials said that they want a "chance to stay within" the Bois de Boulogne area and to "build two stadiums with retractable roofs as part of a modernization effort that would cost an estimated" US$255M. Ysern said that relocation would cost an estimated US$755M, which would be "borrowed from commercial banks." FFT officials argued that the 19.8 acres at Roland Garros, the current home of the French Open, the "smallest of the four major international championship sites, must be expanded to avoid potential loss of fan and player interest caused by cramped facilities." If the FFT and French Open were to move, one "potential destination under study is Marne-le-Vallee, the site of Disneyland Paris." A second potential site "covers 148 acres in Versailles," while Ysern said that a third possible destination being studied is "smaller, 74 acres, in an area northwest of Paris called Gonesse." FFT officials said that they plan to build a "vast headquarters and French Open facility composed of 55 clay courts, including two large outdoor courts with retractable roofs holding 18,000 and 12,000 spectators." FFT officials said that they "plan to narrow their three relocation choices to a single 'challenge' site that would compete for acceptance with a modernization of the existing Roland Garros facility." They said that they "hope to make a decision by early next year." Ysern: "We want to be the most beautiful tournament in the world. We want Roland Garros to be the strongest tournament in the world" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23).
LEGITIMATE THREAT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Tom Tebbutt writes while the news is partly the FFT "posturing to win more land and construction concessions from the city, the hard truth remains that the current grounds do not stack up well in terms of space against the three other Grand Slams on the tennis calendar." The FFT "wants more space, as well as a stadium with a retractable roof." While the FFT has proposed "several sites for relocation," a "final-hour counterproposal by the city [of Paris] appears to have increased the chances that the Open will remain" at Roland Garros. Any expansion at the current site is "unlikely before 2013, at the earliest" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/24). The AP's Samuel Petrequin noted the French Open "has been at Roland Garros since 1928 and the federation has a contract there till 2015." The FFT is "expected to make its decision in February." Among the Grand Slam tournaments, "only the French Open and Wimbledon have never been moved" (AP, 5/22).
BankAtlantic Center's Operator Seeking To
Cut Its Annual Payments By $2.5M Through '16
Sunrise Sports & Entertainment “wants Broward County to restructure its loan for building BankAtlantic Center" in order to free up cash for the owners of the NHL Panthers, according to Sarah Talalay of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Sunrise Sports’ Arena Operating Co., which operates BankAtlantic Center, is “seeking to cut its annual payments" by $2.5M through '16 and then raise them by about $1M a year starting in '17. The restructuring is expected to cost $23M “more over the life of the loan, which would also be extended a year, and be paid by Sunrise Sports, not the county.” Panthers President & COO Michael Yormark said, “We’re not asking the county for a handout, we’re not asking the taxpayers for any money. We’re asking so we can get some kind of relief for the next five years. It’s no different from a company asking for relief from their landlord in challenging economic times.” However, a county financial report said that the new plan “could transfer more financial risk to Broward, which owns the arena.” The plan also “does not include a cash-funded debt service reserve.” Meanwhile, County Auditor Evan Lukic “examined the arena’s finances and determined Arena Operating Co. had distributed $8.4 million more to the Panthers than allowed under its agreement with the county -- potentially risking the company’s ability to meet its debt obligations to the county” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/24).
Packers Will Hold Focus Groups To Discuss
New Seating Ideas, Expanding Lambeau Field
The Packers "will hold focus groups of a selected cross section of ticket holders in Milwaukee and Green Bay in the next two weeks to discuss new seating ideas that could lead to expanding Lambeau Field," according to Jagannathan & Walter of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. The invitation asks those invited to share "thoughts and opinions on possible new seating opportunities at an expanded Lambeau Field." The Packers in previous years "have asked fans to sound off on everything from customer service to capital improvements, but expansion is a topic that hasn't come up" since the stadium's $295M expansion project was completed in '03. Packers Manager of Corporate Communications Aaron Popkey: "This year there are some possible new seating ideas we're kicking around. ... It may or may not develop into a possible expansion." Popkey added that the new seating ideas are "not ready to be shared publicly." Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District Exec Dir Pat Webb Friday noted that the south end zone of Lambeau Field is the "only area where seating could be added," but he said that the Packers "have not talked to district members about expanding there." Any effort to expand Lambeau Field seating "would have to be approved" by the stadium district (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 5/22). Popkey said that there is "no imminent plan on the table to expand" Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Don Walker noted the team "continues to talk with community leaders in Green Bay and Ashwaubenon about expansion to the west of the stadium." The Packers "own 20 acres in that area," and Popkey said, "We are talking with the appropriate partners in the community, and we are talking about some new ideas" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/22).
MSG Plans To Build Two Sky Bridges
Five Stories Above The Playing Floor
The "hottest ticket at the revamped Madison Square Garden" will be part of "two sky bridges that will be built five stories above the playing floor," according to Jeremy Olshan of the N.Y. POST. Up to a "thousand fans will get to sit in premium nosebleed seats on the two sky bridges." The area, which is part of the $850M renovation of MSG, is "set to be completed for the 2013-14 season." MSG CEO Hank Ratner: "This is our signature element. It will be a unique experience in sports and entertainment." Ratner said that "rather than merely renovate the Garden, the project, funded without a dime in taxpayer subsidies, calls for building an entirely new arena in the shell of the 1968 building." Ratner: "This gives us the best of both worlds. We keep what's iconic -- the exterior and the famous ceiling -- and create a whole new building." Olshan notes construction "will start in earnest on June 14 and go through several phases over the next four years." The first phase, to be completed for the '11-12 season, will include the "addition of 20 'event-level' suites." The following year, 58 "lower-level suites" will be added. The revamped arena also will "turn the somewhat claustrophobic lower concourse into a wide thoroughfare with city views, shopping and a slew of high-end dining options." The concourse, set to be completed for the '13-14 season, "will pay homage to the Garden's history, with tributes to Knick and Ranger championships to such landmark events as the Ali-Frazier fight" (N.Y. POST, 5/24).
New York Gov. David Paterson Saturday said that he "intends to unveil a loan plan to bolster the New York Racing Association in the next few days," according to James Odato of the Albany TIMES UNION. Paterson's office is working on a deal to loan NYRA up to $25M, money the organization "would pay back either from funds it eventually gets from a racino operator or from its cut of racino revenues." Paterson said, "I would ask NYRA and the supporters of thoroughbred racing around the state to just take a deep breath for a couple of days and I'm going to come out with a plan I think will help." Paterson's comments came in response to NYRA's announcement on Friday that "it would have to close racing as soon as June 9 and lay off up to 1,400 employees because of cash flow problems" (Albany TIMES UNION, 5/23). The TIMES UNION's Odato noted it is "unclear if the layoff notices and threats to let the tracks go dark is a NYRA strategy to pressure the state to move on the loans." N.Y. Racing & Wagering Board spokesperson Joseph Mahoney said that NYRA is "supposed to get clearance to close down racing and the association has not sought board approvals to change racing dates" (Albany TIMES UNION, 5/22). NYRA has said that it needs $17M "as a stopgap to get through the next few months" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/22). BLOODHORSE.com's Tom Precious cited legislative sources as saying that a deal "could be done in time for passage when lawmakers return to Albany" today. A source said, "We're going to have to do something for NYRA" (BLOODHORSE.com, 5/21).
MILLION DOLLAR BABY: In Newark, Tom Luicci reported Monmouth Park's "Million Dollar Meet" opened Saturday with a "robust crowd of 17,903 welcoming back thoroughbred racing to the Jersey Shore." Attendance was up 74% from last year's opening-day crowd of 10,292. Monmouth VP & GM Bob Kulina: "I said if we got over 15,000 that would be a big number. To get almost 18,000, that’s a huge number." Luicci noted the 13-race card produced a total handle of nearly $9.36M, "more than double last year's" opening-day total of $4.3M. NJSEA President & CEO Dennis Robinson said, "Really, it has exceeded my expectations, to be quite honest with you. I had high expectations, but this exceeded them" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/23). Track officials noted that a total of $7.05M was wagered yesterday, up 126% from the second day of last year's meet. Monmouth's big-money experiment "has been well received by virtually everyone involved" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/24).
Target Field Reportedly Will Have New
System That Recycles Rain, Irrigation Water
In New Jersey, John Brennan reports Related Cos., which is "still in serious talks to take over the beleaguered Xanadu project," yesterday was "engaging in a series of preliminary conversations throughout the day with prospective tenants for the 2.3 million-square foot entertainment and retail project in East Rutherford." While state officials said that Related Cos. Chair & CEO and Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "has yet to make a binding commitment to the project, the sales pitch for the project -- as with the mass-mailings to retailers -- touts Related but not current developer Colony Capital or its partners" (Bergen RECORD, 5/24).
FIRST OF ITS KIND: In Minneapolis, Susan Feyder reported Target Field by the end of this summer will have a system designed and installed by Pentair Inc. that "will be recycling rain and irrigation water to maintain the turf and wash down parts of the stadium." The system, the "first of its kind for a major sports facility, is expected to save more than 2 million gallons of water a year." Pentair VP/Strategic Planning & Corporate Communications Todd Gleason said that the Target Field system is "still being tested but already has drawn inquiries from dozens of other sports venues and commercial builders." There are "no other signed deals yet for the system, which Pentair donated to the Twins but otherwise would have cost about $100,000" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/23).
FESTIVAL FEEL: In Charlotte, Ron Green Jr. noted Charlotte Motor Speedway officials "have always worked to create a fan-friendly environment," but ahead of Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race there was "more of a festival feel around the front of the track." Forty-four companies "had displays and activities for fans, who filled the sprawling area Saturday afternoon." Organizers said that the "big thing this year ... was to reward existing customers as much as attract new ones." Toyota owners, for example, "could show their keys and get access to a private hospitality area" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/23).