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Kraft Believes Gillette Stadium's New HD Video
Boards Will Be Largest In NFL Outside Dallas
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday said that the team "soon will announce improvements to Gillette Stadium featuring the installation of high-definition video boards in each end zone," according to Albert Breer of the BOSTON GLOBE. Kraft said that the upgrades are part of an effort to keep the nine-year-old, privately financed facility "on the cutting edge of stadium technology." He said of the video boards, "I think excluding Dallas, they'll be the largest. They'll be HD, they'll give us the opportunity to show a lot more replays, we'll be showing the Red Zone Channel in-stadium." Kraft added that the Patriots are also "looking into creating their version of the Kangaroo TV handheld video devices" that Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "has been marketing to teams as another way of getting fans off the couch and into NFL venues." Kraft: "Everything where we're touching our customers, we're trying to customize it. And everything's not perfect, but I believe our in-stadium experience is among the best you can have in the country" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/25).
Ravens Hope European Soccer Matches Will Be
Annual Summer Event At M&T Bank Stadium
Ravens officials are hoping that "top flight European soccer matches will become an annual" summer event at M&T Bank Stadium, according to Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore SUN. Ravens VP/Stadium Operations Roy Sommerhof yesterday said that the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority are "in talks with several European soccer clubs about future dates, and the goal is to bring the highest level club soccer to M&T Bank Stadium for at least the next three summers." The Ravens and the MSA recently reached a deal to host Inter Milan-Manchester City at M&T Bank Stadium this July, and last summer played host to an AC Milan-Chelsea match as part of the World Football Challenge. Sommerhof said, "What we've heard from those in the soccer world is that the first match put Baltimore on the soccer map internationally. Now there are teams, like Manchester City, that heard about that game and really want to play in Baltimore. We're actually getting calls from people that are interested in coming to play here. Getting calls out of the blue like that is a pretty good thing for us." One of the "long-term goals on everyone's wish list is for M&T Bank Stadium to be selected as one of the sites for World Cup matches" if the U.S. is the host country for either the '18 or '22 tournament. Van Valkenburg notes the Ravens have been "gradually branching out in recent years attempting to find new ways to generate additional revenue for the franchise." M&T Bank Stadium will host the NCAA men's lacrosse championship for the fourth time this week, and also has been the "host for college football games." Sommerhof said that the Ravens "would like to have more musical acts play M&T Bank Stadium, but the limited number of touring artists who can fill a stadium these days has made it difficult" (Baltimore SUN, 5/25).
Writer Believes NFL Uses L.A. As A Threat To
Other NFL Communities Looking For A Bargain
Though the NFL "says it really wants to be back in the Los Angeles market, it finds it quite advantageous" to leave the market open, making it a "permanent threat to every other NFL community that dares to think about driving a hard bargain with its pro team," according to the L.A. TIMES' Michael Hiltzik, who writes under the header, "Southern California Shouldn't Play Ball With The NFL." The NFL over the years "has played Anaheim off against Los Angeles, and both off against Carson." Hiltzik wrote the league also has "expressed" interest in the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum and Hollywood Park as locations for a stadium, and has "promised that L.A. would certainly have a team by '2009, 2010 or 2000-whenever,' in the words of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue." Hiltzik: "Everyone in Southern California who has tried to play ball with this league has come away misused and humiliated" (L.A. TIMES, 5/23).
A GROWING DIVIDE? In L.A., Daniel Miller notes Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski has “campaigned hard the last two years” to build an NFL stadium outside L.A., and now he “finds himself in the middle of a billionaires’ tussle.” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke and WMG Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman recently “floated plans to build a downtown L.A. football stadium next to Staples Center, the arena” that Roski and AEG Chair Phil Anschutz partnered to build more than 10 years ago. Roski remains a partner in Staples Center, owned primarily by AEG, and he also partners with the company in the Lakers, “though Roski is said to have a smaller ownership stake” than AEG. Several friends of Anschutz and Roski “declined to comment on the record, but sources said their partnership is not what it once was.” Some observers believe that “for both men to be competing for the same prize can only mean one thing.” Miller: “Not only have the two grown distant, but a full-fledged rift has developed” (L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/24 issue). Meanwhile, also in L.A., Sam Farmer notes while the subject of L.A. is "not expected to be a significant part" of the NFL owners meetings this week, it is "entirely possible that owners will get a briefing on the competing stadium concepts" (L.A. TIMES, 5/25).
Mellon Arena's Roof Has Not
Been Fully Retracted Since 1995
Mellon Arena officials are "exploring the possibility of opening the arena's distinctive retractable roof one last time to close down the 48-year-old building this summer," according to Mark Belko of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Jay Roberts, GM for Mellon Arena and arena operator SMG, yesterday confirmed that the idea is "under consideration," but he added that there are "plenty of hurdles in the way that could derail the effort." The main one is "whether the roof will open," as Roberts said that it "hasn't been opened since at least 2001 and then only 'a crack.'" He added that the "last time it was fully retracted was 1995." Roberts noted that there are "other considerations as well." To open the roof, the arena's "huge scoreboard would have to be removed beforehand." Rigging cables used by a lot of concert acts also "would have to come down, further complicating the effort." Still, officials are "exploring the idea as part of a grand finale for the iconic silver-domed building," and Roberts said that SMG is "considering several artists for the arena's final show." Roberts added that "no final decision had been made." Belko notes SMG also is "trying to line up a big-name act to open the Consol Energy Center," and "one name that has been mentioned but not confirmed: former Beatle Paul McCartney, who is touring this year" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/25).
Orlando's Citrus Bowl Needs Major Renovations
Before It Can Begin To Lure Neutral-Site Games
Orlando "cannot lure marquee college football matchups with its woefully out-of-date Citrus Bowl," which last hosted a "marquee FBS regular-season game" when Notre Dame played Navy at the venue in '00, according to Andrea Adelson of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Though the Citrus Bowl receiving $10M in "initial renovations is a nice measure, it is going to do nothing to get Orlando into the neutral-site game," and "this is the worst time for the Citrus Bowl to be lagging behind its competitors." Neutral-site games are "in vogue once again," as during this upcoming season "there will be some 23 games played outside home stadiums across the country, up from 13 in 2007." Univ. of Phoenix Stadium is one of the venues that "wants a piece" of the action, as it was announced last week that the facility "would begin to court teams to play a neutral-site game there." Adelson noted Orlando is losing between $30-40M in "potential economic impact because it cannot draw teams," and adding "just one more game would make a tremendous difference to the economy." Miami and Notre Dame "are in talks to renew their rivalry at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2012," and Orlando "should have been a player for that one." Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said of neutral-site games, "I want to look at our facility and I want to be on the road this summer, talking to coaches and athletic directors and be proud of what we have to offer here." But Adelson wrote Hogan "has more to worry about than luring neutral-site games." He "must worry about keeping what the Citrus Bowl now has while tap dancing around the inevitable question -- when are those renovations going to be done?" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/24).
Chargers Exec Says Team Is Getting
Down To The Wire For A New Stadium
In San Diego, Tim Sullivan noted the San Diego City Council's June 22 vote "on raising the spending cap of the Centre City Development Corporation could lead, conceivably, to a symbolic shovel in the ground" for a new Chargers stadium. Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani Friday said the team "never put a gun to anybody's head" and "never established a time frame" for a stadium. But he added, "At the same time, I think it's fair to say we're getting down to the wire after eight years. We're closer to the end of the process than to the beginning." Sullivan wrote persuading the public to "invest up to $600 million in a playground for the pampered figures to be an intensely tough sell, but that number is certainly negotiable," as the Chargers' $200M commitment "amounts to an opening bid" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/22).
KEEP OPTIONS OPEN: A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial stated the paper has "chosen not to make a recommendation on Measure J," the June 8 Santa Clara ballot issue for a new stadium for the 49ers. The paper's "focus in on what needs to be done in San Francisco to keep its options open." The city's Planning Commission on June 3 is "scheduled to review an environmental impact report for Lennar's comprehensive redevelopment plans to bring housing and commerce" to the abandoned Hunters Point Naval Shipyard site. One redevelopment scenario "would include a football stadium," and the city "should keep this plan moving forward." The editorial stated there are "plenty of reasons to question whether the team can put together the financing" for a $937M stadium in Santa Clara (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/23). In S.F., Matier & Ross noted the 49ers are "pulling out all the stops -- and $3 million to $4 million in cash -- to try to pass their Santa Clara stadium plan." The 49ers' "political team is led" by Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who worked on John McCain's '08 presidential campaign, as well as local consultants Ed McGovern and Jude Barry. The team also has a "full-time campaign manager overseeing a paid staff of five and scores of volunteers" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/24).
TAXING ISSUES: In Minneapolis, Bob Von Sternberg noted a new poll conducted by Minnesota Public Radio and the Univ. of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs "shows that Minnesotans overwhelmingly don't want their tax dollars spent on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium." Sixty-four percent of poll respondents said that they "oppose public funding for a stadium," while 30% "support the idea of a taxpayer subsidy" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/22)....In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote the Georgia Dome "is not falling apart," but if Falcons Owner Arthur Blank wants to fund a new stadium for the team "by himself, nobody should have a problem with that." Also, if taxpayers are "willing to pass an initiative for a special hotel-motel tax to help partially fund the project, nobody should have a problem with that, either" (AJC.com, 5/24)
In St. Paul, Charley Walters reported the demand for tickets during the Twins' inaugural season at Target Field has "caused the team to start selling standing-room-only seats." The Twins sold 200 standing-room-only tickets for last weekend's three-game series against the Brewers, and Twins President Dave St. Peter said, "We did some testing of that over the weekend, and we'll continue to monitor that going forward." He added, "We've been very cautious on that front. We want to make sure the building can sustain it and that traffic and congestion within the ballpark is limited" (TWINCITIES.com, 5/24).
Churchill Downs To Host Themed
Night Racing Events This Year
UNDER THE LIGHTS: This year's night racing events under Churchill Downs' newly installed permanent lights "will be themed, beginning June 11 with 'Disco at the Downs,' when customers will be encouraged to dress in their favorite '70s garb." The June 18 date "will have a South Beach theme and June 25 will be the Dress to Impress theme that the track uses for its Friday afternoon happy hour cards." The July 2 title is "An American Party: Boots, Brew & BBQ," featuring a "regional beer garden." The track's two fall meets under the lights "will be an Oct. 31 Spirits and Spires event, followed by a Home for the Holidays theme on Nov. 19" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/25).
CALIFORNIA DREAMS: A's Owner Lew Wolff on Friday reiterated that Fremont, Calif., "wasn't viable" anymore for his ballpark village, and said that the "housing meltdown had killed that plan." Wolff said, "We need to be in an established downtown." He is "still targeting a move to downtown San Jose" if MLB "gives the green light." But Fremont "continues to work with baseball officials" in an attempt to lure the A's to the city (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/23).
TECH CHECK: The AP reported Yankee Stadium "has a policy that prohibits fans from bringing laptops inside, and iPads are included in that ban." The Yankees said that it is a "security-and-safety issue." MLB said that the "issue of allowing iPads into stadiums was a team-by-team decision." The Mets, Angels and Mariners are "among the clubs that permit the tablet computers" (AP, 5/24).