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Bears, White Sox Could Be Denied Money
For Renovations Under Cubs' Wrigley Plan
The White Sox and Bears could end up "preventing the Cubs from scoring with their plan to use 35 years' worth of amusement tax growth to renovate Wrigley Field," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Sources said that the Cubs' plan "calls for a 2 percent hotel tax to backstop the Wrigley bonds when bonds used to finance" U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field are paid off in '21 and '31, respectively. If amusement tax growth is "not great enough by then to retire the Wrigley bonds, the Cubs intend to borrow from the hotel tax and pay it back by extending the life of the bonds," which "could force the city and state to forfeit amusement tax growth for even longer than 35 years." But if the Cubs "move to the head of the line, the Bears and Sox could be deprived of the money they may need to complete stadium renovations." The two teams are "withholding comment until they know more about the Cubs' financing scheme." But Spielman noted White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf opposed the deal to renovate Soldier Field "until he got something out of it -- the right to sell naming rights of the former Comiskey Park to finance continued renovations" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/13).
PR BATTLE: In Chicago, Ameet Sachdev reported Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts has a "public relations battle on his hands" after announcing the plan Thursday. Ricketts Friday tried to "calm the uproar." In several radio interviews he said that Cubs fans "are on the hook, not the at-large taxpayer on the South Side, in Peoria or in Carbondale." Ricketts: "The dollars are only coming from people who buy Cubs tickets, and only the increase over what they pay today. ... The increases (in the amusement tax) won't exist unless we fix up the park." He added, "It's easy to get upset about headlines or editorials, but you just got to dig a little deeper and understand what's really going on here" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/13). But also in Chicago, Rick Telander wrote, "Didn't we just come through the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression by buying crap that people such as the Rickettses told us was hot stuff?" Telander: "If the bond scheme these Cubs owners are trying to foist on us ... does pass, it's the devil's work. The Rickettses have revealed themselves. They might love the Cubs, but they love other people's money more" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/14). Comcast SportsNet's Paul Sullivan: "You know how the state is right now -- it's a big budget crisis. It's bad timing on their part. On their behalf, they do feed a lot into the amusement tax, so they might deserve some of that money. But I don't see how this is going to fly" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/12).
CUBBIE HOLD: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in his first public comments on the plan Saturday said that the Ricketts family "might need to look at a different way to fund improvements at Wrigley Field." Daley: "I can't rule it in or out. It is a good proposal, but like anything else we have to see what effect this has on the revenue, and that's very important, especially when you're looking at nickels and dimes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/14).
Louis Armstrong Stadium To Be Torn Down
And Replaced With 10,000-15,000 Seat Venue
The USTA has “approved a sweeping overhaul of the National Tennis Center over the next eight years, including tearing down and replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium and building two mini-stadiums,” according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The total redevelopment cost “exceeds $300 million, though only the first $30 million has been formally budgeted.” The construction plans “do not include a roof over the main stadium or over the planned new one,” and the new stadium will “retain Armstrong’s name.” The USTA said it will be “roof ready,” meaning that it would be “easier to add a covering to that venue later than it currently is to do so over the larger Arthur Ashe Stadium," where the U.S. Open’s final rounds are played. Architectural firm Rossetti is managing the redevelopment. A new 3,000-seat stadium will be built “adjacent to the hospitality building that opened last year on the property’s southeast corner.” The stadium may be open “as soon as next year’s tourney, but certainly by 2012, and would be the fourth-largest venue on the grounds.” Work also will begin “soon on widening the concourses on the upper levels of Arthur Ashe Stadium to add more rest rooms and concession stands.” Plans for the new Armstrong stadium “call for a venue between 10,000 and 15,000 seats.” A demolition of the current Armstrong stadium would also “include tearing down the 6,100-seat Grandstand Court, which is connected to Armstrong.” That venue would be “replaced by the second of the two planned mini-stadiums at a to-be-determined location, though the two main choices are the current spot or the southwest corner of the grounds” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/15 issue).
Raiders, Chargers May Be
Candidates For L.A. Move
AEG's plan for a football stadium near L.A. Live may be the "solution to the long dormant L.A. franchise problem" in the NFL, according to SI's Peter King. The NFL is “very enthused and very encouraged by the fact that there’s going to be a stadium project adjacent to the Staples Center." King said there "could be a team, I believe, in Los Angeles by 2015 finally.” He added the team would be “probably an existing franchise, maybe Oakland, but I think it’s a better chance that it’s San Diego, unless the Chargers solve their stadium problem in San Diego” (“FNIA,” NBC, 11/14). King writes, "What's held the NFL back is either that the league didn't really want to be at the Coliseum -- and USC wasn't crazy about having the NFL there -- or the league didn't want to be in the endless 'burbs of southern California." However, WMG Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman and AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke, who are backing the new facility, are "well-connected guys who want to build the kind of retractable-roof events center that could be used to attract the 2022 World Cup final (or some future World Cup) and Final Fours, as well as an NFL team." Influential NFL team owners "are excited about the Los Angeles prospect ending a generation-long drought in the city, and these are owners who ... have not been nearly as excited about any of the previous L.A. ventures" (SI.com, 11/15).
MAKING STRIDES: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Don Muret reports AEG has “issued a proposal to design a $725 million stadium in downtown Los Angeles featuring a retractable roof and 40 field-level suites among its 218 luxury boxes.” It is the “first of several critical steps AEG must complete in the next four to five years to deliver the project by its targeted opening date of Aug. 15, 2015.” But before “breaking ground at the site -- across the street from AEG-owned Staples Center and the AEG-developed L.A. Live entertainment district -- the group still has deals to get done with the NFL and a team to make the move” to L.A. Leiweke said that the organization also has to “make a separate deal with city officials to build the stadium on land where part of the Los Angeles Convention Center stands.” The proposed event center would have 160 traditional suites and “18 larger event rental skyboxes with 48 to 90 seats, slightly fewer than some larger NFL facilities.” Elevated suites on the south end “must convert to meeting room use for the adjacent convention center.” There would be 14,700 club seats. The 72,000-seat facility would have the “flexibility to expand to 76,250 for mega-events such as the Super Bowl, NCAA football games, FIFA World Cup finals and NCAA Final Four” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/15 issue).
NOT IN THIS HOUSE: In St. Paul, Charley Walters cited sources as saying that the “recent Minnesota elections that resulted in a Republican-dominated state Legislature, coupled with the Vikings’ ineptitude on and off the field, make it unlikely the Vikings will get serious consideration for a stadium bill next session.” Republicans recently gained 21 seats in the state Legislature, and the “people who will sit in them aren’t expected to support much that involves public money.” Walters wrote although the NFL “would like a team in Los Angeles, it’s a sure bet it has no interest in relocating a team that gives it penetration in the Upper Midwest” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/14).
Falcons Prefer A New Open-Air Stadium, While
Others Have Suggested Renovating Georgia Dome
The prospects for a new football stadium in Atlanta “received a boost” Thursday when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that “a new home for the Falcons could help the city land hosting privileges for a third Super Bowl,” according to Leon Stafford of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. But the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates the team's current home, the Georgia Dome, said Friday that “negotiations are still ongoing and that 'everything remains on the table.'" The Falcons have said that “they prefer an open-air stadium while GWCCA leaders commissioned a study that looked at alternatives to a new field, including expanding the Dome and adding a retractable roof.” Discussions are “further complicated by the Dome's other clients, such as the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the SEC, which has held its annual football championship game in the Dome” since ’94. Each "prefers to play inside." A spokesperson for Georgia Gov.-elect Nathan Deal on Friday said that Deal “had no comment on the issue.” But during his campaign for office, Deal said that “he would support using hotel and motel tax revenue to build a new stadium for the Falcons.” Supporters of a new stadium contend that “it keeps the city competitive with other NFL cities that are currently building bigger and more modern stadiums.” They said that a new facility “won't cost taxpayers because it will be paid for visitors through the hotel/motel taxes,” and that it will “attract big events, foremost among them the Super Bowl.” In addition, the “open-air stadium could be used for soccer.” But critics argue that “new stadiums are all about owners gaining a bigger piece of revenue, not what's best for a city or taxpayers.” The GWCCA reported that the Georgia Dome in FY ’09 had revenue of $31M, with a total of $16.6M going to the Falcons and the Dome keeping $14.3M “for operations and to pay down debt” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/13).
Two Separate Power Interruptions Occurred
During The Third Quarter Of Cowboys-Giants
Two power outages darkened New Meadowlands Stadium during the third quarter of yesterday's Cowboys-Giants game, "interrupting play and disrupting the Fox television broadcast of the game," according to Bill Pennington of the N.Y. TIMES. Stadium officials said that "two separate power interruptions occurred." The first, at 6:00pm ET, "reduced the lighting directed at the field, although several light banks remained lit." That produced a "three-minute delay in the game," and then eight minutes later, "the entire stadium was engulfed in darkness as all the lights went out." A "small number of lights returned after about 20 seconds but it was nearly 10 minutes before the lighting was sufficient for the game to resume." The lighting in the stadium "had returned to normal" after another 10 minutes. New Meadowlands Stadium officials in a statement said power was lost when "one of the two feeders to the stadium experienced a power interruption." Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch after the game said, "We've all had power failures in our homes. ... If this was some kind of test, we passed with an A grade" (NYTIMES.com, 11/14). New Meadowlands Stadium Co. President & CEO Mark Lamping said, "The system worked as designed. You never want to have a power problem, but the system worked." Tisch added, "The stadium responded very well. Nobody panicked, nobody seemed upset. It came together very, very quickly" (NEWSDAY, 11/15).
SURREAL FEELING: Fox' Joe Buck said after the net came back on the air after the delay, "There was a generator that blew outside stadium. In fact, you can kind of smell a little smoke wafting through this stadium … and it was surreal to say the least when the lights went out. It was pitch black in here, and then slowly different banks of lights started to come back on. A 12-minute delay." Fox' Troy Aikman said, "A number of players, not knowing what was going on nor did anyone else, hit the ground" ("Cowboys-Giants," Fox, 11/14).
Phoenix Int'l Raceway Likely To Repave
Track After February Sprint Cup Race
In Phoenix, Michael Knight reported “the first repaving” of Phoenix Int'l Raceway since ’93 is “considered very likely, with the work to begin soon after" February’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500. The changes “could be dramatic: reconfiguration to include bottom-to-top gradual banking, widening and even opening-up the radius of the turns.” The ISC BOD is “expected to green-light the estimated $10 million repaving project at a meeting Wednesday in Miami.” The Avondale City Council also “must OK a development agreement with PIR,” and that is “likely to happen by early December” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/14).
GIVING THE GREEN LIGHT: In Green Bay, Tony Walter reported Lambeau Field’s playing surface is “undergoing an experiment that is the first of its kind in North America.” The Packers are “using special lights to speed the growth of grass on the southern half of the field” with a system invented by Dutch company SGL. The team hopes that it “will provide an even better playing surface as temperatures drop.” SGL has “provided the lights at no charge in hopes the Packers might make a long-term investment.” The “only cost to the Packers so far has been getting electrical power from the concourse down to the field and paying higher utility bills because of it” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 11/13).
BOOST FOR A NEW VENUE: In Baltimore, Mirabella & Gunts reported the Greater Baltimore Committee, an “influential group of Baltimore business and civic leaders, coalesced Friday behind a proposal to build a new downtown arena that would be connected to an expanded Convention Center.” The GBC said that its board voted to study the plan, which would “replace the aging 1st Mariner Arena while adding convention space and renewing a dated wing of the Baltimore Convention Center.” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said last Thursday that she “wants to explore alternate locations for a new sports and entertainment arena.” Her statements are a “shift from the previous administration’s proposal to raze the facility and build a new one on its current west-side site.” An earlier plan to replace 1st Mariner Arena with a new 18,500-seat facility “that was expected to cost at least $300 million stalled amid the recession” (Baltimore SUN, 11/13).
NEXT IN LINE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that the Meadowlands Xanadu project “appears to be on the verge of getting a new operator," but he refused to put a “timetable on when the unnamed operator would revive the project.” New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said six weeks ago there were “five suitors” for Xanadu. Guadagno added that “in the next month or so” there could be “some action” on the project (Bergen RECORD, 11/13).