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AEG yesterday "revealed architectural renderings" from three design firms of the company's proposed events center in downtown L.A., according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. AEG will "choose a design and work on the entitlement process with the City of Los Angeles within 30 days." Tim Romani, President & CEO of Icon Venue Group, the event center's project manager, said yesterday that the development "would be built within" AEG's $1B and on the proposed site near Staples Center. The plan is to "first tear down the West Hall, build a $350 million replacement and then begin construction" on a 72,000-seat retractable roof stadium. If all "goes as planned, construction on the new stadium would begin by 2012 with the stadium ready to be opened in time" for the '15 NFL season. Markazi noted each design firm's "vision for the stadium was as distinct as their backgrounds." AEG Real Estate Development Exec VP Ted Tanner said, "I'm blown away by the amazing creativity and different approaches." Tanner reiterated AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke's stance that the company is "hoping to reach an agreement with the city, an agreement with the NFL and at least an understanding of the team that will be moving to Los Angeles within the next three months." He said, "That's the intent. Conversations would continue" (ESPNLA.com, 12/15).
DESIGN DETAILS: Each finalist had two hours and 15 minutes to make its presentation and answer questions before a group of seven officials representing stadium ownership, development and operations. Those seven were AEG's Leiweke, Tanner, Bob Newman and Lee Zeidman, and Icon Venue's Romani, Charlie Thornton and Rob Stephens. The six renderings released publicly, two from each finalist, were sent to AEG in advance for distribution and put on a new website, thelaeventcenter.com. Gensler and HNTB provided interior bowl shots. HKS did not, but the firm did show those views to the group during its presentation, Romani said. HKS Principal Mark Williams did not return an e-mail asking why his company did not make an interior image available to the public. AEG's proposal calls for a retractable roof, and the public images showed the roof in the open position, but did not give an indication of how it would operate. The Gensler and HNTB designs both contain an accordion-style solution where the roof folds back, Romani said. The HKS plan is different; the roof would be made of a fiberglass membrane supported by a lightweight cable system. The polytetrafluoroethylene fabric is the same material being used for the roof renovation at B.C. Place in Vancouver, where Icon Venue is the owner's representative for PavCo, the stadium's public landlord. AEG is targeting $725M in hard construction costs alone, and officials remain confident that they can build a stadium with a moveable roof and stay within that budget, Romani said. The entire project cost, including infrastructure upgrades, is budgeted at $1B. "There is no question we can get it done for less than that," Romani said. Officials expect to select an architect in the next two weeks to 30 days, he said. AEG Chair Phil Anschutz is privately financing the project and has the final say on who designs the stadium, Romani said. The three design firms have not been paid for their work to date, Romani confirmed (Don Muret, SportsBusiness Journal).
SEVERAL HURDLES STILL TO CLEAR: AEG and Icon Venue officials yesterday acknowledged that there "remains a number of significant obstacles in front of the project," including "financial, environmental and logistical issues." Romani said, "This is a monumental task but there is nothing about this project that scares me." Romani added, "There's a budget mandate and that has to be held to." When asked if the stadium would be built without a deal for an NFL team, Tanner said, "I don't believe so." AEG and Icon officials "could not answer how long the convention space would be unavailable during the project." Romani admitted replacing the convention center presents a "series of challenges" and added, "We hope to minimize the period of time we'd be without that space." In California, Scott Reid notes the "availability of that convention center is likely to be a major sticking point with Los Angeles City Council members" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/16).
NOT ON BOARD YET: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes Anschutz is "not 100% on board." Leiweke said, "Not yet. He's getting there. This is a work in progress, and we've never made any bones about that. It's always been a work in progress. We had to get everything lined up in order for (Anschutz) to give us the green light. We're working on it, and we're making progress. But we're not there yet." Leiweke added, "I think we can get Mr. Anschutz comfortable by March if we can get people to the right place. We know we're not going to have a team locked in by March, everyone knows that." Farmer notes even "without the full commitment of Anschutz, the concept of a downtown stadium has gained significant traction among NFL owners and executives." But Majestic Realty VP John Semcken, whose company has proposed a competing NFL stadium in City of Industry, Calif., yesterday released an e-mailed statement saying, "Flashy renderings can't disguise AEG's call for taxpayer dollars at a time when California is broke." Leiweke responded, “Once again, zero taxpayer dollars, and these guys should stop scaring the public. That's terrible. And by the way, everyone sees right through them, including the league, and they ought to stop it. Because they're not doing themselves any good by lying like that, and we ought to just take the rhetoric down and let the process play out. It's not personal, and they shouldn't make it personal. And that's the last we're going to acknowledge any of their statements” (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
UNDER REVIEW: L.A. TIMES architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes all three stadium designs propose "safe, sleek, inoffensive corporate architecture." The design from HNTB "calls for a barn-like structure that seems oblivious to the urban character and architectural form surrounding it." The "top-heavy" proposal from HKS, rumored to be the favorite to win the project, "would enclose the playing field beneath a pair of awkward sail-like forms on the roof." The Gensler design, "while doubtless the strongest and most fully developed of the three, with elegant trusses supporting a roof covered in lightweight, translucent foil panels, has the same placeless, generic quality that marks Staples Center and L.A. Live." Hawthorne writes, "To a large extent, the lack of architectural ambition evident in the designs comes as little surprise. Anyone who has spent much time downtown knows AEG is hardly a patron of innovative architecture" (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
WAITING TO POUNCE: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore notes Majestic Realty's proposed stadium is "waiting for a team to agree to play there and sell part of its franchise" to Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski. But with the NFL "facing labor uncertainty," the Majestic proposal is "in a holding pattern." That "lull has enabled AEG to push its plan into the forefront, and provides them time to catch up to Majestic" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/16). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Rick Gosselin writes, "If and when an NFL team relocates to Los Angeles, I would demand that team leave the marks, logos and colors of the franchise in the city it departs." The L.A. franchise should "start with a blank history book -- new nickname, new logos, new color scheme" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/16).
The NFL "has yet to sign off" on moving Monday's Bears-Vikings game to the Univ. of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium "despite the confidence that Vikings and U officials have that they can transform the once-shuttered college stadium into an NFL venue in less than a week," according to Brian Murphy of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said in an e-mail, "We are working closely with the Vikings. We already have staff there to assist and more on the way. The plan is to play the game at TCF Bank Stadium." Aiello "did not respond to direct questions about how and when the NFL would determine whether the stadium is a practical alternative to the Metrodome." UM is "scrambling to clear several feet of snow from TCF Bank Stadium, and NFL officials have methods to ensure the FieldTurf surface, which does not have an underground heating system, is sufficiently thawed for the Vikings and Bears to play in expected subfreezing temperatures." UM Associate AD for Facilities & Event Management Scott Ellison said that the NFL's "top priority was clearing the field, thawing it with chemicals and blowing hot air under a tarp to keep it from refreezing before Monday's 7:20 p.m. kickoff." But "still undetermined is an equitable distribution system to seat 64,000 ticketholders in a stadium with a capacity close to 51,000." There was talk about "erecting temporary bleachers in the plaza behind the west end zone to squeeze in an additional 4,000 to 5,000 fans, but that would not satisfy everyone." Ellison said that TCF Bank Stadium's 38 suite owners "have the right of first refusal to access their enclosed boxes, leaving any leftovers to Vikings suite holders." The Vikings late yesterday "had yet to publicly announce how the team would manage the ticket disparity." Also "unclear is whether alcohol will be sold." UM News Service Dir Dan Wolter said that the concourses are "not equipped for kegs to be tapped or fountain drinks to be served in subfreezing conditions, so pop or beer would have to be served in bottles" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/16).
POTENTIAL OBSTACLES: Stadium officials "don't know what will happen when they turn the water back on in TCF Bank Stadium because they turned off the water after the Gophers' last game in November and the pipes could freeze." The bathrooms and concession stands "are also concerns." The concessions "must be insulated because it's safe to work in those stands only if it is over 30 degrees and bathrooms in the stadium have an open entry and aren't heated, meaning the pipes could freeze." The Vikings said that NFL officials "toured the stadium Wednesday to make sure it was safe for fans and meets other league requirements." Wolter said that it is "not clear how much it will cost to get TCF Bank Stadium ready for the game and then to host it." He added that the Vikings "vowed to cover the entire tab." Wolter said that the total cost with all preparations "could reach $700,000 or more," though ESPN.com's John Clayton cited Vikings sources as saying that the cost "could rise to as much as" $1M. Sources said that the Colts "have offered to host the game inside their domed Lucas Oil Stadium" (ESPN.com, 12/15). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote, "At some point, if they're not certain that TCF Bank Stadium will be ready, don't they have to move to an alternate site?" (ESPN.com, 12/15).
WILF WEIGHS IN: Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf yesterday "made his first comments about the situation to reporters in Dallas at the NFL meetings, and he sounded confident that the game will be played at the Gophers' stadium." Wilf: "A lot of people are working very hard to get it done, but we want to assure the fans in the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota that we're going to have a game in Minnesota." Vikings LB and assistant player rep Ben Leber said that he "has not been asked about the choice of venue." Leber: "They haven't consulted us, and to my understanding they haven't consulted anybody. ... I think this is too big of situation when it comes down to money and ticket sales for us to have a big enough voice to say, 'You have to move the game or we're not going to play'" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16).
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission spokesperson Patrick Milan said that the Metrodome, "whose roof collapsed during last weekend's snowstorm, suffered another blow Wednesday evening when a fourth panel of the roof ripped, likely due to the heavy ice and snow that still blankets much of the deflated dome," according to Paul Levy of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. All repair work was "suspended until officials could evaluate the new damage Thursday morning." Before the latest collapse, MSFC Exec Dir Bill Lester said that he "couldn't predict with any precision when the roof will be fixed." Lester "hopes to have the Dome ready for a Monster Jam truck pull on Jan. 22 and TwinsFest, Jan. 28-30" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16). Lester said that he is "eager to get the dome's collapsed roof fixed." Lester: "They're trying to relieve the ice pressure in the panels that are still up. In the next two or three days, we'll have a specific plan for how long it will take." In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes the MSFC "has insurance on the roof and property that could pay for the losses the Vikings might face by not being able to play the Giants and Bears in the dome" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16). Twins President Dave St. Peter said he "remains fairly confident the Metrodome will be able to host TwinsFest." But he acknowledged that the club also is "looking for an alternate venue." St. Peter: "If we have to find another venue, we will do so. It's a little too early to be going down that path" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/16).
RETRACTING EARLIER COMMENTS: The Vikings retracted comments made yesterday by a team official that the MSFC is fully responsible for the loss of revenue caused by the collapse of the Metrodome roof. Vikings VP/Public Affairs Lester Bagley said the issue remains unresolved. Bagley: "The comments about MSFC were miscommunicated. We are looking into those issues and there will be a full analysis of the economic impact of the collapse of the roof. We are not ready for any conclusions." The Vikings are tenants in the Metrodome, which is owned by MSFC. Both entities carry business interruption insurance (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED ... Minnesota state Sen. Julie Rosen yesterday said that she plans to "introduce a bill in late January to build a new Vikings stadium with public subsidies," and she "hinted that there might be some movement on finding a local government partner to help finance the stadium." Rosen said that the "proposal 'might be very similar' to a plan that stalled in the Legislature last spring." That proposal "relied in part on diverting sales tax money now being used for the Minneapolis Convention Center once the convention center's debt was repaid." Rosen said that "poor timing likely sealed the proposal's fate last spring" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16).
L.A. STORY: Showtime's Michael Lombardi said a move by the Vikings to L.A. is "tied to the collective bargaining agreement.” Lombardi: “ Every NFL team right now that has a bad stadium deal is certainly eyeing the Los Angeles market. Two teams could certainly work there. It would be ideal for an established team; expansion's not going to work in Los Angeles. … The San Diego Chargers, for example, has always been rumored to go there. They're potentially selling part of their team to a Los Angeles group. L.A.'s a desirable market, but until the owners get a collective bargaining agreement with the players so they can then finance the stadium, that's not going to happen” ("Inside The NFL," Showtime, 12/15).
The Bradley Center, "fueled by hosting the first round of the NCAA tournament, more concerts and the Milwaukee Bucks' return to the NBA playoffs," recorded a 12% increase in revenue in its latest fiscal year, according to the Milwaukee BUSINESS JOURNAL. The arena had total operating revenue of $14.8 million in its '10 FY, ended June 30, up from $13.2M in FY '09. It "reported a net loss" of $2.02M, which included $2.8M in "depreciation expenses, as compared with a net loss" of $4.09M, including $2.9M in depreciation expenses, in FY '09. The Bradley Center overall "held 170 events during the fiscal year, drawing 1.6 million people." The arena in FY '10 "provided the Bucks, the building's main tenant, with $5 million in shared revenue from suite, concessions and merchandise sales." The venue "currently owes the Bucks $8.5 million, which will be paid out over the next several years" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/15). In Milwaukee, Don Walker notes the Bucks and the Bradley Center "have a year-to-year lease," and the Bucks "pay no rent and get 27% of suite, food and other concession revenue." The arena and the team are "negotiating a lease that would date back to Sept. 30 of this year" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/16).
The Padres' Triple-A PCL affiliate will play in Escondido, Calif., "beginning in 2013" after the Escondido City Council last night voted 4-1 to "tentatively fund a $50 million ballpark through the sale of redevelopment bonds," according to Breier & Jones of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Though the ownership group led by Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad and the city "can pull out of the deal next year if snags occur, the vote partially commits both sides financially and ethically to building the park," with further votes "scheduled in February and in the summer." Moorad's group "made several concessions in the negotiations." The group "would assume responsibility for all operating and maintenance costs year-round, and has agreed to pay the city $200,000 annually in rent on the ballpark." The group also "agreed to cover any cost overruns above the $40 million committed by the city for ballpark construction" and to "guarantee an additional $5 million for infrastructure costs." Breier & Jones note the team, formerly known as the Portland Beavers, "would move into their new home in 2013 after spending two years" in Tucson, Ariz. The team's new name "has yet to be decided," but Moorad said that he "favors one that includes the word 'Friars' keeping with the Padres theme" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/16). In Arizona, Sarah Trotto reports a memorandum of understanding agreed upon by attorneys for Escondido and Moorad "calls for ground to be broken for the ballpark in Escondido in January 2012 and for it to be ready for opening day in April 2013" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 12/16).
In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman reports T'Wolves President Chris Wright said that the T'Wolves "will present a plan to the Minneapolis City Council within the next 30 days for improvements to Target Center so they can better compete for events with St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center." Target Corp. has “until Sept. 11, 2011, to decide whether to keep their name on the downtown arena.” Negotiations are ongoing with the company, but team officials said that they “have more than one corporation interested in replacing Target” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16).
COMING TO YOUR CITY: Touchdown Fort Worth spokesperson Chris Gavras said that ESPN’s “entire corporate headquarters” -- including ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer -- “will relocate” from Bristol, Conn, to Ft. Worth in February for the week of Super Bowl XLV. Gavras said that the net “plans to use a ‘skycam’ suspended about 50 feet above its downtown footprint” in Sundance Square. In Ft. Worth, Kathy Vetter notes ESPN “will also place a camera on the fifth floor of the Burk Burnett Building, overlooking its main stage in the Chisholm Trail parking lot at Third and Main streets.” A “secondary studio will be built on the west side of the Jett Building behind the Chisholm Trail mural.” Major advertisers “will follow the network’s corporate hospitality into town” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/16).
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE… In Memphis, Toby Sells reports Dover Motorsports Inc. has “approved the sale” of Memphis Motorsport Park to Florida-based Moroso Investment Partners. The final deal will total $2.06M “after a 10 percent auction buyer’s premium.” The closing is “scheduled to take place within 30 days.” Palm Beach Int'l Raceway President & CEO Jason Rittenberry said that the Memphis racetrack will need $1.5-2M in “capital improvements to get it ready to host major events.” He added that “negotiations for the facility between Moroso and Dover have been under way for the last six months,” but the parties previously “were unable to agree” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 12/16).