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The Lightning plan to announce roughly $40M in renovations to St. Pete Times Forum, and the team's owners "want to get reimbursed for much of the work with tourist taxes," according to Bill Varian of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Hillsborough County Finance Dir Tim Simon and Administrator Mike Merrill stressed that “any reimbursement would be for work that maintains or improves" the county-owned arena's condition and "extends its life." Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan noted that the Lightning are “planning to announce the renovations before any deal has been reached on subsidies.” The team hopes the renovations will “significantly improve the hockey game and concert-going experience.” The plan is “expected to underscore a renewed commitment to the area since a new ownership group led by hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik took over early last year.” Renovations planned for this summer include “replacing all of the seats within the arena with new blue ones to match the team's new colors.” The team also will replace "some or all of the existing heating, air conditioning and ventilation system to address" moisture issues. Other projects include "repainting the walls, resurfacing concourse floors and adding an old-fashioned pipe organ." The team also plans on “adding a central food and beverage, party-deck-type area on the upper level in an area that is largely unused.” That area will “provide new vending options in the upper, or terrace, level.” Team officials “hope that will ease congestion on lower concourses that they have long said are too narrow” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/27).
B.C. Pavilion Corp. (PavCo) officials yesterday announced a "five-year beer pouring rights agreement" for BC Place with Labatt Breweries of Canada, according to Lowell Ullrich of the Vancouver PROVINCE. Labatt Breweries brews Budweiser in Canada, and Vancouver's CKNW-AM Tuesday reported that PavCo is "awarding naming rights to Budweiser to complement its pouring rights deal." BC Place GM Howard Crosley yesterday said that PavCo, the stadium's operator, "remains in pursuit of a naming rights agreement to help offset costs" of the venue's C$563M renovation project, and that PavCo "hopes to have a deal in a couple of months" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/27). In Vancouver, Bruce Constantineau reports the pouring rights deal also makes Budweiser the "official beer" of the CFL Lions, MLS Whitecaps and BC Place and gives Labatt "access to team logos and branding, along with exclusive rights to media and signage." Labatt "becomes the Lions' fifth premier partner and the Whitecaps' fourth major partner" as the team prepares for its MLS debut in March. But that debut against Toronto FC "will take place at the temporary Empire Field stadium and both the Caps and Lions will play there until PavCo completes" the BC Place renovation. All that is "known for sure is the newly renovated stadium will host the 2011 Grey Cup on Nov. 27." Crosley said the "installation of the 36th and final steel mast at BC Place was completed recently about two weeks behind schedule but stressed the building project itself is still on track for an 'early fall' opening." He added that the Whitecaps and Lions are "both working out the final details of their BC Place lease contracts." The leases "typically are for five-year terms, with options for extensions." Constantineau notes the Whitecaps "still have a vision to one day play in their own soccer-specific natural-grass waterfront stadium in downtown Vancouver" (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/27).
In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore reports the downtown NFL stadium plan being pushed by Tim Leiweke and AEG "expects to get a major boost Tuesday when it announces a naming rights deal that could reach $900 million over 30 years." Sources said that the rights fee is “expected to be $700 million over 30 years if one team plays at the proposed stadium and $900 million if it is two.” Farmers Insurance is reportedly the “primary candidate to strike a deal.” The announcement is set for 9:30am PT Tuesday at the L.A. Convention Center (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/27).
BANKING ON IT: In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes Univ. of Minnesota AD Joel Maturi is “confident the administration would allow” the Vikings to play at TCF Bank Stadium if the Metrodome's roof has not been repaired in time for the '11 NFL season. Maturi: “If indeed they can't play (at the Metrodome) and TCF Bank Stadium would be the only option for them, I'm pretty confident if necessary we could find a way for that to be done temporarily." Meanwhile, UM baseball coach John Anderson “continues to negotiate with Twins President Dave St. Peter about playing the team's entire conference schedule at Target Field if the Metrodome roof isn't fixed in time” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/27).
HOME IMPROVEMENTS: The Saints this week began an $85M renovation to the Superdome, and the AP's Mary Foster noted changes will include the “addition of 3,500 new seats on the ground level and construction of a new ‘club area,’ with 4,500 large leather seats with cup-holders -- including a private club for the use of those ticketholders.” The “upgrades are expected to boost the revenue” that Saints Owner Tom Benson is "able to generate in the Superdome and reduce the state's obligations to the club." Superdome officials said that renovation work is “scheduled to be completed by June 20 just before a major event, the Essence Musical Festival, is scheduled to be held at the venue starting July 1.” Foster noted the renovation is “expected to keep the Superdome competitive for future sporting events and comes as other aging arenas have eyed or are undertaking improvements” (AP, 1/26).
SEAT UPGRADES: Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren has “announced several changes to the track, including increasing the width of both stadium seats and bleacher seats by two inches throughout the grandstands.” As a result of the change, the seating capacity in the grandstands “will be reduced from 81,779 to between 76,000 and 77,000, depending on the seat manifest.” The stadium seats “will be new, while the benches -- which have chairbacks -- will remain intact but widened by remarking the numbers” (K.C. STAR, 1/27).