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AEG expects to select an architect to design Farmers Field in the next two weeks, according to company President & CEO Tim Leiweke. The three finalists for the job -- Gensler, HKS and HNTB -- made their presentations to AEG officials in mid-December and provided renderings as part of those meetings. One of the Gensler images was displayed prominently during yesterday’s press conference to announce the Farmers Field naming-rights deal, but it was used as an example, said Farmers Insurance CMO Kevin Kelso. The Gensler stadium image is also on the new Farmers Field Web site. The proposed billion-dollar stadium could have up to 68,000 permanent seats, expandable to more than 70,000 seats for the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. The design proposal issued by AEG calls for 160 traditional suites, 18 group skyboxes and 14,700 club seats (Muret & Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
PEP RALLY: In L.A., Lance Pugmire writes the Farmers Field naming-rights announcement "took on the life of a pep rally," as L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. sports legends and other business and city leaders "did everything they could Tuesday to convince the converted that the NFL was coming back to Los Angeles." It was a "morning of self-congratulatory speeches," as "bold statements booming through microphones defined the announcement." Leiweke, "in a nod to critics of his project," including Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski's group that aims to build a stadium in City of Industry, said, "It's easy to shoot darts and cast fear." He "pointed instead to AEG's success in building Staples Center and LA Live." Roski was "unavailable for comment," but Majestic VP John Semcken said, "We firmly believe that our stadium proposal, which is modeled after the most successful stadiums in the league, is best suited for the NFL and the entire Southern California region." Pugmire reports the 30-year naming-rights deal with Farmers Insurance is "worth $700 million, with the possibility of growing to $900 million if two NFL teams relocate to the proposed stadium." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said of the deal, "To me, that is a major indication of the viability of a franchise in Los Angeles. They're a very credible group there that is attempting to build a stadium, and certainly the kinds of things they're doing, within the framework of the financial dollars that I'm seeing and hearing about, should work" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2).
AIMING HIGH: Leiweke yesterday said, "This is L.A. and this is Hollywood. If you build it, they will come. I do believe that there are a lot of teams that aren't going to have success in getting a facility in their own marketplace and they're going to look at this and know that they don't need a cash investment. We're going to put up the $1 billion and we're going to make it work for them." He added, "We're going to continue to proceed with this without a team committed because we've been talking to the league and the teams. ... I'm convinced that if we get that done that what you're going to see is real rapid movement on getting a team here." Kelso said there "certainly" are contingencies if a team does not relocate to L.A. Kelso: "It's a complicated deal. ... The bottom line is we wouldn't enter into this deal if we didn't think there was going to be a stadium here and we didn't think there was going to be a team here" ("The Call," CNBC, 2/1). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Leiweke's "goal is to host the 50th Super Bowl game in early 2016 in the same city that hosted the first Super Bowl." But "for this to happen, the stadium would require a waiver from the NFL owners voting on the Super Bowl location since all stadiums considered for hosting a Super Bowl must be in operation for at least one calendar year before the game." The league "will likely vote on the location for the 50th Super Bowl in late May 2012." If the NFL is "confident the stadium will be built by early 2015, they would likely grant the waiver." Cowboys Stadium was awarded this week's Super Bowl XLV "two years before the stadium opened." Leiweke is "hoping for three Super Bowls every 10 years." Leiweke "would also like to host the NFL draft at the Nokia Theatre, across the street from the future site of Farmers Field at L.A. Live." And "with a retractable roof on Farmers Field, Leiweke also envisions the venue hosting potentially two to three NCAA Final Fours every 10 years." Farmers Field also "would look into hosting the newly formed Pac-12 football championship game and possibly a new Los Angeles college bowl game" (ESPNLA.com, 2/1).
HURDLES REMAIN: In L.A., Patrick McGreevy reports AEG Chair Philip Anschutz' plan for the stadium "may now hinge on whether state lawmakers will allow him to bypass some environmental rules so the 64,000-seat project can quickly get underway." Anschutz "has not said publicly what he wants legislators to do for him," but "comments by company officials and lawmakers suggest his firm wants immunity from lawsuits that could hold up a project like his for years." Lawmakers in '09 "gave such immunity" to Roski, and Leiweke said that AEG "wants only what the Legislature gave Roski" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2). Also in L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes, "To be sure, there are still political hurdles to clear, promises to keep, deadlines to meet and an actual NFL team to persuade before Farmers Field becomes a reality. But make no mistake, the naming rights deal and Tuesday's extravagant news conference are convincing signs this project is on the right path" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/2).
TWIN BILLING? Villaraigosa yesterday said "there's no question" the NFL wants two teams in L.A. The mayor "met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York in December and spoke to Goodell by telephone Monday." Based "on those conversations and others with NFL owners," Villaraigosa said, "There's no question once we get one, we're going to get another one, that's what the NFL wants." Villaraigosa also "confirmed for the first time that he has also met with officials from NFL teams." When pressed to identify those teams, Villaraigosa said, "I'll say this: I have a team of preference. You guys have actually seen some pictures." Villaraigosa was "referring to mock photos of Farmers Field that show both the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings." When "asked specifically if he has had discussions with Minnesota officials," Villaraigosa said, "I'm getting too far into the weeds. I've answered as many questions as I'm going to" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/2). Steelers President Art Rooney II yesterday said that the NFL "should return to Los Angeles by 2016 but the league is not ready to expand internationally anytime soon" (REUTERS, 2/1).
GLORIFYING THE NFL: In L.A., Michael Hiltzik writes of yesterday's announcement, "It's hard to remember another occasion when a Los Angeles mayor and leaders of the City Council slobbered so wetly and publicly over a private enterprise so far in advance of its actually delivering on a promise. ... What was unseemly about the appearances by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry and council member Janice Hahn was their glorification of the NFL." Hiltzik added, "By making the case that L.A. needs to build the stadium to upgrade its convention center -- and of course it needs an NFL team to build the stadium -- Villaraigosa, Perry and Hahn have given the NFL an enormous crowbar to prize concessions from them in return for that coveted team" (L.A. TIMES, 2/2).
An array of Minneapolis leaders yesterday "proposed a $150 million renovation they said would keep Target Center in downtown Minneapolis competitive for 20 years," though they said that they "still have to work out who would pay for it," according to Steve Brandt of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The plans "would open up the city-owned building more to the street and nearby facilities such as Target Field." One of the "most visible changes would be to provide views into and out of the arena's public spaces instead of the current mostly opaque facade." The renovations also would "expand concourses and renovate locker rooms" and add "new fan services such as another restaurant, a new bar, a food court, new club seats and a VIP entrance." There was "no start date given for the proposal." Boosters noted that Target Center is the "fourth-oldest arena in the NBA," and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor and others said that renovation is a "more cost-effective approach than replacing the 21-year old arena." But City Council member Gary Schiff said that Minneapolis "will face a similar renovation need in 20 years unless it sheds ownership" of the arena. Rybak's Communications Dir, John Stiles, noted that the city, the T'Wolves and facility manager AEG are "potential contributors" to financing the renovations, though "one source that Rybak ruled out is an additional contribution from city property taxes." Rybak said that the $150M plan "would be atop" a current 10-year, $50M "renovation of building systems" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/2). Rybak said that the project "could take 15 to 18 months to complete once financing is approved." Taylor said that the T'Wolves, "who conduct 25 percent of the events in Target Center, would have an active role in planning the renovation and contributing to the cost" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/2).
WORSE BY ASSOCIATION: In Minneapolis, Michael Rand writes Target Center "never has been a great venue," but for many years it "was an average place to watch a sporting event in a metro area filled with similarly decent places." The arena's "curse" comes from the "overwhelming upgrade the Twin Cities has seen with its sports facilities in just the past couple of years." Target Center "now not only pales in comparison to Xcel Energy Center, but also to TCF Bank Stadium and most importantly" Target Field. Rand: "Target Center is hardly a dump. It's comfortable. There are navigation quirks, but accessibility is generally good" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/2).
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee yesterday said that the team has “offered to sweeten the pot for Miami Beach in a push to secure public financing for renovations of both Sun Life Stadium and the city's aging convention center,” according to David Smiley of the MIAMI HERALD. Dee said that the team sent a letter yesterday to the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association, “offering to alter a proposed state bill that would allow Broward and Miami-Dade commissioners to increase a regional tourist development tax by a penny.” Dee said that the “new split would send 60 percent of the new revenue to the convention center and 40 percent to Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins' home stadium, or potentially other eligible sports franchises.” Smiley notes that Dolphins' “push for public financing has drummed up considerable opposition.” Florida state Sen. Mike Bennett on Monday confirmed that he is “supporting legislation that would allow Miami-Dade commissioners to raise the county's convention development tax by a penny in order to finance the convention center only -- excluding Sun Life Stadium.” Dee said that the Dolphins' new offer “was not made in response to Bennett's proposed legislation” (MIAMI HERALD, 2/2).
TRYING TO STAY COMPETITIVE: In Miami, Armando Salguero reported the "amount of money the Dolphins need for their upgrades here is $200 million, not the previously stated $250 million." The money would be used to upgrade the stadium’s “original 1987 lighting that has to be improved for the benefit of modern television technology.” The money would also go toward upgrading what Dee called an "inadequate" video system infrastructure. In addition, it would “bring a number of seats 18 feet closer to the field and add 3,500 seats, thereby increasing the number of seats between the goal lines.” But the money would “go, most notably, toward building a canopy-type roof over the stadium that would guard fans against the elements while still allowing the playing surface to remain out in the elements.” Dee: "Doing all those things would bring us just above the Mendoza line, or in the zip code of where we need to be as a facility capable of attracting Super Bowl and BCS title games." Dee added that the upgrades “would also add approximately 30 years of shelf life to Sun Life Stadium.” Dee: "Facilities have come online that are newer and perhaps more attractive to the NFL. Dallas is going to be competing for Super Bowls over the longterm. It won't be a one-off award to Dallas. … We take the possibility that we could be out of the Super Bowl rotation as real.” Salguero noted the “approach the Dolphins want to see South Florida take is that the league's biggest game comes to town perhaps every four to five years,” and Dee indicated that “that will not happen unless Sun Life is upgraded” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 2/1).
Silverton Casino President Craig Cavileer and Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski yesterday officially unveiled their proposal for a 40,000-seat "domed stadium that would house UNLV's football and basketball teams," according to Richard Lake of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The stadium "theoretically could adjust in size to seat anywhere from a few thousand people to 40,000." Plans also call for "refurbishing the Thomas & Mack Center, where UNLV currently plays its basketball games," and adding "3,000 or more units of on-campus housing." In addition, the proposal includes 600,000 square feet of "retail space housing everything from restaurants to hotels to coffee shops," and "several parking garages with enough spaces for 15,000 or more vehicles." But there is "no financing in place" for the project, and there are "no hard and fast designs." Also, there have been "no agreements with the necessary government entities" and "not even a guess as to the total cost or the year it might be finished." Cavileer said that the developers "have no plans to seek any public financing," and that the project "would likely be financed through private and corporate donations, the developer's money, borrowing and revenues from a special improvement district, if approved." Lake notes Cavileer and Roski "will present their ideas to the higher educations system's Board of Regents on Feb. 11" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/2). In Las Vegas, Steve Carp notes the new stadium may be the "magnet that finally attracts a major league sports franchise" to the city. The project's developers were "treading lightly on the notion of the NBA or NHL placing a team in the facility." But Cavileer said that the stadium "would be an ideal place to attract combat sports." Cavileer: "We'd love to be the home of the UFC. We'd also love to have the big fights" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/2).
STILL IN PRELIMINARY STAGES: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes, "It's a tremendous project with endless possibilities and one that if it comes true might earn Neal Smatresk his own bust outside the stadium, or at least have one of the proposed new entryways named for the university president. But that's where it remains today" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/2). Also in Las Vegas, Ryan Green writes, "For all of the optimism on display Tuesday, there were several questions hanging over the crowd that just couldn't be answered completely in this preliminary stage. How much, if any, public money would be needed to complete the venture? What would happen to Sam Boyd Stadium if this comes to fruition? ... What kind of traffic headaches would be caused with this?" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 2/2).