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The Vikings "would cover some -- but not all -- of any cost overruns" for the team's proposed stadium in Ramsey County, "would get the final say on whether the roof is retractable and would get the lucrative stadium naming rights money," according to Kaszuba & Olson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. A 12-page agreement of terms between the team and the county claims that the Arden Hills stadium "would open by June 2015, and include up to 150 private seats." The Vikings "would sign a 30-year lease," and they "would have the authority to decide on the stadium's design, development and construction." The stadium "would be publicly owned and be governed by a five-member stadium authority," but the Vikings "would operate and manage the facility and would own the 170 acres." All "stadium-generated revenue would go to the team, including from parking facilities, signs and naming rights." The Vikings "would pay for all municipal services such as security, traffic control and fire prevention." Kaszuba & Olson note while the Vikings are "obligated to commit $407 million to the project," the agreement indicates that team Owner Zygi Wilf's "own contribution could be significantly less than that." The $407M "would come not only from the team, but also the National Football League, the sale of private seat licenses and 'other private revenues generated by the project.'" The agreement "would not require Ramsey County to hold a voter referendum before imposing a sales tax increase -- a move that would require legislative approval." Legislative reaction to the proposal "continued to be mixed" yesterday. State officials said that building a stadium "would require $175 million in roadwork, and that building a stadium and any accompanying development would require" $240M (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/12).
ON SECOND GLANCE: In St. Paul, Dave Orrick reports Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday reiterated that the state's share of the project "should be no more than" $300M, and that extra roadwork "still should count against that" figure. However, "several key state lawmakers" yesterday said that the need to expand roads "needn't be a roadblock to the plan." The lawmakers, "a day after reviewing the stadium plan and the administration's projected road costs," said that they "believed the road costs were significantly higher than necessary." The Vikings and Ramsey County "maintain they'll need to pay for $80 million to $120 million in off-site road improvements" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/12).
ARDENT PURSUIT: Wilf said of the Arden Hills site, "This is the best site, this is the most exciting site, this answers all the questions that we have, and this is the right time." In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman writes there is "no doubt that Wilf was very upset" that Minneapolis' $895M proposal for a downtown stadium was "announced to the media before the Vikings." Hartman: "I'm positive Wilf will not negotiate with any other site unless the current Ramsey County deal falls apart. And Wilf is determined to get it through the Legislature" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/12). Also in Minneapolis, Eric Wieffering writes the smart decision politically for Wilf "would have been to stay downtown." But "as a second-generation builder, he couldn't put away the possibility of getting his hands on 400 acres within 10 miles of downtown Minneapolis." Wieffering: "There are many good reasons why Developer Wilf would choose a sprawling, 400-acre site in Arden Hills over the cramped confines of downtown Minneapolis." But Wieffering adds, "Remember that a battery of legislators and the governor would need to sign off on another $150 million or so for road improvements. Even Owner Wilf might find that a tough sell" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/12).
The new Islanders arena plan "isn't the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project development" team Owner Charles Wang "originally had envisioned, but the proposal to build a new arena is one he supports as a reasonable alternative," according to Katie Strang of NEWSDAY. Wang and Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday "joined to endorse a $400-million referendum which -- with the approval of the county legislature -- could be put to Nassau County voters Aug. 1," and it "may be the team's best chance to remain on Long Island." Wang said, "I think it's realistic in terms of today's climate and so forth." Under terms of the proposal, construction "would commence next summer and a new arena for the Islanders would be available" by the '15-16 season. Mangano yesterday stressed the revenue-sharing plan was developed to not "cost the taxpayers a dime." Wang and Islanders officials "hope this move can re-energize the fan base and translate to a boost in morale -- and personnel -- on the ice" (NEWSDAY, 5/12). In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes with the Islanders' time in Nassau Coliseum "quickly coming to a head, Wang doesn't want to think about past failures." Wang said, "Everybody knows we're now faced with a deadline. We can't play past 2015, that's it. ... I'm very confident and optimistic." The Islanders also are "optimistic, hoping the proposal passes so they can stop answering questions about an uncertain future" (N.Y. POST, 5/12). Wang said, "We don't anticipate any problems. As people all know, we have a little experience in doing this now" ("NHL Live," NHL Network, 5/11). Asked about the Islanders' future should this proposal be voted down, Wang said, "(Calling it) a last chance sounds like a threat. I don't even want to think about that. I don't want to look at that, because I think this is going to work" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12).
FACING A STEEP CLIMB? The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state fiscal watchdog, said yesterday it is "deeply concerned" about Mangano's proposal to borrow $400M for the new arena project. The NIFA, which "controls the county's finances and must approve the borrowing for the project, warned of the 'fiscal implications' for the county and said it was not consulted about the proposal." NIFA BOD member George Marlin said, "With the county in a state of fiscal despair -- and the fact that they are laying off county employees -- to saddle taxpayers with another $400 million in debt and to spend scarce dollars on a special election in my judgment is absurd." On Long Island, Robert Brodsky notes if the measure passes, a "supermajority of the legislature would have to authorize the borrowing, though NIFA could decide to squelch any bond issue" (NEWSDAY, 5/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy wrote, "If the vote happens to fail, it's not the final nail in the coffin for the Islanders keeping their home on Long Island ... but the lid will be just about shut" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/11). A NEWSDAY editorial states Mangano "deserves credit for trying to move forward the stalled development." But to "get the job done now, he'll have to convince voters that borrowing $400 million to publicly finance this new complex won't cost an extra dime." Mangano "has asked a panel of county elders to identify and even recruit complementary development of the 77 acres of county-owned land around the arena." The panel should "do even more and provide its opinion on whether income from the lease and sales taxes would cover the cost of borrowing an estimated $25 million to $40 million a year" (NEWSDAY, 5/12).
The NASCAR HOF, which celebrated its first anniversary yesterday, said that it "has attracted 274,000 visitors since opening -- second only nationwide" to the Baseball HOF, according to Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which runs the NASCAR HOF, said that the facility "lost $184,672 in March, on attendance of 15,881." That "brings the hall’s loss in the first nine months of the fiscal year to $1.33 million." Before the HOF opened, the CRVA projected a "nearly $800,000 surplus." But with attendance "lower than projected, the CRVA has slashed more than $4 million in expenses."The CRVA "projects the hall will finish the year with a deficit of $1.29 million." That means the facility is "projected to break even for the months of April, May and June." NASCAR HOF Exec Dir Winston Kelley said that the HOF's "unaudited attendance for its first year shows 274,000 visitors, though that number includes roughly 12,000 people who visited in January during a free" weeklong open house (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/12).NASCAR HOF ATTENDANCEMONTHATTENDANCEDec. '1014,636Jan. '1123,177*Feb. 1112,391March '1115,881April '1120,618**
NOTES: * = Includes nearly 12,000 visitors who came during a free open house. ** = Unaudited numbers.
In Charlotte, Scott Fowler noted Charlotte Motor Speedway, after four months of construction, “unveiled the world's largest high-definition television Tuesday.” At 200 feet by 80 feet, the Panasonic HDTV's screen size is "more than 30 percent bigger than the much-lauded video boards" at Cowboys Stadium. The screen, which runs across the backstretch between Turns 2 and 3, “is truly enormous” and “incredibly clear.” Fowler: “They won't say what it cost. But whatever it was, it was worth it. This will improve the fan experience dramatically, so much so that the speedway should guarantee at least a 20 percent refund to all fans if the big screen is ever non-operational for a race” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/11).
OLD KENTUCKY HOME: In Cincinnati, Kevin Kelly noted a “new club in the Kentucky Speedway infield will offer a hospitality area and an elevated view of NASCAR's top drivers as they compete in the inaugural” Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 on July 9. The two-story "Pit Road Club" will be a “temporary structure erected behind the pit road wall near the exit of Turn 4 and accommodate as many as 2,000 people.” The club's “ground floor will be enclosed and air-conditioned,” and the “upper level will be an observation deck.” Access to the Pit Road Club “will cost $395 per person,” which includes “a buffet, non-alcoholic beverages, vouchers for two alcoholic beverages, a pit road tour” before the race, a Fan Zone pass and a grandstand ticket to the Nationwide Series race on July 8 (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/11).
SAFETY FIRST: The AP's Pete Iacobelli noted NASCAR is “evaluating whether to install an energy-absorbing soft wall where Jeff Gordon hit at Richmond International Raceway.” NASCAR President Mike Helton last Saturday said, "It's not because Jeff says there should be (a SAFER barrier) there that we need to look at it. We know that there's an area that's uncovered where a bad hit occurred, and that's what we're looking at." RIR President Doug Fritz said that a SAFER barrier “would be installed if NASCAR and its consultants at the University of Nebraska recommends that area be upgraded” (AP, 5/8).
HEADED OFF TRACK: In Virginia, Dustin Long reported Speedway Associates Inc., the group leasing North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, on Monday announced that the track “was closing.” SAI “put some blame on the business climate and some on corporate or local business for not supporting the track as ‘promised.’” SAI President Alton McBride “wouldn’t reveal exact figures but acknowledged that if his group could raise about $250,000, it could continue operating the track and host races later this summer” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 5/10).