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Renovations at Progressive Field “may have begun with construction of a model loge completed last week,” according to Andrew John of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Indians President Mark Shapiro said that the organization “is treating the suite much like a concept car.” He said that it “will showcase the latest in state-of-the-art technology and luxury, a gauge for feedback before going forward with full-scale loge reconstruction.” Changes include the “addition of a 42-inch flat screen TV, a smaller version of the flat screen for the private restroom, a built-in team memorabilia display, updated decor and a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door.” Team officials are “letting prospective renters tour the new model, but believe the most valuable feedback will come from those who rent the suite for a game.” Some believe the 17-year-old Progressive Field “is at the age where improvements are needed.” Of the 30 ballparks in the league, only 11 are “older than Cleveland's -- and six of those have either undergone a major renovation or their cities are building new” facilities. Indians officials “talked last year of the need for looking at upgrading heating, lighting and other internal systems, as well as possibly changes to the park's exterior.” Shapiro said that loge improvements “may or may not play into the larger picture.” He added that the Indians “aren't competing against the newer or updated stadiums” in MLB, but are “battling for the corporate and entertainment dollars in Northeast Ohio” (CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 7/28).
UP ON THE ROOF: In Ohio, Sheldon Ocker wondered if it is "too late to consider building a retractable roof over" Progressive Field. Indians Exec VP/Business Dennis Lehman said, “We talked to Populous (the successor to HOK architectural firm that designed the stadium) a couple of years ago. We would have to build something like huge railroad tracks over the park for the roof to slide on and off. I don’t think we have enough land here. It’s a pretty tight fit on the site now. They didn’t think it was practical.” He added that he has "no idea what a roof would cost" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/28).
Construction crews are at the halfway point with the first phase of MSG’s renovation, and the arena is on schedule to be ready for the NHL Rangers’ season opener on Oct. 27. MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner led journalists on a tour of the arena Thursday to show the progress. “On the construction side and the commercial side, the transformation is on schedule,” Ratner said. Crews have installed new seats in the lower bowl, framed out the expanded locker rooms and the new Delta Sky Club hospitality suite, and have expanded mid- and lower-level concourses. Ratner said 19 of the 20 event-level suites, valued at $1M per year, have been contracted, and that 75% of the 58 Madison-level suites have also been sold. Crews must finish construction on the concourses and lower suites, as well as the Delta Club, which will provide views of players entering and exiting the locker rooms. Ratner said the arena will not have to cancel any of its fall events due to construction. The construction is being done over three summers, and will finish in the fall of '13 (Fred Dreier, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Jeremy Olshan notes new “dark, almost Yankees-blue seats have been installed throughout the lower bowl, and over the next two years will be added throughout the arena.” But Ratner said that the seating “won’t be entirely monochrome.” Roughly 1,000 lighter blue seats “will be installed in the upper bowl to pay homage to the ones way up in the rafters which were once the MSG equivalent of the Yankee Stadium bleachers” (N.Y. POST, 7/29). On Long Island, Arthur Staple notes the “final touches -- a completely renovated Seventh Avenue lobby, a new fan deck on the 10th floor and a state-of-the-art GardenVision scoreboard -- will be the last summer’s work.” Ratner: “We’re right where we hoped to be. The scope of the work is moving along nicely” (NEWSDAY, 7/29).
The Univ. of California’s football team is scheduled to play its home games at AT&T Park this season while Memorial Stadium undergoes a $321M renovation, and the team's Oct. 13 game against USC "would fall during the National League Championship Series," according to Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com. Cal football coach Jeff Tedford Thursday said, “If the Giants go deep into the playoffs, there could be a couple of games there that could overlap. That would be an interesting problem to have at that point.” Maisel noted the USC-Cal game is “the only one at issue.” Utah is scheduled to play at Cal on Oct. 22, the date of Game 3 of the World Series. But since the NL won the All-Star Game, Game 3 “will be played in the park” of the AL champion. Cal AD Sandy Barbour in an e-mail said, “We are currently working with all of the alternative facilities (Candlestick Park and Oakland Coliseum) to secure a backup in case of a conflict” (ESPN.com, 7/28).
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: In Oakland, Jonathan Okanes noted Cal's new Student-Athlete High Performance Center “is nearing completion, and the football stadium is also coming along.” The 142,000 square-foot SAHPC, which “is being constructed at the cost of $150 million in private donations and is adjacent to Memorial Stadium, will be home to all of Cal's football facilities.” The SAHPC has been under construction since the fall of '08 and “is supposed to open in October, but the football team likely will hold off moving in until after its season is complete.” A renovated Memorial Stadium “is scheduled to open in time for the 2012 season” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/28).
Northern Illinois Univ. AD Jeff Compher Wednesday said that he "would be interested in the Huskies playing a football game at Wrigley Field," according to Scott Powers of ESPN CHICAGO. NIU is "scheduled to play at Soldier Field against Wisconsin this season and Iowa in 2012, but Compher would like to look at the possibility of Wrigley Field after that." Compher, however, "believes safety issues need to be addressed for football games to be played at Wrigley Field." Last year's Illinois-Northwestern game "was played only in one direction because of concerns of the outfield wall being so close to the end zone." Powers noted Compher "would also like to continue to play games at Soldier Field" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 7/27).
WINDY CITY BOWL? Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald Tuesday said the "only thing missing" in college football is a "bowl game in Chicago." Fitzgerald: "I have no insider information, but this is the home base of the Big Ten, and the city loves college football. ... I think the Chicagoland market would embrace it" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/27).
An L.A. TIMES editorial noted the L.A. City Council Friday “will spend the day poring over a proposed memorandum of understanding” with AEG, the company that built Staples Center and L.A. Live and “now hopes to build a downtown football stadium.” The council “does not intend to vote on the agreement this week but rather to publicly air any remaining questions.” It should “take full advantage of this crucial opportunity to satisfy itself and the public that this deal is neither a developer giveaway nor a sop to beleaguered football fans, but rather is one that makes economic and environmental sense for Los Angeles” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28).
TO-DO LIST: In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak notes supporters of a proposed downtown arena for the NBA Kings Thursday said that “they have a lot of work left to do before they release an arena financing report Sept. 8, including sifting through a list of up to 50 more arena funding possibilities.” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's arena group this week “issued what it called a preliminary financing report, listing potential money sources, notably a $2 to $3 surcharge on tickets for games, concerts and other events at a new arena.” The report also “suggested existing city-owned downtown parking garages could generate up to” $5M from events (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/29).
VOICING THEIR OPINION: On Long Island, Robert Brodsky notes the Association for a Better Long Island, which is against a plan to build a new Nassau Coliseum, Thursday “urged a state monitoring board to oppose the project.” Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano “criticized ABLI’s efforts.” Mangano: “A vocal minority is attempting to drown out the majority.” Brodsky notes local charities and churches “backed the plan, saying it would bring jobs and lower taxes” (NEWSDAY, 7/29).
FINANCIAL BOOST: In Orlando, David Damron reported Orange County (Fla.) could be “close to reaching a deal that would provide a major financial boost to the downtown arts center and Florida Citrus Bowl projects.” The cash would come from “a potentially multimillion-dollar settlement in the county's long-running legal fight” with Expedia “over how hotel rooms sold through the Internet should be taxed.” A drop in hotel-tax revenues delayed the $383M performing-arts center project, “forcing its backers to further delay construction on one of its three planned halls.” The Citrus Bowl is slated for $175M in upgrades, but “that face-lift can't begin until final funding is locked in place for the arts center” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/28).