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Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday urged private developers to "pitch redevelopment plans" for the Nassau Coliseum site "in an effort to keep the Islanders from departing when the team's lease expires" in '15, according to Brodsky & Marshall of NEWSDAY. As some "potential suitors expressed interest in luring" the NHL franchise away from Long Island, Mangano "sought to reframe the issue a day after county voters defeated a referendum that would have permitted borrowing of up to $400 million to build a new arena and a minor league ballpark." Nassau County will "consider leasing or selling the land," and Mangano "called for preliminary proposals to be submitted by Aug. 12." He said, "This is a call to action. If you have proposals, bring them forward." Mangano's remarks came as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "expressed hope that the Islanders can remain on Long Island." Islanders Owner Charles Wang, who has said that he would move the team if a new Nassau Coliseum is not built, "did not respond to requests for comment" yesterday. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said that he has "talked with Wang about the team moving to the new Barclays Center, where the Nets will play beginning in 2012." Markowitz: "It will be a little smaller than the other spaces across the country, but still large enough to generate the type of income that a team needs." Nets CEO Brett Yormark confirmed that Barclays Center "could accommodate an NHL-sized rink, but it would hold 'a few thousand' fewer seats for hockey games than basketball" (NEWSDAY, 8/3). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes the failure of Monday's referendum "doesn't mean the one-time dynasty is doomed to relocation." With four more seasons before the arena lease expires, the team "can either dream up another re-development plan for its current home or look elsewhere in the New York area to build or partner" (TORONTO SUN, 8/3).
WAITING FOR ICE TIME: Yormark yesterday said Barclays Center officials "hope to explore hockey opportunities in the future." In N.Y., Rich Calder notes some Brooklyn-area officials "privately said they could see Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns 45 percent of the Barclays Center, potentially acquiring the Islanders to add 44-60 dates per year to help fill the arena." However, a Prokhorov spokesperson yesterday said the Nets owner "has no interest in buying another sports team at this time" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). Also in N.Y., Klein & Belson report Brooklyn and Quebec City are the "front-runners at this very early stage" to land the Islanders should the team relocate, with K.C., Seattle and Hamilton, Ontario, "regarded as much longer shots." Moving the Islanders to Brooklyn "would keep much of the Islanders’ fan base intact and would help preserve the club’s legacy." It also would "provide Wang or whoever owns the Islanders with luxury-box revenue, and more access to public transportation than the Coliseum has." Klein & Belson note Quebec City is "probably first in line to get a relocated NHL team, but right now it seems most likely that the Phoenix Coyotes, not the Islanders, will be that team." If Brooklyn and Quebec City "are not available, the Islanders may look" to Sprint Center in K.C. (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). ESPN.com's Doug McIntyre wrote moving to Brooklyn "makes a ton of sense," and if not there, Canada "seems the Isles' next most likely destination" (ESPN.com, 8/2). But SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said if the Islanders "leave the island, that rivalry, Islanders-Rangers, all the history with what they've been able to do out there at the Nassau Coliseum -- it'd be a hit for the hockey league” ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 8/2).
WHY VOTERS REJECTED THE DEAL: On Long Island, Ted Phillips reports Nassau County Board of Elections data reveals that the Islanders' referendum "was rejected by voters in 18 of the county's 19 legislative districts." Countywide, the final margin of defeat was 57% to 43%. The "only district to approve the borrowing was the 17th, the seat formerly held by the project's champion," Mangano. Voter turnout on Monday "was low, with 155,218 out of 899,343 registered voters, or 17.26 percent, casting ballots" (NEWSDAY, 8/3). In N.Y., David Halbfinger analyzes the vote under the header, "Fiscal Worries Fueled Defeat Of Arena Plan." Monday's defeat was "caused by an unlikely but broad coalition: Tea Party members and Democratic leaders, elderly residents already worried about the fate of Social Security and Medicare, parents of young children and powerful real estate developers." Voters still "rattled by the federal showdown over the debt limit said they opposed the plan for a new arena." Those voters explained that they "were less concerned about the future of a faded hockey franchise than about paying their monthly bills" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). N.Y. Daily News reporter Bill Madden said, "In this economic environment, they were asking to raise taxes to build an arena for a billionaire? I mean come on, give me a break” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y. 8/2).
EDITORIALS PRAISE RESULT: A N.Y. POST editorial states the referendum's failure is "good news for homeowners, whose sky-high property taxes would have soared another 4 percent to cover the debt load for the arena." Nassau County voters "rightly saw that costs would be borne on their backs alone -- and that they’d only worsen property taxes that already bleed the average household for $11,500 a year." The editorial continues, "Nassau is at a breaking point, and in no position to shower money on a struggling hockey team. Voters made the right call" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). A N.Y. TIMES editorial stated voters showed "far better sense and grasp of arithmetic than their elected leaders." The deal "stunk," and if Wang "needs a new arena, let him build it" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). Wang this morning released an open letter in response to the vote (THE DAILY).
TIME TO OWN UP: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes it is "pretty clear Long Island does not want Charles Wang." The fate of the referendum "seemed a vote of non-confidence in Wang, who has been at best an idiosyncratic owner, and at worst an out-and-out disaster utterly incapable of organizing a legitimate big-league hockey club." If Wang "wants the Islanders to stay in Nassau County, the most constructive move he could make would be to sell the club to someone else" (TORONTO STAR, 8/3). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes Monday "might have been a bad day" for Wang, but it "was not necessarily a bad day for the Islanders." Under current circumstances, it is "all but impossible to make the argument that public money should be used to build an arena or stadium anywhere and for anyone wealthy enough to own a pro sports team." Brooks adds, "This doesn't mean the end of the Islanders, either in Nassau County or perhaps in neighboring boroughs Brooklyn or Queens. It just means we're one step closer to the end-game for Wang as the team's owner" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote, "No franchise gets moved if the league believes the team has been or can be a success where it is and ownership is willing to keep it there. Charles Wang may not want to keep the Islanders on the Island, but Gary Bettman will find someone else who does." The Islanders are a "classic 'handyman's special,' and if Wang plays his cards right, someone will come along and buy them, maybe even give him something closer to the $187.5 million" that he and Sanjay Kumar paid for the team. Hackel: "Think no one is out there who can do that? Think ... Jim Balsillie" (SI.com, 8/2).
Marlins Senior VP/Communications & Broadcasting P.J. Loyello yesterday said that a “deal is close to being finalized on principal naming rights” for the Marlins’ new ballpark, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Marlins President David Samson in mid-June said that “negotiations were down to two companies.” Samson at the time said, “It’s going to be a very interesting deal when it’s announced. Both companies are international companies.” Craig noted the deal “will be for more than the name on the ballpark.” Loyello said that the partnership is going to be “omnipresent from a marketing standpoint, a community standpoint and, obviously, a presence at the ballpark itself.” The team has “other secondary sponsors lined up to put their names on the four quadrants of the ballpark,” and those deals “will be finalized after the primary naming partnership is announced.” Samson: “We’re not going to finalize those until the naming rights deal is done. It’s a much longer partnership, longer in years and more money” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 8/2).
PLAY BALL: In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes the Marlins will open their new ballpark next season against the Yankees with “two exhibition games leading up to opening day.” The Yankees and Marlins will “wrap up spring training by playing at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 1 and at 7:10 p.m. the next night at the new ballpark.” Those games “may be preceded by college games.” The games “will help players get used to” the new ballpark before the home opener against the Cardinals on April 4 (PALM BEACH POST, 8/3). All ’12 season-ticket holders "will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets" to the exhibition games, with a "limited amount of tickets going on sale to the general public in spring of 2012" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/3).
Clutch Hitters, a Tampa Bay group promoting the Rays to area companies, is “now swinging for something bigger -- a new stadium,” according to David DeCamp of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Group leaders “will meet with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster on Aug. 10, hoping to end the standoff between the city and the team over building a replacement for Tropicana Field.” Clutch Hitters, which “includes 75 bay area business leaders, began a public campaign last year to boost corporate investment in suites and tickets to see the Rays play.” Group members this summer visited other MLB ballparks and “that led the group to take a more aggressive stand on keeping Major League Baseball” in the Tampa Bay area. The group “isn't proposing a specific location -- or for that matter, a plan to pay for a new stadium that could cost as much as $600 million.” Kenny Locke, who sits on the Clutch Hitters' steering committee, said that the group has “met with the Rays, who are not actively involved but are ‘appreciative’ of the effort” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/3).
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy yesterday "named ESPN one of his 'First Five' companies, promising tax breaks and a low-interest loan in exchange for an investment of more than $100 million and the creation of hundreds of new jobs," according to Jackie Majerus of the BRISTOL PRESS. Both Malloy and ESPN said that the deal "helps solidify the company's presence" in the state and, pursuant to the agreement, the company "started construction Tuesday on a second digital center, a structure that will be the 19th and largest building" on its Bristol campus. Officials said that "terms of the agreement are still being finalized, but will cover a time span of a minimum of 10 years." Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development Deputy Commissioner Ronald Angelo said that ESPN will get a $17.5M "low-interest loan and as much as $6 million taken off taxes that would be paid on the construction." Angelo added that the state "will provide a training grant of at least $300,000 and as much as $1.2 million, depending on how many jobs ESPN creates" in Connecticut, with the range "being between 200 and 800 jobs." ESPN Exec VP/Administration Ed Durso said that the "state incentive helped the company remain at home in Connecticut." Durso said, "We prefer to stay here." ESPN and former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland "broke ground on the first digital center in 2000, and it opened four years later." Durso noted that company officials "expected the first digital center to last a decade before more space would be needed." Durso said the new 190,000-square-foot digital center will cost "well north of $100 million." ESPN Exec VP & Chief Technology Officer Chuck Pagano said that the digital center will be the "new home for the company's flagship program, SportsCenter" (BRISTOL PRESS, 8/3).
HOME GROWN: In Hartford, Mara Lee reports in the next two years, at least 275 new ESPN employees "will join the 3,872 full-timers on the Bristol campus." The company said that the "average salary for the new jobs is $75,000." Some of the $17.5M loan given to ESPN "will be forgivable, depending on how many workers ESPN hires in Connecticut over the next decade, but how much is also still under negotiation." The company also will "get a break on sales and use taxes for materials bought for the construction project, up to $6 million, depending on how much they spend." The four-story "broadcast technology building is supposed to open in the spring of 2014" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/3). The AP's Stephen Singer notes Connecticut's "First Five" initiative is "intended to consolidate various tax credits to draw the first five businesses that invest $25 million in Connecticut and create 200 jobs over five years" (AP, 8/3).
BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES: The BRISTOL PRESS' Majerus reports federal and state officials yesterday recognized ESPN as "StormReady." The designation, "the first in the state to a commercial venue and only the second in New England, came from the National Weather Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection." It means that ESPN "worked to accomplish the federal criteria for the StormReady designation, a process that took a year to complete." ESPN "had to put in place an early response system, a weather-monitoring plan and record-keeping method, and a way to warn employees or potential or occurring disasters" (BRISTOL PRESS, 8/3).
Bears Chair George McCaskey yesterday said that "no changes are planned" to the natural grass surface at Soldier Field despite the fact that many players from the Bears and other teams have "strongly criticized" it. McCaskey said, "It's not a money issue on the turf. It's at this point, primarily it's a safety issue. The studies aren't conclusive, but the studies that we have looked at have shown a higher incidence of lower leg injuries among players on artificial turf. And we want to prolong careers. We want our players to be safe." He added, "I don't have any scientific evidence for this, but I would suggest to you that a natural grass field that has shown some wear and tear in January is safer than a frozen artificial surface in January" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/2).
DEAL WITH THE DEVILS: In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe reports Arizona State Univ. is "in discussions" with the Cubs "to practice and play its baseball games at the Cubs' new spring-training complex in Mesa starting in 2014." The Cubs "approached ASU about sharing the $84 million complex," and ASU VP/Univ. Athletics Lisa Love "sent an e-mail to baseball season-ticket holders Tuesday outlining the Cubs' possibility." ASU VP/Public Affairs Virgil Renzulli said that an ASU clubhouse at the facility would cost an estimated $2M, "compared with $20 million to $25 million to rebuild Packard Stadium, home to the Sun Devils since 1974" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/3).
GATHERING FEEDBACK: In Chicago, Shannon Ryan reports Northwestern Univ. will redesign the floor at Welsh-Ryan Arena next month, and the school will decide between four floor options "partially based off fan opinions on a Facebook page." Northwestern Associate Dir of Athletic Communications Nick Brilowski said that a court design "will be chosen by the athletic staff near the end of next week ... and the construction will begin around mid-August." Ryan notes the Facebook reviews "have been mixed but opinions are strong concerning the mostly all-purple court" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/3).
CALLING PLAN: In Boston, Sara Brown reported AT&T is "improving cell phone reception at Fenway Park." AT&T will "increase mobile broadband coverage in the Fenway area with the addition of new 'strategically placed' wireless antennas." Factors like the "terrain, buildings, and crowd density" previously affected wireless service at the ballpark (BOSTON.com, 8/2).
THAT'S THE TICKET: In Miami, Elaine Walker reports Wal-Mart and Ticketmaster yesterday "announced a program to install touch screen kiosks in the electronics department" of Walmart stores. After customers select an event, a Wal-Mart employee "will complete the transaction and print the ticket" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/3).