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The California State Assembly Committees on Natural Resources and on Appropriations yesterday both "voted in favor of Senate Bill 292, the bill to expedite legal challenges to Farmers Field," AEG's proposed football stadium in downtown L.A., according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. It was the "first of several hurdles the bill must clear over the next three days before Friday's deadline for action on bills when Sacramento lawmakers will break for recess." The bill, which includes "no exemption from environmental laws, would allow legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report to be heard immediately in the California Court of Appeal, which would then come to a decision within 175 days." The expedited process "would bypass the Superior Court and avoid the protracted litigation AEG has been fearful of." In exchange, AEG "has pledged to build a carbon-neutral stadium with more public transit users than any other stadium in the country and have committed to making Farmers Field one of the only stadiums in the country to have a net-zero carbon footprint." Markazi noted although the bill "seems to have the support of most legislators in Los Angeles, the real battle will be convincing lawmakers to the north and south, which will not be easy considering the two teams most commonly linked to a move to Los Angeles if the stadium is built" are the Chargers and Raiders (ESPNLA.com. 9/6). An L.A. TIMES editorial stated, "Cutting a special deal for a high-profile developer is unfair to other builders, encourages backroom corruption and fails to address the systemic problems that bedevil growth in California. And yet, failing to pass this bill would be worse" (L.A. TIMES, 9/4).
TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that he expects Majestic Realty, which has proposed a competing NFL stadium, "will file or back a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the downtown project." He also said that Majestic Realty VP John Semcken "was with lobbyists in Sacramento recently urging legislators not to pass any law that would help Farmers Field avoid litigation." Leiweke: "They spent the week in Sacramento and I think they did themselves a disservice because almost everyone that came back to us was shocked at how they trashed us." Semcken "didn't deny he was in Sacramento speaking to legislators but said he and Majestic have no plans to file a lawsuit to stop the downtown stadium project" (ESPNLA.com, 9/2). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan writes in the absence of league guidance, and "perhaps because the NFL believes competition results in the best deal, the tone and politics in Los Angeles have turned downright nasty." Leiweke, referring to Majestic Realty execs, said, "These guys throw things on the wall and see if they stick." Leiweke said of Semcken, "This man has essentially gone there and spun the truth and been wrong every time, and he knows nothing about our stadium. I don't believe a word he says" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/5 issue).
Quebec City's municipal council "approved a six-part agreement Tuesday between the city and Quebecor Media Inc., handing the Montreal media conglomerate the keys to a proposed" NHL arena, according to Kevin Dougherty of the Montreal GAZETTE. With the 25-year deal, renewable for 15 years, the city hopes to "draw an NHL team to replace the Nordiques," who left Quebec City for Denver in '95. The six contracts between the city, Quebecor and its subsidiaries "specify that they are conditional on the adoption of Bill 204 by the National Assembly." Bill 204 would "retroactively confirm the legality of the city's arrangement with Quebecor, negotiated directly with the media giant rather than through public tenders" (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/7). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon reports Quebecor over the life of the deal will pay between C$110-200M "in rent, profit-sharing and naming rights." The company in return "will have exclusive rights to stage concert events and hockey, and to make its own arrangements for ancillary revenues like concessions and beer sales." Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said that the "final contract is even more beneficial for taxpayers than the agreement-in-principle the parties hammered out last March." The deal "contains a provision that allows the city to scrutinize Quebecor's financial receipts as they pertain to the building, and some beefed-up clauses to keep the future NHL team in the building for the duration of the lease." Labeaume said, "If Quebecor, and this is a hypothesis I don't believe in, were to obtain a National Hockey League team and sell it or move it in 10 years, they will still have to pay rent for 15 years. And that's important to retain the club. It's an incentive not to leave." Gordon notes Quebecor "also won a concession in the final negotiations: If the company is unsuccessful in obtaining an NHL franchise, it will pay a lower price for the naming rights -- which could top out around [C]$64-million -- to the proposed 18,000-seat building" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/7).
In Ft. Worth, Scott Nishimura reported Apogee, the Austin-based campus networking firm that purchased naming rights to the Univ. of North Texas' new football stadium in a 20-year deal valued at $20M, "will pay $11.8 million of the total in cash." The contract indicates that the rest "will come in in-kind services." Under the agreement, Apogee "will be responsible for increasing bandwidth every year of the deal beyond what's already required under its management contract with the university." Apogee will receive a "16-seat luxury suite at the stadium," and advertising "by Apogee competitors is barred on UNT property within 1,500 feet of the stadium" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/6).
TIME FOR CHANGE: In S.F., John Crumpacker reported the renovation of Univ. of California-Berkeley's Memorial Stadium, which began in "early December 2010, is about 30 percent complete one year out from a hard deadline of Sept. 1, 2012." As "progress is made on a daily basis, the four anchor foundation boxes supporting what will be a six-level press box on the west side are in place, as is the sloping foundation for seating on that side of the stadium." In addition, a "seismic retrofitting on the north and south ends of the stadium" are taking place. Cal AD Sandy Barbour: "It's moving along at lightning speed. We knew it was a very ambitious timeline. We're making great progress" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/4).
SLOW AND STEADY: Florida Int'l Univ. AD Pete Garcia on Monday said that after this football season, FIU Stadium's "north side bleachers will be demolished and replaced by seating that fully encloses the stadium." The project will begin Nov. 13, "the day after FIU's final regular season game, against FAU, and will be finished in time for the 2012 season." There will be "north sides suites and a second Stadium Club, but the "full expansion to 45,000 seats with a second deck is a few years down the road." Garcia: "This is needed right now. We need finish out our stadium" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 9/5).
In Portland, Kerry Eggers cited an official as saying that naming rights at Jeld-Wen Field “shouldn’t be affected by impending bankruptcy proceedings with the Klamath Falls-based window and door company.” MLS Timbers COO Mike Golub said, “A multi-year deal is in place, and (Jeld-Wen officials) are very happy with it. We don’t expect anything to change” (Portland TRIBUNE, 9/5). The Timbers and Jeld-Wen announced the naming-rights partnership in March, ahead of the team's MLS debut this season, though terms of the agreement were not disclosed (THE DAILY).
BACK FOR ANOTHER SPIN: Kentucky Speedway GM Mark Simendinger told the state Senate Transportation Committee that NASCAR "has authorized another Sprint Cup series race at the track in 2012.” NASCAR “made that decision despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic problems that enraged many ticketholders and overshadowed the track’s inaugural” Cup Series race July 9. Simendinger noted that the speedway “has hired new experts to re-evaluate parking and traffic patterns, and $7.5 million in upgrades are under way to enhance parking around the track, including a new lot that will add 10,000 spaces to the 33,000 already available” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 9/7).
UNDER THE LIGHTS: In California, Louis Brewster reports the Izod IndyCar Series' return to Auto Club Speedway after a seven-year absence has been scheduled for Sept. 15, 2012. The 400-mile race “will finish under the lights, but a starting time has yet to be announced by the sanctioning body.” ACS President Gillian Zucker said, "We're going to push for as late a starting time as we can get with our television partners." It is “not clear where the race, unsponsored at the moment, will fall on the IndyCar Series schedule” (SAN BERNARDINO SUN, 9/7).
RENOVATION STATION: In Albany, Cooper & Sichko report Saratoga Race Course officials are “determined to overhaul their corporate business by investing up to $15 million to build new suites, a hospitality room and viewing areas.” The proposed construction of a "three-story At the Rail hospitality building is a critical piece" of NYRA's plan to invest $100M "over the next five years to strengthen its operations at Saratoga and Belmont Park.” NYRA “expects to receive more than $22 million a year when its third track, Aqueduct in Queens, begins operating slot machines in October for the first time” (Albany BUSINESS REVIEW, 9/2 issue).