SBD/September 8, 2011/FacilitiesPrint All
Rain is threatening to cancel a third consecutive day of tennis at the U.S. Open today and has reignited calls for a roof at the National Tennis Center, but the size of the 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium "makes covering it a conundrum for reasons having to do with structural integrity and the bottom line," according to Karen Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES. The $254M stadium opened in '97, and it has been "estimated that a retractable roof would cost at least another $150 million." The top of Ashe Stadium also is "so high and wide that it would require architectural ingenuity to cover it, and even then it would be larger and more obtrusive." However, the "price tag is only part of the consideration" when discussing a roof. The USTA, should it add a roof as part of planned renovations to Louis Armstrong Stadium and the grandstands, "would have to contend with fallout from premium ticket holders and suite occupants reduced on rainy days to watching the action much like the average fans at home, on the televisions in their suites or the giant screen on the court" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8). In N.Y., Lynn Zinser reported the USTA's plans for a renovation of the National Tennis Center "would cost upwards of $300 million" and reportedly would "involve demolition of Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand Court, replacing them with separate stadiums, the new Armstrong being 'roof-ready.'" USTA Dir of Corporate Communications Chris Widmaier: "We have discussed a lot of ideas, but I can't say that is the actual plan. Whatever happens, we will be coordinating with the city of New York, which is our landlord." The U.S. Open and the French Open are the only "Grand Slam events with no protection from the weather," but the French Tennis Association's "latest plans to renovate Roland Garros by 2016 include a retractable roof for Philippe Chatrier Court" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/7).
RAISE THE ROOF: SI.com's John Wertheim wrote, "Apart from the prohibitive costs, putting a roof over the mammoth Arthur Ashe Stadium is virtually structurally impossible, I've been told." But putting a "cheaper roof on a smaller court is possible." Wertheim: "It would a) satisfy the television partners who surely aren't happy having to [repeat] matches, and b) unclog the schedule. But the ground beneath Armstrong and the Grandstand is too soggy to accommodate a major construction project" (SI.com, 9/6). ESPN's Chris Fowler asked, "Aren’t there some issues with the foundation? I think you guys could be sinking at Armstrong because they talk about how the water table is rising and you can’t even put a roof over that.” ESPN's Chris Evert: "What people don’t realize is that all the other Grand Slams have a roof, or planning on having a roof. But the U.S. Open -- you know they want to build the biggest stadium for 23,000 people and they had equal prize money first, but why not a roof? It’s structurally impossible” ("U.S. Open," ESPN2, 9/7). The BBC's Jonathan Overend wrote under the header, "US Open Must Take Action And Build A Roof." Overend: "Major tournaments recognise the need for at least one covered show court -- Melboure Park, the venue for the Australian Open, will have three by 2015 -- so hopefully the USTA will acknowledge that building a new Armstrong Court with a roof is not enough" (BBC.co.uk, 9/7).
SEEKING COVER: The subject of a roof was touched on several times by ESPN2's commentators during the net's rain-delayed U.S. Open coverage yesterday. Patrick McEnroe said, "It’s going to be very difficult just financially -- the numbers are there but the USTA is also losing a lot of money now the last couple of the days. So now, when do we reach that tipping point of when it becomes monetarily, they’ve got to do it? They’ve got to find a way to make something of it. Maybe that’s tearing down Arthur Ashe Stadium and building a whole new stadium there, because you can’t put a roof over the grandstand and Louis Armstrong -- even though that’s more feasible -- and not put a roof over Arthur Ashe.” Mary Joe Fernandez said, "When you think of the U.S. Open being the biggest, the greatest event in tennis, they need a roof. I mean, now they almost have to bite the bullet and spend the money. I know it’s a ton, about $200M, but it feels like they’re being left behind because everybody else is ahead of them.” Darren Cahill talked about the benefit a roof to the main stadium at the Australian Open has been and said, "They’re about to put up a third roof over Margaret Court Arena. So it has been a wonderful thing, and also the facility is used for profit, obviously." Cliff Drysdale said, "I’ve lived in Wilmington, N.C., for a long time, and now in Miami, and it seems like every time the U.S. Open comes around, that is the major time for hurricanes in this business. Maybe when they constructed this facility, they should have thought about that” (“U.S. Open,” ESPN2, 9/7).
JUMPING THE GUN: USTA BOD member Jeff Tarango yesterday told BBC Radio 5 of an "imminent plan to remodel Arthur Ashe Stadium on a smaller scale and rebuild Louis Armstrong Stadium, both with retractable roofs." Tarango: "It's called the 'strategic vision' and the plans will be showcased and unleashed very shortly. ... It's a really tough decision but it is in place and all the money is being secured, saved up and taken care of." However, the USTA quickly issued a statement saying the organization "disavows" Tarango's statements (BBC.co.uk, 9/8).
A committee formed by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson today "will unveil an eagerly anticipated menu of funding options that could presumably finance a $387 million arena" for the NBA Kings at the vacant downtown railyard, according to a front-page piece by Marcos Breton of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The "guiding principle of Sacramento's new plan" is a "virtual split -- this time in thirds -- among the private interests of an arena, the public and the arena's patrons." Sources said that the Kings, the NBA and a private developer "would contribute $91 million to $156 million in lease payments, upfront money, land and other revenue to pay for an arena." The city "would contribute the sale of public land, a tax on hotels and taxis, and money from items such as digital advertising and parking valued at $94 million to $123 million." The "third pot of money will be fueled by ticket surcharges, naming rights and other revenue sources that could generate $90 million to $121 million." Breton notes the plan's "major sticking points will be the size of the lease payments made by the Kings." The NBA is "leery of ticket surcharges and personal seat licenses -- but they are key components of this proposal." So are "some city control of naming rights and parking revenues." Breton: "For this plan to work, it will have to enact several complex funding mechanisms while securing an agreement with a private operator to run the arena" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/8).
The L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission yesterday voted to "pursue a new lease with USC that could give the school greater control over the stadium, the home field for Trojans football," according to Lin & Pringle of the L.A. TIMES. L.A. City Council member Bernard Parks said that the 8-0 vote "calls for an agreement that could grant USC the lead role in running the Coliseum, but there is no guarantee that the school would win exclusive use of it." Parks: "Nothing has been offered, nothing has been agreed to. This starts a dialogue" (L.A. TIMES, 9/8). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi reported an agreement is "expected to be reached within 90 days and would give the university the exclusive right to use, manage and operate the stadium." USC officials contend that if the school gains control of the Coliseum, USC "will begin plans to return the Coliseum to the condition that made it the home of two Olympic Games and two Super Bowls." USC Senior VP/University Relations Thomas Sayles: "Our goal is to ensure that the facility continues to be a long-term asset for the community and for the university. ... We hope that through these negotiations the parties can agree upon a long-term lease that allows the Coliseum to be restored to its former glory" (ESPNLA.com, 9/7).
REMIX THE COMMISSION? The L.A. TIMES' Lin & Pringle report the Coliseum Commission "did not take any public action" yesterday on Parks' "demand that the panel fire the Coliseum's top two executives and two other staffers because of a widening scandal involving questionable spending and the private business dealings of stadium managers" (L.A. TIMES, 9/8). An L.A. TIMES editorial stated, "In a region rife with embarrassing governmental mismanagement, the chief embarrassment has become the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, the mishmash of appointees charged with running the historic Coliseum and the relic Sports Arena." As the nine commissioners "squabble and backbite, their lax oversight and lack of accountability have turned a public asset into a money trough for its hired managers." The editorial stated Park is not wrong in proposing "another round of ousters of Coliseum management." But the "real sweep ought to be of the commission, which should be restructured into a smaller board of people who will not look the other way as the public, and its historic landmark, are being fleeced" (L.A. TIMES, 9/7).
REACHING FOR THE ENDZONE: In L.A., George Skelton notes AEG officials "have reached the legislative red zone" with their plan to build Farmers Field, but "time is running out." This year's legislative session is slated to end tomorrow, and "one of the heavily lobbied bills in play would fast-track legal challenges" to the proposed downtown stadium. The measure "passed the Assembly overwhelmingly on Wednesday and moved to the Senate." Skelton writes, "If AEG should come up short, it won't be the fault of any legislative dysfunction. It would be the fault of AEG for delaying the legislative process by not announcing its specific proposal until last Friday" (L.A. TIMES, 9/8).
Marlins officials and Hunt/Moss contractors yesterday conducted the latest tour of the team's new ballpark “now more than 80 percent completed,” and it is “shaping up as a gem of a facility for baseball,” according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Marlins President David Samson said, "This will be the first ballpark to come in on budget and on time in a long, long time. There will not be overruns in this building.” Samson indicated that he has “sat in each of the 33,500 seats installed so far (out of 36,000) to ensure there is no bad seat in the house.” The Marlins have been “meticulous in assuring fans will watch games in comfort -- a climate-controlled 75 degrees with the roof closed.” Marlins Exec VP/Ballpark Development Claude Delorme said that the roof will “likely will be closed for 70 or more games a season.” Samson said that “all railings in the park have been reevaluated since a fan died in a fall at Rangers Park in Arlington while reaching for a foul ball.” The team will become the Miami Marlins on Nov. 11, and the park “may or may not have a name by then.” Samson said that the Marlins “are still negotiating with more than one company for naming rights.” Davis notes the tour “coincided with 41-game ticket plans going on sale for the inaugural season” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/8). In Miami, Matt Forman reports “more than 95 percent of the interior walls have been constructed.” Samson indicated the crew is “starting to focus (its) attention on all the (white membrane) plaster -- the last piece of the exterior finishes.” Those “should be completed by mid-November.” Delorme said that the team “anticipates laying sod for the field in the second or third week of January, a process that will take four days.” The Marlins’ office staff is “expected to move into the stadium in mid-March” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/8).
THE REVIEWS: In Miami, Israel Gutierrez writes the ballpark “already has the quaintness of a Petco or Minute Maid Park.” Despite not being “in downtown Miami, there’s a connection to the city with the skyline view.” There is “a uniqueness to it, too, and that’s without the fish tanks behind home plate in place yet.” Gutierrez: “It’s hard to understand the appeal of the park until you experience it. It’s such a departure from the place the Marlins have called home since 1993, and it’s exactly what fans from other cities have been spoiled with for years” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/8). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda writes the facility “already has a cozy feel to it with a capacity of 37,000 when the standing-room-only count is included.” There are “splashes of color in blue, green, yellow and red quadrants of the stadium.” Still, Stoda writes the “old real estate refrain -- location, location, location -- kept creeping into my head.” The available parking “will accommodate fewer than 6,000 vehicles, and mostly will be reserved for season-ticket holders.” There are “shuttle-bus routes planned from the remote lots, rail stations and downtown Miami, but it's not at all difficult to imagine traffic jams before and after games on residential streets as fans attempt to access or leave the stadium to get on or off the nearby highways.” The Marlins “don't have a Wrigley Field or the surrounding environs of a Wrigleyville,” but they are “about to embark on a new beginning in what appears will be a beautiful stadium” (PALM BEACH POST, 9/8).
The "Philly Live!" dream "included a hotel, underground parking and a movie theater," but three years later, the "reality is a 60,000-square foot cluster of nine businesses, enclosed; a 40,000-square foot outdoor event space, ideal for concerts; and a parking lot," according to Marcus Hayes of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Still, with the country and the city of Philadelphia "mired in a prolonged economic slump with no end in sight, almost $60 million in revenue over the next 2 years is a blessing." The project, being built at the site where the Spectrum once stood, is being "split evenly between" Comcast-Spectacor and The Cordish Co. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, "This is a great project. It will only expand and grow. There is a growing life and synergy down here. The Phillies are just flat-out kicking butt. The anticipation of the Eagles. The rebuilding of the Sixers. The Flyers in the Stanley Cup (in 2010)." Philly sports teams draw "more than 8 million spectators annually to the South Philly neighborhood," where they "have virtually no options besides two sports bars." Phase One of the "Philly Live!" project began in April and "is scheduled for completion in the spring." Hayes noted a Phase One "implies that further phases will come: the hotel, the subterranean parking, the theater; four phases in all." Cordish said that "no definite plans are on the table for other phases." But the company "is hopeful that the gem of the project -- the hotel -- might materialize sooner than later." Cordish insisted that the "more modest beginning might not be a bad thing." Hayes: "Better to succeed and expand than to gamble big and lose." For now, "'Philly Live! lives ... if on a less grandiose scale" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/7).