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EPL club Liverpool has “decided to proceed with their original, nine-year-old stadium plans once they have secured the finance to start construction,” according to Chris Bascombe of the London TELEGRAPH. That means the “alternative, futuristic stadium designs proposed” by former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett “have been ditched for good.” It also “ensures there will be no fresh planning application required” by current club owners Fenway Sports Group “to restart construction once a lucrative naming rights package is in place.” FSG has been working with Manchester-based architects AFL, the firm that “first submitted designs when Liverpool announced their intention to move to Stanley Park as far back as 2000.” It is these proposals, which “were put forward for planning permission in 2003 and given the green light a year later, which will become the blueprint for a new 60,000-seat stadium costing around” $462M (all U.S. figures). The club “must still find the finance to kick-start the scheme, and there is no immediate prospect of work beginning, but AFL’s return to preferred status is another significant twist in the seemingly never-ending saga of Liverpool’s ground move.” The AFL plans “were first introduced by former chief executive Rick Parry but were abandoned by Hicks and Gillett shortly after their ill-fated takeover in 2006.” Hicks scrapped the original designs “in favour of those he commissioned from a Dallas-based architecture firm, HKS.” Now Hicks’ “grand scheme has been permanently shelved with FSG deciding it will modernise and upgrade the first set of designs.” Liverpool still needs to “raise around [$231M] in sponsorship -- around half the costs -- before they can start building" any stadium (London TELEGRAPH, 1/17).
KICK START: In Boston, Frank Dell’Apa cites sources as saying that organizers are “planning an exhibition soccer game between Liverpool FC and AS Roma at Fenway Park this summer.” The match would be “part of United States tours for both teams, the first since controlling interest in the clubs was purchased by Boston-based investors.” FSG purchased Liverpool in ’10, and Red Sox minority owner Thomas DiBenedetto and Celtics minority owner James Pallotta purchased AS Roma last year. The game would be “part of a tournament involving" EPL club Chelsea and, possibly, Scottish Premier League club Celtic. Matches will also be held “in Chicago (Comiskey Park or Wrigley Field) and New York (Yankee Stadium)” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17).
Cubs General Counsel & Exec VP/Community Affairs Mike Lufrano yesterday said that the team will ask the Commission on Chicago Landmarks next month “for the go-ahead to put up a 75-foot electronic sign in right field at historic Wrigley Field if the city insists that approval is required,” according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Lufrano said, “It doesn’t affect any of the historic features. It does not change the bleacher height or the outfield wall.” He added, “We’re happy to work with the city if they believe it does (require Landmarks Commission approval). If they ask us to go to the meeting in February, we’ll be there.” Sources said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration “has signaled its desire to go through the Landmarks Commission.” Sources added that Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, who “opposed the Toyota sign installed above the left-field bleachers” in '10, has told the Cubs “he has no plans to oppose the sign.” Because of its “long rectangular shape, the new LED board is not expected to be used for video-replay,” but it could be “a prelude to a host of team ideas to squeeze more money out of Wrigley” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/17). The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan said of the sign and new patio area at Wrigley Field, “I’m okay with the idea of changing it, but just the rendering didn’t look very good." Sullivan: "Just be honest about it. You’ve got the big Bud ad there, it’s for advertising. They say, ‘Oh, the fans want more graphics, stats.’ No they don’t. It’s purely a revenue-enhancer. Just come out front and say that" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 1/16).
MORE CHANGES NEEDED: YAHOO SPORTS’ David Brown wrote the Cubs “are playing catch-up” installing a premium patio area and the 75-foot long LED scoreboard at Wrigley. It is “a nice project to keep the Cubs busy, but what Wrigley needs is a major renovation from foul pole to foul pole.” Brown: “Newfangled stuff in Wrigley Field? Say it ain't so! In all honesty, it needs to be so, to maximize revenue streams.” He added, “Bigger concourses. More suites. Expanded player clubhouses and team offices. A second elevator. But again, that's big money. As long as Wrigley doesn't collapse upon itself, it will have to wait” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).
ICON Venue Group yesterday was named project manager for the Oilers' new downtown arena and the company is "now tasked with seeing the project through to completion, though for now the goal is to work toward finishing 60% of the arena’s schematic design," according to Michelle Thompson of the EDMONTON SUN. When that is done, "arena plans will return to [the Edmonton city] council with a guaranteed maximum price." The council is "expected to be presented with a 12% schematic design in June and will receive the 60% design in about a year." The arena design "will boast 18,400 seats." In the past 10 years, ICON has "managed nine other new arenas, including ones in Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Denver." The Oilers' arena was initially estimated to cost about C$450M. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said that 360 Architecture "would be doing the design work," but Downtown Sports & Entertainment District Project Exec Dir Rick Daviss said that "that aspect is still in negotiations" (EDMONTON SUN, 1/17). In Edmonton, Elise Stolte notes architects with 360 "designed projects in Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio, which have frequently served as examples of what Edmonton's combined arena and entertainment district could look like." 360 expects to "release introductory sketches of how the interior of the arena could function within days." ICON CEO Tim Romani said that the full budget for the project "must be in place by March or April 2013 to sign construction contracts and finish the arena in time for the 2015-16 hockey season." Stolte also notes ICON was chosen "out of 12 shortlisted companies" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/17).
LIGHTNING STRIKES? In Tampa Bay, Jeff Harrington cited Lightning officials as saying that Owner Jeff Vinik "has been approached and is considering taking a stake in the long-troubled Channelside entertainment complex that lies adjacent" to Tampa Bay Times Forum. Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke said that a "number of potential buyers are looking 'and they think we would be a good marketing partner' given the team's proximity to Channelside." Harrington noted one "recurring rumor is that a dual sports deal could occur, whereby Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg would buy the New York Mets and sell the Rays to Vinik, who would then relocate the Rays from St. Petersburg to his newly acquired Channelside territory." It is "chatter the Lightning hopes to squelch." Lightning Exec VP/Communications Bill Wickett said, "Our organization enjoys a strong friendship with the Tampa Bay Rays and we look forward to deepening those bonds. We wish them continued success on and off the field, but any speculation that we are interested in anything more is unfounded and untrue" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/13).
When the Marlins "invited companies to bid on the multi-million-dollar task of cleaning the new Little Havana ballpark, the contract came with a catch: The winner had to lease a $150,000-a-year suite at the new stadium," according to Charles Rabin of the MIAMI HERALD. Dream Clean South Beach Owner Rodney McGilvery, whose janitorial company was invited to bid, noted, "They said they were only hiring companies with experience cleaning ballparks -- which knocked out 98 percent of the people." Of the 40 or so companies that showed up for the early April meet-and-greet with Marlins execs to learn of the bid requirements, McGilvery said that "maybe four were qualified to do the job." The roughly $6M "contract -- an in-the-ballpark figure given by the Marlins -- was for five years, with two renewable years at the end." The Marlins eventually "went with more experienced Pritchard Sports & Entertainment Group out of Maryland, the same company that cleans" BankAtlantic Center and AmericanAirlines Arena. Pritchard also "cleans Pimlico Race Track in Maryland, and has contracts" with the Rockets and Devils. The Marlins' "final deal with Pritchard let the company off the hook for the entire $150,000 MVP suite package, which includes 16 seats, parking and some food deals." Instead, the cleaning company "took a half suite and will make up the difference purchasing advertising" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/14).
NOW BATTING: In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez reported Miami's Christopher Columbus and Belen Jesuit high school baseball teams "will meet in the first ever game at the new Little Havana ballpark on March 5." On March 6 and 7, the Marlins "will take the field for the first time" against the Univ. of Miami and Florida Int'l Univ., respectively. Attendance for the high school game "will be capped at 5,000." There will be 10,000 tickets "made available for the Marlins-UM game and as many as 15,000 fans will be allowed in for the last exhibition" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/14).
In Indianapolis, Scott Olson notes the Capital Improvement Board, which manages Lucas Oil Stadium, “expects to lose money” from hosting Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. The CIB is “budgeting for total Super Bowl expenses of $8 million and revenue of nearly $7.2 million, leaving a loss of $810,000.” The largest expenditure is the $4M CIB “has agreed to reimburse the city for providing police security for an estimated 150,000 visitors.” It also budgeted almost $2M “to pay full-time employees overtime and union members who have been hired temporarily” (INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/16 issue).
WAITING GAME: In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote he keeps “waiting for some sort of catalyst” for the Vikings’ stadium proposal, but the Metrodome’s expiring lease “isn't going to do it.” Powers: “Nobody appears to be taking it seriously. Veiled threats aren't working, either.” He added, “What we need is an overt threat, something that at least gets those on-the-fence legislators to state a position.” The Vikings “still lack a catalyst, or at least one that people take seriously.” Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf and the entire Wilf family “need better leverage.” Wilf should “let it leak that an investment banker has been hired to explore a possible sale of the Vikings.” If that “doesn't work, he should let it be known that he has received an exceptional bid from Los Angeles interests” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS 1/16).
WISHFUL THINKING: In California, Mark Whicker wrote AEG’s proposed Farmers Field in L.A. “remains a name without a place.” There “never has been anything inevitable about the NFL's return” to L.A., either to AEG’s L.A. Live site or to Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski's “sidehill lie in the City of Industry.” But there “always has been a lot of wishful journalism about this, because no one in the hinterlands can believe our area can rationally function without the NFL” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/14).
PLACING THEIR BETS: On Long Island, Ted Phillips cites a Siena Research Institute poll that found that the “majority of New Yorkers oppose Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan for a convention center at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens.” Fifty-seven percent of registered voters polled said that they “were against the proposal while 38 percent said they supported it and 5 percent said they had no opinion” (NEWSDAY, 1/17).