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California-based technology company Infineon will not renew its naming-rights deal for the speedway in Sonoma, Calif., after its deal expires in May. The news was revealed today as part of Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s annual financial report. Infineon Raceway VP/Marketing & Communications John Cardinale said that the speedway is in the marketplace looking for a new naming-rights partner to replace Infineon, which signed a 10-year, $34.6M deal in '02. It has hired Cordova Marketing Group, which worked on the Infineon deal, to assist with the effort to find a new partner. Cardinale said, “There are three or four companies we’re talking to. I wouldn’t say they’re ready to sign, but they’re certainly interested.” The end of the Infineon deal means the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track to currently have a naming-rights deal is Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The Marlins played their first exhibition at the new downtown Miami ballpark yesterday against the Univ. of Miami, and the retractable roof "operated to perfection on its maiden voyage" when it was closed in 13 minutes, according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. During batting practice, with the roof open and the wind blowing out, the Marlins "peppered the 'home run sculpture,' the $2 million centerpiece of their new ballpark, with one metal-denting blast after another." Spencer also notes "poor acoustics made it difficult to make out what was being said over the public address system." Marlins President David Samson said, "It's a work in progress. These soft openings are soft openings for a reason." The Marlins will play "once more in the new park" when they face Florida Int'l Univ. tonight. For now, they are busy "working out the bugs." Samson said that the staff "sent out a questionnaire to patrons asking 'What did we miss?'" He said, "We got one from someone who wanted to know where the bathroom was for service dogs. I admitted I forgot that." But the ballpark is "making a positive impression on the players" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/7). Marlins Special Assistant to the President Tony Perez said, "It looks like a spaceship landed in Miami." In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes with the roof open, the ballpark "felt like a wind tunnel." Once the roof closed, "the wind disappeared." One "major change to the park was made over the past two days: the 'batter's eye' -- the section of lime green outfield wall in hitters' line of sight -- was painted black to make the ball more visible." Left-handed batters had "voiced concerns about the home run sculpture interfering with their line of sight." Overall, the Marlins "had few complaints as they made themselves comfortable in their spacious locker room" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/7).
BEST LAID PLANS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez notes the original plan for yesterday's game "was to leave the roof open and close the window panels beyond the left- and center-field walls." For tonight's game, the Marlins will "test the playing conditions with the roof closed and panels open." When the Marlins host the Yankees on April 1 "in the second-to-last soft opening, they'll close everything." The following night "they'll open it all." More areas of the ballpark opened to patrons yesterday, and services will be extended for tonight's game "with a crowd of 15,000 (5,000 more than Tuesday) expected" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/7). In Miami, Linda Robertson notes yesterday "was a good inaugural test run of the weather-proof ballpark." The air conditioning "kept fans comfortable and a stadium employee made sure by checking the temperature in different locations with a turkey thermometer." This is what taxpayers and team Owner Jeffrey Loria "shelled out $634 million to build and it worked without a hitch" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/7). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote under the header, "It Will Take Time To Tell How Marlins Park Plays." Davis noted yesterday's game "didn't shed much light on the issue." The "ultimate answer may be that it depends." Marlins 3B Hanley Ramirez said, "After they closed the roof it was totally different. There’s no wind (with it closed), but if you hit it good it’s still going to go out” (SUNSENTINEL.com, 3/6).
GETTING TANKED: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said of Marlins Park having fish tanks in the outfield, “A lot of people are ripping this, but this is Miami. It’s not Fenway Park. ... I totally get it. They’ve tried to create something new. Miami’s different, it's not a diehard baseball city. They’re trying to make it a unique park” (“SportsNation,” ESPN2, 3/6).
The Sacramento City Council yesterday "approved the financing plan" for a $391M NBA Kings arena on the site of the downtown railyard, according to Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The council by a 7-2 vote "accepted a nonbinding 'term sheet' agreed to by city officials," the Kings, arena operator AEG and the development firm slated to build the venue. An "overflow crowd began assembling at City Hall more than" three hours before the meeting began. Security officials said that it was "among the largest audiences ever for a City Council meeting." It was a "festive scene inside council chambers and in two other rooms filled to capacity." While the term sheet is "nonbinding, a vote against the financing proposal on Tuesday likely would have derailed the arena process." By approving the plan, the council has "set into motion a series of critical votes in the coming months." The Kings and AEG are "scheduled to pay for half" of the $13M pre-development agreement, which city staffers will "immediately begin drafting." At the same time, the Kings and AEG will "begin work on a memorandum of understanding on revenue sharing and arena expenses." That agreement is "scheduled to be completed" by April 15. Under the plan, the city "will contribute" $255.5M toward the project, while the Kings would contribute $73.25M and "have agreed to a 30-year lease." AEG is "slated to chip in" $58.75M. The venue operator will "share a portion of its profits with the city; officials estimated the city's annual share at between $800,000 and $1.2 million." In addition to the term sheet, the council "also approved spending $850,000 from the city's parking fund to hire a team of consultants to help in the pre-development process" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/7). The AP's Antonio Gonzalez noted the remaining money gap will be "covered by a ticket surcharge, advertising around the facility, the sale of public lands and a sponsorship campaign to sell bricks and plaques around the complex." But Gonzalez wrote Sacramento "cleared the most political hurdle," and the more than four-hour meeting "brought out some animated speakers." Kings co-Owner Gavin Maloof "walked into the chamber just before the meeting to a light standing ovation" (AP, 3/6).
ON-COURT PRODUCT: In Sacramento, Brian Blomster writes the Kings "have work to do," as the team "needs to put an excellent product back on the court." It "looks as if Sacramento will get a fine building for its team," and the city "should demand a fine team for the building" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/7).
The city of Oakland "took an ambitious step" last night toward "overhauling the Coliseum area, in hopes of enticing the A's, Raiders and Warriors to stay," according to Carolyn Jones of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The City Council "unanimously approved spending $3.5 million on plans for a new stadium, hotels, conference center, shopping, entertainment and other amenities in the 750-acre area around the Coliseum." The money is "among the last of the city's redevelopment funds and will not come from the general fund." The project itself would be "privately financed." But the plans, which are due for completion in 16 to 18 months, "might be too late to keep the A's and Raiders, both of which see their Coliseum leases expire next year." Both teams have "complained for years they don't like sharing the Coliseum and have said they want their own, brand-new stadiums, in Oakland or elsewhere." The A's are "awaiting a ruling from Major League Baseball on whether they can move to San Jose, which is in Giants territory." The Warriors "appeared a little more swayed by Oakland's development plans." But Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Board Chair Ignacio De La Fuente said that "no matter which teams stay in Oakland, they'll have to help pay for a new stadium if they still want one" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/7). In Oakland, Matt Artz notes with funds "unavailable to acquire land for a waterfront baseball stadium near Jack London Square, Oakland is hoping to draw private investors interested in transforming" the Coliseum site into a "modern sports and entertainment complex" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/7).
STILL UNDECIDED: An MLB official said Sunday that "no decision has been reached on the A's efforts to build a ballpark in San Jose." The source said, "Nothing's changed. The committee has been meeting. We were very surprised by (the New York Daily News story). No determinations have been made at all regarding the A's situation" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/5). In S.F., Henry Schulman wrote, "I’ve just been told by someone in the commissioner’s office that contrary to what a New York newspaper suggested yesterday, the A’s proposed move to San Jose is not on life support. And, it is not true that Commissioner Bud Selig and baseball owners have all but decided to uphold the Giants’ territorial rights to San Jose, which would preclude the A’s from going there" (SFGATE.com, 3/4). In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote the A's are "looking at another long, dreary season in Oakland" as Owner Lew Wolff "grows increasingly impatient" with Selig's "interminable delay in ruling on the Giants’ territorial rights to San Jose." Madden wrote there are two reasons "why Selig hasn’t ruled." The first is that the Giants' territorial rights to San Jose are "part of the MLB constitution" as a result of former A’s owner Wally Haas agreeing to cede them to the Giants in '89. The second is that even if Selig did "invoke his 'best interests of baseball' powers and allowed the A’s to move to San Jose, he probably doesn’t have the votes" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/4).
The Packers "have agreed to a five-year deal with Delaware North Sportservice to take over concessions and premium dining" at Lambeau Field, according to Don Muret of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The Packers become Sportservice’s seventh NFL client, and "mark a big victory for the concessionaire, which was one of 10 food vendors that expressed interest in the contract." Sportservice replaces Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, which "had operated the stadium’s foodservice since 2002." Sportservice "has a strong presence in Wisconsin;" the company has been the Brewers’ food provider since '70. The deal with the Packers coincides with a new $143M expansion project in the south end zone at Lambeau Field covering 6,600 new seats (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/5 issue). In Green Bay, Richard Ryman notes the choice of concessionaire is of "local importance beyond food for the fans." The concession stands at Lambeau are "staffed by local nonprofit groups -- churches, service clubs, schools -- which use the games and special events as fundraisers." Those groups "work for the concessionaire" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/7).
While the "consensus is that it will come down to Madison Square Garden, Newark's Prudential Center and the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the NCAA hasn't made a decision yet" on the location of next year's East Regional of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, according to Brendan Prunty of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. NCAA Interim Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Greg Shaheen said, "I would hope by the Final Four, we'd figure that out." It has been "no secret that since the NCAA took over the operations of the NIT in 2005, that there has been a mutual interest in hosting an East Regional for the NCAA Tournament at the Garden." But "complicating that interest has been the major renovation project that the Garden is currently undergoing." With that "wrench thrown in the mix, Newark's name has once again been thrown into the pot." Shaheen said, "One of the things is we've wanted to give the Garden an opportunity to finish their renovations." The Prudential Center was a "first-time host last year, earning rave reviews from not only Shaheen, but the teams and administrators who attended the event." With the NCAA "holding back on awarding a site, Brooklyn's new Barclays Center has also entered into the race." While Shaheen "acknowledged that the scheduled new home of the Nets is in the mix, he also added that the Carrier Dome in Syracuse is another potential site." Even though Izod Center has been an 11-time host site of the East Regional, the building "seems to have fallen out of the NCAAs spotlight" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/7).
GLOBAL DESTINATION: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins wrote the Barclays Center "isn’t trying to kid anyone -- the Garden is the Garden -- but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another elite hoops address." Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said, "Our vision is for the Barclays Center to become a local, national and international destination. We’re going to have the best teams in the nation here, and we’re going to give local colleges and high schools a chance to experience playing on the same court that the Nets and the greatest players in the NBA." Yormark added, "I want people years from now to be able to say that they went to an event they never dreamed they would be able to go to because it was in Brooklyn and it was priced right" (N.Y. POST, 3/3).
Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Monday that the "collapse of a concrete slab Sunday in the underground parking garage of the Olympic Stadium is an example of how Montreal's infrastructure has been neglected by various levels of government." Tremblay said, "For the past 30 years there hasn't been any major investment in Montreal's infrastructure, and the Olympic Stadium is a good example." He added that he "remained confident in the stadium and wants the province to equip it with a retractable roof, noting that a series of international sporting events -- including the Women's World Cup and the World Police and Fire Games -- are to use the venue over the next few years" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/6).
DEVELOPMENT CENTER: In Boston, Casey Ross reports a court ruling has "removed the most significant legal barrier standing in the way of the long-delayed Fenway Center development," a $450M complex of apartments, stores, and offices to be built over the Massachusetts Turnpike. Fenway Center "calls for development" of 550 apartments, retail stores, parking garages, and a 27-story office and residential building on parking lots near Fenway Park. A "new commuter rail station is also slated to be built next to the site" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/7).
EVERYBODY SETTLES: In Phoenix, John Yantis reports the city of Goodyear and its insurance company will pay $1.1M to "settle legal entanglements" land surrounding its ballpark and spring training fields. Under the settlement, the city will pay $650,000 and its insurer will kick in an additional $450,000 to "settle claims over payment for roads, utilities, traffic signals and other improvements at the site." The agreement "ends a lawsuit by landowners that charged the city wrongly benefited from the development." The settlement "effectively clears the way to develop the roughly" 100 acres around the ballpark and training facilities used by the Indians and Reds (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/7).