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A proposal for a new downtown Vikings stadium could "well have an outside shot at overall approval" after it was revived Friday following "personal lobbying by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell," according to Kaszuba & Ragsdale of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Hours after Goodell and Gov. Mark Dayton "pressed legislative leaders on the issue, a Senate committee voted" 8-6 to advance the plan for a $1B venue in downtown Minneapolis. The committee's vote "shoved aside -- at least for now -- an alternative plan to instead build the stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills." State House Speaker Kurt Zellers -- who has been "at best lukewarm on the project -- predicted the proposal would get floor votes in both the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns in the coming weeks." Goodell said that there were "no threats by the league or Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to move the team should legislators fail to pass a bill before they adjourn." Under the plan approved Friday, the Vikings would pay $427M, the state would add $398M and the city of Minneapolis would add $150M toward construction costs. The Vikings would also contribute $327M to the stadium's operation, and the city would add another $189M (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/22). In St. Paul, Doug Belden noted Friday's vote to move the bill to the Jobs & Economic Development Finance Committee "without recommendation is a step" in the direction of getting it passed, but "hurdles remain." The bill "emerged from the committee with four Democratic-sponsored amendments, including" a 10% surcharge on stadium suites -- "which the Vikings oppose -- and the elimination of language allowing Minneapolis to use sales tax money to renovate Target Center." Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that if the Target Center piece "isn't restored in the final bill, then Minneapolis won't support the proposal to build" a new stadium next to the Metrodome. Rybak "seemed confident it could be worked back in" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/21).
DECISION TIME: In Minneapolis, Mark Craig wrote when Friday's visit by Goodell "was a firm and possibly final notice that serious consequences could result if this problem is kicked any farther down the road than the end of the current legislative session." Goodell said, "This is the time to get things done. I've been here several times on the stadium front over the years. In 2006, they moved forward with a stadium for the Twins and the Gophers. We were asked to move to the next year. And it's now 2012." Craig: "He's right. It's time for our leaders to stand up, holster their political pointer fingers and vote. Good or bad. Yea or nay. In or out. Just make a decision!" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/22). Zellers said, "We’ll set aside whoever is a democrat or republican, governor, house, senate, whoever it is, and then just get to the floors and have that vote." He continued, "I like Commissioner Goodell. I’ve met him several times. ... I think it helps because he was earnest about what he wanted to see, which is to see the Minnesota Vikings stay the Minnesota Vikings. He wanted to do whatever he could do to help us through the process." Zellers said that in his conversations with the Wilf family, they "have never talked of moving the team with or without a stadium." Zellers: "They’ve always been very straightforward with me saying they want the Minnesota Vikings to stay in Minnesota. I take them at their word." But Zellers added, "If we’re building the stadium just for the Vikings that’s some of the concern. ... But all along most of our questions haven’t been about the use or the tenants and what the uses would be, it was how is it going to be funded." Zellers said that "he didn’t like the way the Target Field was funded, because the use of a Hennepin County sales tax is an obligation to pay by all the people in the county, as opposed to a choice" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 4/21).
CHASING NAMING RIGHTS? In Minneapolis, Moore & Roper note Target Corp. Exec VP/Property Development John Griffith "testified in support of the bill at a House committee after largely playing a behind-the-scenes role in the stadium debate." A month's worth of e-mails "hint at a close relationship between Griffith and his team at Target and other top players in the high-stakes stadium game," including Rybak, the governor's stadium negotiator and a Vikings official. Others copied on e-mails include U.S. Bancorp Chair, President & CEO Richard Davis, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation President Bill McCarthy and Target Chair, President & CEO Gregg Steinhafel. Some critics "contend that Target wants first dibs on the naming rights for a Vikings stadium." Griffith told lawmakers that a stadium "would be a 'major selling point' as the state attracts new employers and as Target retains and woos new talent" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/23).
EMPTY THREAT? In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote we "certainly haven't heard the last threat issued" that the Vikings could relocate. Powers: "But I do think we've turned an important corner. Remember that there is no ideal solution here. It's a question of which hurts less: ponying up or losing the team. ... If Minnesota doesn't build them a stadium, some other area will" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/21). In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote the NFL has a "long history of using the L.A. vacancy to get stadium deals done in other locales, essentially scaring those NFL cities into helping pay for venues or risk losing their teams." It happened "with Seattle, New Orleans, Indianapolis and various NFL cities in between." But "don't be so quick to dismiss the latest Minnesota meltdown as another hollow threat." Goodell is "going to do what he feels is best for the league and his 32 bosses, and if some toes are crunched in the process, well, that's just the cost of doing business" (L.A. TIMES, 4/21). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi wrote the NFL "has used the 'L.A. is an open market' line for the past" 17 years. There is "still, however, the very real possibility that a majority of Minnesota lawmakers could scoff at the idea of the public sector largely funding a new Vikings stadium during a recession" (ESPN.com, 4/20).
The end of yesterday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 served as the “ceremonial ground breaking for the repaving and reconfiguration of Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile tri-oval that opened in 2001,” according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. The $9M project is “expected to be completed by Sept. 12, enabling NASCAR teams to test the new surface and new variable banking before they return for the Oct. 19-21 race weekend that will be highlighted by the Hollywood Casino 400, the sixth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.” The decision to repave Kansas Speedway “after just 12 years of racing has been a hot-button issue in the NASCAR garages.” The drivers have been “near-unanimous against the repaving, saying the track has finally matured into a surface that produces multiple-groove racing and plenty of slipping and sliding between the cars.” But the Midwest’s combination of “extreme heat and extreme cold conspired to erode portions of the track, requiring extensive patchwork and tarring.” Covitz writes NASCAR is “in the midst of a repaving craze.” Kansas Speedway is the “latest of five speedways in the past two years to repave, starting with Daytona International Speedway following its pothole debacle of 2010, and including Phoenix in 2011 and Michigan and Pocono in 2012.” Ten NASCAR tracks “have undergone a repaving since 2006, and Bristol is expected to announce a reconstruction project this week.” The life span of most NASCAR tracks “is at least 20 years, but climate is a factor.” ISC Director of Engineering Martin Flugger, whose company owns Kansas Speedway and will oversee the repave, said, “The weather hasn’t been too kind to it. The asphalt is starting to get brittle, and there’s not much elasticity so the cracking is getting worse” (K.C. STAR, 4/23).
CONTINUING A TREND: ESPN.com’s David Newton noted the repavings are “a lot of change in a sport where the fans seem to resist it, as we've seen with the Chase and the new car.” It makes drivers and track promoters “nervous, particularly track promoters who hear all the reasons a track shouldn't be repaved” (ESPN.com, 4/21). In Charlotte, Jim Utter noted track repaving “seems to be all the rage this season,” and there may “very well be legitimate reasons for tracks to go through this process.” Utter noted in “almost every instance,” repaving does “not produce good racing, at least in the short term.” Utter: “For fans' sake, let's hope that record does not remain the same this year” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/22). NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick said, "I'm not a fan of tearing up any race track. I don't think they've done a good job with any of the asphalt they have put down at any of the race tracks since they have repaved" (AP, 4/22).
The financing framework for a "proposed 20,000-seat arena in Markham was unveiled to the public on Friday, and it hinges on the town supplying half the $325-million cost up front," according to Matthew Scianitti of the NATIONAL POST. The plan for the venue in the Toronto suburb "will now go to another meeting and a final vote on Thursday." Eleven members of the 12-person council, including Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, "voted in favour, although an amendment was made allowing any other interested private investors to come forward in the next week with an alternative financial proposal." It is "hoped the venue can open sometime in 2014." Initial reports indicated that Bauer Performance Sports Chair Graeme Roustan, in partnership with Ontario developer Rudy Bratty and other private investors, was "committed to paying 90% to 100% of the building cost." However, the financing plan submitted to town council showed that half of the cost "will come from Roustan, who is facilitating the design and construction process." The other $162.5M "will come from Markham, which will be able to pay the debt over 20 years at a 4.6% fixed interest rate." The financial framework "insists Markham already has [revenue] streams prepared to pay back its share of the cost." Since the building will be "community owned, a lease agreement would be reached with Roustan’s GTA Centre LP, and those payments would help the town recoup its initial outlay." Roustan has said that he is "interested in bringing the 2015 world junior hockey championship to Markham, and already heard from interested parties who want to bring events to Markham" (NATIONAL POST, 4/21).
PATIENCE IS A VIRTURE: In Toronto, Josh Tapper noted stakeholders "remained cagey" on whether a Markham arena will be the "future home of an NHL franchise, a move some speculate is only a matter of time." Roustan said, "There’s going to be absolutely no active work to get any professional sports franchise to call the facility their home. Now, that doesn’t mean to say I don’t look at opportunities to come my way” (TORONTO STAR, 4/21). Also in Toronto, Dave Perkins wrote, "These guys have watched and learned." They saw former Research In Motion co-Chair Jim Balsillie’s "full-contact attempts to bull his way into a league that obviously didn’t want him." They saw how "quietly Winnipeg got its ducks in a row before being rewarded," and they "see Quebec City doing the same thing." They know teams in certain U.S. cities "will continue to founder and they know this market would embrace a second team with the same regard it holds for, say, oxygen." Perkins: "You know Bratty and Roustan’s group has money. Once they have the playpen, what else will stop them, if they go about it the right way? If you’re a fan of a second team at a privately built arena hard by a GO Train station 25 minutes from downtown Toronto, just sit back and listen. The silence will tell you if it’s coming" (TORONTO STAR, 4/22).
In Nashville, Nate Rau notes after construction on a "new convention center and its headquarters hotel is finished next year, Metro Nashville government is expected to turn its attention to possible renovation projects at Bridgestone Arena." Predators President & COO Sean Henry said that Bridgestone Arena’s "current back door could become its front door with the thousands of convention center visitors expected each year." Predators Chair Tom Cigarran said that the "local ownership group has considered at least" three possible renovation projects for the arena, but he "would not go into specifics." The team has "identified at least" $13M worth of "ongoing capital needs inside Bridgestone Arena that have gone unaddressed in recent years." The Predators have "explored the possibility of adding a ticket tax similar to the one the Titans charge fans to fund projects at LP Field" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/23).
HELLO OPERATOR: In Oakland, Angela Woodall noted the Coliseum Joint Power Authority voted Friday "after hearing nearly an hour of contentious, politically charged public comment to begin negotiations with AEG for a five-year contract with a five-year extension." The eight-member authority split 4-3 with one abstention to "move forward with negotiations at the recommendation of a subcommittee." That means SMG's 13 years in Oakland "will come to an end" July 1. Among other things, AEG offered a $3.5M "capital investment" for the Coliseum complex and a $1M signing bonus for "revenue-enhancing projects." AEG also "promised to bring in 25 events, including bull riding and boxing, able to generate" $2.5M by the end of the five-year contract. AEG "promised to reduce operating expenses" by $500,000 a year (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/22).
BANKING ERROR: In Atlanta, Christopher Seward noted Braves fans who "used credit cards to purchase food at Turner Field at the home opener April 13 may want to double-check their statements." Aramark, which "provides food services at the Atlanta stadium, disclosed that a software problem may have caused some credit card users to be overcharged for purchases." Aramark Senior PR Manager David Freireich said that the "problem appeared to be isolated to software that processes card purchases." He did not say "how the overcharges came to light or how many cardholders were affected." He added that Aramark was "in the process of correcting the charges" (AJC.com, 4/21).
GROWING ITS SHOWBIZ: In England, Deborah Linton noted EPL club Manchester City is "bidding to join the showbiz premier league -- by expanding the number of special events held at the Etihad Stadium." The team has "applied for a permanent licence that would allow" the club to "hold events including boxing and wrestling, live music concerts, film and theatre." If granted, the "new permanent licence will give City the chance to hold a dozen events a year for up to" 63,000 people. Club officials "banned concerts" at the stadium in '08 after a Bon Jovi concert "damaged the turf and forced City to play a UEFA Cup home tie at Barnsley." Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen are "both due to play gigs" at the stadium this summer (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 4/21).