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The Vikings have agreed to contribute $477M -- $50M more than they had planned -- to “get a new stadium under a deal that was given final House approval” early this morning, according to a front-page piece by Kaszuba & Stassen-Berger of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The results of a “furious, final stadium negotiating session were released after hours of closed-door meetings” yesterday. The Vikings’ share of the $1B stadium was “more than the $427 million the team had agreed to earlier this spring, but less than the $532 million the House voted in favor of two nights ago.” The state Senate, which earlier passed different versions of the stadium plan, is “expected to take a final stadium vote” later today. Meanwhile, the House “voted 71 to 60 for the revised financing plan after a debate that finished at 3:30 in the morning.” The Vikings “embraced the revised deal and on behalf of owner Zygi Wilf expressed gratitude for the political effort that produced the stadium plan.” State Rep. Mary Liz Holberg said that the final proposal “required state officials to keep the team’s financial data private." A plan created by the House-Senate conference committee would “impose a series of so-called blink-on taxes should revenues from electronic bingo and pull tabs fall short of covering the state share of the stadium bill.” Backup revenue sources include a 10% admissions tax on "stadium luxury seats and a sports-themed lottery game predicted to produce" at least $2.1M per year (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/10).
READ THE FINE PRINT: In St. Paul, Doug Belden notes the latest version of the bill “drops the state’s contribution” from $398M to $348M, while Minneapolis’ contribution “remains unchanged” at $150M. Other key issues that were resolved include the Vikings getting to “retain stadium naming rights," and St. Paul getting $2.7M annually to "offset investment in Minneapolis," which would likely help build a new ballpark for the independent minor league St. Paul Saints. Additionally, construction cost overruns will be "the responsibility of the builder; operating cost overruns are responsibility of public stadium authority," and Minneapolis "retains charter exemption language designed to allow it to spend money to renovate Target Center” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/10). Rep. Morrie Lanning, who sponsored the bill, said, “The Vikings will be committed to staying in Minnesota for at least 30 years. I believe that will be longer.” REUTERS' David Bailey notes that the planned 65,000-seat stadium “would have 150 corporate suites and 7,500 club seats.” The Vikings also would have the “sole right” for five years to bring a MLS franchise to the stadium (REUTERS, 5/10).
MUST-SEE TV: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote, “When word emerged Tuesday that the Minnesota Senate had amended the stadium bill to prevent any Vikings games played at the proposed facility from being blacked out, it seemed ludicrous to think that such a stipulation would fly, given the NFL’s staunch insistence on adhering to its decades-old blackout policy.” But the NFL “doesn’t need to carve an exception to blackout policy.” Instead, the team “must commit to purchasing -- at 34 cents on the dollar -- any unsold non-premium tickets.” If the stadium will “consistently be sold out for Vikings games, such a commitment will cost the team nothing.” The NFL “may not prefer that type of precedent, since it would then be used when public money is being finagled for other new stadiums,” but it “makes plenty of sense” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/9).
The Rams' counter-offer to the St. Louis Convention & Visitor’s Commission to upgrade Edward Jones Dome involves “tearing out the current roof on the dome and installing a retractable roof,” according to sources cited by Charles Jaco of KTVI-Fox. Construction experts said that “putting in such a roof would be almost impossible without major structural changes to the dome building itself, very expensive changes.” Sources said that they “don’t know how much this would actually cost, since the Rams did not include any cost estimates in their proposal.” The official proposal will be revealed Monday, when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster “will make all the details public, thanks to a state Sunshine Law request made by Fox.” If the CVC "rejects the proposal, which is pretty likely,” both sides will go to arbitration June 15 (FOX2NOW.com, 5/9).
The city of Mesa, Ariz., and the Cubs yesterday announced a July 11 ground-breaking event to officially kick off the construction of the team's new spring training facility. The city and the Cubs also announced that they are close to an agreement to make the complex the new home for Arizona State Univ.'s baseball program. The $99M ballpark will have a video board and shaded seats (Cubs). In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe notes construction is "scheduled to be completed by Dec. 1, 2013," and both the Cubs and ASU "will begin play at the new stadium in February 2014." The ballpark will have a "capacity of 15,000 including up to 4,000 grass seating, suites and party decks." Cubs Exec VP/Community Affairs Mike Lufrano said the facility "will provide the best fan experience in spring training and offer world-class training and development for our players year-round" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/10).
The MLS Dynamo will officially open BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday when they host DC United, but the venue will host its first soccer game tonight. The Dynamo are using a match between its youth academy team and the U-17 U. S. National Team as a dress rehearsal for the grand opening. Season-ticket holders were invited and the club expects a crowd of about 10,000. Dynamo President of Business Operations Chris Canetti spoke about the franchise’s big week.
Q: How long has this moment been in the making -- not from when you first got a shovel in the ground, but when you first sought to get a new stadium?
Canetti: The team re-located from San Jose to Houston in January of 2006 and played its first game two months later. The club moved here because it was at a standstill with its stadium situation in San Jose. We felt Houston was a strong soccer market and there was a ripe opportunity to get a stadium done. It took six years, which is probably a bit longer than we anticipated. But at the end of the day, we got the right result.
Q: Are you sold out for the opener on Saturday?
Canetti: We sold out the game more than eight weeks ago, without even going to a public sale. We went to all of our season-ticket accounts and gave them the opportunity to buy additional seats to the opener. They bought even more than we expected and sold the place out. We’ll have a capacity crowd of 22,000.
Q: Have you started to see advantages of being part of a downtown district with Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center?
Canetti: To have your own stadium adjacent to the other major league clubs and near the major highway is really helpful. We’re a young club in a growing league and we’re trying to establish ourselves as a major brand.
Q: What was the final cost on the stadium and how was it paid for?
Canetti: It’s an $80 million stadium. The land, valued at $15 million, was provided by the city and the county. We built the stadium with private funds and have the rights to manage the building for the next 30 years as part of a lease agreement with the Houston/Harris County Sports Authority.
Q: Your attendance in Houston has always been strong, even when sharing Robertson Stadium with Univ. of Houston. Are you seeing an even bigger surge now that you have your own state-of-the-art place?
Canetti: We built a solid foundation over the last few years, averaging around 17,000 fans per game. We had a good number of sellouts in the college stadium, which for us held around 30,000. So we knew we had a sound market here to build on. The success of the team at the turnstile and on the field at Robertson was critical to getting the new stadium built. It convinced the people in positions of power to believe in what soccer in Houston could become.
Q: What about corporate sales?
Canetti: We didn’t have suites in Robertson Stadium. There are 36 in BVAA Compass. We held two for ourselves and will sell three on an event-by-event basis. There were 31 for sale and we got the signature on our 31st on Monday. All are on three-year agreements from about $50,000-60,000 a year, based on location. We’ve always done well with advertising, even at the college venue. We’ve consistently been in the top five in MLS in sponsorship revenue and we’ve seen a 100% increase with the new stadium.
Q: Anything special planned this weekend with your stadium naming rights holder, BBVA Compass?
Canetti: The biggest thing we’re doing with them is a civic campaign called, “Building A Better Houston.” When we unveiled them as our naming-rights partner, it was important to them to do more than put their name on the building. So together, we created this program dedicated to helping the part of town called the East End where the stadium was built. We did a campaign that brought in 1.5 tons in recycled goods. We’ve painted, remodeled and refurbished some old houses. We’ve done some reading programs with the elementary schools in the area and we did a 5K road race that raised funds and promoted healthy living. We thought that was the best way to lead into the grand opening.
Q: Were you influenced by other cities, like Philadelphia, which has the Flyers, 76ers, Phillies and Eagles playing next door to each other?
Canetti: Not necessarily. There were some opportunities to build in the suburbs, and those might have gotten built more quickly and with more public money, but we felt to achieve our goals that we needed to be downtown.
Q: Sometimes, when teams open new facilities, there are some challenges for fans like traffic or parking hassles. Are there any? Are you prepared?
Canetti: We recognize there are always going to be bumps in the road or unexpected challenges. We don’t expect any parking problems because, as a general rule, we will never play when the Astros do. They have a 45,000-seat building with plenty of parking infrastructure to service fans. We share their parking, so there will be plenty for Dynamo fans. But we’re prepared for anything in the stadium. We have the staff in place to make sure we’re in front of any problems so every fan has a great experience.
In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes a provision in the agreement between Dodgers Owner Guggenheim Baseball Management and former Owner Frank McCourt indicates that Dodgers Partner Magic Johnson "has the power to veto any development Frank McCourt might propose for the Dodger Stadium parking lots." McCourt "retained half-ownership of the parking lots" in the sale of the team, but Guggenheim secured the right to "approve any development and designated Johnson as the party who would grant approval." The provision lists "more than a dozen specific categories of property alterations that would require Johnson to consent on behalf of Guggenheim, including construction of new buildings and parking changes" (L.A. TIMES, 5/10).
BACK FOR MORE? In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin noted the "builders of the Kings' first two homes are campaigning to construct a third." Architect Rann Haight, whose group constructed the Kings' temporary arena in '85 and permanent facility in '88, said "We're asking for 90 days. We know the building better than anybody. We think that's enough time to note the deficiencies in the building, come up with a schedule of how long it would take to address them, while continuing to play in the current building." Voisin noted the "critical issue is the one that has doomed every previous arena incarnation: Who pays for a renovation estimated to cost" between $100-$125M? Kings Owners the Maloofs have "repeatedly cited the advantages of remaining at their current site because they own the land and the building and operate the facility" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/9).
FINISHING UP: In Ft. Worth, Stefan Stevenson noted the $164M renovations to TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium are "winding down, with most of the heavy lifting completed." But there is "plenty of work remaining; construction crews continued attending feverishly to the details inside the west-side stands during a tour last week." Crews are "busy laying carpet, installing bathroom fixtures and tending to various tasks." TCU AD Chris Del Conte said, "The stadium is on schedule. The finishing touches will be done by mid-July. We're now in the final stretch. I have no fears about being ready for opening day." Stevenson noted, "Both video boards are ready and are just waiting for the control room to be equipped before they're operational. Same for the state-of-the-art sound system" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/8).
NAMING THE FIELD: In Dallas, Josh Friemel noted the field at the new Baylor Stadium will be called John Eddie Williams Field after the Baylor alum "gave a 'substantial gift'" to the university. Williams' gift "is in the top-five largest gifts ever given to Baylor." Baylor Dir of Media Communications Lori Fogelman did not disclose the amount donated, but she confirmed it was "more than the $20 million donated by three Baylor law graduates in 1998 to build a new law school" (DALLASNEWS.com, 5/9).