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AEG and Dynamo execs Saturday were finally able to “admire the fruits of six years of negotiating and planning that produced the team's new $95 million home,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The inaugural MLS game at BBVA Compass Stadium “was a sellout at 22,039 fans” as the Dynamo defeated DC United, 1-0. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said, "It's beautiful, and I'm really proud of the fact we figured out a way to do it without the taxpayers having to write a check.” He added, "I thank everyone for being patient while we figured it out." Leiweke and AEG Chair Phil Anschutz, whose company owns 50% of the Dynamo, were joined at the game by club investor Oscar De La Hoya and West Virginia AD and former Dynamo President Oliver Luck. Luck said that the stadium “lived up to his expectations.” Luck: "The bottom line is that we got it done and did it in a responsible manner for everyone, including the taxpayers." Dynamo President Chris Canetti said that the opener “was a signature moment for a team and a sport he thinks will continue to grow.” He added, "This stadium provides more than stability. It provides an incredible future for growth” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13). Canetti also said his favorite part of the new stadium is the “central location” in Houston. Canetti: "Being downtown is clearly the best feature to it. But besides that, there's not a bad seat in the house.” Canetti said of the pillars honoring the past players of the Dynamo, “When we built the stadium we really had a very, very strong intention of not just having a beautiful stadium, but having a beautiful (stadium) that told the Dynamo story. We really want to build a tradition and a history here” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 5/11).
TEMPLATE FOR THE FUTURE: NBC Sports Network's Arlo White said of BBVA Compass Stadium, "It is spectacular and the location of the stadium is vital, too. This is the template for the future of MLS perhaps. We are right downtown. We’re by Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center. This is an awesome day for Major League Soccer." NBC Sports Network's Kyle Martino said, "They nailed the most important aspect of a soccer-specific stadium: Make it intimate." Martino: "This stadium was designed with the fans and the players in mind. We all know how hot it gets in Houston, so it starts with the outer shell, tricked-out with this cool steel mesh to allow air to flow thru (and) cool things down for the fans" ("DC United-Dynamo," NBC Sports Network, 5/12). MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that BBVA Compass Stadium “would be a gold standard” for future venues. It mixes “cutting-edge technology -- it has more than 150 Wi-Fi access points -- with one of the league's loudest atmospheres, because of the drum-shaped roof designed to deflect sound down to the field” (AP, 5/12).
CULTURAL STATEMENT: In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote BBVA Compass Stadium “could be a game-changer, a community changer, like no other.” Certainly its launch “was different from other major venue openings.” The sellout crowd, which was “more than the Astros have drawn in half their home contests this season at Minute Maid Park, shook the $95 million structure in approval.” BBVA Compass Stadium “seems like a perfect home,” as the stadium is “so cozy that there is little reason to glance at the video screen above the north end zone.” With fans seated “so close to the action, the players can feel the noise.” Luck said, “It’s a tribute to the vision that a lot of people had, both at the city and the county level for this kind of building in this location, which to me is the most important thing of all.” He added, “I think it is as much a physical location as it is a cultural statement: 'Soccer has arrived. Hey, Houston, let’s wrap our arms around it and embrace it'" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13).
SHARING IT WITH THE FANS: In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted Dynamo MF Brad Davis after the game “sprinted over to celebrate with fans in the supporters’ section.” Davis said, “I feel like they deserve it as much as we do to be a part of that moment. They've been waiting a long time. They've been supporting us since our first day here.” He added, "This is a special day, not just for us players, but for our organization, for our fans and for the city of Houston. I wanted to go over and let them be a part of that moment with the team. I think they deserved it as well" (CHRON.com, 5/12).
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: SI.com’s Avi Creditor wrote years from now, when looking back at the history and timeline of MLS, “there will be a handful of days that stick out as monumental ones in the league's history, and Saturday will be one of them.” Between the opening of the “picturesque new stadium in Houston, a Canadian-record crowd of more than 60,000 on hand in Montreal to see the expansion Impact take on the star-studded, yet slumping Los Angeles Galaxy and another capacity crowd of more than 39,000 in Seattle for the key Western Conference clash between the Sounders and Real Salt Lake, few regular-season days in MLS history can carry the amount of anticipation, excitement, significance and fanfare than May 12, 2012, did.” BBVA Compass Stadium is the “latest gem an MLS franchise can call its own, and it is yet another symbol of the league's viability when plenty doubted that there would even be a 17th MLS season years ago” (SI.com, 5/13). In DC, Steven Goff wrote in a “cruel twist, a team craving a new stadium for a decade is the first guest in the newest MLS fortress.” Garber Friday said of DC United’s need for a new stadium, “I remain hopeful something can get done. It’s just so frustrating we haven’t been able to do in that market what we’ve been able to do in so many cities.” Goff wrote there are now “two teams stuck in inadequate venues: United and the New England Revolution.” The Revolution play at Gillette Stadium, which is “27 miles from the cosmopolitan demographic that cares most about MLS.” Garber said of DC United playing at RFK Stadium, “That team is losing a great deal of money. It’s an untenable situation that has got to change” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11).
The 49ers will not "be counting on Santa Clara to lead their pitch to host Super Bowl 50," as the club is "teaming up with San Francisco to bring the NFL's golden anniversary title game" to its new South Bay stadium, according to Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The agreement is part of a new deal struck last week to "allow the franchise to escape its lease" at Candlestick Park in '14, when the 49ers are slated to begin playing in Santa Clara. Rosenberg wrote, "That's not the only way Silicon Valley's new football fiance is keeping its gaze on the City by the Bay," as the 49ers will "give Candlestick Park employees a leg-up over South Bay workers for many jobs in the new stadium." A term in the pact between S.F. and the team "gives jobs at the new Santa Clara stadium to as many as 500 concessions employees at Candlestick, dropping the number of total available positions at the new field by as much as 19 percent." Santa Clara officials "had cited job opportunities for locals as a main reason" for approving the $1.2B project." Santa Clara City Council member Jamie McLeod said, "It directly contradicts what the team committed to." Rosenberg writes along with the team keeping the S.F. designation in its name, the South Bay region "always will have to share ownership of the adored NFL franchise" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/12).
Several tasks -- from "picking a stadium governing board to the hiring of architects and builders -- must be addressed with urgency” if the Vikings hope to break ground next spring and complete the $975M stadium project in time for the '16 NFL season, according to Richard Meryhew of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Hours after legislators signed off on a stadium deal late last week, Vikings officials “began huddling with Gov. Mark Dayton and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission leaders to map out a construction timeline for the massive development that will reshape the downtown Minneapolis skyline.” Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that officials will “meet again this week” to hammer out details for what comes after Dayton signs the stadium bill. Vikings Dir of Corporate Communications Jeff Anderson said it takes nearly a year for design and prep work, “followed by three years to build” the stadium. Meryhew noted during that time, the Vikings will “play at least one season at TCF Bank Stadium, with the Metrodome razed to make way for the completion of the new stadium.” Assuming the council approves the plan, Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak “must then appoint five people to a newly created sports authority to replace the current Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and work with the Vikings on nearly every phase of the project.” Mortenson Construction Senior VP John Wood, whose firm managed construction of Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium, said that the project “would probably be ‘fast tracked,’ meaning crews could work on the project's foundations and superstructure during the early months of construction while more intricate interior design work was being completed” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/13).
STADIUM DETAILS: Bagley said there "will be a bid" put out to determine the stadium architect. He said, "There are four or five sports architects who do all the buildings, so those guys will be part of the competition. And then [Vikings Owners] the Wilfs want to do something unique and special in terms of a signature Minnesota facility. ... We're going to try to make something unique, something that would fit a Midwest city and our values in Minnesota, something unique to Minnesota” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/12). The AP's Jon Krawczynski reported the Wilfs “appear to be leaning in favor of a retractable roof for their new stadium." Co-Owner Mark Wilf said that they “want to make the stadium as attractive to fans as possible" (AP, 5/11). ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert noted neither Zygi nor Mark Wilf “would commit to a retractable roof.” Mark Wilf said, “We're going to try to get the maximum number of features within the budgets that we can make this a facility that is going to be exciting to the fans. … To the extent that retractability can get there, we're going to try to do it" (ESPN.com, 5/11). Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Charley Walters reported the stadium “could be worth an annual profit of at least $30 million to the team and perhaps as much as $40 million.” That would be “about triple the Vikings’ estimated annual profit in the Metrodome.” A retractable roof would cost about $40M, and it will be “surprising if the Vikings don’t come up with an aggressive personal seat license plan for more revenue.” Target is “expected to make a naming-rights run at the Vikings' stadium," but the company "can expect formidable competition from U.S. Bank” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/12).
BACK TO SCHOOL: In Minneapolis, Jenna Ross noted the Univ. of Minnesota Friday “advanced a deal that would allow” the Vikings to play at TCF Bank Stadium while their new venue is constructed. The UM Board of Regents approved a resolution that “allows the team to play at the Bank for up to four consecutive NFL seasons, starting in 2013.” Wilf said the team would play there “one season for sure.” Ross noted UM's letter of intent to the Vikings "leaves open the issue of alcohol sales." UM General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said that the Vikings at minimum “want to sell hard liquor in the club seating, boxes and suites ... and beer and wine throughout the stadium.” Rotenberg added he is "not willing to promise what the University of Minnesota would do in the area of alcohol consumption and sale.” Alcohol sales “will need a separate approval by the regents” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/12).
IS A SUPER BOWL TO COME? Mark Wilf said that the Minneapolis community “should try to lure a Super Bowl.” Wilf: “Potentially, as soon as a year from now we could be a bidder. We haven't talked to (National Football League) officials yet about it, but we see no reason why we wouldn't be ripe to put in a bid for a Super Bowl.” An NFL official “acknowledged that the presence of a new stadium is ‘viewed favorably’ by the 32 owners who pick the Super Bowl cities.” Six new stadiums have been selected to host the game since ’04 (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/14). Wilf added, “We haven't talked to officials yet about it, but we see no reason why we wouldn't be ripe to put in a bid for a Super Bowl.” NFL VP/Ventures Eric Grubman said Minneapolis is a “strong competitor” to host a Super Bowl (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/14).
TO MOVE, OR NOT TO MOVE? Vikings co-Owner Zygi Wilf said relocating the Vikings to L.A. “never was on our mind." Wilf: "From day one, when we took over the franchise, knowing the passion of our fans and knowing the storied history of our franchise, our goal from day one was always to make sure that we build a new home here." The L.A. Times' Sam Farmer said, “I don't think Minnesota was ever really serious about relocating to Los Angeles, and this is a perfect example of L.A. being used, even if L.A. wasn't mentioned, to get a deal done in another city." Farmer: "L.A is so valuable to the league without a team because L.A. is the boogeyman … (because) everybody knows that if a team can relocate to Los Angeles, that puts cities in motion to keep their teams.” He added, "Ultimately, L.A. will probably get a team, but as I said, very valuable without a team” (“NFL Total Access, NFL Network, 5/11).
The legal complaint filed by SMG over the selection of AEG to take over operations of the Oakland sports complex drew sharp comments from AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke. The Joint Power Authority is scheduled to hold a special meeting today where the seven-member board expects to vote again to approve a new management contract for O.co Coliseum and Oracle Arena. In the complaint, SMG, operator of those two facilities for the past 13 years, cited "substantial irregularities" during an April board meeting at which the authority voted 4-3 in favor of negotiating a new deal with AEG. Leiweke, attending Saturday's MLS Dynamo game at BBVA Compass Stadium, said he hoped authority execs would "stay the course and vote the same way they voted last time." "It's unfortunate for the Joint Powers Authority that they had to go through this again," Leiweke said. "If SMG wants to grow their business negatively, then so be it. To me, who in their right minds would want a company like that going out and filing lawsuits to run their building? I can tell you, from our standpoint, if we wouldn't have gotten that vote, we would have moved on. That said, assuming it goes (in our favor), we have already been in touch with the anchor tenants and let them know we are prepared to get in there as quickly as possible and roll up our sleeves and begin to think about ways we can improve the environment for their fans and the teams. I am absolutely convinced we will make a difference there, but we're going to bring a positive attitude to that complex, not a negative, 'defend at all costs' attitude."
EAST BAY FUTURE UNCERTAIN: The future of all three major league tenants in Oakland is up in the air as the authority moves forward with determining the best operator for the arena and the stadium. The A's want to build a new ballpark in San Jose and the Warriors have considered relocating to S.F. The Raiders have been mentioned as a candidate for relocation to a new stadium in L.A., as well as a potential co-tenant with the 49ers at a new stadium under construction in Santa Clara. It is ultimately up to the JPA to make the decisions required to keep those three teams in Oakland, according to Leiweke. Should the authority uphold its decision for AEG to run the sports complex, "They now have someone who builds arenas and stadiums for a living, that's sitting there with them on a daily basis, and I think it will bring a different attitude there," Leiweke said. "People that want to keep that situation the way it is, then I think they are doing a complete disservice to the teams, their fans and the community. That's not us. We think about the future. We're not going to try to defend the past."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway "now has sponsor decals on its track walls," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Two decals for Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka and Shell "were at the exit of Turn 3 and the entrance to Turn 4" during Saturday's Indianapolis 500 practice session, and four more ads "were to go in Saturday night." There will be a total of 16 ads "in the north end of the track." The ads are "at the spot where the cars come closest to the wall," meaning they are "in line to be struck." Track officials allowed for Shell signage "on the inside pit wall last year." Shell also has "banners on the back of the Speedway's free-standing video boards." Terms of the deal were not revealed (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/13).
TRYING TO SECURE A FULL FIELD: The AP's Michael Marot reported IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard yesterday "offered to help find sponsors, engines and any other assistance" to make sure the traditional starting field of 33 cars is full for this year's Indianapolis 500. Bernard said, "We haven't had a race since 1947 that didn't have that many cars and we have to do everything we can to make sure we get 33." Marot noted with just 33 driver-car combinations and the Chevrolet and Honda engines "almost all divvied up, filling spots with new cars will be a challenge" (AP, 5/13).