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U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday "suggested the NFL massage the terms of a loan program that helps teams build and renovate stadiums," according to Tim Graham of the BUFFALO NEWS. The next question, though, is "whether or not the Bills have any interest in participating in the program to begin with." The NFL's G-4 loan program offers matching funds for every dollar toward stadium costs after the team spends $25M. But the Bills "have relied on state funding for stadium improvements in the past." The Bills and Erie County [New York] Exec Mark Poloncarz "previously have stated they expect the state to pick up the bulk again." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "I spoke to [Owner Ralph] Wilson this afternoon about Sen. Schumer's recommendations, and clearly the proposed amendment would be very helpful for our franchise. Obviously, Sen. Schumer has made productive recommendations in the past and has certainly been an advocate for small-market franchises like ourselves." Brandon "declined to answer whether the Bills were interested in pursuing G-4 funding because he didn't want to comment on the specifics of stadium-lease negotiations." The Bills and Erie County "are working to extend a lease agreement that expires July 31, 2013." The Bills said that they must spend a reported $200-220M on "structural improvements and renovations to bring the stadium up to code." Schumer said, "The G-4 program requires the loan to be paid back in full upon the sale of the team. The due-on-sale (stipulation) makes the program less attractive for the current Bills ownership to participate because this team ... may be sold, as we all know." Schumer "would like the NFL to tweak that provision by agreeing to waive it for any seller that has owned the club for at least 20 years" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/9).
LAWYER UP: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana notes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Foley & Lardner partner Irwin Raij, who serves as the firm's Sports Industry Team co-Chair, to "advise the state in its efforts to make sure the Bills remain in Buffalo long after the death of current owner Ralph Wilson, who is 93, and the team has changed hands." Cuomo said, “New York state is committed to doing all we can to keep the Bills a part of the Buffalo community, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and seeing that the team can thrive in western New York for years to come" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 8/9).
ROGER THAT: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "reiterated people want the Bills to remain here, a new stadium lease is 'a very high priority,' and the team will be sold after Ralph Wilson dies." Goodell said, "The fans need to do everything they can to support the Bills, and we're going to work hard to make sure they continue to be successful here. There's no reason why they can't be." The BUFFALO NEWS' Graham notes Goodell "didn't deliver any new information" regarding a Bills succession plan. There was "no mention of the Bills possibly being held in a trust after Wilson dies or any change of heart that someone within his family would like to keep the team." Also, no prospective owners "were identified" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/9).
NEW FOR THIS YEAR: Also in Buffalo, T.J. Pignataro noted the Bills yesterday announced several "new additions and elements to enhance the fans' gameday experience at Ralph Wilson Stadium" for the '12 season. Among the additions "will be a new security screening process at the entry gate, Tailgate Party expansion, a 'Think Green' environmentally conscious tailgate party program, 'Make Mom Proud' initiative as well as changes or enhancements to the parking lots and roads at and around the stadium" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/8).
MSG's $980M Phase II renovation, which will debut with the NHL Rangers’ home opener on Nov. 1 and the Knicks’ home opener the following night, remains on schedule. MSG opened its doors Tuesday afternoon to a dozen reporters for a peak at construction. MSG President & CEO Hank Ratner said the process was “in the exciting phase now” and boasted that MSG will be “the nicest, greatest, most wonderful arena that anyone is going to find anywhere in the world.” Phase II includes 58 new “Madison” level suites located in the middle tier of the arena. These high-end suites will have their own concourse. As a result of the suite construction, the entire upper bowl is being re-done and, according to Ratner, will be 10 feet closer to the Rangers’ rink and Knicks’ court and 17 degrees steeper. This will be a major improvement on the MSG’s oft-criticized sightlines in some areas. The concourses in the upper level will also be much wider. “Double, in some cases triple,” said Ratner, standing at the mark of the previous wall for effect. Rangers fans will be able to celebrate the return of the MSG's “blue seats” -- approximately 1,000 seats at the top of the arena that will be the least expensive. In a widely-derided decision, the “blue seats” changed colors as part of MSG’s renovation 20 years ago. Ticket prices for both teams increased the last two seasons, but Ratner said, “Everything is selling really well, and we've (been) very pleased with the entire process -- from the construction to the sales.” The transformation of MSG concludes next summer with Phase III. Projects during the final phase include the restoration of the arena’s ceiling, renovation of the main lobby and the construction of the “Chase bridges” -- the first-of-their-kind seating areas that hang above the playing surface. “Everyone can’t wait to see those bridges,” said Ratner. “They’re all everyone wants to talk about” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
YOU SEE ME IN THE CLUB: Ratner said that another new feature, The Madison Club, "has about 170 seats and is about the size of 10 suites." In New Jersey, John Brennan noted buyers "can choose as few as two Madison Club seats" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 8/8). In N.Y., Nate Taylor noted 85% of MSG's new suites "have been sold for the coming season." Also, the eighth-floor concourse will be "where fans can see the Garden's history -- from the first arena in 1879 to now -- as 366 moments (one for each day in the year) will be displayed on the wall" (NYTIMES.com, 8/8).
Bauer Performance Sports Chair Graeme Roustan, the head of the GTA Sports & Entertainment group backing the $327M new arena planned for Markham, Ont., "confirmed Wednesday the 20,000-seat arena will be designed by BBB Architects" and "built by PCL Constructors Canada," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Both companies "worked on the Air Canada Centre," home to the Maple Leafs and the Raptors, which opened in February '99. Principal Murray Beynon and other BBB architects also "designed several other prominent arena projects," including the nearly $1B makeover of Madison Square Garden. The Markham arena is "planned for a six-acre parcel of land near Highway 407 and Kennedy Road." Roustan "hopes to see it open in 2014 and play host to the 2015 world junior hockey championship." Markham city councillors "approved an arrangement under which the municipality will borrow" the $327M needed to build the arena. GTA Sports & Entertainment "will pay back half the cost of the city's loan with the other half coming from revenue from the arena and entertainment centre after it opens and from future development in Markham." However, the arena "does not have a definite green light as some hurdles remain." There are "several steps of approval left and the city can pull the plug if it feels uncomfortable with the plans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/9).
In Phoenix, Bob Young noted Arizona State Univ. AD & VP/Athletics Steve Patterson on Tuesday gave a “state-of-the-program update,” and indicated that the school is “prepared to place naming rights to a renovated Sun Devil Stadium on the market.” Patterson said that the “first step is to determine what value the rights have.” MidFirst Bank, which “already has a deal with ASU, evidently gets first dibs among financial institutions if it wants the naming rights.” Patterson said that ASU “soon will determine whether to renovate in stages or move out for a season and use 21 months to do it all in one fell swoop.” He “didn't rule out playing a season in Glendale at University of Phoenix Stadium or at Chase Field downtown” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/8).
LOOKING FOR WORK: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Katy Stech noted Demco, the construction firm that helped tear down the old Yankee Stadium, has “been crushed by the prolonged economic downturn, prompting it to file for bankruptcy.” Demco said that it has “had trouble finding work to keep busy" after finishing the $20M demolition job on the former Yankee Stadium. In '08, it “took down Miami’s 72,000-seat Orange Bowl stadium.” Demco also took in $2.7M “to remove the 98-story Memorial Auditorium in downtown Buffalo, N.Y., once home to the Buffalo Sabres hockey team” (WSJ.com, 8/8).
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED: The Dolphins announced a new partnership with Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine that includes naming rights to the team’s training facility in Davie, Fla. The facility will be called the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University (Dolphins). In Miami, R.J. Rico notes the new name comes “after 19 years of being known as the Miami Dolphins Training Facility.” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, NSU President George L. Hanbury II, Doctors Hospital CEO Nelson Lazo and four Dolphins cheerleaders "were on hand to announce the partnership and unveil the new entrance sign” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/9).