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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday spoke to the Rotary Club of Atlanta and is “optimistic that the Falcons will get a new retractable roof stadium,” according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Goodell, who also discussed the stadium issue with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said, “There is a recognition that it’s the right thing to do and they are going through a very healthy process to find a solution that is going to work for all parties.” He added, “When you are going to approach a complex project like this, there is always a lot about what is the right thing and the wrong thing. What should be the participation level in the public-private partnership? Where to build it? What to build? ... There is a good opportunity and the NFL wants to be a part of creating something very special. We want to be a part of this community for a long time. We hope that wherever they put the stadium, they make it a bigger and better place.” Goodell said that new NFL venues such as MetLife Stadium and Dallas Cowboys Stadium are “state of the art and have essentially made the 20-year old Georgia Dome obsolete” (AJC.com, 11/5). In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham asked Goodell why taxpayers should “help to foot the bill for a new home” for Falcons Owner Arthur Blank. Goodell said, “Well, I think there’s a recognition that they do need a new stadium. The question is, how do you do something that makes sense for the community and how do you combine that with what they want to do with the (World) Congress Center? And do it in a way that’s responsible and creates more activity.” Cunningham notes the Falcons are “seeking partial public financing" for a $1B retractable-roof stadium to be built in downtown Atlanta (AJC.com, 11/4).
RAISING DOUGH: In Atlanta, Amy Wenk reports the Falcons are “raising the prices for their best seats.” The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates the Georgia Dome, last Tuesday agreed to “raise premium seating prices" for the '13 NFL season. Club seats and super suite seat licenses will increase 4-5%, meaning a “one-year club seat that cost $2,120 in 2012 will cost $2,225 in 2013." Advertising rates for the signage at the Dome “also will increase.” GWCCA Exec Dir Frank Poe said that the group at last Tuesday's meeting also “passed a resolution to establish a land reserve account,” which sets aside money “to acquire, lease, preserve or dispose of land.” Wenk writes the GWCCA “might need to acquire land if it decides to build a new football stadium" (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 11/2 issue).
The agency controlling Lambeau Field wants the Packers “to be clear about its position on special events at the stadium,” according to Richard Ryman of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District Exec Dir Patrick Webb yesterday said, “The biggest issue we’ve had in this whole (lease) agreement is we haven’t had as many special events as people thought we’d have in the stadium bowl.” Ryman notes the “most notable exception was the Kenny Chesney concert in June 2011, which drew more than 45,000 people.” The Packers “begged off on any similar event this year because of construction adding seats and entrances to the stadium.” The team has said that it “plans to begin expansion of the Lambeau Field Atrium as soon as possible, which board members worried could lead to more delay.” Board member Ron Antonneau said that the “stadium is a community facility and people expect it to be used for such events.” Antonneau said, “We need to encourage them to be proactive. It’s important we do this because people loved (the Chesney) concert” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 11/6).
The arbitration hearing on the Rams' "stadium lease issue is scheduled to begin" Jan. 14, according to sources cited by Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Once the hearing is completed, it "could take two weeks or two months to get a ruling from the arbitrators." The American Arbitration Association "provided a list of 13 arbitrators" for the Rams and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission to consider. Each side "got to strike five arbitrators alternately until only three names remained." The "three 'survivors' will decide what needs to be done in order for the CVC to meet the first-tier requirements called for in the stadium lease." Although both sides are "operating under a confidentiality agreement, sources have indicated there already has been a lot of activity leading up to January in terms [of] information gathering, procedural issues, public depositions, expert opinions -- a process paralleling the discovery process in a trial." Under the lease's "first-tier" standards, the Edward Jones Dome "must be considered among the top eight facilities" in the NFL. If not, the Rams are "free to break the lease and move" following the '14 season. League sources said that it is "very likely that the arbitrators will rule in favor of the Rams' plan rather than the CVC's" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/6).
As the Warriors “seek to build their own bayfront venue a half mile north, supporters regularly draw comparisons” to AT&T Park “in hopes that it will be just as successful and face minimal opposition,” according to John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. But critics of the Warriors' proposed arena are “equally quick to point out the differences between the projects to highlight what they see as flaws in the process.” AT&T Park and, "on a larger scale, the framework deal for the arena have the sports franchise paying to build the venue itself but include a substantial amount of public money for related costs.” The Warriors' plan “is bigger and more costly than what the Giants built and would cover more than 15 acres on currently city-owned property.” It includes a 17,500-seat arena on "a rebuilt 13-acre concrete pier that is slowly eroding into the bay, 105,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, a practice facility, terraced public plazas that cover a 630-car parking garage, and a kayak launch.” The projected total price tag is $1B, "including ‘soft costs’ like architecture and engineering expenses," compared with about $358M for AT&T Park. The arena proposal "calls for the city to reimburse the Warriors" up to $120M to repair Piers 30-32. Additionally, the city would "retain ownership of the pier and lease it to the Warriors for 66 years.” Funds for the city to reimburse the Warriors “could come only from revenue generated by the project.” The city used a “similar tax mechanism" to reimburse the Giants $15M for the cost of building the ferry landing, waterfront promenade and other public areas, and spent $12M "readying the site for construction.” That combined $27M public expense is "less than a fourth of what the public would pay" under the Warriors arena proposal (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/4).
Target Center yesterday announced that it will "start doling out tickets through a new in-house system, AXS, created by its operating company, AEG Live," according to Chris Riemenschneider of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. AXS will be used for "all events at the arena except Timberwolves and Lynx games, which could eventually change over to the new system." It is unknown whether AXS will "provide a break from the extra fees" that Ticketmaster charges. But Target Center reps said that AXS "improves on the Ticketmaster model in several ways." Riemenschneider notes AXS will "only be used for events yet to be announced at Target Center." It is used at "some of AEG's biggest venues around the world, including the O2 Arena in London" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/6). In St. Paul, Ross Raihala reports for the next eight months the Target Center will "use both AXS and Ticketmaster." Ticketmaster will "handle all events already on sale" through the end of the '12-13 season (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/6).
The Ontario Municipal Board yesterday "rejected all appeals against the proposed Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie, opening the door for groundbreaking" on a C$400M, 65,000-seat facility near the Peace Bridge, according to Michael Clarkson in a special to the TORONTO STAR. The land has been purchased and "it’s believed the major investors are from Kuwait." Construction is "expected to take 18 months." CMS Partner & Exec Dir Azhar Mohammad said that track officials "will try to attract NASCAR and other auto racing events, as well as rock concerts." NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon is "designing the Fort Erie project’s 1.6-kilometre banked oval track and a 4.2-kilometre road course." It would be the "largest track in Canada." Plans call for "60,000 grandstand seats, 5,000 club seats and 80 suites." Sources said that officials may also approach the NHL "to discuss hosting an outdoor game" (TORONTO STAR, 11/6).
NEW & IMPROVED: In Toronto, Norris McDonald noted the Castrol control/scoring tower at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park "was demolished" yesterday after "50 years of service." The tower was "removed in order to lengthen the pit lane for an anticipated NASCAR race in 2013." It was "about to become redundant in any event because a new corporate and media centre, plus offices, is under construction across the track on driver's left at turn ten" (THESTAR.com, 11/5).
GOAL.com's Seth Vertelney noted MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Saturday confirmed “suspicions” that the Earthquakes’ “usual home of Buck Shaw Stadium might not be a facility worthy of hosting MLS Cup." Garber said, “We have made the decision that we would like to move the game out of the stadium that they play in in Santa Clara today. We have not yet resolved where that game is going to be played.” He added, “We think if San Jose was able to make it into the final, more than 10,000 people would want to come to that game. So we’d want to find another site. We just don’t know where that is yet” (GOAL.com, 11/5).
SKATING AWAY: In Pittsburgh, Mark Belko reports the Penguins are working with the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds "on plans to erect an outdoor ice rink inside the soccer team's new stadium at Station Square.” Penguins COO & General Counsel Travis Williams said that the team “hopes to open the rink for public skating and amateur and high school hockey games Dec. 14 and operate it until early or mid-January.” Belko reports the timetable is “contingent on the Riverhounds having most of Highmark Stadium completed by the end of November” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/6).
UNLEASH A JAGUAR: In Jacksonville, Dolly Penland writes the Jaguars have the NFL’s “most luxurious locker room,” thanks to Owner Shahid Khan, who “spent more than $3 million to redesign and renovate the space at EverBank Field.” The lockers are “made of wenge, a dark tropical timber that’s often used for musical instruments.” All of the wood veneer on the lockers is "Forest Stewardship Council-certified.” Each locker is “equipped with a ventilation system to quickly dry the players’ pads and shoes.” The system “turns on automatically when items are placed inside.” Fans “move 105 cubic feet of air per minute through each locker and exhaust it to the outdoors, achieving the remarkable: a locker room that doesn't smell like a locker room” (JACKSONVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/2 issue).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: In Toronto, Tony Van Alphen noted two Markham, Ontario, councilors "want the city to take a much harder look at the promoter of the city’s plan for a NHL-size arena despite the mayor’s strong support of him.” Councilors Jim Jones and Don Hamilton have “confirmed they will ask council within the next two weeks to probe the background” of GTA Sports & Entertainment Chair & CEO, whose company is the proposed builder and operator of the arena. But Mayor Frank Scarpitti said that he has told councilors the city "hasn't found any concerns about Roustan after checking his personal credit history" (TORONTO STAR, 11/4).