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The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority in court yesterday continued “its battle against the Steelers over the cost of installing 3,000 more seats at Heinz Field,” according to Mark Belko of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The SEA “disputed the team's contention that the authority is obligated to pay two-thirds of the cost for the expansion, arguing that the project doesn't meet the definition of a capital improvement under the Steelers' lease.” SEA attorney Walter DeForest said that to be defined as an expansion, the “addition or modification must have been installed in at least half” of all NFL stadiums with “at least 25 percent of the cost being paid for by federal, state or local governments.” The Steelers have “upped the ante in the battle, also demanding to be reimbursed $5 million for installing a new control room at the stadium.” In addition, the team wants the SEA to pay the full $3.65M cost of "adding a new scoreboard to the north side of Heinz Field.” DeForest “argued the SEA's obligations regarding the control room rest on the project being considered a capital improvement or repair.” He said that “in the SEA's judgment, it is neither.” Steelers attorney Kevin Lucas said that the team “disagreed with the SEA's interpretation of the lease and will contest it in court.” The bid to add 3,000 seats is estimated at $40M and “ended up in court after a deal to finance it fell apart, prompting the Steelers to file a notice of their intent to sue” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/20). In Pittsburgh, Jeremy Boren wrote, "Not much has gone smoothly for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season." The team’s proposal to expand Heinz Field "is no exception." Lucas: “We believe the obligations of the SEA are clear in the lease and the amounts of money that are being requested are required by the lease” (TRIBLIVE.com, 11/19).
Madison Square Garden President & CEO Hank Ratner said that the arena is undergoing a "transformation," not a "renovation," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. MSG employees "have learned that the hard way." Those who "mess up are requested to pay modestly for their sin." Ratner said of the penalty for misspeaking, "There is a friendly, benevolent suggestion. There's no requirement. They can voluntarily make a donation to the Garden of Dreams Foundation." He said that the donation "can be as little as $5, and 'it doesn't happen often' anymore." Best notes two years into the project, the "only thing about the previous Garden that is fully recognizable from inside is the ceiling." Next summer, the "final touches will include a new scoreboard, new lobby and ... a pair of 'bridges' that will allow fans to watch from spans suspended above the upper seating bowl." Ratner said, "Renovate has a certain connotation, that you're sort of fixing a place up." He said that the arena's overhaul is "expected to cost about" $1B, and the motivation for the project was "internal and not a reaction to the new arenas and stadiums that have sprouted around the area since 2007." Best notes fans "generally seem pleased" with the changes. Ratner said, "Part of the transformation was our ability to tell its story throughout the building, not to go create a little Hall of Fame room somewhere." As the project has "unfolded, there have been no grand re-opening ceremonies." That will "wait until after Phase III next summer" (NEWSDAY, 11/20).
United Center’s owners are “trying to entice" DePaul Univ. to play basketball at the arena and "not build elsewhere in exchange for 10 years of free rent and a boatload of other perks,” according to a source cited by Dave McKinney of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. But DePaul “tamped down the free-rent possibility Monday as it continues to weigh its options, including possibly playing Blue Demons basketball in a new arena ... near McCormick Place.” The source said that in addition to the possibility of a rent-free period, the United Center “has offered to let the team put a Blue Demons logo atop the Bulls logo at center court and on both ends of the court, hang its championship banners from the arena’s ceiling, permit DePaul to use the Chicago Bulls locker room during its 16 home games and open a Blue Demons store and restaurant at the arena.” Other elements of the offer include “having the Bulls sell DePaul tickets and granting Blue Demons patrons the ability to buy tickets for United Center concerts and other events earlier than the general public" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/20). In Chicago, Greg Hinz noted the United Center owners are “making an extraordinarily vigorous push themselves, perhaps out of fear that a new ... arena would pull away some of the United Center concert and other non-basketball business.” DePaul reportedly is “leaning in favor" of the plan at McCormick Place and Navy Pier "because it would be in its own building rather than a tenant in someone else’s, and because it would have a clear shot at scheduling games without having to work around the Bulls’ and Blackhawks’ schedules.” But the plan has two problems, the first being that DePaul would “have to come up with around $75 million to pay about half of the cost of construction of the 10,000- to 12,000-seat arena.” But the school “would get naming rights, and reportedly already has a major donor expressing significant interest.” The second and perhaps “bigger obstacle is control of the property on which the arena would go” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 11/19).
TALKING SHOP: Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers said, "I would love for DePaul to have its own arena, but to build it by McCormick Place? Did the school relocate?” Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein asked, “Are they trying to attract all the conventioneers?” Comcast SportsNet Chicago's David Kaplan said if DePaul played at the United Center they would be the “third tenant” behind the Bulls and Blackhawks and would have to deal with scheduling difficulties. Kaplan: "You’re never going to get to practice there. That’s not a good fit” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/19).
A joint chamber of commerce study group from Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties (Fla.) yesterday announced that a $500M, roofed stadium for the Rays could be financed without "imposing new taxes on local residents,” according to Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Even so, tax sources “that the chambers do contemplate could prove controversial: sales tax and Penny for Pinellas funds in Pinellas; Community Investment Tax and downtown development money in Hillsborough; a new auto rental surcharge at Tampa International Airport; and additional tourist taxes in both counties.” The chamber group said that the Rays “could be expected to pay 20 to 40 percent of the cost.” A 30% share “would be $150 million.” The group “grew out of a standoff” between Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. Sternberg “wanted to look at potential sites in Tampa,” while Foster, citing the Tropicana Field contract, “said no.” The caucus was “formed by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce,” and they “consulted with the Rays, and public officials in both counties” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/20). WTVT-Fox’ Steve Nichols reported the caucus “spent well over a year studying the available revenue streams in both counties, as well as the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg.” Foster declined to comment on the study, and said that he “needed more time to digest the information.” Rays President Matt Silverman “issued a statement applauding the effort.” Silverman in the statement wrote, “Regional cooperation like this is sorely needed as we all move forward and work together to secure the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay” (MYFOXTAMPABAY.com, 11/19).