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K.C.-based architectural firm Populous on Thursday gave Erie County (New York) legislators “their first in-depth glimpse into what a $95 million state and county investment” into Ralph Wilson Stadium “will buy,” according to Denise Jewell Gee of the BUFFALO NEWS. The centerpiece “will be the 8,000-square-foot team store … that will mark the entrance to a new pedestrian plaza at the front of the stadium.” The store is to include a “modern glass design with elements reminiscent of the Old Rock Pile,” and it will “help create a ‘new front door’ and boost the ‘curb appeal’” of the stadium. Populous Senior Principal Scott Radecic said, “We want it to glow and light up at night. … We want to reinforce the Bills brand when people are passing by the stadium.” Radecic added that one of the main goals is to “improve the ways fans move in and out of the stadium by pushing the entrance gates 75 to 100 feet out and creating an outdoor space around the stadium for fans.” He said that talks are “still under way with concessionaire Delaware North Cos. to determine what amenities could be added to that area to connect fans to the game.” Gee reports the chain-link fence around the stadium “will be replaced with new fencing that will create better views into the complex, and more lanes will be added that will more clearly define how people line up as they enter the ticket gates.” Renovations inside will focus on “redesigning existing space to create more places to sell food and beverages, upgrade restrooms and clear portable vending stands that create backups in the concourse.” Bills execs “ruled out a more expensive ‘retrofit’ of the stadium that could have widened concourses to alleviate congestion” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/18).
ON THE WATERFRONT? WGRZ-NBC's Scott Levin reported the idea of a "downtown sports stadium in Buffalo continues to gain momentum as another community meeting took place Wednesday to inform the public on the process of securing and building a stadium." Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex Partner George Hasiotis said that the stadium "would be a multi-venue sports complex built on the outer harbor that would be used for many activities." The Bills "would be only one anchor tenant" (WGRZ.com, 1/17).
Cubs Owner the Ricketts family on Thursday said that they "would like to build a hotel next to Wrigley Field, a proposal that sweetens their bid for tax incentives and other government assistance to help pay for a $300 million renovation of the aging ballpark," according to Ameet Sachdev of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The family said that it has an "agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., whose brands include Sheraton and the Westin, to develop a boutique hotel on property the family owns on the northwest corner of Clark and Addison streets that it acquired in 2011 from McDonald's." The Ricketts family has "framed the renovation of Wrigley as important not only to the team but also to the city's economy and its efforts to draw tourists." The family is willing to "move forward with redeveloping property it owns around Wrigley with private dollars in exchange for government assistance that could include tax money to pay for a stadium face-lift." Until now, the family's "development plans centered on a triangle-shaped parking lot next to Wrigley that could become a museum, retail shops and a restaurant." The owners "upped the ante by proposing a hotel." Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton said that the hotel idea "emerged from sponsorship talks Cubs marketing officials had with Starwood, now the 'official hotel' of the team." The McDonald's property also could "include a health club" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/18). Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney said that he is "all for the idea of a boutique hotel on the McDonald’s site." Tunney said, "It’s been a requirement in our master plan for 10 years to have a hotel around there. It’s needed." But he added, "I want to see the plans and review it with the community." In Chicago, Spielman & Golab note other investors have "proposed building a Hyatt hotel as part of a new eight-story building that would go up on Addison immediately south of the ballpark" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/18).
STAYING HOME: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer reports the Cubs will play "all their home games at Wrigley Field while the anticipated work is completed." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that a plan that called for home games in April and May '14 and '15 to be moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee "was just one of 'a number of different options' being considered and is now 'off the table.'" The Miller Park plan "was considered seriously enough that the Brewers were consulted and at one point late last season Cubs business executives apprised the baseball-operations side about the possibility." While the plan never reached the point of seeking MLB approval, "it at least provides a glimpse into the team’s thinking on a timeline for its Wrigley Field projects, as well as expectations for a timeline on public-funding efforts" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/18).
In Akron, Ulrich & Lin-Fisher cite sources as saying that FirstEnergy Corp.’s stadium naming-rights agreement with the Browns is “worth $6 million a year," making the deal worth $102M over 17 years (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/18). In Cleveland, John Funk notes the amount puts the deal "on par" with the 20-year, $122M deal the Colts signed with Lucas Oil in ’08 (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/18).
UPGRADES IN THE WORKS: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg cited a source as saying that the “starting point for negotiations” between the city of Charlotte and the Panthers “for a public investment in upgrades to Bank of America Stadium would keep the team here for 10 years.” Sources emphasize that “no decisions have been made and that talks are continuing with the NFL franchise.” What is known thus far is that the Panthers and the city have “discussed a 10-year commitment for the team in exchange for $125 million in city tax money -- even though the public’s share would take 15 years to be repaid with tax receipts from prepared-food taxes across the city” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/17).
MISSING THEIR MARK: In Minneapolis, Jean Hopfensperger noted the electronic pulltab sales “slated to help fund the Vikings stadium are nowhere near their projected target, even after the state lowered that target last month," a Minnesota House committee learned Wednesday. Gross sales through December “were $4.2 million, far behind the $17.2 million projected to be raised by the end of July.” Minnesota Gambling Control Board Exec Dir Tom Barrett attributed the “slower-than-expected growth to charities' desire for more competition among vendors and to the roughly $800 upfront costs to bar owners to install wireless connections for the games” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/17).
OFF TO THE RACES: DAILY RACING FORM’s Steve Andersen noted Betfair Hollywood Park will “run a fall meeting in November and December, ending months of speculation whether the track would continue to conduct racing or be closed for development at the end of the summer.” Track President Jack Liebau “did not state whether the track would operate in 2014, or be closed and developed for residential and commercial uses.” He said the track’s decision to race this fall was “a close call” (DRF.com, 1/17).