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Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts on Saturday said that the team will "fund an ambitious $300 million renovation plan at Wrigley Field if the city eases some of its restrictions" around the ballpark, according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Among the proposed improvements announced at the team's annual Cubs Convention are "larger concourses, additional restaurants, more bathroom and concession areas, expanded suites and amenities for the players, including a larger home clubhouse, batting cages and additional training facilities." A "new roof would replace the wooden roof, new seats would be installed and the façade would return to its 1930s-era luster." The project would be done "during offseasons over a five-year period." The Cubs in order to pay for the renovations are "asking for the ability to enhance their revenue streams in the same fashion as other teams, without having to ask permission from the city." Ricketts said, "We’d like to be treated like a private institution. We have a lot of restrictions. We compete against our rooftop partners across the street. They compete on price and we compete against them on a regular basis. We’re told what we can do to the park. ... We’re not a museum. We’re a business" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20).
HISTORICAL HEADACHES? ESPN CHICAGO's Levine & Rogers noted Ricketts in his comments was "referring to restrictions on any major constructions of a landmark status building." Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said, "I think we would like to be treated like the other 29 clubs. If they are going to be allowed [to] build their business and put signs [where] they need them and hold games when they need them, they (the Ricketts family) are prepared to write the whole check themselves" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). Ricketts said that the Cubs have "given up efforts to persuade the city to divert tax revenues to help fund Wrigley Field renovations -- for now, at least -- and have shifted their efforts toward getting restrictions at the ballpark eased to allow more sponsorship revenue." Ricketts: "We're not looking at amusement taxes" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/20). Ricketts said of seeking the city of Chicago's approval for the proposed project, "We have an opportunity here that is tremendous. Give us some relief on some restrictions and we will take care of the rest" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). In Illinois, Bruce Miles wrote, "It won't be easy and it won't be cheap, but the team rolled out a convincing and power-packed power-point presentation that won widespread approval from the fans." Money is "the kicker," but the Cubs made an "assertive offer to the city of Chicago: Relax some of the restrictions that prevent revenue-generating items in and around the park -- such as signage -- and the Ricketts family will foot the bill" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/20). The DAILY HERALD's Miles: "Here's hoping the Cubs and the city of Chicago can strike a deal. It's either that or continue to watch Wrigley Field crumble before our eyes" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/21).
HOME IMPROVEMENT: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports the Cubs' renovation plans include "three new premium clubs and restaurants, two outfield fan decks and an enclosed suite level." The most significant changes would be "a new indoor club for season-ticket holders behind home plate, similar to diamond clubs at newer ballparks; another lounge in the upper deck between third base and home plate; and a marquee restaurant in the team’s old administrative offices" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/21 issue). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Sullivan noted the Cubs "have for years been looking to turn Sheffield Avenue into a street-fest on selected weekends." The team "shelved plans for the much-hyped triangle building, instead opting for an open area west of the park that can be used for things like movies, an ice rink and a farmer’s market" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20). Kenney said that the five-year project, which the Cubs hope to begin this fall, will "start with the clubhouse and players' workout and practice areas" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/20). ESPN CHICAGO's Levine & Rogers noted also among the proposed changes is adding an LED board in left field "similar to the one in right field." The Cubs also would be "restoring the brick exterior of the park back to its form in 1935." Kenney said that the team "will not have to play their home games at another venue while the project is being completed" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). In N.Y., Ben Strauss writes, "It is an ambitious construction project that will include renovations to the interior, exterior, baseball facilities and infrastructure of one of the crown jewels of American stadiums" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/21).
FISTFUL OF DOLLARS: ESPN CHICAGO's Jesse Rogers wrote the Cubs are "in line for more revenue" when their current TV rights deals with WGN-TV and Comcast SportsNet expire. Ricketts said, "Few more years on them. At some point in the future we'll be able to renew that contract. We know the rights fees have gone up a lot. Somewhere down the line the Cubs will [be] able to renew our TV contracts, and that will be at a much higher level." Meanwhile, Rogers noted the Cubs have "entered into a partnership with the Starwood Hotel chain, which includes Sheraton hotels." The deal is the "reason the convention was moved to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers this year." The team will "mainly stay at Starwood hotels on the road, and a new 175-room Sheraton will be built across the street from Wrigley Field" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19).
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR? In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes fans by the end of the three-day Cubs Convention over the weekend "had a more pressing restoration in mind." A fan asked Ricketts, "Do you have a five-year plan? A 10-year plan?" Another fan said to team officials, "Some of us don't have that much time left." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told the crowd, "By '15, we should not just be talking about October, but hopefully you fans should be making your plans for October" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/21).
Patriots execs are “spending a lot of time thinking about” the possibility of having trouble drawing fans to Gillette Stadium, according to Callum Borchers of the BOSTON GLOBE. Team President Jonathan Kraft last week said, “If we want people to still come to our stadium and find it worth the money, we have to figure out how we give an experience that’s different than the experience at home and give you all the comforts of home.” Possible new features at the stadium include streaming audio of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels “relaying play calls" to QB Tom Brady, and "locker room video at halftime that ticket holders can view on their smartphones.” New apps “could soon direct fans to ideal parking spots and allow them to buy food and drink from mobile devices so they can pick up their orders without waiting in line.” Patriots Exec Dir of Media Relations Stacey James said that the NFL “would have to approve the streaming of locker room video and on-field audio, and the media would be edited or delayed.” Borchers noted all of the planned stadium extras “could be available as early as next season, thanks to a high-capacity Wi-Fi system installed during the summer” by Salem, N.H.-based Enterasys Networks. During the team’s playoff win over the Texans on Jan. 13, a “quarter of the fans at Gillette used the Wi-Fi network -- an all-time high.” Only seven of the NFL’s 30 other stadiums have “comparable Wi-Fi networks.” Meanwhile, the Bruins and Celtics are “working on a high-capacity Wi-Fi network at TD Garden.” The Red Sox this season will “test a loyalty program using mobile technology to track fans’ attendance at Fenway Park and then reward them for coming” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19).
In Minneapolis, Dee DePass noted the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Friday announced that "more than a dozen women- and minority-owned engineering firms won bids to work on the new Vikings stadium under architect HKS Sports & Entertainment." The contracts are "worth an estimated $5 million and will include civil engineering, landscape and traffic flow design work, electrical, mechanical and other services for the new $975 million stadium." Nineteen firms in all were "announced Friday, including two companies not owned by minorities or women." All the firms are "based in Minnesota" (STAR TRIBUNE, 1/19).
MIAMI'S TAXING SITUATION: In Miami, Douglas Hanks reported Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan is "slated to introduce a resolution Wednesday backing the Miami Dolphins’ plan to use a state subsidy and local hotel taxes to fund about half of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium." The resolution "urges Florida lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the funding, and cites the upgrades’ ability to attract Super Bowl and other major events to the stadium." State Rep. Erik Fresen, the original sponsor of the Dolphins' stadium bill during the '11 bid for a tax-funded renovation and co-sponsor of the new bill, said that he "needs the commission to endorse the legislation before he pushes it [to] fellow lawmakers." The bill would "create a special $3 million yearly stadium subsidy designed for Sun Life." The Dolphins "currently receive $2 million a year from Florida under the current stadium subsidy program, tied to retrofitting the Miami Gardens facility to house the Marlins in the 1990s" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/20).
NINERS' NEW STADIUM TO START NAMELESS? In S.F., Matier & Ross reported the 49ers "just might open their $1.2 billion Santa Clara stadium in 2014 without a naming-rights deal that would pay a big chunk of the construction bill." Team PR Dir Bob Lange said, "We don't have anything in the pipeline. It's not a necessity. ... A number of other stadiums have opened without a naming-rights partner" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/20). In California, Elizabeth Kalfsbeek reports by the end of January, just before the 49ers go to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, the upper bowl of the team's new stadium will "be complete with 1,442 panels of precast concrete made at Clark Pacific's Woodland plant, or about 70 percent of the project." Clark Pacific Marketing Dir Thomas Ketron said that by February, production of "the 40 million pounds of concrete will be complete," and the company will "gear up to begin the stadium's lower bowl and field level starting in June." Ketron added that the field seating will be "the lowest in NFL stadiums" (Woodland DAILY DEMOCRAT, 1/21).
OVERLY ENERGIZED IN CLEVELAND? In Akron, Bob Dyer wrote the fact that FirstEnergy is paying $6M a year to put its name on the Browns' stadium has "rubbed plenty of people the wrong way." FirstEnergy said that it "needed to pay handsomely for that good PR because, since deregulation, outside power companies have been making inroads in territory it once monopolized." FirstEnergy execs could have "taken the $102 million they’re going to spend on the Browns over the next 17 years and put it toward a sane tree-trimming program" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/20).