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Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Entergy New Orleans officials prior to Super Bowl XLVII were “fearful of a blackout not unlike one that marred" Steelers-49ers "MNF" game at Candlestick Park in December ‘11 and “embarked on a last-minute, multimillion dollar effort to ensure such a spectacle wouldn’t be repeated," according to Russell & Thompson of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. But “11th-hour upgrades” to the Superdome’s electrical system “may have contributed to the 34-minute power outage.” Entergy in December was “in the process of completing a $4.2 million upgrade to the stadium’s electrical system.” With that new equipment “coming online," Superdome officials "tested their own power lines and found the equipment had ‘some decay and had a chance of failure.’” An engineer hired by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, the public agency that owns the Superdome, “warned that the stadium’s main power feed was ‘not sufficiently reliable to support the high-profile event schedule.’” Superdome officials “quickly authorized a rash of repairs.” Officials said that those upgrades “meant that the Dome theoretically had a state-of-the-art -- and more reliable -- electrical setup.” While the upgrades “weren’t completed until about six weeks before” the Super Bowl, Entergy Louisiana VP/Transmission & Distribution Operations Dennis Dawsey said that the new equipment “had been tested by a trio of large-scale sports events since then," including the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, a Panthers-Saints game on Dec. 30 and the Allstate Sugar Bowl (NOLA.com, 2/4).
NO NEED FOR PLAN B: SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton, whose company operates the Superdome, said that because the Super Bowl took place on “a cool night, the power consumption was actually below that” of a typical Saints game in August or September, when the “air conditioners are working overtime” (L.A. TIMES, 2/5). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that the Superdome had a “backup power system which was about to be used during the Super Bowl's electrical outage,” but that it “wasn't needed because power started coming back at that time.” NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said Goodell had the “sole authority” to enforce any contingency plans. Grubman: “He was there and he had the full reports. We were quickly able to determine we did not have a situation that would cause a permanent interruption in the game.” Grubman added the league has "backup plans" for continuing a game that is delayed. The AP’s Barry Wilner noted those plans “all focus on playing the full 60 minutes, regardless of whether it is the same day or on another day” (AP, 2/4). In N.Y., Thompson & Vacchiano report Goodell’s “denials that the halftime show triggered the outage didn’t stop speculation that the massive show had something to do with the blackout.” Thornton said that the halftime show was “on a separate generator and was not drawing power from the stadium’s resources.” Grubman said the blackout “looms actually pretty small in the grand scheme of things” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/5).
EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE LEAGUE: In Boston, Shalize Manza Young writes the power outage was an “embarrassing event on sports’ grandest stage, and regardless of whether there is any blame to be placed, it doesn’t erase the fact that the NFL’s marquee showcase was unexpectedly interrupted” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/5). The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said the NFL “is a buttoned-up organization that prides itself in doing everything correctly, very image-conscious." Raissman: "Well, their image took a big hit because it looked like they were inept” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney said the blackout “happened on the NFL’s watch." If this occurred during the World Series, “every media guy with a media pass would say, ‘This would never happen in the NFL.’” McAnaney said “it was a clown show” and the NFL “had no idea what they were doing.” He asked, “Where was Roger Goodell? Nowhere to be found” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). SportsNet N.Y.’s Ryan Asselta said the blackout “increases the pressure” on Super Bowl XLVIII, which is being played in MetLife Stadium, because the NFL “is not going to want another snafu of some kind.” Asselta: "The pressure’s on for New York and New Jersey” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/4). But ESPN’s J.A. Adande said the blackout will not “go down as the defining moment of this game.” It also will not “deter -- I don’t think -- the Super Bowl from coming back to New Orleans” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/4).
LEAGUE SHOULD HAVE HAD GREATER PRESENCE: ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the NFL “made a mistake” with the blackout, as league officials "should have been much more outfront with the conditions that causes power outages." Kornheiser, speaking to "PTI" co-host Michael Wilbon, said, "You and I are certainly old enough to remember Katrina and what took place in that particular building, and so we could have thought it was an act of sabotage, we could have thought it was an act of terrorism.” Kornheiser said the NFL needed to get “somebody out there upfront to say, ‘We don’t know. We’re working on it,’ or something like that” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/4). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "The first reaction when the lights went out? Terrorism. Just for a second.” Cote: “This was not an oops. This was a monumental embarrassment.” The second reaction was “to smile, think parochially and picture members of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee braying laughter.” But the lights going out “breathed electricity into the game itself, transforming what was looking like an awful, anticlimactic rout and turning it into one of the most compelling Super Bowls ever” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 2/4). SPORTING NEWS’ Vinnie Iyer wrote, “When you’re dealing with restoring power on such a large scale, recovering after just 34 minutes should be seen as a positive. After all, recovering is what New Orleans does best” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/4).
Mets Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz “want to roll the dice on building a Las Vegas-style casino next to Citi Field to recoup some of the $162 million for which team brass are still on the hook following the Bernie Madoff Ponzi-scheme debacle,” according to Rich Calder of the N.Y. POST. While team owners are “still having trouble opening their tight pockets for high-priced free agents, that didn’t stop their development arm, Sterling Equities, from betting on a proposal that called for bringing a massive casino with gaming tables and slots, a 500-room, full-service hotel, 1.8 million square feet of retail and other amenities to the Willets Point development site in Queens.” The development team’s proposal showed that the Long Island-based Shinnecock Indian Nation “signed on to operate the casino, and the Wilpons and partners even offered the city $100 million for the 62-acre site.” Wilpon’s team has “lowered payroll to about $93 million this season, down from $143 million” in ‘11. The revelation that the Mets owners “want a casino comes as the state Legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-style table gaming.” New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has “begun talking up a casino at Willets Point or Coney Island.” But sources said that city officials “pulled the casino from the Willets Point plan partly because they thought the government-approval process would take too long.” A city spokesperson “declined to comment when asked if the city would push for a casino there if the state Legislature eventually backs it.” An MLB spokesperson said the league would “need to get all of the details of the agreement." The spokesperson added that it would “ultimately be Commissioner Bud Selig’s call” (N.Y. POST, 2/5).
AEG yesterday announced a new process that will "eventually eliminate Ticketmaster as its main entrance-pass provider for its facilities," according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Fans of the AEG-owned MLS Galaxy have "already seen" the AXS ticketing service in use at Home Depot Center. Next up is bringing the NHL Kings "into the fold, starting with Staples Center tickets issued this summer" for the '13-14 season. The Lakers, Clippers and WNBA Sparks will "ultimately have to decide if their seats will continue to [use] Ticketmaster or eventually come over to AXS." ESPN has yet to make a decision "for its X Games events that are often in and around Staples Center." AEG President of Digital, Ticketing & Media Bryan Perez and AXS.com Senior VP & GM Tom Andrus yesterday "explained how the system will work to some 1,000 AEG employees who attended a company expo at the JW Marriott Hotel in L.A. Live." Andrus said, "This will change the industry and improve the event experience for millions of customers." AXS VP/Ticketing Blaine LeGere said that his company "can do a better job than Ticketmaster in freezing out brokers from day-of online sales by having all those who try to buy tickets to enter a virtual 'waiting room.'" From there, customers are "randomly selected to be allowed into 'the store' to purchase tickets." AXS also "eliminates that $2.50 charge that Ticketmaster posts for people to print out tickets from their own computer." AXS' policy is to "present all service and handling charges up front so the customer sees them before agreeing to the purchase" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/5).
The NASL N.Y. Cosmos' plan to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium at Belmont Park on Long Island "faces potential obstacles, including a competing arena being considered in Queens and the prospect of playing in a start-up league,” according to industry consultants and sports stadium experts cited by Robert Brodsky of NEWSDAY. Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist said, "There is no way on Earth that if the Cosmos play in a second-division league that this type of investment makes sense. This division would not provide enough revenue to support it." N.Y.-based soccer consultancy LFC Int'l Founder Jeff L'Hote said, "I don't know how realistic their plan is. They need to play in the top division to maximize their success." But Cosmos COO Eric Stover said that he is “confident the quality of play” in the NASL will “improve enough over the next few years for it to be competitive” with MLS. Brodsky noted a Cosmos stadium “could face direct competition from a new MLS franchise 10 miles away.” Cosmos officials said that they are “committed to playing in” the NASL, while MLS officials “insist they want to bring a team to Queens, not Long Island.” Stover said that the Cosmos will “pursue the Belmont project regardless of what is built in Queens.” He “plans to break ground on the Belmont stadium, which would be capable of hosting World Cup qualifying matches for the U.S. men's and women's national teams, next year.” The Cosmos are “competing with at least one other bid submitted to the state's request for proposals.” State officials “have not disclosed the details of other proposals.” State officials said that the Empire State Development Corp. will “send questions to bidders next week and hold face-to-face meetings at the end of the month.” The organization will “make its decision by late spring” (NEWSDAY, 2/4).
Capital Region Development Authority Exec Dir Michael Freimuth said that hockey is “so critical to a stable and growing downtown” in Hartford that management of the XL Center “will only be put in the hands of a firm that maintains the sport” in the city, according to a front-page piece by Doyle & Gosselin of the HARTFORD COURANT. Freimuth, whose group oversees the arena, said, "We want and intend to maintain the (American Hockey League) in Hartford. Any contract will be conditioned on that.” His remarks are a “serious warning to the three entities bidding to manage Hartford's downtown arena, home to the Connecticut Whale.” Freimuth said that all “three bidders -- who expect to learn whether they have the contract later this week -- have been in contact with the company that manages the Connecticut Whale, as well as other hockey franchises.” The bidder chosen to run the XL Center “will be expected to market and run the hockey franchise.” The Whale's lease at the XL Center “expires this summer.” The CRDA will choose “between its current management -- AEG -- and two others: Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum as well as the Capital Region Sports and Entertainment Group, led by Bushnell Management Services.” Meanwhile, NHL Rangers execs" have considered alternative markets” for the club's AHL affiliate (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/5).
In Orlando, Mark Schlueb reports city commissioners yesterday "picked Hunt Construction Group" to help oversee the $175M renovation of the Citrus Bowl. Hunt will be paid an estimated $2.4M "to be program manager."A selection committee "ranked Hunt highest among five firms." Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the ranking, but several said that they would "keep a close eye on the stadium project because of problems during the Amway Center's construction, including long delays in paying some subcontractors" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/5).
RAYS OF HOPE: In Tampa, Stephen Nohlgren reports City Council member Charlie Gerdes placed a proposal on Thursday's council agenda that would give the Rays "three years to investigate new stadium sites in either Hillsboro or Pinellas counties in exchange for an annual fee" of about $1.42M. Tampa Mayor Bill Foster "has refused to allow any stadium negotiations" outside of Pinellas County, but "pressure has mounted in recent weeks as the Rays presented their case for a new stadium to county commissioners on both sides of the bay." It is "unclear how Gerdes' proposal will be received" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/5).
JAX REAPS THE TAX: In Jacksonville, Matt Dixon reported two Clay County lawmakers this week will file legislation "making publicly owned stadiums -- like EverBank Field -- eligible for another annual $2 million sales tax rebate over the next 30 years." Current law "makes publicly owned stadiums that are homes to 'new or retained' franchises eligible for a similar tax rebate, which the city and the Jaguars have received since 1995." The new legislation would "expand rebate eligibility to publicly owned stadiums that want to 'meet or exceed government league standards,' which would give [the] Jaguars a second $2 million-a-year rebate." If the bill passes, EverBank Field would be "eligible for $4 million a year for the next 12 years as the two rebates overlap" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 2/1).
START YOUR ENGINES: Petty Holdings has renewed its partnership with Daytona Int'l Speedway, designating the Richard Petty Driving Experience as the venue's exclusive consumer NASCAR ride-and-drive program. The multiyear deal also includes Petty's Exotic Driving Experience, which debuted for two days in December '12 and will expand to 20 days this year. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed (DIS).