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North Carolina lawmakers "introduced a bill Thursday that would allow the city of Charlotte to use existing taxes -- but no new ones -- to upgrade Bank of America Stadium," according to Jim Morrill of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The plan apparently would leave the city more than $30M "short of what it hoped to give" the NFL Panthers. At least one City Council member said that the city "might counter by offering a smaller tax increase than originally proposed." State Sen. Ruth Samuelson, the bill's lead sponsor, said, “The bottom line is there’s no stomach here for a tax increase. Our hands are tied.” Morrill notes the House bill "does not address the team’s request" for $62.5M in state money. The measure would "allow the city to use existing occupancy and prepared food taxes -- now earmarked for tourism and the Charlotte Convention Center -- to pay for stadium renovations and amateur sports." Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx "could not be reached." City Council member Michael Barnes said that the city "could make a counterproposal." He added that instead of a 1% increase in the food tax that would sunset in 30 years, the city "could offer a half-percent increase that would end in 15 years." Samuelson acknowledged that "with less money, the city would have to make choices" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/1).
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday announced plans to earmark an additional $5M per year in state funding for Spring Training stadiums, saying it is part of an effort to "make sure Florida remains the No. 1 destination for spring training," according to Thomas Himes of the Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS. Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann said of luring a team to City of Palms Park, "I don’t know whether that $5 million will ever materialize, but if it becomes available certainly we will want to pursue it." Himes noted Lee County’s efforts to move the Nationals into City of Palms Park "reached an impasse" after the team wanted $36.6M in improvements. Officials "exhausted local funding for baseball" by building a new stadium for the Red Sox in '11 for about $80M and agreeing to $42.5M more in stadium expansions for the Twins last year. Most of Lee County’s tourist tax spending for baseball "is guaranteed to repay debt on those projects." The governor's office in a statement said that it would pay out up to $20M "per stadium project," but local governments "would have to match the state dollar for dollar." Meanwhile, one-third of the state’s 15 teams "have leases up for renewal during the next four years." Florida Sports Foundation President John Webb said, "Arizona has talked to each of the teams" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 2/27). Lee County Sports Authority Exec Dir Jeff Mielke said that it is "unlikely the state funds could be used to lure a team that already trains in Florida." Instead, Mielke said that he "believes the money could likely be used only to retain a team in its current community or to lure a team that currently trains in Arizona" (NAPLES DAILY NEWS, 2/28).
GRAPEFRUIT VS. CACTUS: MLB.com's Jason Beck noted six MLB teams since '98 have "moved their Spring Training facilities to Arizona: White Sox ('98), Royals (2003), Rangers ('03), Dodgers ('09), Reds ('09) and Indians ('09)." Florida and Arizona are home to 15 teams apiece, and with "each Spring Training agreement that nears expiration for a team, speculation begins anew that Florida or Arizona will try to lure a team from the other state and bring its team total to an even number" (MLB.com, 2/27).
Thursday's deadline for Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course to reach an agreement on future racing dates passed with the two sided failing to reach an agreement, and "as a result both are scheduled to have racing every Saturday and Sunday from July 1 through June 30, 2014,” according to Freer & Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. Calder and Gulfstream officials “were seeking ways to avoid head-to-head racing” for the tracks that are “just eight miles apart.” The “expansion-minded Gulfstream had offered Calder economic incentives, including paying some costs for its stables and better divisions of some simulcast revenues to relinquish some race dates.” The dispute “began in December when Gulfstream said it planned to keep its regular December-to-April schedule and add racing on Saturdays and Sundays in the other months.” Calder’s season has been “from early April through November.” Questions remain “about whether there will be enough horses and fans for either track to be profitable during the summer” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/1). DAILY RACING FORM’s Matt Hegarty noted the two tracks “had an unspoken agreement reserving the prime winter dates for Gulfstream and the summer and fall dates for Calder, but that deal began unraveling in 2011 when Gulfstream applied for year-round dates, leading to an agreement on a dates swap that saw Gulfstream take over the December dates from Calder.” Gulfstream GM Timothy Ritvo earlier on Thursday said that track Owner Frank Stronach is "adamant that Gulfstream hold live racing year round to leverage his investment in retail and entertainment options surrounding the Hallandale Beach facility” (DRF.com, 2/28). BLOODHORSE’s Jim Freer noted Calder and Gulfstream under Florida laws can “cancel scheduled race dates only in the case of a natural disaster or with approval of the five other pari-mutuels within their 50-mile radius” (BLOODHORSE.com, 2/28).
In Milwaukee, Don Walker reported Harley-Davidson, as part of its partnership with the BMO Harris Bradley Center, has "opened the Harley-Davidson Club at the arena." The club was "funded by the Harley-Davidson Foundation and seats as many as 30 people." Harley-Davidson also is "planning to exhibit a jumpstart motorcycle that will be located either inside or outside the arena." A new Harley-Davidson parking area also "will be set up on the east entrance to the building" (JSONLINE.com, 2/28).
GO WEST, YOUNG MAN: NFL Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said that he is "working with Glendale to move the team's training camp to the West Valley." Bidwill on Thursday said that the deal "isn't done." However, he "played the idea up to about 300 people in Glendale before Mayor Jerry Weiers' State of the City address." Bidwill said that moving the camp from Flagstaff would be "easier for fans." In Phoenix, Paul Giblin noted the team would "train at University of Phoenix Stadium," after training in Flagstaff since '88 (AZCENTRAL.com, 2/28).
THE LATEST FROM OWLCATRAZ: In West Palm Beach, Randy Schultz wrote at a public meeting on Friday, the "burden will be on Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders" to show why the $6M stadium naming-rights deal with the GEO Group is "good for the university." That burden is "very heavy." Schultz: "Evasiveness has characterized FAU’s response to the GEO controversy." Students, faculty and alumni "don’t know whether any other companies had offered to buy naming rights." The more FAU "ducks the issues, the worse the deal looks" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/1).
RAM ON: Richmond-based packaging company MeadWestvaco Corp. has pledged $3M to Virginia Commonwealth Univ.'s basketball complex project. The donation is the largest in the history of the VCU athletic department (VCU).