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The Atlanta City Council yesterday "voted to approve a funding plan" for a new Falcons stadium, "pushing the project over its biggest political hurdle,” according to a front-page piece by Suggs & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The council voted 11-4 in favor of using hotel-motel taxes to pay $200M toward construction costs, and "potentially several times that toward costs of financing, maintaining and operating the stadium through 2050.” The vote came after the Georgia World Congress Center Authority “approved the deal and left one more vote -- by the city of Atlanta’s economic development agency -- needed for the stadium project to move forward.” The board of Invest Atlanta, which “would issue the bonds to fund the public portion of the construction cost, is expected to vote" today. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed after the vote said, “The agreement we negotiated is one of the best (stadium deals) in America.” The new agreement stipulates that "no city general-fund dollars will be used on the project, including for related infrastructure costs; that Invest Atlanta will facilitate adoption of a community benefits plan before issuing bonds; and that the Falcons will increase their commitment to off-site roadwork and related costs" from a maximum of $50M to 70M if needed. Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay reiterated that the team “expects infrastructure costs to be well under" $50M. Suggs & Tucker report the stadium deal calls for 39.3% of Atlanta’s "seven-cents-per-dollar hotel-motel tax collections to go into the stadium project through 2050 -- the same percentage that currently goes into the Georgia Dome.” After covering “annual debt payments on the construction bonds, all money remaining" from the 39.3% portion would go toward "stadium operating and maintenance.” The Falcons, the NFL and PSL sales “would pay for about" $800M of the construction cost (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 3/19).
The Vikings yesterday gained "approval" for the NFL's G-4 financing program to help fund their new stadium, according to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The Vikings are "in line" to contribute $477M toward their new stadium, and "expect to receive the maximum" allotted $200M from the plan. That amount will "ultimately be repaid over 15 years." The Vikings also have "submitted an application with the NFL to be hosts of the Super Bowl after the 2017, ’18 or ’19 seasons" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/19). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert noted the G-4 loan "counts as part of" the Vikings' private $477M contribution to the $975M project, and it is "re-paid from the visiting team's share of club seat revenues in the new stadium." The loan is "available to all teams who build new stadiums or do major renovations." It "does not impact" the public's $498M contribution. Vikings co-Owner & President Mark Wilf said that negotiations are "still underway on details of the stadium design, including whether there will be a retractable roof" (ESPN.com, 3/18). Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Jean Hopfensperger reported electronic bingo games "were approved" yesterday by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, "injecting a new source of funding for the Vikings stadium." Taxes on the electronic games and other forms of charitable gambling are "supposed to pay" the state’s $348M share of the stadium. Revenue to date "has fallen dramatically behind expectations." While bingo "won’t rescue the stadium, state charity leaders say they’re pleased to finally have some new games and competition in the e-gaming mix" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/19).
Indian Wells Tennis Garden yesterday “began construction on a new 8,000-seat second stadium and will add parking for 2,000 more vehicles,” according to Leighton Ginn of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. The venue’s current capacity is 25,000 per session, but after the $70M expansion, the capacity “will increase to 42,000 per session.” However, that is “contingent on the aggressive building schedule, which is 10 1/2 months.” The BNP Paribas Open this year “attracted a record paid attendance of 382,227 fans" over the 12-day event. It marked "the 13th time in 14 tournaments at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in which the tournament broke its attendance record.” The BNP Paribas Open has “separated itself from other tournaments by increasing its prize money.” Tournament CEO Raymond Moore said, “The players now unanimously are saying, ‘Why aren’t all the other tournaments like Indian Wells?’ So that’s what we have been able to do and we will continue to do. I’m not being arrogant when I say we’ve distanced ourselves from most of the other non-Grand Slam tournaments by the innovations that we have come with.” Ginn noted the “only drawback this year came with television coverage.” ESPN had the “rights to the matches, but didn’t broadcast them on its main networks but instead on ESPNEWS, which frustrated Moore.” He said, “It’s a two-year debacle for us, for this year 2013 and 2014. It’s not something we like. We could have taken other options, but we like ESPN and we have developed a good partnership with them” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/18).
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: In N.Y., Lisa Foderaro reports the USTA's $500M construction plan for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has "encountered unusually well-organized opposition." The project would replace two of the center's three stadiums "while adding 7,000 seats, new retail space, parking and expanded walkways." But to "achieve that, the Tennis Center, which occupies 42 acres inside Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, needs a .68-acre strip of parkland" from N.Y. Hundreds of people "turned out in recent weeks at six public hearings held by local community boards; half of the boards voted in favor of the project, and half voted against." The city council will "consider those votes, which are nonbinding, when it weighs the project this summer." But opposition to the plan has been "heightened by two other proposals" for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19).
Rosemont, Ill. Mayor Brad Stephens said that he is "willing to give" the Cubs and team Owner the Ricketts family a 25-acre parcel of land that is "a prime piece of real estate large enough to accommodate a new ballpark as well as parking and anything else the Ricketts family would desire to have as part of the new complex," according to David Kaplan of CSNCHICAGO.com. Stephens said, "The Chicago Cubs are being held hostage by the neighborhood as they look to run their business. We are willing to offer them a tremendous opportunity if they are interested. Bring the bricks and the ivy and we can get a deal done." The Cubs have "looked to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field since the Ricketts family purchased the team from the Tribune Company in October of 2009." The team currently pays "an amusement tax" of 12%, while Rosemont's amusement tax is 3% (CSNCHICAGO.com, 3/18). In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Stephens portrayed Rosemont "as a 'pro-development' community willing to remove all of the Chicago restrictions on night games, signage and street fairs that have cost the Cubs tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue." Rosemont spokesperson Gary Mack acknowledged that Stephens "has met with Cubs underlings, but never directly" with team Chair Tom Ricketts. Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton said that the Cubs "remain focused on getting a deal done in Chicago." Culloton in a statement said, "The family appreciates the expressions of interest from Rosemont and others, however, the current focus is to work toward an agreement with the city of Chicago" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/19).
WORTH A SECOND LOOK? In Illinois, Mike Imrem writes, "While others wonder why Rosemont would even suggest luring the Cubs, a better question is why not?" Stephens "never should be underestimated." The community is "a beast that will gobble up any entertainment venue that would help get outsiders to spend money there." Imrem: "So why shouldn't Rosemont position itself for any potential development, and why shouldn't the Cubs seriously ponder the possibilities of a free 25 acres of land for a replica Wrigley, lower amusement taxes, accommodating politicians, advertising signage inside the ballpark and an unlimited number of night games during an 81-game home schedule?" Suburban sprawl is now "so far out that getting to games in Rosemont would be a pleasure compared to traveling to Wrigleyville." The town is "situated to attract both urban and suburban fans." But the risk is the Cubs would "lose one advantage: They can lose 101 games and still draw from 2.5 million to 3 million fans to Wrigley Field" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 3/19).