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Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney has "made a bold suggestion" to the Cubs regarding the ongoing Wrigley Field renovation dispute with nearby rooftop owners: "replace the iconic landmarked centerfield scoreboard with a video scoreboard that would generate millions without blocking anybody’s view," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Sources said that Tunney has "made that suggestion repeatedly in his continuing effort to protect rooftop club owners whom the aldermen counts among his most reliable campaign contributors." A source said of the suggestion, "He wants no signs that block a rooftop. (But), how do you think the fans would react? They would revolt. The Cubs wouldn’t dare to suggest it. To have Tunney suggest it underscores what this is all about." Cubs Owner the Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton said, "Demolishing the landmarked old scoreboard has never been part of any plan discussed or envisioned by the Ricketts family." Sources said that the Cubs instead are "considering locations in left- and right-field for a video scoreboard that would provide the instant replay modern-day baseball fans demand and still be a revenue-generating 'force multiplier' because of the digital advertising it would carry." Former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, who is a longtime friend of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, tweeted, "I love Wrigley and hope @Cubs stay. But, no team should be held hostage the way the Cubs have to rooftop owners and the ward pols they own” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/20).
GOING TOO FAR: In Chicago, Rick Telander writes under the header, "Wrigley Field Scoreboard Plan Goes Too Far In Protecting 'Rights' Of Rooftop Owners." The situation with Wrigley is "all wrong." Wrigley Field "should be made modern and profitable." Telander: "It’s a landmark, yes, and it can’t be changed too much. But it can be slicked up" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/20). A CHICAGO SUN-TIMES editorial states, "Of all the dumb ideas, replacing Wrigley Field’s scoreboard -- as iconic a piece of Chicago as the Water Tower -- might be the dumbest." And just to "save the views for a bunch of rooftop clubs that wouldn’t even exist without this great old park?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/20).
DON'T CALL THE MOVING VANS: CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish said the Cubs should use the offer from Rosemont, Ill., Mayor Brad Stephens to build a new ballpark in the Chicago suburn as "nothing more than leverage" in the ongoing dispute over Wrigley Field renovations. They should "never seriously consider moving to Rosemont." Crain’s Chicago Business’ Danny Ecker said, “If you were to try to explain to me that the Cubs would just give up the most valuable asset that they have, which is Wrigley Field, which is the reason they can drew 3 million people to games when they’re losing as many games as they are, it’s a joke. This was a great move by Brad Stephens … and the Cubs, I’m sure, were loving this because talk about leverage. But I don’t think the needle was moved at all on this” ("SportsTalk Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 3/19). But a CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial regarding the mayor of Rosemont, Ill., offering to have the Cubs move to his suburb states if Tunney and Emanuel are "foolish enough to let the rooftop owners hold up a $500 million development, who could blame the Cubs for scouting other options?" The Cubs "fill stadiums everywhere they go." They could "fill one in Rosemont." It is "foolish to assume the Cubs couldn't survive outside Wrigleyville." Could Wrigleyville "survive without the Cubs?" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/20).
The Univ. of Minnesota last year sold nearly $1M in "beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium," but by the time vendors "took their cut and the university finished paying for security and startup costs, the university was out $15,516," according to Jennifer Brooks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. UM’s vendor, Aramark, gives the school a 22% share "of the profits from alcohol sales," which came to $185,025 "after taxes." But UM's alcohol-related expenses "for the first year were $200,587." UM Associate AD/Administration & Finance and CFO Tom McGinnis said, "We knew it wasn’t going to be profitable." Brooks notes UM last season "brought in a dozen extra campus police officers, 10 more ushers and two security supervisors to keep tabs on the football crowds once the alcohol started flowing." The extra manpower "cost almost $50,000, but police incidents actually went down at the stadium, compared to the previous dry season." McGinnis: "Maybe we were overstaffed. Hopefully, going forward (alcohol sales) will actually have some return for us.” Brooks reports UM by next year "expects to clear $14,000 or so" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/20). In Minnesota, John Vomhof wrote while UM's alcohol-related figures are "somewhat surprising, the true impact of serving beer and wine is probably harder to quantify." For example, UM "had estimated that the beer ban had cost it more than" $1M in premium seating revenue from "companies and individuals who cancelled their suite or seat purchases or who opted not to buy them in the first place" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/19).
Auto Club Speedway is set to "unveil the Pit Box Lounge for the Nationwide Royal Purple 300 on Saturday and the Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 on Sunday," according to Louis Brewster of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The lounge, "located on the terrace suite level at the entrance to pit road," will feature a "two-story slide from the terrace suite to pit road." It includes "access to seating on the suite rooftop and a slide to the new Victory Lane Bar, located where the old victory lane used to be." Initial reports show this year's sales are "double last year's premium offering." Other items in the package include a "race time pit tour, a race scanner, pre-race pit pass, access to the 'Frontrunners Garage' elevated area inside Garage 2, Victory Lane access, souvenir program, speedway lanyard, Hard Card membership and preferred parking" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).
THINK INSIDE THE BOX: Charlotte Motor Speedway Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Dan Farrell said that companies that have signed on to lease the venue's new $45,000 Pit Road VIP boxes "include Coca-Cola, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Charlotte-based car dealership chain Sonic Automotive, Stock Car Steel and Aluminum in Mooresville, Wix Filters in Gastonia, Monroe-based Republic Refrigeration, and Charlotte-based diversified manufacturer Carlisle Cos." Farrell added that several other companies are "expressing interest in the two available suites after an open house last week" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/16).
Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz yesterday said that DePaul Univ. has “ruled out the United Center as a possible home" for the school's men's basketball team, "turning its attention to a site near McCormick Place,” according to Kathy Bergen of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The United Center had been “offering free rent for at least 10 years, plus all ticket revenue, in an attempt to woo the team from Rosemont, where it has a rent-free deal at the Allstate Arena.” Wirtz said that the center offered resources such as Blackhawks “staff guidance" and assistance with ticket sales and advertising. Wirtz said, “We thought it would be good for the city. We thought it would be exciting. And quite frankly, we thought it would help them with their recruiting." But he said that the school “told United Center owners it preferred to work with the state-city agency that owns McCormick Place and ‘do their own private building.’” DePaul, which is “intent on moving Blue Demons games closer to its Lincoln Park and downtown facilities to increase attendance, faces additional uncertainty with the McCormick Place option because the agency that owns the convention center does not own the necessary land at this point" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/20). A DePaul official said that the school “never seriously considered the offer because the UC would not guarantee playing dates for the Blue Demons, who would have had to take a scheduling back seat to the Bulls, Blackhawks and possibly other events." A United Center source said, “Concessions and parking would have stayed with us -- no different than any other tenant. They said, ‘It’s not really rent-free. We have to pay some of our expenses, like ushers and security.’ They obviously didn’t think it was so extraordinary. They decided to turn it down to explore the McCormick Place option" (SUNTIMES.com, 3/19).
Universities, college conferences and "even the NCAA itself, increasingly see the basketball court as one of the last, untapped frontiers for image making," according to John Branch of the N.Y. TIMES. Mountain West Conference Senior Associate Commissioner Dan Butterly said, “There’s a lot of focus on branding. It’s so important, especially with all the recent conference realignment. Programs want to stand out and brand who they are. And the basketball court is one way to do that.” Branch writes teams have "always identified themselves with colors and mascots." But universities like Boise State, with its "bright-blue football field, and Oregon, with its Nike-designed basketball court intended to look like a forest of fir trees, have shown others that the biggest opportunities may be right under their feet." The recent trend of "turning basketball courts into multihued artwork can trace its roots back about 15 years, when colleges seized the floor as a medium for promoting both themselves and their corporate sponsors." The NCAA until recent years "used the courts already in place in arenas" for the NCAA Tournament, but it since has used "its own design -- courts uniformly adorned with little more than a thick black border and a blue NCAA logo, with a splashier version for the Final Four." The NCAA Women's Tournament meanwhile "has created Final Four courts with giant, colorful creations, meant to be remembered." The intent of court designs is to "gain notice, especially on television." ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Levy said that the various patterns and colors "did not affect the production of a telecast until recently." The past two seasons, ESPN "has used complex 'virtual' graphics overlaid atop half of the court, to show statistics such as shooting percentages from parts of the floor." Levy said, "We noticed that we had to take into consideration those elements on the court" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).
In Las Vegas, Paul Takahashi reported a Nevada Assembly bill introduced on Monday would "create a tax increment financing district for the proposed 60,000-seat UNLV Now stadium project.” The special tax district “would encompass any property owned or leased by the Nevada System of Higher Education and UNLV within an area bounded by Maryland Parkway, Tropicana Avenue, Swenson Street and Flamingo Avenue -- essentially UNLV's Maryland Parkway campus.” If the bill is approved, any taxes “collected from the TIF district over the next 20 years would be reinvested back into the area for its redevelopment” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/19).
NO HOLDS BARRED: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote under the header, “Venue Holding Northwestern Back?” Welsh-Ryan Arena was “last renovated in 1983,” and its scoreboard has “no video replay.” The “vast majority of its 8,117 seats are benches,” while the concourses and concessions are “drab and the restrooms are akin to those at your local YMCA.” Those factors contribute to "lousy crowds,” and a game-day atmosphere that can "turn off recruits.” But Northwestern AD Jim Phillips said that he “believes the facilities complaints are overblown.” Phillips on Saturday said, "What we fail to realize are all the other things that Northwestern has to offer -- the degree, the conference, being in Chicago. We'll continue to address (facilities), but I think (the discussion) has gotten carried away" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/19).
SELLERS' MARKET? Winston Salem State Univ. Chancellor Donald Reaves on Monday said that the school is "still interested in buying” Bowman Gray Stadium. In Winston-Salem, Bertrand Gutierrez writes the city “wants to sell the stadium -- and Joel Coliseum to Wake Forest University -- to unload debt and operating costs.” Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman also “made a presentation" to the city council's finance committee (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 3/20).
ALL THOSE OPPOSED: In West Palm Beach, John Lantigua notes students opposed to Florida Atlantic Univ.'s $6M naming-rights deal with GEO Group "expressed their continuing opposition before the university’s board of trustees at its meeting Tuesday at the Fort Pierce campus” (PALM BEACH POST, 3/20).