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Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, who represents the area encompassing Wrigley Field, "finds himself portrayed as the big obstacle" in Cubs Owner the Ricketts family's bid to renovate the ballpark, according to Dardick & Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The Cubs have "helped paint Tunney as the bad guy standing in the way" of a $500M deal to "rehab the stadium, build a hotel and create a plaza." With negotiations "continuing ahead of an April 1 deadline declared by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, the pressure has mounted" to get a deal done. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has "stressed that through Tunney, he is giving the neighborhood a voice." But Emanuel would "like to see a deal get done." Tunney yesterday said that he is "upset that what he believes are inaccurate portrayals of his positions are appearing in the media as the sides continue to try to reach an accord." He said, "These (stories) take on a life of their own. I'm upset about the mischaracterizations." A source said that the mayor "played no role" in the leak earlier this week in which Tunney suggested replacing the iconic center field scoreboard with a Jumbotron-like screen. Tunney said that the possibility of moving the scoreboard to "make room for a 6,000-square-foot video screen the team proposed adding to the stadium came up as one of several ideas during a recent 'round table meeting' with Cubs staff members and Emanuel aides." He added that Cubs officials "took the various plans away from the meeting to consider further, and a few days later said they wanted to scratch the idea of moving the scoreboard off the list." Tunney: "They told everyone that particular proposal wasn't one they were comfortable pursuing. That was the end of it." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that the team's deadline "is real and that the organization is not orchestrating attacks on Tunney" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/21).
LANDMARK CASE: The TRIBUNE's Dardick & Byrne note the center field scoreboard is "protected as a landmark, so to replace it would require the approval of various city bodies, including the Commission on Chicago Landmarks" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/21). In Chicago, Fran Spielman cited sources as saying that if a deal can "still be salvaged," it is "certain to include 'some signage' inside the ballpark and 'some blockage' of rooftop clubs even after attempts to 'minimize' the number of obstructions." Spielman notes Emanuel is "prepared to lift the 30-game-per-season ceiling on the number of night games to 44 or 45 games, with some of the dates reserved for concerts." Six-to-10 3:05 p.m. starts also could "be part of the mix." Spielman: "But none of that will happen before fence-mending" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/21). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg regarding the suburb of Rosemont, Ill.'s offer to build the Cubs a new stadium there wrote, "You know it's silly season for the Chicago Cubs' never-ending Wrigley Field saga when someone suggests they move to Rosemont and people take it seriously." Greenberg: "You think the Cubs draw 3 million every year to watch the Chris Rusins of the world? You think all the booze hounds who frequent Wrigley in the summer would be thrilled to jump on the Blue Line?" The Rosemont Cubs idea "isn't a real plan, so I feel dumber for even discussing it." But just to "end the chatter: Baseball teams don't move from the city to the suburbs" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 3/20).
COSTLY ERRORS? In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote, "I believe that Tom Ricketts now leads the Chicago Owners League in negotiating errors." Rosemont's offer "came out of nowhere and seemed to be met with suspicion, but remember, things get done in Rosemont." Stuff "gets built there." So you "can’t necessarily rule out the legitimacy of Rosemont’s offer." But you "can officially rule out Ricketts’ viability as a owner who gets what he needs for his business." Ricketts "didn’t play the move card when the family bought the team." Rosenbloom: "In fact, he gave up his greatest negotiating weapon on Day One when he said the family wouldn’t leave Wrigley." Ricketts "had a chance to add to his negotiating game." He "had a chance to speed up a deal with the city even if he faked the whole thing." Rosenbloom: "But no. Ricketts remains the stooge in this case." He "absolutely should’ve taken all the steps toward a new park." Showing serious interest in Rosement would have "drawn a reaction from Cubs fans" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/20).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “wouldn't flat out say it," but he "dropped enough hints on Wednesday to safely conclude South Florida won't be hosting another Super Bowl until Sun Life Stadium gets a significant face lift,” according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Goodell said, "It is important for us to play the game on the best possible stage and the stadiums are getting better and better." South Florida is a finalist to host Super Bowl L in '16. After talking to his peers, Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said that he is "certain San Francisco will win the rights to host the NFL's marquee event if he doesn't receive the public funds needed to fully renovate Sun Life Stadium.” Without a renovation, Dolphins officials “expect South Florida's Super Bowl bids will continue to lose to newer stadiums.” Super Bowl XLVIII is going to N.Y./N.J. next year, “braving the winter weather in a stadium without a dome.” Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie said that if that experience “is a success Philadelphia plans to make a Super Bowl bid.” Goodell stressed that the stadium of the site city “is the No. 1 criteria that the Super Bowl selection committee takes into account, and he's previously stated that Sun Life Stadium, in its present state, falls behind most NFL stadiums” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/21).
PARKING THE ISSUE: In Houston, John McClain noted Goodell “doesn’t want to get involved in the controversy involving the Astrodome, but he does think an additional 2,500 parking spaces would help Houston’s bid to get Super Bowl LI.” A recent study commissioned by Texans Owner Bob McNair and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo revealed that the Astrodome “could be demolished and replaced with 2,500 parking spaces for $29 million and change.” Goodell said, “That issue is for the community to decide, but I think having an extra 2,500 parking spaces would enhance Houston’s bid” (CHRON.com, 3/20).
The Florida House's tax-writing committee yesterday "approved a package of multimillion-dollar breaks" for professional-sports facilities across Florida, according to Jason Garcia of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. In three separate votes, the House Finance & Tax Subcommittee "voted in favor of" $60M in sales-tax subsidies for efforts to expand Daytona Int'l Speedway; build an MLS stadium in Orlando; and renovate EverBank Field in Jacksonville. The legislation to subsidize the DIS renovations was "winnowed from three tax breaks to one." ISC under the rewrite would "still get an annual sales-tax subsidy of" $2M during the next 30 years -- $60M total -- which is "identical to the amount the Legislature has granted to eight other pro-sports facilities in Florida that feature hockey, football, baseball or basketball." But two other provisions -- to "refund ISC all of the sales tax it would pay as part of a construction or renovation project costing $250 million or more, and an additional annual subsidy based on how much sales increase at the speedway -- were removed from the bill." However, those breaks "could still come back." NASCAR and speedway supporters are "trying to resurrect the construction-tax refund -- which ISC estimates would save the company somewhat less than" $10M -- later during the 60-day legislative session. Legislation sought by Orlando City Soccer Club and the city of Orlando "was similarly scaled back." The original version of the bill would have "increased the number of slots available for a $60 million stadium subsidy from the existing eight to 10, reserving both of the new ones for" MLS teams. The revised bill would "create only one additional slot, though it would still be reserved for an MLS team." Orlando officials are "banking on the state money to help finance construction" of a $110M soccer-specific stadium downtown, which they said that would "help persuade MLS to award the city an expansion franchise" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/21).
A proposal for the NFL Cardinals to conduct training camp in Glendale is "contingent upon the NFL team using fields that were built for youth sports," according to Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The proposed deal between the team and the city would allow the Cardinals to move their training camp from Northern Arizona Univ. in Flagstaff to an "air-conditioned balloon tent outside of University of Phoenix Stadium." But the move would "come at the expense of youth sports fields in Glendale for about a month a year." The team would conduct practice inside the $4M bubble for "about four weeks in July and August each year before the start of the regular NFL season." Glendale officials said that the tent "would be available to youth-sports leagues the rest of the year." Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority President Tom Sadler said that the "key advantage is that the bubble would ensure a controlled climate, protected from heat, cold and rain." According to the proposed deal with Glendale, the Cardinals would receive "additional benefits by moving the team’s training camp to the Youth Sports Complex." Glendale would pay the Cardinals "through a subsidiary, Rojo Entertainment Management, to operate the entire 13.6-acre complex year-round for 15 years." The city previously "paid a different management firm to run the complex but has managed it through the city Parks and Recreation Department for the past year." Glendale would pay Rojo $285,000 a year to "take over the management responsibilities." Rojo would "keep the first $150,000 in revenue from leases with outside groups to use the fields." Rojo and the city would "split any additional revenue from leases, with Rojo receiving" 80% and the city 20% (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/21).
OFFICE SPACE: In Richmond, Jacob Geiger noted there is "about 20,000 square feet of office space" available to lease on the second floor of the Redskins' new training camp building. Richmond Economic & Community Development Department Deputy Dir & COO Jane Ferrara said that the space is "open to all types of potential tenants." Ferrara and Redskins VP/Sales, Marketing & Strategic Alliances Scott Shepherd said that the training camp is "looking for additional corporate sponsors and business partners" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/20). In Chicago, Jensen & Jahns noted the Bears' training camp contract with Olivet Nazarene Univ. expires this summer, and team President & CEO Ted Phillips said that he "doesn't see it being held at Halas Hall in the 'foreseeable future.'" He said, "I think the set up we have at ONU has served us well. ... We could not duplicate what we have at ONU in Lake Forest" (SUNTIMES.com, 3/20).
New “big, bold, bright, high-resolution iconic images” of six Angels -- 1B Albert Pujols, LF Mike Trout, Ps Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, DH Mark Trumbo and RF Josh Hamilton -- are “being installed this week on the facade surrounding Homeplate Gate,” according to Marcia Smith of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Graphics installer Jeff Seaman said of Angel Stadium, "The Angels have done a great job of dressing up a rather old lady." The ballpark's current “curb appeal is largely the product of its graphics-minded front office.” Angels Owner Arte Moreno was “a billboard advertising magnate before buying the team in 2003.” Seaman and his two-man crew for the past three weeks “have been putting in six-day work weeks to apply more than 200 graphics to the ballpark before the 2013 season begins.” Seaman has “already put up 40 player graphics on the concourse columns and 70 terrace-level trestle graphics.” Seaman on Monday night, “began the multi-panel installation of the six player murals that cover the giant windows on the front of the stadium” (ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER, 3/19).
In San Jose, Mike Rosenberg reports a judge yesterday “ruled that South Bay school officials were wrong last year to yank $30 million in disputed tax funds” from the 49ers’ new Santa Clara stadium. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner said that he “could not immediately award the funds to the 49ers, but he appeared to leave little recourse but to make sure the Niners eventually receive the money one way or another.” He added that the team “may have to wait until as late as 2016 to receive the cash.” Sumner ruled that Santa Clara voters and city officials “had specifically earmarked the funds for the new stadium being built in the city -- and outside groups had no legal right to take it away” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/21).
BLUEPRINT SPECIAL: Red Sox Owner Fenway Sports Group has "snapped up" a parking garage on Lansdowne Street opposite Fenway Park, paying $10.5M for the "potential redevelopment play.” The two-story garage under current zoning “could be converted into an eight-story building -- about twice the height of the iconic Green Monster across Lansdowne.” But team execs “were tight-lipped yesterday about what they’ll do.” Red Sox Corporate Communications Dir Zineb Curran said, “It will be operated as a parking garage for the foreseeable future” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/21).
HOPEFUL ABOUT ATTENDANCE: ESPN’s Shannon Spake said it was "hard to ignore the empty seats Sunday at Bristol," and asked Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell how he would describe the current state of at-track attendance. Campbell said, “We're all still faced with the same challenges with the economy still being depressed. Obviously, weather plays a factor in every weekend. ... But we're still faced with those same challenges and everybody's doing what they can to bring the crowds back. I think we're seeing some improvement now with the interest that we have with the Gen-6 car, the great racing we’ve had so far. So I think we have a lot to be encouraged about this year” ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 3/20).
HOME FOR THE BILLS? In Buffalo, Thomas Prohaska notes Niagara County Legislature member Jason Zona yesterday “released a measure he and his colleagues, Dennis F. Virtuoso and Owen T. Steed, plan to introduce when the Legislature next meets April 16, placing the county on record in support of construction of a new stadium for the Bills in downtown Niagara Falls once the Bills’ new lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium runs out.” There was “no reaction from the Bills” with team Senior VP/Communications Scott Berchtold “on vacation.” But Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster “reacted cautiously.” He said, “I would do anything I was asked to do by the Bills to help them stay in Western New York. I don’t want to do anything that would make it look like I was fishing in troubled waters” (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/21).