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Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage appeared on ESPN2’s “NASCAR Now” on Monday night wearing boxing gloves and a robe. He stood next to a heavy bag adorned with a logo for the Sprint Cup Series NRA 500 on April 13th. Gossage touched on the on-track feud between drivers Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. Gossage said, “There’s a wild asphalt circus brewing. Stewart vs Logano. Don’t miss what happens in our center ring.” ESPN’s Chris Cotter said TMS is “no stranger to embracing controversy and using it to fill the grandstand.” Gossage said of his outfit, “Let me be clear: I'm just working out here -- normal midday workout in the speedway health club down here -- getting ready for our sanctioned negotiations with NASCAR.” But he added, “It always helps to have those guys … going at it on the racetrack and boy, they sure went at it on and off the track.” Gossage: “This is all in fun, this is all tongue-in-cheek, and what happens on the track happens on the track, but we don't want to see anybody get hurt.”
TEXAS THROWBACK: Cotter asked, “Is the promotional aspect of the sport or at least the way you go about it, is that kind of reverting back to the way it used to be before big corporate dollars took the sport into the stratospheric levels?” Gossage said, “There's a reason that old-school promotion worked and that's because the crowds loved it. They came whether you put a poster on a telephone pole or used a satellite feed to get all the television stations around the country, that kind of thing works. But when you got something natural that happens on the racetrack, you got hard feelings and it boils over. Remember the key word in this is versus, it's this guy versus that guy, and this one served up right in our laps.” Gossage was asked if other track promoters try to copy TMS. He said, “Everybody tries to up their game a little bit. This is just something that we do and it's our style. Every promoter has their different ways of doing things and we're all friends. I talked to a lot of different promoters and asked them what's working for them and they ask the same. Everybody tries to do their own thing and this is kind of our thing, and we’re just having fun and obviously it works because the crowds are coming in huge, huge numbers” (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 4/1).
A “relaxed, smiling” Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg shortly before the Rays' home opener yesterday at Tropicana Field “hinted at more upbeat relations with the city of St. Petersburg,” according to Nohlgren & Smith of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Sternberg spent “about 15 minutes” talking with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster near the team's dugout. The two last formally met “in February to talk about the Rays' desire to look at new stadium options throughout the Tampa Bay area.” Foster yesterday said, "We have a very collegial relationship, and we're communicating." He acknowledged that there have been “no major developments in the stadium issue.” But Foster said that they have been “talking about finding a middle ground.” While Foster did not have any specifics to offer in terms of what "middle ground" might mean, he said it has been a "good offseason." Foster: "What's 'new' is that our staff is talking, we're looking to bridge the gap. And we haven't really done that before. So, yeah, I think there's a lot of new." The Rays in recent years have said that they were “going to avoid stadium discussions and negotiations during the playing season.” But Sternberg yesterday said that “wasn't necessarily the current plan” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/3). In Tampa, Stephen Nohlgren in a front-page piece writes under the header, “Some Tampa Bay Rays Fans Like The Stadium Just The Way It Is” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/3).
An attempt to fund the Dolphin's proposed Sun Life Stadium improvements “morphed Tuesday into a catch-all sports stadium package that could provide tax dollars for everything” from an MLS venue in Orlando to Spring Training improvements statewide in Florida, but “require teams to compete for the money,” according to Aaron Deslatte of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The bill approved yesterday in the Florida Senate “originally started as an attempt" to give the Dolphins a $3M annual sales tax rebate and the "ability to raise more local bed-tax dollars with voter approval.” But State Sen. Andy Gardiner yesterday added an amendment to “require the Dolphins and other teams to compete for state dollars through a new process that would pit local governments against each other for sports-stadium construction or renovation money.” The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity would then “evaluate the projects and rank them from best-buy to worst, and the Legislature would ultimately decide which ones” to award $2-3M annually. Gardiner said, "Essentially, they're going to have to compete with each other. I would much rather have two sports franchises, two cities, two counties competing for the funds because you'll ultimately get the best deal for the taxpayer" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/3).
SUPER-SIZED: South Florida Super Bowl Bid Committee member Nicki Grossman said that the group "expects the overall tab" to host Super Bowl L in '16 to be about $21M. In Miami, Douglas Hanks notes the cost of the event "could be twice as much" as it was for Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in '10, but less than the $25M "cited by rival" S.F. in the bid for Super Bowl L. Plans submitted last week "include an expensive cluster of pre-game activities in downtown Miami, including barges anchored on the waterfront to create more space for the events." The "bulk of the money would come from corporate sponsors" in the area in South Florida." Grossman said that the committee "fell about 4,000 hotel rooms short of the 14,000 the NFL wants reserved for Super Bowl, in part because of ill-will generated" by the Dolphins' bid for money to renovate Sun Life Stadium. South Florida Super Bowl Bid Committee Chair Rodney Barreto said that he "expects to have more hotel rooms reserved by the time the final bid is officially due May 1" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/2).
Georgia Dome officials said that changes to the venue's set-up for this year's Final Four “will push capacity past 74,000," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The Georgia Dome for the Final Four in '02 an '07 was "configured to seat about 53,000 people," but the NCAA “subsequently decided that wasn’t nearly enough, figuring an expansion to 70,000-plus could generate" an additional $4M per year in revenue. About 18,000 black temporary seats “have been, or will be, installed.” The basketball court, previously “installed on one end of the massive stadium floor, has been relocated to the middle,” and an “elaborate, temporary seating system has been erected on top of the permanent lower-level seating bowl, extending almost to the court.” The “dark, towering curtain that typically has closed off thousands of distant seats” for basketball games in the Dome now is “gone.” Placing the court in the middle of "massive domed stadiums required the NCAA to remake the venues’ lower seating bowls to provide clear sightlines to the elevated court and to push fans closer to the court without obstructing the view of those behind them.” The NCAA to accomplish that “purchased a portable seating system, which has been installed at each Final Four site" since '09. The risers “sit atop much of the Georgia Dome’s regular lower-bowl seating, changing the angle and allowing 22 additional rows of seats that extend to within a few yards of the court.” There also is “a change overhead from previous Final Fours in the Georgia Dome: The NCAA has had a massive eight-sided video board installed above the court, similar to the one constructed for last year’s Final Four in New Orleans.” It marks the “first time the Georgia Dome has had a center-hung video board for a sporting event” (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/2).
College Football HOF President & CEO John Stephenson said the facility is “absolutely” on track, and the focus now “turns to finalizing the exhibit design,” according to the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE. Stephenson: “We also continue to close additional sponsorships and pursue other fundraising efforts so we can meet our financial goals.” He said of the HOF's attendance projections, “We made sure our projections were conservative, grounded in real data and allowed for fluctuations in the broader economic landscape. We engaged two separate firms to conduct independent studies (in 2010 and again in 2012), because attendance projection is the single most important line item in the business model.” Stephenson added, “Results of that exercise project us at 500,000 visitors annually. We believe that the data shows the actual number to be much higher … but we wanted to make sure our business model worked within this very conservative number” (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 3/29 issue).
UCF AD Todd Stansbury's $72M "wish-list for completing eight projects" by '20 includes a $1.4M “open-air club tweak to Bright House Networks Stadium, which would include a tiki bar with a Margaritaville-feel, serving alcohol and food,” according to Abraham Aboraya of the ORLANDO BUSINESS JOURNAL. Pending funding, construction on the open-air club "would start next January" and finish by August '14. Stansbury said he wants people to see "palm trees and flip-flops" when UCF football games are on TV. Among Stansbury's other planned projects is a 23,000-square-foot, $6.5M facility to house administration, which will serve as a "twin facility for the Wayne Densch Student-Athlete Leadership Center." There also is a planned $5M, "three-phase expansion of the tennis complex” (ORLANDO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/29 issue). Stansbury said that UCF is “currently doing structural testing at the stadium to see if the bar can be built without ‘significant structural changes.’” Stansbury, who formerly served as Oregon State Univ. Exec Associate AD, said, “The idea actually came from when we were in the process at Oregon State in expanding our stadium, one thing focused on is in premium seat areas was making the club and the loge and the suites really kind of take on the northwest feel, so when you were in those areas you knew you were somewhere in the northwest and taking on that personality.” He added that UCF "will consider different revenue models,” including "tying the club to a seat or as a standalone amenity for which fans can pay.” Stansbury: “We’re at 92-plus percent capacity in the club, 100-percent capacity in the suites with people waiting for suites. What are our other options? It’s obvious our fans are looking for those kind of amenities” (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 4/2).
COURT REPORT: In Orlando, Paul Tenorio reported UCF will “debut a new court" at UCF Arena next season when it begins play in the soon-to-be-renamed Big East. The school said that the new court will “come from an NCAA tournament site,” and will “feature a darker wood color and new center court design.” The new conference logo “will be added to the design and it will also include social media aspects, including the UCF official Twitter account -- @UCFKnights -- in front of the scorer's table and a #ChargeOn hashtag in front of each bench” (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 4/1).
In West Palm Beach, Tom D’Angelo wrote FAU’s failed agreement with GEO Group for stadium naming-rights “was costly considering the time lost defending itself over taking the GEO Group’s money and having to dig out from a barrage of negative publicity.” Meanwhile, the school “still is saddled with the debt on the $70 million stadium (more than $2 million a year) and the fee it will be paying to leave the Sun Belt Conference ($750,000) and join Conference USA ($2 million).” FAU AD Pat Chun has “a difficult job ahead” with less than five months to the start of the football season (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 4/2).
MUSIC CITY MUSCLE: In Nashville, Jaquetta White reports the Nashville Convention Center Authority yesterday signed an agreement to “manage the construction of a new south entrance to Bridgestone Arena.” The CCA under the deal will "share responsibility for the project with Metro and the Sports Authority.” The CCA's duties will “include preparing and submitting construction drawings and time lines, managing the budget and coordinating with various architects, engineers, contractors and consultants.” The Sports Authority will “review and approve all plans, while Metro will fund the project” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/3).
MINOR DETAILS: The Double-A Southern League Birmingham Barons acknowledged that “not everything will be operating immediately” when the newly constructed Regions Field opens next week. In Birmingham, Jon Solomon noted, "Not every seat is installed yet and the club is withholding selling tickets for those seats until they're in place.” But Barons’ co-Owner Jeff Logan yesterday said that the “ongoing construction site won't detract from fans' first impression" of the $64M ballpark (AL.com, 4/2).