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Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney yesterday suggested that the number of night games at Wrigley Field has "re-emerged as a sticking point" between the city and Cubs Owner the Ricketts family in its plans for $300M ballpark renovations, according to Sachdev & Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Other issues include "parking, advertising signs, and the size and placement of a large video screen." Tunney said that he "thought there was an agreement last week for additional night games, but the team changed its request Tuesday night at a community meeting that was closed to the media." Sources said that the city had "agreed to increase the number of night games from 30 to 40, plus allow the team to host as many as four concerts, for a total of 44 'night events.'" But the sources said that Cubs officials at Tuesday's meeting "asked for flexibility on a limit of 44 night events to accommodate changes to the schedule" requested by MLB and its TV broadcast partners. Tunney would "like the Cubs to add more parking and security in the neighborhood" in exchange for more night games, but some residents "voiced their opposition to a plan floated last week that would call for the Cubs to build a parking garage at a gravel parking lot." Meanwhile, Tunney and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration have "conceptually agreed to the team's request to put up a large video scoreboard in left field and a second sign in right field." But sources said that there still is "disagreement over placement of the signs so they block as little of the rooftop views as possible" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/11). Tunney said, "Every constituency group is gonna have to give a little bit. ... But the specifics keep changing and the asks keep changing. So, how do you pin down what are we agreeing to when those (requests) change all the time?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/11).
IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME? Yahoo Sports Radio’s Jason Goch said he was confused why the Cubs front-office execs "don't negotiate with Rosemont or some other suburb to get the city off their can.” Goch: "The way you bargain in business is you have an alternative." Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts has “boxed himself in so now the city can play these games.” The mayor of Rosemont, Ill., last month offered the team land for a new ballpark, but WGN Radio’s Jordan Bernfield said, “It was never real leverage. They’re never moving to Rosemont.” The Chicago Sun-Times’ Herb Gould: “If you move to Rosemont, you’re basically blowing up the thing that makes you unique and guarantees you revenue, which is Wrigley Field.” But Goch said, “At some point it has to be replaced. This relic is not going to be here 200 years.” Comcast SportsNet Chicago's David Kaplan said Cubs fans “are so sick” of the ongoing squabble with the rooftop owners and local politicians. Kaplan: "I would say a majority of Cub fans are to the point where, ‘Go to Rosemont and I'll follow you’” (“Sports Talk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/10).
The Miami-Dade County Commission yesterday “approved asking voters to raise hotel taxes" for a renovation to Sun Life Stadium, a $289M “payout that Mayor Carlos Gimenez said breaks new ground in how government subsidizes sports facilities,” according to a front-page piece by Mazzei & Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. The vote “set up what the county elections chief said would be the fastest referendum ever held by Miami-Dade, with voters on May 14 considering a plan that was only released in detail late Tuesday.” Nearly five hours of discussion “brought few surprises, as commissioners were expected to approve the plan endorsed by Gimenez.” Backlash against the Marlins’ publicly financed ballpark “dominated" yesterday's meeting, with commissioners frequently pointing out differences between the Marlins deal and the plan proposed for Sun Life Stadium.” Gimenez had “demanded early on that tax money be awarded only if the NFL gave Miami Gardens the milestone 50th Super Bowl, or, the 51st as a consolation prize.” But Dolphins CEO Mike Dee yesterday “revealed that league officials were opposed to allowing Miami-Dade to link stadium funds with the award of a specific game, so the ballot language was changed to approve the tax hike as long as Miami is awarded any Super Bowl in May.” Gimenez and at least one commissioner said that they would “not look kindly on having the NFL unexpectedly award Sun Life a later Super Bowl.” Gimenez said, “I don’t want 52” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/11).
SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT? In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis notes there are “significant hurdles remaining” in securing the Sun Life Stadium upgrades. The Dolphins said that they have “gotten favorable response when they present the merits of the funding plan to community groups.” But there is “considerable opposition among voters who object to giving any public funds to sports teams and wealthy owners such as Dolphins' owner Steve Ross” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/11). Former Eagles Owner and South Florida car dealer Norman Braman said that he was “ready to bankroll opposition to the deal in an election, but if he waits for the legislature to vote … he may miss out on opportunity to influence absentee voters” (MIAMI.CBSLOCAL.com, 4/10).
NOTHING FISHY: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the Super Bowl is “being used as a political shield and conversational convenience for the Dolphins to get public millions to build their stadium.” The stadium has “legitimate needs for updating, no doubt.” But the “big-money item, the canopy, isn't really needed to shield Super Bowl fans from night-time rain.” It is “necessary to shade Dolphins fans sitting in the heat of a September afternoon.” Hyde writes, “You can't blame the Dolphins for going this route. They're doing what sports teams do in America” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/11).
Minnesota state legislators are "beginning a hard-nosed search for alternatives to electronic gambling" to help pay for the planned Vikings stadium, "even as team officials met with state officials Wednesday to strategize about how to get more people playing the new barroom games," according to Jim Ragsdale of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. With electronic pulltab games intended to provide most of the state's share of the Vikings' $975M stadium project, the "tide appears to be turning away from a wait-and-see attitude -- hoping that e-pulltabs catch on -- and toward taking direct action to fix the problem." Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's aides "met with Vikings officials in private on the topic." Meanwhile, House Taxes Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski "formally revived" the idea of applying a 10% tax "on wholesale sales of professional sports memorabilia." The tax would "also be levied on rentals of stadium boxes and suites." It is projected to bring in more than $12M per year, which is "a little more than a third of what the state needs." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "We’re opposed because this legislation fundamentally changes the agreement the Vikings negotiated with the state." He said that the Vikings' $477M contribution to the stadium project is "considerable," adding that the team does "not believe they should pay more." But Minnesota Sports Facility Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen "praised the memorabilia tax" idea. Bagley said that the team met with the governor’s staff to "focus on ways to make last year’s agreement work -- not on ways to find new sources of revenue." Bagley: "We’re willing to step up with help on the marketing side and try to get the pulltab operation a little more traction, but fundamentally we can’t alter the deal that we struck last spring" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/11).
NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: Bagley said that the Vikings put an additional $50M toward the stadium project "in the final stages of negotiations on the bill" last year. He added, "That commitment was in exchange for an assurance that there would be no further impacts on stadium revenues, including taxes on stadium revenues." In St. Paul, Doug Belden reports reps from the T'Wolves, Wild and Twins "testified against the bill, which one said essentially would require the teams to subsidize a competitor." A spokesperson for Minnesota retailers "spoke against the bill as well" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/11).
The Edmonton City Council in January agreed to contribute C$140M to a new C$480M Oilers arena, but while a "quiet boost in provincial infrastructure funding will pay almost half" of the final C$100M needed to build the facility, some council members now "fear the city could be stuck with the remainder," according to a front-page piece by Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Edmonton City Manager Simon Farbrother yesterday said that the city's share of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative was C$3M "higher than expected in the March 7 provincial budget, which would cover annual payments" on a C$45M loan. The Edmonton City Council yesterday "tentatively approved" the arena master agreement with Oilers Owner Daryl Katz. Farbrother said that the increase in cost, "based on population, education property taxes and kilometres of roads, isn’t earmarked for any other project." Along with the C$140M, the city also agreed to put C$125M "from a ticket tax," and the equivalent of C$115M over a 35-year lease from Katz into the project. While the new MSI cash "goes partway toward overcoming the financial gap, councillors put off signing legal papers to complete the project until they clarify the source" of the remaining C$55M. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said that they "won’t go forward until they have the rest of the provincial money." But he "couldn’t say whether the deal will be dead if the money doesn’t come through, which could stretch into May" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 4/11).
CLOSING THE SHORTFALL: In Edmonton, Paula Simons wrote the leveraged C$45M could be "construed as the province putting in almost half" of that needed C$100M. That is "certainly how the majority of councillors seemed happy to spin it." Diverting MSI money, which is "supposed to pay for basic infrastructure such as sewer pipes, road repairs, LRT, and libraries, is a disingenuous violation of the spirit of the framework agreement" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 4/11). Also in Edmonton, Angelique Rodrigues writes arena supporters "looking for closure on the seemingly endless downtown arena debate are left disappointed again." Discussions "began again publicly and swirled around the missing money" after a "lengthy in private session with Katz Group officials," including Exec VP & General Counsel John Karvellas. Farbrother said that Katz Group execs has "stated they will not help to cover the shortfall." Katz Group officials also "expressed concerns that they have yet to secure an extension" of the Oilers' contract with Rexall Place operator Northlands. The team after the '13-14 season would "be homeless until the new arena is complete" (EDMONTON SUN, 4/11).
Beacon Sports Capital on behalf of the city of Glendale “will begin to elicit proposals Monday from outside companies to manage Jobing.com Arena,” according to Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The strategy to “seek an outsider to run the facility is a clear signal that Glendale officials are running out of patience with the seemingly never-ending Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga and are willing to untie arena management from team ownership.” City Council member Ian Hugh said that the group is “open to separating arena-management responsibilities from the hockey team’s lease to play at the arena.” Giblin notes without taking it to bid, the city “never established a firm market value for the management contract.” Potential Coyotes buyers previously have “wanted the city to pay them millions of dollars a year to manage the arena.” Coyotes President & COO Mike Nealy yesterday said that NHL execs are “involved in discussions with four potential ownership groups, but Nealy deferred further comment about ownership matters to league officials.” Council member Gary Sherwood said that Beacon will publish a “request for proposals on the city’s website and elsewhere on Monday.” Sherwood added that Beacon execs will “provide tours of the arena to interested firms from May 6 through 10, narrow the field to two or three finalists later that month and negotiate a contract with the chosen company by May 24.” Giblin notes the timeline “calls for the new company to take over management of the Glendale arena starting July 1” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/11).
Pocono Raceway President & CEO Brandon Igdalsky has “looked at how other tracks expanded its use outside racing and plans for Pocono to host more than motor sports,” according to Dan Gelston of the AP. Igdalsky said, "You look at the stadiums around the area and they're all running these different events. Why can't we do the same thing? Why can't we add more events and get more people in the door here and have some fun? We've got this large stadium. Let's use it." Igdalsky also “dismissed the idea that the market would be over-saturated with racing.” Pocono this weekend hosts its first IndyCar race since "for the first time in 24 years," and has NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races set for June 9 and Aug. 4. Igdalsky: "Do Eagles fans complain when they do three games in three weeks? It's not any different." Gelston wrote the Izod IndyCar Series' return to Pocono is “being celebrated as a nod to IndyCar's history and tradition.” Pocono's three corners “were designed in 1965 to model corners at Indianapolis, Milwaukee and now-defunct Trenton.” Igdalsky said, "This place was built by IndyCar for IndyCar. It's part of who we are." About 300 fans attended yesterday's test session, and Igdalsky said that enthusiasm in the area is "high for another race.” IndyCar driver Marco Andretti said, "I'm going to have a huge hometown crowd. I think I'll have to renegotiate my contract with dad to get more tickets for this race" (AP, 4/10).