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The city of Chicago and the Cubs last night announced an agreement to "renovate iconic Wrigley Field" with a $500M plan that gets team Chair Tom Ricketts "nearly everything he sought," according to a front-page piece by Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The deal "clears the way for the Cubs to submit formal plans for the ballpark rehab and a nearby hotel and office building." The agreement, which will see team Owner the Ricketts family contribute approximately $300M for Wrigley and $200M for the hotel, could be a "major economic boost for the city without a hit on taxpayers" as Ricketts ultimately decided to forgo requesting public money for the project. With the deal, Ricketts gets "more night games and lucrative advertising signs, even if some of his plans were scaled back a bit." Less "certain is the plan's effect" on the owners of 16 rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley. The goal of the city and team is to "get the plans approved by the time the last pitch is thrown at Wrigley on Sept. 25 so work can start right after that." Some of it is "expected to take years." Perhaps the most "substantial changes" in the agreement "are a Jumbotron-like screen in left field and a new sign in right field akin to the Toyota sign now in left." A statement released by the Cubs last night indicated that they also could "install additional signs within the stadium that would not block the rooftop club views." The right-field sign would be "up to 800 square feet, more than twice the size of the Toyota sign" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/15).
DEAL DETAILS: In Chicago, Fran Spielman reports under the terms of the agreement, the left-field wall would be "extended outward by as much as 10 feet -- taking out a lane of parking on Waveland -- to give the Cubs more concession space and mitigate the impact of a 5,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field." The right-field wall also may be "extended outward, taking out the sidewalk on Sheffield, to lessen the impact of an 800-square-foot see-through sign." The Cubs would be "permitted to install signage inside the landmark stadium, including an 'LED ribbon board' within the seating bowl." Compensation for the parking lane on Waveland and the sidewalk on Sheffield is "expected to be finalized during a planning process expected to produce the 'necessary approvals' by the end of the season" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/15). The AP's Babwin & Nichols report the plan also "addresses chronic complaints about parking in the densely populated Wrigleyville neighborhood, including the addition of 1,000 'remote' parking spots that will be free and come with shuttle service" (AP, 4/15). In Chicago, Channick & Karp note Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green last night "declined to speculate on the advertising revenue potential of the screen." But sources said that a screen at a ballpark like Wrigley could "generate several million dollars a year, perhaps as much as $5 million." Over 20 years, that would "represent nearly one-third of the renovation cost" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/15).
The Sabres on Saturday held a "ceremonial groundbreaking" for HARBORcenter, the organization’s $172.2M hotel and ice rink complex that will "rise across from First Niagara Center," according to Jay Rey of the BUFFALO NEWS. Sabres Owner Terry Pegula in front of a crowd of 100 people or more said that the organization would "be aggressive in attracting hockey players, coaches and personnel to Buffalo," where the new complex will "serve as a first-class venue in which to play, train and learn about the game." HARBORcenter will include "two ice rinks, a 200-room hotel and an 845-space parking garage." It also will have a "12,000-square-foot sports bar and 8,000 square feet of retail space." The opening of the rinks is "scheduled for September 2014," and the hotel is "expected to debut in the spring of 2015." The ceremony was "held prior to Saturday's Sabres game, under the cover of a large tent on the 1.7-acre construction site." Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "The magnitude of this project even has exceeded my wildest expectations of what we were going to be able to bring to the community." Rey noted the event "wasn't entirely without drama." Firefighters "picketing outside the arena with a bullhorn could be overheard during the ceremony, while Pegula’s remarks about two people onstage with him -- Brown and [Sabres President] Ted Black -- led to an uncomfortable moment." Pegula: "I’m a little confused, I’m sitting on the stage between Mayor Brown and Ted Black, yet I look over there, and I’m wondering, is something backwards here?" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/14).
PECULIAR COMMENTS BY PEGULA: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted Pegula's comments on Saturday were his "first words to the media since the day before one of the most disappointing seasons in Sabres history." The team is "about to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in six years." Pegula regarding the firing of longtime head coach Lindy Ruff said, "I don't need to answer that now. This is a different topic today." Pegula then was "told that people wanted to hear his opinion." He responded, "Why don't you figure that one out?" Harrington also noted Pegula and the team's front office "no-showed the media after last season" ended, making no public comments. Pegula on whether he will address media and fans after this season said, "We'll see. Yeah, we'll see, that's what I said" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 4/13). Also in Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan wrote Pegula's comments "provided further evidence of the owner’s fumbling grasp of basic public relations." Pegula has been an "evasive figure over the last year or so." He "didn’t bother to comment after the Sabres missed the playoffs last year," and he "still hasn’t commented on his decision to fire" Ruff two months ago. Sullivan: "Pegula doesn't have a clue." It would have been "one thing if he had already gone on record about firing an admired coach who had been on the job for 16 years, or offered the slightest comment on his team’s putrid showing at any point during the season." He said that this "wasn’t the time for discussing Ruff’s firing." Sullivan: "He was right. The proper time was two months ago, when he did it." There is an "aloof, even flippant, quality to the man." It is "as if Pegula feels he should be above criticism from the media" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/14).
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown “supports the Jaguars’ proposal to have the city borrow $50 million to build the biggest and best video boards in the country above the end zones at EverBank Field,” according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. But Brown said that the city “still must navigate the intricacies of borrowing in the bond market before it finalizes the deal.” The new video boards “would be 374 feet wide and 55 feet high.” Although Brown’s support “is a strong sign, approval by the 19-member City Council is also needed.” Jaguars President Mark Lamping said that he is “hopeful the project will be approved by June, with the goal of having the video boards installed by the start of the 2014 season.” The boards would be “bigger than the ones at the new Cowboys Stadium.” Brown and Lamping “stressed that the funding for the proposal would come from money generated by the stadium and not involve the city’s general funds.” Lamping said that the Jaguars “have their own five-year, $56 million plan for infrastructure improvements on the stadium that will be funded on a year-to-year basis.” He also “stressed that the new video boards will not only benefit the Jaguars but the Gator Bowl and the Georgia-Florida game -- and could help attract future events like a BCS national championship game” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/14).
California state Sen. Alex Padilla has “a plan to allow electronic billboard ads that are currently banned by state law -- including pitches for beer and gambling -- next to a proposed NFL stadium” in L.A., according to Patrick McGreevy of the L.A. TIMES. Activists opposed to the proposal said that lawmakers “intend the measure as special treatment” for AEG Chair Philip Anschutz, whose Farmers Field project is the subject of the legislation. The proposal would “allow the billboards to advertise any product with which the stadium operator has a sponsorship agreement, which could include such things as cars, television sets and insurance.” Although existing California law “requires billboards to be on sports arena property, Padilla's bill would allow them up to 1,000 feet away from the possible new stadium ... and at nearby freeway offramps.” Padilla said that taxpayers “don't want to pay for new professional sports venues.” He added, "So … you have to be creative in finances.” Cities would “be able to adopt ordinances controlling the location and operation of the billboards under his proposal” (L.A. TIMES, 4/14).
CHANGE OF COURSE: In Denver, Andy Vuong profiled Anschutz’ vision for AEG, and wrote the “still-notoriously private tycoon is once again raising his public profile to prove his commitment to bringing an NFL team back to L.A.” Last month, he "removed the 'for sale' sign from AEG" and “announced the departure of longtime right-hand man” former President & CEO Tim Leiweke. With the “abrupt departure” of Leiweke, who was Farmers Field’s “frontman, Anschutz embarked on a Southern California publicity tour.” Area sportswriters and business officials were “taken aback not only by his decision to grant his first extensive media interview in decades, but by the sight of Anschutz sitting courtside at an L.A. Lakers game at Staples Center.” The change “clashed with Anschutz's reputation as a dealmaker content with staying behind the scenes.” The recent media tour was “a calculated move by Anschutz to spread the message that he is still interested in bringing an NFL team back to L.A.” Some observers said that the “question mark over the NFL stadium was a key reason Anschutz couldn't sell AEG.” Anschutz “wants to control the stadium's operations but not the team that plays in it, an unusual arrangement that the league and team owners apparently aren't fond of” (DENVER POST, 4/14).
The city of Pittsburgh and city parking authority "forgo tens of thousands of dollars each year because the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins aren't required to pay for metered parking spaces that are taken out of service for games and concerts," according to Joe Smydo of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Meanwhile, dozens of other organizations, businesses and individuals are "required to pay when they take metered on-street spaces out of service for festivals, fundraisers and other events." Officials said that the city, not the parking authority, "decided to forgo the meter revenue for games." From Jan. 1, 2010, through March 6, 2013, the "city and parking authority took in more than $577,000 by renting metered spaces for periods ranging from one day to several months." Records showed that "none of that money came from the Pirates, Steelers or Penguins ... even though the city repeatedly blocked off meters for the teams' events." Police officer Chrissy Gasiorowski, who helps handle special events, said that the "suspension of on-street parking was incorporated into traffic-management plans for the venues." While other groups "pay 50 cents for each 'no parking' sign and post the signs themselves, the sports teams do neither." Officials in Baltimore and Cleveland said that those cities also "bag meters around sports venues without charging teams for lost revenue." The Pirates this season will play 67 home games, "held Monday through Saturday and affect the public's use of about 77 metered spaces around PNC Park." The city and authority "would make $128,975 by requiring the Bucs to pay for spaces blocked off for games." The Penguins have "played 16 home games that were held Monday through Saturday and affected the public's use of 41 metered spaces around Consol Energy Center." The team has "one more weeknight home game and two more Saturday home games before the regular season ends." The city and authority "would make $7,790 by charging the Pens for use of those spaces" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/14).