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The Charlotte City Council last night voted unanimously to "approve giving" the NFL Panthers $87.5M to "help renovate Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year 'hard tether' to keep the team in Charlotte," according to a front-page piece by Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Panthers will "contribute" $37.5M to the project, and plan to "install escalators, new video and ribbon boards and make other improvements to the 17-year-old stadium." The city yesterday "acknowledged the deal has complicated provisions designed to lessen the team’s property tax bill." If the city’s money is "used to build new escalators or video boards ... the city of Charlotte would own that property, making it tax-exempt." The city would then "lease the property to the Panthers at a fair-market price, which isn’t taxable." Charlotte would then "pay the Panthers a fee to maintain the property." Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson at the meeting "thanked Mayor Anthony Foxx and council members for considering the financial assistance." The Panthers' "original plan" was to spend $250M on renovations. But the plan approved yesterday "calls for the city to spend" $75M on improvements. Charlotte "will pay the team" $1M a year for 10 years for stadium maintenance. The public also will pay $250,000 annually for "traffic control on game days." The Panthers have "agreed to give the city and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority five rent-free days a year from January to June." That is "valued at $250,000 per event" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/23). The AP's Mitch Weiss noted after the vote, Richardson addressed the council, saying that he "hoped in the future that he could change the views of people in the crowd who opposed the deal" (AP, 4/22).
WANTING MORE: A CHARLOTTE OBSERVER editorial states the "so-called 'tether' is not worth much," as the Panthers have "no intention of moving anytime soon." Charlotte needed "something meaty in return -- like the 15-year tether the Panthers had agreed to if the city gave them" $144M. That is a deal the city "might have had if it hadn’t misplayed its hand so badly." This deal "guarantees only one thing: That the city will be back at the negotiating table all too soon" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/23).
Magic execs yesterday said that they “believe there is enough demand for additional hotel rooms, office space and retail in downtown Orlando to move forward with a $100 million sports-and-entertainment complex” in the Parramore neighborhood near downtown, according to Mark Schlueb of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. Magic CEO Alex Martins “hopes construction could start on at least part of that complex in about a year, on city-owned land across the street from the Amway Center.” But it will “likely be built in at least two phases.” The Magic have “two purchase options on the property, one for the portion of the site containing a city parking garage, and the other for the portion” with Orlando Police Department HQs, as well as “a radio tower, parking, car wash and fueling station used by police.” The development would “likely include an office tower that would contain the Magic's corporate headquarters, a hotel, a parking garage, restaurants and other entertainment-focused retail space, and perhaps apartments or condominiums.” Magic reps “revealed few specific details and still must negotiate a purchase price from the city” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/23). ORLANDOWEEKLY.com’s Billy Manes wrote yesterday’s details, “perhaps purposefully, were scant.” The Magic -- which is “in the process of forming the Sports and Entertainment District LLC, with unnamed other developers and investors -- has paid $100,000 so far just for the option to build out the project” (ORLANDOWEEKLY.com, 4/22).
Santa Anita President & GM George Haines said that the racetrack’s winter-spring meeting ended Sunday “with a slight gain in all-sources handle, but a sizeable drop in ontrack business,” according to Steve Andersen of the DAILY RACING FORM. Haines said that the all-sources handle “rose 4 percent,” but added that ontrack handle “fell 10 percent on comparative days from the 2011-12 winter-spring season, while ontrack attendance was down 9 percent.” Haines: “We had a challenge early in the meet with weather. At the end of the meeting, we recovered well with attendance.” The gain in all-sources handle was “caused by an increase of approximately 40 percent in account wagering through telephone and Internet sources.” The meeting was “the first that was available for viewing on both TVG and HRTV, a subsidiary of Santa Anita’s parent company, The Stronach Group.” The 71-day winter-spring meeting began Dec. 26, and is “expected to be the last of its kind for the foreseeable future.” If Hollywood Park closes after ‘13, Santa Anita is “expected to request additional racing dates in the spring and early summer.” Haines said that if Santa Anita “runs for more than six months in the first half of 2014, the meeting will look significantly different than the 2013 season” (DRF.com, 4/22).
DOWN TO THE WIRE: In Chicago, Neil Milbert reports Arlington Park is “asking the Illinois Racing Board to permit it to vacate days if an insufficient number of horses are entered for the opening week of the meet, scheduled to start May 3.” Vacating the live racing dates “would enable the track to stay open for simulcasting and betting two premier events in American racing.” But sources said that “without a deal in place, the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horsemen at Churchill Downs, won't give its required permission for simulcasting and off-track betting from Churchill Downs, a show of solidarity between the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Churchill Downs horsemen.” The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association “could take similar action” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/23).
The renovation proposal for Wrigley Field agreed to between Cubs Owner the Ricketts family and the city of Chicago is “neither a good deal nor a done one,” according to architecture writer Cheryl Kent in a special to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Wrigley is a “historic protected structure with its very own city ordinance saying what can and cannot be done to it.” Any new signage has to be “OK'd before it can be added to Wrigley Field, making the proposed 6,000-square-foot video screen considerably less than the sure bet suggested by the city and the Ricketts family.” What can be “pieced together from press releases, public statements and very sketchy renderings suggests Wrigley's protective ordinance is being tested rather than observed.” Were the plan suggested to be “fully implemented, Wrigley would be fundamentally damaged to dubious purpose.” In regard to the Jumbotron, the Ricketts family is “withholding a drawing presumably showing the scale of the video screen.” It is “impossible to admit such an animated monster and preserve the essential intimacy of Wrigley Field.” It would “overwhelm the park and dominate its views.” It is “absurd to irrevocably alter a historic structure for a false assumption and a contract Cubs owners would be the first to wish away and that will expire one day.” The Ricketts “neglect to mention the public contribution they would receive in the form of tax credits.” Chicago's landmarks website states that in exchange for “responsible historic renovation, the property tax bill on Wrigley could be cut to just 10 percent of its current rate for 10 years.” Admission to the National Register of Historic Places for Wrigley, which is being sought by the Ricketts, “would mean additional tax breaks at state and federal levels.” Taxpayers “indirectly pick up a big part of the renovation” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/22).
FOLLOWING BEANTOWN RECIPE: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington wrote Wrigley is “about where Fenway was in the mid-1990s, with a decision needed to either go forward with some major makeovers or to start anew.” It “looks like the Cubs are making the right play by giving the nod to history with an eye on the future.” The proposed scoreboard is “a necessity in this day and age, mostly for advertising, but it still saddens me.” Much like the Red Sox “have done with Yawkey Way, the Cubs will incorporate portions of Waveland and Sheffield Avenues into the ballpark -- and will block Sheffield off entirely for two hours before games.” The Yawkey Way “street carnival is one of the most successful facets of the Fenway renovation.” It added “all kinds of revenue streams and cut down dramatically on the crowding inside the park.” The Cubs could “certainly use a similar effect.” A better facility could “go a long way to help” President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein “work the same magic in Chicagoland that he did in Beantown” (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/21).
WHAT THE KIDS ARE WATCHING: Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan said the proposed scoreboard would feature a “lot of advertising” and having it “would be exceptionally cool.” But there are “others who do not want a jumbotron.” Chicago-based WMAQ-NBC’s Peggy Kusinski said, “Get with the program already, put it up there. It’s fine, it looks great.” Kusinski said it is “okay to like it the old-fashioned way but when you are losing fans and you’re trying to continue to build a fan base at the younger level, they’re going, ‘That’s not cool to go to Wrigley. They don’t have all the cool stuff’” (“Sports Talk Live,” CSN Chicago, 4/19).
Florida House budget writers yesterday proposed "boosting the state cash available for new or improved spring training facilities," with a potential deal providing $50M in "state money over a 37-and-a-half-year period for stadiums catering to two teams," according to Jonathan Mattise of TCPALM.com. One-team facilities could "qualify for" $20M over 30 years. Local governments would "have to match the state’s help," and the state would "set aside" about $3.3M each year in retention money, starting in the '15-16 fiscal year. With both chambers "in agreement, the spring training cash is all-but-certain to show up in the final budget lawmakers will vote on next week." Keeping Spring Training strong in Florida also has been a "priority for Gov. Rick Scott." The $50M is $10M "higher than lawmakers had previously discussed" (TCPALM.com, 4/22). The AP's Gary Fineout noted Rep. Ritch Workman "defended the proposal as a way to keep teams from relocating to the Cactus League in Arizona." He said that more and more MLB teams in Florida are "looking to locate close to one another to cut down on travel time." Florida already has "spent more than" $40M in the past decade on "spring training incentives, but the state put a cap on the amount of money and number of cities that could qualify for the funding" (AP, 4/22).
WHO IT BENEFITS: In Orlando, Aaron Deslatte wrote the deal will be "especially sweet" for the Astros and Blue Jays, who are "both seeking to build a new ballpark in Palm Beach County or move to Arizona." The Astros would "get incentives to the tune of an extra $10 million over about 37 years to move from Kissimmee to Palm Beach Gardens." Both teams said that the new state aid would "make it possible" to stay in Florida (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 4/22).
In Edmonton, Elise Stolte cited a Leger Marketing survey as showing that “nearly two-thirds of Edmonton and area residents don’t believe the provincial government should give money directly to Edmonton’s downtown arena project” for the Oilers. The online provincial issues survey, sponsored by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, found that “62 per cent of respondents said there should be no direct funding from the province.” Twenty-eight percent said that the province “should provide direct funding and 10 per cent said they didn’t know.” The results come as the Edmonton City Council “continues to search” for C$55M to finalize the deal (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 4/22).
ON HOLD: In Phoenix, Paul Giblin reported the NFL Cardinals’ “progress toward relocating the team’s training camp appears to be stalled with no final destination in sight.” Glendale officials said that the team’s “desire to move its camp from Flagstaff to Glendale bogged down weeks ago when Cardinals executives asked Glendale officials for a new parking garage as part of the deal.” The sides are “still talking, but council members said no alternative offers have been brought forward.” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said that team execs “tried to merge negotiations about training camp with discussions toward a long-term parking plan around University of Phoenix Stadium, but he declined to say whether the team asked the city to build a parking garage” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/19).
COMING RIGHT UP: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted AmericanAirlines Arena for the Heat’s playoff push will “roll out a full-court press of restaurant-quality items over the first three rounds of the postseason on the concourses and in premium areas.” The offerings include “three new gourmet items that will be prepared and served on food carts on the general concourse.” They were “previewed in a series of tastings for season-ticket holders last week along with many of the menu upgrades coming to the premium lounges and suites” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/21).
LOST & FOUND: In S.F., Schulman & Ostler report the MLB Giants “have memorialized Barry Bonds' achievements with two artifacts at AT&T Park,” but now “one of them is gone, and the team is investigating.” A 6-foot-high plaque that “was bolted and glued to the bricks beyond right-center field, near the destination of Bonds' record-setting 756th home run, has disappeared.” Team and stadium officials said that they “do not know who took it, but they plan to look at a week's worth of security video” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/23).