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The Texas A&M Univ. Board of Regents yesterday approved a $450M renovation to Kyle Field that will "increase the stadium's capacity to 102,500," making it the biggest stadium in the SEC, according to a front-page piece by David Harris of the Bryan-College Station EAGLE. Kyle Field's new capacity will top the Univ. of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium by "only 45 seats," and will surpass the Univ. of Texas' Memorial Stadium "by more than 2,000 seats." The construction will begin in November and "come to a close in August 2015, only including two phases." The upgrades will include the "construction of 'Kyle Field Park' on the north side exterior to serve as a pre- and post-game gathering place," and a "west side entrance into 'Champions Hall,' a three-story merchandising and concessions area." Also included is the addition of "twelve Founders' Suites on the west side that will feature high-end finishes, 20 seats and an exclusive lounge area." If funding is secured, there would be "three maroon lights on each corner (for a total of 12) that would light up after victories." There will be a "club on the second deck of the west side that goes from goal line to goal line to service club seating," plus a "lowering of the field and movement of seating close to the action to enhance the noise level." Populous Senior Principal Earl Santee, whose company is handling the renovation, said that he "doesn't want to interfere with the experience at Kyle Field during the 2014 season." He added that "no new parking would be added near the facility." However, Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman said that once the Kyle Field makeover is completed, attention will be "devoted to getting some new areas for consumers to park on game day." He added that capacity will "actually be larger -- closer to 106,000 -- during the 2014 season than after the grand opening because the south side of the stadium will be constructed first" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 5/2).
TOP 10 COLLEGE FOOTBALL STADIUMS BY CAPACITY
(FOLLOWING TEXAS A&M RENOVATIONS)RANK
SCHOOL VENUECAPACITY1 Michigan Michigan Stadium109,9012 Penn State Beaver Stadium106,5723 Texas A&M Kyle Field102,5004 Tennessee Neyland Stadium102,4555 Ohio State Ohio Stadium102,3296 Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium101,8217 Texas Darrell K. Royal Stadium100,1198 UCLA Rose Bowl94,3929 USC L.A. Memorial Coliseum93,60710 Georgia Sanford Stadium92,746
ARMS RACE IN TEXAS: In Austin, Suzanne Halliburton writes A&M is "following a recent, furious trend as universities around the state build new stadiums or do extensive renovations on venues originally built decades before." Baylor Univ. and the Univ. of Houston are "in the midst of building new stadiums," and TCU's Amon Carter Stadium "underwent a huge renovation in time for the Horned Frogs' season premiere season in the Big 12." UT's Royal-Memorial Stadium has "added 26,000 seats since the Big 12 premiere in 1996," including the expansion to 100,119 seats in '09. Texas Tech's last "wave of construction came in 2009," while North Texas in '11 "opened a new stadium." SMU built a new, on-campus stadium in '00 (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 5/2). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote of A&M's expansion plan, "This is insane to spend this much money on a venue that is used six times a year. Maybe eight." But it also is "completely consistent with the rest of the great state [of] Texas, and the United States" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 5/1). ESPN’s Danny Kanell said, “This stadium is a case of keeping up with the Joneses. They want to make sure they can fit in with the SEC” (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 5/1).
FEEDING A GROWING BEAST: In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos notes A&M officials yesterday "cited the school’s growing alumni base as a reason for expanding to more than 100,000, from Kyle’s current 82,589 capacity." Hyman: "If you look at the growth of Texas A&M and what the future has in store, this is a facility that has an ability to meet our needs. It’s a facility we’ll grow into eventually" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/2). But in Texas, Robert Cessna writes for A&M the "challenge is maintaining a program good enough to annually demand that many seats." Heisman Trophy-winning QB Johnny Manziel's "exploits," A&M's move to the SEC and an 11-2 record under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin likely "factored in to the decision to add roughly 20,000 more seats." Cessna: "You have to go back only a couple of years when -- other than the Texas game -- sellouts were few and far between" (AGGIESPORTS.com, 5/2).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he "does not believe there’s a serious threat the Cubs will leave" Wrigley Field after Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts yesterday acknowledged that moving to a new ballpark is a consideration should the team's planned ballpark renovations not be approved, according to Esposito & Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Ricketts' comments came at a City Club breakfast meeting, but Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton later said that Ricketts did not go to the meeting "with the intention of playing his ultimate trump card." Culloton said that Ricketts "simply gave an honest answer to a question on the mind of just about every Cubs fan." Emanuel said of the $300M renovation deal the Cubs and the city agreed to last month, "There’s now certainty around what they needed: There will be a jumbotron in left field. There will be signage in right field. Things that they think are necessary. There will also be signage in the plaza. That’s why I wanted to do a framework and they wanted to do a framework so a lot of questions were answered prior to that." But Emanuel has "left it to the Cubs to sell the finer points" to Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney and his constituents in the area surrounding the ballpark. Ricketts said the Cubs are "sensitive" to concerns from the rooftop owners. He added that his organization plans to "meet with them in the coming days." Ricketts said that the Cubs are "losing out" on about $20M annually in advertising revenue without the outfield signs (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2).
MIXED MESSAGES? In Chicago, Dardick & Sachdev in a front-page piece note Ricketts following the speech clarified his comments, saying, "The fact is we are committed to try to work this out." Ricketts: "We've always said that we want to win in Wrigley Field, but we also need to generate the revenue we need to compete as a franchise." Ricketts later appeared on WMVP-AM, saying, "I think everything is going to be fine. There is so much at stake for the city, for the neighborhood, for the team, for the fans that everyone has enough incentive to make sure we do this the right way and get it done" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2). Ricketts said, "We’ve said it since day one: We want to win the World Series and we want to win the World Series in Wrigley and we’ve been very committed to the preservation and improvements at Wrigley. But that said, there’s also a question of whether or not we can actually put up revenue-generating video board and signage in our own outfield. If we can't, then at some point we’ve got to look at other options. But I don't think it's there. I think that we are going to be able to work this out and we'll be able to move forward” ("Sports Talk Live," CSN Chicago, 5/1). Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said, "Everyone is on record as saying their goal [is] to stay here and win here. ... Tom loves Wrigley Field. He doesn't wake up in the morning thinking about moving. He wakes up thinking about winning here. But winning does come first" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2).
TRYING TO GAIN SOME LEVERAGE: In Chicago, David Haugh writes under the header, "It's About Time Cubs Played A Little Hardball." Haugh asks of Ricketts' comments regarding a potential move out of Wrigley, "What took so long?" Ricketts "told the City Club of Chicago what he should have shouted from the rooftops of Wrigleyville months ago" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2). Also in Chicago, Rick Telander writes, "Dropping the glove now allows Ricketts to ratchet up the suspense, gamesmanship and consequences of the negotiations." It is a "dangerous ploy because the PR game could easily turn against the Cubs." Telander: "You don’t bring out the nuclear bomb unless you’re willing to use it. Or the other side thinks you are. Or just the sight of it scares everyone into bomb shelters" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2). The Chicago Sun-Times' Rick Morrissey said, "I’m surprised that he didn't do this a month ago, two months ago.” Morrissey said the Cubs are "being held hostage in a way" by the rooftop owners. Telander said, “You have to have an alternative. If you are negotiating and you don't have an alternative, then you have no leverage whatsoever. The Cubs are essentially screwed by that contract with the rooftop owners" ("Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/1). In Illinois, Bruce Miles writes, "I found the timing odd for Ricketts' threat to move the Cubs." The "threat card" is one Ricketts "should have played months ago or when he bought the team, and he could have done it subtly, without coming off as a heavy." Now, many see yesterday's comments "as an empty threat" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 5/2). MLB Network's Kevin Millar said, "This is a PR scene you got to do. You got to sit there and say, ‘Listen, I got to do this or I’m going to move.’ But it ain’t going to happen” ("Intentional Talk," MLBN, 5/1).
NOTHING DOING: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes, "The fact is, nobody's going anywhere" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/2). CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb: “The Cubs aren’t going anywhere. That’s a bad use of leverage” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 5/1). FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi asks, "What are the odds the Chicago Cubs will move from Wrigley Field?" It is "about as likely" as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Cubs fan Steve Bartman "sharing ceremonial first-pitch honors before Game 1 of this year’s World Series at the Friendly Confines" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/2). ABC’s Josh Elliott said, “We may see a unicorn run through the studio today. It’s about as likely” (“GMA,” ABC, 5/2).
UP ON THE ROOF: ESPN's Pedro Gomez reported there is "hardly anybody" on the side of the rooftop owners. Gomez: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel is with the Cubs on this. The majority of Cubs fans are with the Cubs on this. The problem is, if you go to court, this could stick four, five years in the courts. All of a sudden, you're just waiting and waiting" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 5/1). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states, "We'd like to see a deal that preserves the rooftops." They are "part of the fabric of Wrigleyville, far more in character with the neighborhood than all those banners and screens and billboards envisioned for what might as well be called Ricketts Square." The Cubs are "asking for a lot," so "surely they don't expect to get it all" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2).
TIME TO START FROM SCRATCH? FOXSPORTS.com's Sam Gardner asks, "Would a fresh start at a new stadium necessarily be the worst thing?" Gardner: "Maybe it would; maybe it wouldn’t. There’s certainly something to be said for history, after all." But at the evidence that Wrigley is the "source of the Cubs’ demise is somewhat overwhelming" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/2). NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs said of Wrigley Field, “I say blow it up.” SI’s Chris Mannix said, “I would say it too. I’ve never been to Wrigley, but I live in Boston. I’ve been to Fenway about 100 times, and I’m good with getting rid of Fenway too. I like good open seating, comfortable seating, I like new amenities.” Briggs said there are "too many freeloaders, too many problems in Chicago," to renovate Wrigley as the Red Sox did with Fenway Park a decade ago (“The Crossover,” NBCSN, 5/1). But NBC’s Brian Williams noted there "aren’t that many cathedrals of baseball,” and Wrigley Field is one with “its old-school baseball” ("Nightly News," NBC, 5/1).
MLS Crew President & GM Mark McCullers yesterday said of the Columbus Crew Stadium scoreboard, which caught fire before a game against DC United on Saturday, “We turned it on (Tuesday) and ran it, and it’s fully functional.” In Columbus, Adam Jardy writes many fans were “hoping that the damage to the 15-year-old scoreboard would lead to it being replaced with an updated version,” but “no such luck.” The main sound system “will be inoperable,” but the team “will run sound through speakers hung at the north end of the stadium.” Saturday’s game was “played without any functioning audio system for the fans” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/2).
RELATED PROJECT: In Las Vegas, Taylor Bern reports UNLV has proposed a $60M renovation plan to "remodel or replace many fixtures” at the Thomas & Mack Center. The proposal “contains an overall update to many components that have helped run the building” since ‘83. UNLV Senior VP/Finance & Business Gerry Bomotti said while the renovations are not tied directly to the proposed UNLV Now project, “This was really part of that” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 5/2).
TIGHTENING THE PURSE STRINGS: Indiana state Sen. Michael Young said that a $2M luxury suite expansion at Lucas Oil Stadium and other potential Capital Improvement Board projects “helped spur state lawmakers to put a 10-year limit on two recent tax increases.” In Indianapolis, Jon Murray wrote the move is “evidence of some legislators’ long-standing frustration with the spending priorities of the CIB, which runs the city’s sports venues and convention center” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/29).
HISTORICAL HOLD-UP: ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel reports work on the $66M College Football HOF in Atlanta “fell behind a couple of weeks early because work crews found the foundations of 19th-century dwellings beneath the surface of the land.” College Football HOF President & CEO John Stephenson said that workers also “found a layer of ash -- the residue left when Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta during the Civil War” (ESPN.com, 5/2).