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The Cubs have won a "key endorsement to put up a giant video board and oversize advertising sign that would rise above the outfield walls of Wrigley Field, two key revenue generators for the team" as part of its $500M plan to renovate the ballpark, according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The 6-0 approval by the Chicago Landmarks Commission now "clears the way" for the Plan Commission and City Council to consider the team's full plan to "not only renovate Wrigley Field, but also redevelop surrounding land in the Wrigleyville neighborhood with a hotel and an office-retail complex." The 5,700-square-foot Jumbotron-like screen will be "nearly three times the size of Wrigley's famous old-fashioned scoreboard in center field." With a horizontal script sign on top and new night lights, it "would be 60 feet tall and 95 feet wide." The three-panel video screen itself "would be 95 feet wide and 48 feet tall." The videoboard will "spell the end of the vertical Toyota script sign in left field, but the commission approved a new script advertising sign for right field that would be about 80 percent larger than the old one." The approval "marks a potential turning point in negotiations" among Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts and city Alderman Tom Tunney "over the scope of the ballpark changes." Tunney had "argued for smaller signs but in the end the Cubs and Emanuel agreed to only minor changes on the video board; the script sign was reduced from 1,000 square feet to about 650 square feet." Emanuel and Ricketts are "expected to have further discussions before the Plan Commission meets next Thursday." The role Tunney will play is "uncertain, but Emanuel and Ricketts want the whole deal worked out and approved by the end of the month ... so construction can start right after the regular season concludes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12).
TUNNEY HOLDS FIRM: In Chicago, Fran Spielman reports Thursday's meeting was "delayed for two hours, in part, to allow" city Office of Legislative Counsel & Government Affairs Dir Matt Hynes to "huddle privately with Tunney in hopes of softening his opposition." Tunney in talking to the commissioner "choked back tears as he declared his opposition to a video scoreboard with lights." He said, "I can’t support a proposal that so dramatically affects the quality of life for residents. ... The enormity of this sign in your front window is obviously something that I have to be very attentive to" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/12). But former ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago host Harry Teinowitz called Tunney's stance "silly." Teinowitz: "Anybody that moves into Wrigleyville realizes that the Cubs are the attraction and you put up with stuff like lights beaming and picking up beer cans in the morning. Whatever keeps them at Wrigley Field, I am for." Comcast SportsNet Chicago's David Kaplan said, "What I don't understand is people in the community who complain that there's going to be more people. You moved in where a ballpark is." Teinowitz agreed and said, "For the people that complain about all of the stuff going on at Wrigley Field, why'd you move there? You're nuts, you're insane. Wrigleyville is one of the coolest places to live in the world" ("Sports Talk Live," CSN Chicago, 7/11). Meanwhile, the SUN-TIMES' Rick Morrissey wonders of the Cubs' negotiations with the city, "It's over now, right? No more talk of square footage and LED wattage? Don’t hold your breath." Until the renovations are done, the story "isn’t dead." Morriseey: "I envision Tunney making more demands from his soapbox even as the last bolt is being affixed to the video scoreboard" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/12).
CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN: Cubs historian Ed Hartig said Wrigley Field "has undergone changes pretty much from the opening" of the venue in 1914. Hartig said, "Change is inevitable, you have to make changes. But if you can actually bring the changes in slowly as well as try to capture some of the character of the ballpark as it existed, that's really the best way to preserve the look and feel of the ballpark." He added, "In order to survive, Wrigley Field has got to change. The fans' requirements for amenities at the ballpark, the players' requirements for amenities at the ballpark, they've changed. If you don’t change, you'll die. Wrigley Field will always survive if it is allowed to change with the times. It's changing, but it's still essentially the same ballpark that I first went to 43 years ago" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 7/11).
The Coors Light Sky Deck at the Detroit Opera House "celebrates its grand opening Friday, offering a rooftop beer garden, modest aluminum bleachers and a one-of-a-kind view straight into Comerica Park from straightaway center field that takes in nearly the entire diamond," according to a front-page piece by Mark Stryker of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. It is "approximately 450 feet from the roof to the center field wall, which means it’s a little more than 900 feet from home plate." By comparison, some of the "famous rooftop seats across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago are as close as 450 feet from home plate." Detroit Courtyard Marriott GM Jon Coutts, who was given a tour of the new area, said, "It’s a fantastic view. You feel like you’re in the mix, but not in the crowd." Stryker reports the the deck encompasses 250 patrons who will be "paying a nominal charge to sit some 900 feet from home plate." MLB teams "haven’t always looked kindly on squatters taking in games for free or others profiting off their product." But Michigan Opera Theatre Operations Dir Jason Warzecha said that the building, in the "interest of neighborly relations, had its sponsor, MillerCoors -- already a longtime partner of the team at Comerica Park -- talk to Tigers officials to make sure there were no objections to going forward with the idea" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/12).
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment has announced plans for a new scoreboard and sound system at Pepsi Center to be manufactured and installed by Daktronics. The scoreboard will feature four large screens: two of them approximately 27 feet high by 48 feet long, two of them about 21 feet high by 24 feet long. The new end-facing displays will be about 300% larger than the old displays, while the center displays will provide an image that is more than 800% larger than the previous display (Pepsi Center). In Denver, Adrian Dater noted the arena's current scoreboard had been in place since the venue opened in '99 and wrote going to Pepsi Center is "going to be a lot more fun now" for Avalanche and Nuggets games. Dater: "Hats off to KSE for shelling out for this" (DENVERPOST.com, 7/11). Dater adds it will be "a whole new atmosphere at the Pepsi Center this season." The news screens are "massive, and will really change the in-arena experience." It is "about time," as the arena atmosphere "the past few years was stale; old Jumbotron, bad sound and outdated music" (DENVERPOST.com, 7/12).
EPL club Manchester City plans to "expand capacity at both sides of their Etihad Stadium, giving them the potential to reach a 60,000 capacity after they have added a third tier to their South Stand," according to Ian Herbert of the London INDEPENDENT. Man City will "leapfrog Newcastle and Sunderland to command the third highest capacity in the Premier League, after Manchester United and Arsenal." The club, which "embarked on an exhaustive public consultation with local residents, intends to "add 6,000 extra seats in the new tier, allowing them to introduce" a $452 (all figures U.S.) season ticket. There also is a "demand for an additional 2,400 seats for supporters seeking an element of upmarket hospitality at games." The team's owners have "always insisted that they will not expand the current capacity until they can be sure that they will fill it." Man City Head of Corporate Responsibility Pete Bradshaw said that the "decision on how radically to expand would be taken by next April" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/12). Man City execs said that ticket demand is "soaring, with the ground more than 99 per cent full last season." The stadium expansion would create more $452 season tickets "although more than one in three will be a new type of ‘premium’ seat." Bradshaw said that the expanded ground, alongside the $181M Etihad campus "being built next door, would create a 'world stage of football'" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 7/11).
In Minneapolis, Kaszuba & Youngblood in a front-page piece report some of the Univ. of Minnesota's "biggest contributors conceded Thursday" that the school's $190M athletic facilities renovation plan "could prove difficult, with one calling it a 'huge bite.'" School officials one day after introducing the plan reiterated that state money, which "provided the bulk of the funding for the $288 million TCF Bank Stadium, has been ruled out for the proposed series of athletic upgrades." State Sen. Terri Bonoff said that people should not "count on state money for the U’s menu of upgrades." However, fundraisers and school officials "remained optimistic, and hinted that corporate contributions -- and even naming rights for practice facilities -- might be possibilities for enticing support" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/12).
NAMING RIGHTS STIPULATION: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said that if naming rights to a renovated Rupp Arena are sold, he "keenly wanted 'Rupp' to remain part of its identity." Former Kentucky men's basketball coach Joe B. Hall "agreed with Gray." Hall said the arena "can always be 'Something-Rupp Arena.'" Hall: "I'm OK with that. ... It could be Alltech Rupp Arena. It could be the Ashland Rupp Arena. It could be the IBM Rupp Arena. Whatever" (KENTUCKY.com, 7/11).
CORNHUSKERS HOPE TO BREAK GROUND: Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst is "proposing new facilities" for the soccer and tennis teams that would be "built on the former State Fair Park campgrounds." The women's soccer team would "get a new stadium with lights and seating for 2,500," while new tennis facilities would "include 12 lighted outdoor courts and six indoor courts, with room for a combined 1,400 spectators." The estimated $20.4M cost would be "paid for through private donations." The NU Board of Regents will "consider the proposal" Thursday (Lincoln JOURNAL STAR, 7/12).
In Boston, Mark Arsenault cited sources as saying that Suffolk Downs and the City of Boston "have agreed on the framework of a deal that will allow the track’s casino project to move forward to a referendum vote." The deal will be the state’s "richest casino host-community agreement to date, with payments to Boston dwarfing the $25 million annually that a rival developer, Wynn Resorts, has agreed to pay" to Everett, Mass. (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/11).
WORD IS BOND: In St. Louis, David Hunn reports St. Louis Regional Convention & Sports Complex Authority board Thursday "unanimously approved" a resolution to refinance bonds for the Edward Jones Dome. If bond rates "do not rise too much higher, the refinancing should close in August." The move "should save the state of Missouri about $8 million and St. Louis County about $4 million, and earn as much as $300,000 for the Dome itself" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/12).
ALL IN THE FAMILY: In Detroit, Louis Aguilar cites sources as saying that there is a "good chance much of the $200 million of development intended to be built around" the new Red Wings arena "could end up on land controlled" by team Owner Mike Ilitch. Public records show that "much of the property is clustered behind Ilitch’s Fox Theatre headquarters between Grand River and Grand Circus Park." A "good deal of that land is surface parking lots and empty historical buildings, which has made the Ilitch organization the target of criticism through the years for sitting on the property" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/12).