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Braves officials last month toured Ballpark Village in St. Louis as part of their "search for ideas to incorporate into the stadium and mixed-use development the team plans to build in Cobb County," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The visit "reflected the duality of the Braves' project," with attention split between Busch Stadium and the adjoining development. The stop was "the third on a four-cities-in-three-December-days trip" that included visits to Target Field, Kauffman Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium. Braves officials also recently toured AT&T Stadium, and "more visits are planned to stadiums and developments on the West Coast and in the Northeast." Braves Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller said, "In each stadium we go to, there are nuggets we find." He added, "We're not going to build Turner Field in our new location. There have been a lot of advancements, and it's going to be a completely different overall approach." Tucker noted the Braves "plan about 8,000 fewer seats than at Turner Field, hoping for a more intimate and energetic stadium that will be filled more often." They also "envision fewer suites but more private club areas where fans can mingle and dine." Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said, "We're not just building a stadium. It has to be a destination. ... It has to work the rest of the year" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/5).
A CAUTIONARY TALE? In Atlanta, Dan Klepal wrote the "time and public treasure invested in the mixed-use development known as The Banks," located next to Great American Ball Park, is "a cautionary tale for taxpayers in Cobb County." The Braves have said that they will "privately develop 45 acres" around their new ballpark into a mixed-use entertainment district, and that it "will be a year-round destination." The Banks "differs from Cobb in that local governments, not the team, control the land being developed." But from the outset, "the intention was the same: to have a private company build an attraction for all seasons." The Banks "still took cash from taxpayers to make that happen -- on what is the most attractive and valuable real estate Cincinnati has to offer." But "not all of the grandiose vision" for The Banks "has been realized." Despite the "public grants, loans and promised future tax abatements, a boutique hotel and office space have not been built." Hamilton County (Ohio) Commissioner Todd Portune said that taxpayers in Cobb County "should brace for more public investment than meets the eye" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/4).
The city of Charlotte and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority are "working to find tenants for four rent-free dates at Bank of America Stadium but haven't yet lined up any blockbuster events" for the first half of '14, according to Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Each of the four dates "is worth $250,000." However, the city and CRVA in order to realize that value must "find someone who needs a 73,000-seat stadium." Tenants "could include concerts or international soccer matches." The idea is that an event "will attract thousands of out-of-town visitors, who will stay in area hotels and eat in restaurants." But Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said that the city "hasn't booked any events" yet (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/6).
Bronx Parking Development Co., the "nearly bankrupt Yankee Stadium garage company," could receive new taxpayer subsidies of more than $200M if "a financial bailout plan approved last month" by the Bloomberg administration goes through, according to Juan Gonzalez of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The Yankees and EPL club Manchester City, which co-own MLS club NYC FC, are offering to pay an estimated $25M "for one of the garages currently owned" by Bronx Parking Development, and "demolish that garage" to build a new $350M stadium for NYC FC. But under the bailout plan approved on Dec. 18 by the Bronx Parking Development BOD and the holders of its debt, the reorganized company "would pay no rent" until 2056 for more than 20 acres of city-owned land "where its other stadium garages are located." The company was supposed to pay $3.2M "annually in rent for the land, plus pay real estate taxes," under its '07 agreement for $237M in tax-exempt bonds it received to build the garages. However, the garages "were a financial disaster from day one, as Yankee fans shunned their sky-high rates of $35 on game days." As a result, the company "now owes more than" $50M in rent, taxes and penalties. The city under the reorganization plan "will lose all" of the $50M it is currently owed, plus another $150M in future rent (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/6).
The Penguins after nearly a year of talks "still haven't been able to win the backing" of Hill District leaders for a proposed residential, office and commercial redevelopment on the publicly owned land where Civic Arena stood, according to Mark Belko of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Disagreement over affordable housing has been the "big stumbling block." Hill District leaders want 30% of the units "priced low enough to be within the means of lower-income residents," but the Penguins and their residential developer, St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, "have set the limit" at 20%. The Penguins "have been talking to various city and county officials," including members of Mayor-elect Bill Peduto's staff, "about the implications involved in increasing the level of affordable housing." The team said that it "likely would require some form of public aid to bridge the funding gap." This "could pose a challenge for Mr. Peduto, who has been trying to limit the amount of public money that goes into the development." While Penguins COO Travis Williams "still hopes to reach an agreement with Hill leaders, he noted the team at some point may have to press ahead if it is to meet an October deadline to start development." The Penguins "secured the rights" to the site in the '07 deal to build Consol Energy Center, and "must take down at least 2.8 acres of land in the fall or risk losing the rights to the parcels." The redevelopment issue "could pose the first development-related challenges" for Peduto, who takes office today. The site is considered among the most valuable pieces of real estate in the region" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/3).
ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss noted construction is underway at Gillette Stadium, "with plans to add 25,000 square feet to the east side of the stadium." Patriots President Jonathan Kraft said that the team's video and scouting departments "currently are housed above the team's football operations wing, but will move down." He added, "We need more space, we need more technology-related capabilities" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 1/5).
DEM BUMS' DIGS: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reported the Dodgers are "introducing lookout spots above the bullpens next season, enabling fans to consume a Dodger dog or a drink" while watching the team's pitchers warm up. The lookouts are "the focal point of a modest Dodger Stadium expansion beyond the foul poles in left and right fields." The Dodgers "would like those spaces to develop into gathering areas for fans, with concession stands to be added there and the merchandise tents to be replaced by permanent team stores" (L.A. TIMES, 1/4).
A NEW LEAF: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk reported that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has "filed an application to the municipal authorities to erect a monument honouring former players that will reside in or around Maple Leaf Square." The piece will "likely be rolled out as part of the club's centennial of its 1917 founding" (TORONTO STAR, 1/4).