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The Cubs' home opener on Friday launches the "centennial celebration for Wrigley Field, one of only two major league ballparks to reach its 100th birthday," according to Ted Gregory of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Wrigley offers "views and an ambience unlikely to be found in any other city." But the culture at Wrigley "may be about to experience change." The $500M renovation plan calls for "modernized fan amenities, including expanded concessions, restrooms and concourses and a 5,700-square-foot video board in left field." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that the plan also would "preserve or restore much of the exterior of the ballpark," and include "clay tile roofs, ornamental grilles and projecting ticket booths." It is a mix of "historic preservation and innovation, that delicate balance Wrigley has struggled with for decades" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/4). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes the Ricketts family, which owns the team, spent last year "complaining they were tired of being treated 'like a museum' instead of a business," so the owners in '14 "opted to go rogue ... making Wrigley look more like a museum than a ballpark." The Cubs created "giant banners of eight numbers -- '1-9-1-4' and '2-0-1-4' -- and plastered them on Wrigley's front facade at Clark and Addison Streets." Above those banners is "a long, horizontal banner reading 'IT'S THE PARTY OF THE CENTURY' in capital letters." Several banners showing the "official Wrigley 100 logo are displayed on the outer walls of the distinctive upper deck archways, and six large banners denoting the history of the Cubs' logo are hung outside right field near the statues" of Baseball HOFers Billy Williams and Ron Santo. The "final touch was displays of old Wrigley photos, attached to the old brick outfield walls outside the bleachers." Sullivan: "If you don't understand what product they are selling, you are not paying attention" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/4).
CELEBRATE WE WILL: MLB.com's Phil Rogers noted the Cubs have "lots of cool promotions planned, including a Chicago Federals jersey giveaway on April 23, the 100th anniversary of the Feds' win over the Kansas City Packers in the first baseball game ever at the ballpark, and bobbleheads to commemorate [Ernie] Banks, Joe Tinker, Gale Sayers, Red Grange and even Babe Ruth's 'Called Shot'" (MLB.com, 4/3). In Chicago, Josh Noel noted Goose Island, the city's "longest-tenured beer maker," will be "abundant at Clark and Addison this season for the first time." Until now, craft beer "has been rare at Wrigley Field, leading to a reputation as having one of baseball's least interesting beer selections." The addition of Goose Island "gives the stadium one of its most diverse beer menus in recent years." Both Budweiser and Bud Light will continue to be available from vendors." Wrigley also will launch its "most ambitious cocktail menu to date" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/31).
ONE STEP AHEAD: The AP's Babwin & Seligman wrote it is "hard to think of Wrigley Field as anything but a place of heartbreak." Yet in the "century without a championship, the ballpark has been in first time and time again in changing the way America watches baseball." It was the first to "let fans keep foul balls." The first with "permanent concession stands." The first "with organ music." The first to "clean the park and broadcast games as part of an effort to diversify the fan base and attract women and their kids to a game traditionally more popular among men." But author Stuart Shea said that more important is that the ballpark was "built with an eye to the future: It could be retrofitted and expanded, something that was considered genius" (AP, 3/31).
An appellate court decision handed down on Thursday "lifts a legal cloud" and clears the way for Sacramento and the NBA Kings to "launch what has been described as the biggest downtown development project in a generation," according to Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. City officials, following the court victory giving them full control of the Kings' planned downtown arena site, said that they "plan to unveil key details" of the project in the "next few weeks, culminating in a formal City Council vote on the plan May 13." City officials said that they "were delighted" by the rejection Thursday of an "effort by the owners of the former men’s Macy’s store building to regain control of the property." Sacramento Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said that the city and the Kings "have been in negotiations and have agreed on major points of a private-public partnership" to build the 17,000-plus seat, $448M arena at the east end of Downtown Plaza. The arena is scheduled to open in '16, and if the completion date slips beyond '17, the NBA "has the right to buy the Kings and move them out of town" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4). The Kings have already spent $36M "buying the rest of Downtown Plaza" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4).
The Toronto city council on Thursday voted 39-3 to approve a $10M (all figures Canadian) investment in the BMO Field renovation effort, but MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke afterwards warned that the Ontario and federal government still "have to come through" with an additional $20M "quickly or the project will die," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Leiweke said that construction "has to start by September or the first phase of renovations will not be ready by June 1, 2015 for the Pan American Games." Leiweke said this means MLSE, with the help of city officials, “has about a month to finish this all off." Leiweke: "If we don’t get the other funding this deal falls apart." MLSE under the current agreement will provide $90M of the $120M in renovations, with the other $30M "coming from the three levels of government." Leiweke: "This is a very good deal for all involved. I think the province knows they are big winners here because they get about eight million dollars (annually)" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/4). TSN.ca noted Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was "among those in opposition" to the deal during Thursday's vote (TSN.ca, 4/3).
FOOTBALL FACTOR: In Toronto, Paul Moloney notes the CFL Argonauts are "looking for a new home, and the BMO Field project includes lengthening the field football." Argonauts Exec Chair & CEO Chris Rudge was pleased that the vote was "near-unanimous ... and said the football team expects to be talking at length with MLSE about the plan." Rudge: "It provides a perfect-sized stadium for us, and with covered stands to keep people out of the inclement weather. It’s a masterful piece of public-private partnership, winning all around" (TORONTO STAR, 4/4).
One of two groups named as finalists to develop a $400M mixed-use project next to the new Braves ballpark in Cobb County has "bowed out," according to sources cited by Trubey & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. It "wasn’t clear -- and the Braves wouldn’t say -- if that means the other group will get the job or if the search for a lead developer will have to start over." The Braves have "already missed a self-imposed February deadline to pick a development team for the entertainment complex and a mid-March target for having that group under contract." Sources said that an Atlanta-led team of North American Properties, Hines Interests and AEG is "no longer involved in the project," but they "did not know why." The remaining team includes Fuqua Development and Pope & Land Enterprises (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/4). In Atlanta, Sams & Saporta cited sources as saying that the Braves "would like to make the decision, ideally in the next 30 days, about who will develop the mixed-use project and entertainment district" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/3). Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee on Thursday said that if he "were a betting man, he’d bet the Braves franchise would select a consortium that includes Cumberland-based Pope & Land." Lee predicted that the mixed-use development "will look similar to L.A. Live" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 4/4).
The NHL Panthers are "rewriting their request for public funds" to operate BB&T Center after a majority of Broward County Commissioners "said they wouldn't support an $80 million bailout that they said offers the public little in return," according to Brittany Wallman of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Broward County officials on Thursday said that they are "still waiting for a new proposal from the Panthers, which they had expected to have by now." The delay means a County Commission vote on the "controversial deal may not come until fall." The county had "hoped to make a final decision in mid-May." Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said, "We wasted all this time. There's no movement, no nothing.'' Wallman writes the Panthers face "a tough road getting a five-vote majority on a deal to repair their finances." County commissioners have "rejected -- though without a formal vote -- the team's initial request for a bailout package" worth at least $80M in taxes levied on hotel guests. Commissioners said that the vote will "rest on whether the team sweetens the pot for taxpayers." At least four commissioners said that their vote "is dependent on the Panthers offering a better profit-sharing arrangement" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/4).