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A bill that would "enable professional sports franchises to compete for sales tax subsidies cleared a major hurdle Friday, winning overwhelming support in the Florida House," according to Kathleen McGrory of the MIAMI HERALD. The tax breaks would be "available to professional football, basketball, hockey and soccer teams, as well as professional rodeos and NASCAR-sponsored events." But baseball teams would have to "stay on the bench" unless MLB alters its rules on about Cuban players. Lawmakers "added the stipulation in response to media reports" that Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig was "held hostage by human traffickers while trying to establish residency in Mexico" in '12. The measure is part of a larger bill (HB 7095) that would make $12M in annual subsidies "available for stadium renovation and construction projects." Pro teams could "apply for as much as" $2M in annual tax breaks. The state's Department of Economic Opportunity would "rank the applications based on their potential economic impact, and state lawmakers would decide the winners." The payments would "last up to 30 years" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/26).
WATER WORLD: MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Friday "reiterated that the league favors the proposed Port of Miami site, or another downtown waterfront site," for David Beckham’s expansion team. Garber said he and league officials do not believe "any site other than the downtown site" will work. Garber added that there are other waterfront sites “that might make sense" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27). In Miami, Barry Jackson writes as Beckham "works toward securing a stadium deal that would guarantee a franchise is awarded to Miami, analysts say success at the gate for an MLS team is no sure thing." Miami-Ft. Lauderdale would become "one of the least-populated markets with five major professional sports franchises," ahead of only Denver. Whereas the Heat sell out every game, the Dolphins, Marlins and NHL Panthers all "rank in the bottom third of their leagues in attendance." NASL Ft. Lauderdale Strikers President Tom Mulroy said, “To translate a guy that watches the World Cup to a guy who’s going to come to an MLS game against Columbus on a Wednesday night isn’t the same.” He said of the stadium location, “They need to be in a more centrally located area than downtown, in a commercial environment" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/28).
FISH MARKET: In Miami, Peter Zalewski writes as the Marlins begin a third season at their $639M publicly-financed ballpark in Little Havana, the venue has had a "minimal impact on the surrounding area’s residential real-estate market." Marlins Park appears to have "done little since its opening" in April '12 to "bolster the neighborhood’s residential resale prices, spur an increase in transactions or even generate any sizable residential construction by the private sector." The unanswered question going forward is whether government leaders will "take any steps to incentivize residential real-estate developers to take notice during this growth cycle of the economically challenged area around Marlins Park" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/28).
The Union's PPL Park "remains an island among vacant land and dilapidated buildings" five years after its opening, despite the fact that the MLS stadium was supposed to be the "centerpiece of an economic renaissance for the struggling city" of Chester, Penn., according to Laura McCrystal of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The Union currently are "preparing to build practice fields next to the stadium on land earmarked for the envisioned development, and plans are underway to renovate a building nearby that will house the Union's corporate offices." But the $7M projects "have caused frictions to surface between the team and the city -- and have underscored the challenges of bringing large-scale private development to a financially troubled city." Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said, "The business environment here continues to be inconsistent." Chester Mayor John Linder: "It's frustrating sometimes to wait when you need something to happen right now, but I'm hopeful and optimistic that this is a signal that some of these other things will come." McCrystal reported the city and team "point to a poor economy as a barrier to development in Chester." Still, the stadium "has not been the anticipated boost to Chester's economy." More than 18,000 fans "pack PPL Park during games -- and most immediately leave town when the games are over." Linder: "Our goal is to continue to make this a place for businesses to come and develop." McCrystal noted when the practice fields are completed, the next phase of development "would include renovation of a building next to the Wharf at Rivertown, an office building near the stadium." Sakiewicz said that the Union "would move their corporate offices ... into the renovated annex building." However, further development "isn't on the horizon, even as the economy has improved" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/27).
Kansas State Univ. on Saturday unveiled plans for a $65M renovation to the north end of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, which will "more than double the size of the Wildcats’ Vanier Football Complex and enclose the stadium," according to Kellis Robinett of the K.C. STAR. It also will "add 1,000 seats behind the stadium’s north end zone as well as video boards to the northeast and northwest corners." The privately funded project was originally expected to cost $50M, but that amount "grew during the planning process." K-State AD John Currie said that roughly 70% of the funds needed for the renovation "have been raised." Currie: "It's a huge step forward for us." Robinett reported K-State will "break ground on the project" immediately after its final home football game on Nov. 29. Most of the construction will be done for the '15 home opener, but "portions of the northeast section and video board will not be completed" until '16. The "main perks" for K-State football players will be an "expanded weight room, a new locker room, larger meeting areas and more video rooms." Other highlights include "improved offices for coaches and a larger academic center." K-State also said that fans will "get additional seating, improved sight lines and better access to restrooms." K-State's facility improvements thus far have totaled $125M (K.C. STAR, 4/27). Currie said, "We’ve been in every building in the Big 12 in the last five years, and then we’ve been around the country in a lot of different buildings. We tried to take things that we saw that we liked, and cobble together the best of all to make our building a building that reflects who we are -- its going to be extremely functional and stand the test of time” (MANHATTAN MERCURY, 4/27).
In Oakland, Matthew Artz noted with the Warriors moving to S.F., the nearly 20,000-seat Oracle Arena "isn't just losing its anchor tenant, it's gaining a glitzy competitor that will need to be filled night after night if its owners are to recoup the hundreds of millions of dollars it will take to build it." Innovative Sports & Entertainment Advisor and BOD member Bob Gutkowski said, "It's going to be difficult for Oakland on the entertainment side to compete and have the same schedule that they've had in the past" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/27). Meanwhile, former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown wrote, "Now that we've nailed down the Warriors, it's time to bring the Oakland Raiders to San Francisco." Brown: "If we can resurrect the $100 million in stadium bond money that voters approved, plus funding from the NFL and a few corporate sponsors, we'd have a deal" (SFGATE.com, 4/26).
HOLDING PATTERN: In Winston-Salem, Wesley Young notes the city "still holds the title to Bowman Gray Stadium almost a year after city leaders voted to sell it, with no firm word on when or if the state will give the go-ahead" for Winston-Salem State Univ. to acquire it. The city has "entered into a short-term deal with WSSU for the university to carry out stadium operations such as parking, security, cleanup and other similar tasks" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 4/28).
ON TRACK: In Buffalo, James Fink notes HARBORCenter officials said that the project is more than 60% complete and "on track for its fall opening." The project has "more than 180 construction workers on site and double shifts lasting deep into the night" (BUFFALO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/25 issue).