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SBD/June 12, 2014/Events and AttractionsPrint All
Evidence of the FIFA World Cup is "easy to find" across host country Brazil, but "signs of resistance are also difficult to miss, and enthusiasm has been capricious at best," according to Maese & Phillips of the WASHINGTON POST. For months, government and sporting officials have "wondered whether this conflicted, soccer-loving nation would fully get on board with the World Cup." The "days, weeks and months leading up to the opening match have been largely overshadowed by social unrest and infrastructure failings of the host nation." The "costly preparations gave a platform for demonstrators and provided opportunity for a variety of labor strikes: bus drivers, police officers, garbage workers and transit employees." Thousands of Brazilians have "protested working conditions and the government money being poured into staging the tournament -- an estimated price tag" ranging from $11-14B. Brazil President Dilma Rousseff "took to nationwide television this week, pleading with her country to support the tournament, dismissing the alarms sounded by 'pessimists' and 'defeatists.'" But surveys have "found that more than half of Brazilians -- perhaps as many as two out of every three residents -- oppose the tournament taking place here" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/12). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes enthusiasm in Brazil is "tempered by preparations that have been nothing short of an embarrassment and fears the World Cup will give Brazil a black eye." The mood has "turned so sour that, according to a survey over the weekend, 54% of Brazilians say hosting the World Cup will do the country more harm than good" (USA TODAY, 6/12). NBC's Bill Neely reported riot police are "out in force" in Sao Paolo as Brazilians take to the streets to protest the money spent on the event ("Today," NBC, 6/11).
REGRETS, I'VE HAD A FEW...: In San Diego, Mark Ziegler writes each day has "brought more stories of disorganization and disaster -- unfinished stadiums, yellowing playing fields, crippling strikes, flooded airports, overbooked hotels, dengue fever outbreaks, soaring crime rates, lukewarm ambience." There is a "conspicuous lack of enthusiasm by a nation that parties like no other." The "buzz of an impending World Cup, the yellow and green flags hanging from windows in apartment blocks, the messages of encouragement for the beloved Selecao painted on streets, vendors hawking World Cup memorabilia are all strangely absent" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/12). ESPN's Tommy Smyth said, "Normally when you come to a World Cup, you hear all these horror stories beforehand. When the World Cup starts to play everything goes away, everything just happens to disappear. I think in Brazil it's going to be different. I think what happens on the street is going to have affect on what happens on the field, and I think what happens on the field is also going to have an effect on what happens on the street" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/11). In L.A., Paulo Sotero writes under the header, "For Brazilians, A World Cup Of Woe" (L.A. TIMES, 6/12). But in Miami, Michelle Kaufman writes, "Nobody knows how to throw a party like the Brazilians, and they are desperate to get back to what they love best" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/12). Brazil Institute Dir at the Woodrow Wilson Int'l Center For Scholars Paulo Sotero said, "Brazil is as ready as we can be." What fans will see on TV "will probably be very nice." Sotero: "We know how to throw a party in Brazil ... so there will be a positive image" ("Newshour," PBS, 6/11).
STADIUM CONCERNS: The AP noted Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo is "set to hold a capacity crowd for the first time" in today's opening match between Brazil and Croatia. The 61,600 spectators will "certainly test the facility and put a strain on safety plans and equipment, which was still receiving finishing touches Wednesday after chronic delays, worker deaths and other problems during construction." Just "two matches -- and none with more than 37,000 fans -- were held at the Itaquerao to test its readiness" (AP, 6/11). USA TODAY's Armour notes Itaquerao's roof "will not be finished until after the World Cup," and workers yesterday "could be seen -- and heard -- putting the finishing touches on smaller projects around the stadium" (USA TODAY, 6/12). CBS' Elaine Quijano said, "Many stadiums resemble construction sites. Other projects weren't completed at all" ("Evening News," CBS, 6/11). But in Boston, Kyle McCarthy notes most of the stadium concerns "will not impact the play on the pitch." All 12 of the World Cup venues are "largely in working order" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/12)
RETURN TO THE AMAZON: Royal Verd groundsman Carlos Botella, whose company is responsible for the turf at seven World Cup stadiums, conceded that Saturday's England-Italy match at Areba Amazonia "will be played out on a desperately inadequate surface." Botella said of the venue, which is set in the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus, "Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape. We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible, but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/12). Also in London, Andy Hodgson reported the rest of the stadium "is not yet completely finished." Reports indicate that "naked power cables are dangling from the walls of the changing rooms and that the car parks are not completed" (London EVENING STANDARD, 6/12). ESPN's Alexi Lalas said, "Get a field because that is going to be a horrible message if that field isn't ready for the actual soccer" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/11). The U.S. faces Portugal at the Manaus venue on June 22 (THE DAILY).
Univ. of Florida AD Jeremy Foley and Univ. of Georgia AD Greg McGarity are “firmly united on one front" for the schools' annual football game at EverBank Field, as they are "saying thanks, but no thanks, to the use of wading pools and cabanas" that are a part of the stadium's renovations, according to Garry Smits of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. That would “cut into their bottom line that requires up to 85,000 seats be made available” for the game. The capacity of the 12 upper cabanas and eight lower units is 640, less than 10 % of the 7,000 seats "added in the north end zone each year" for the game. Foley in a statement said, "Our No. 1 priority is to have the same number of tickets available to our fans. We don’t have an interest in any scenario that reduces the number of tickets.” McGarity said, “I understand the marketing and that pools and cabanas have become part of the NFL model. And it might be attractive to us, if our games were not sold out” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/12). McGarity: "There's no wiggle room for lowering the attendance or seating capacity. The most important thing for us is the number of seats" (AP, 6/11).
SOONER OR LATER: In Dallas, Tom Benning reported as part of a deal to keep the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl through ‘25, the schools in '21 will start getting a $100,000 “increase in their annual payouts for playing in Dallas.” The schools currently receive $500,000 annually from the city of Dallas, along with a “split of ticket sales.” State Fair of Texas Sports Committee Chair Pete Schenkel said that the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and the State Fair of Texas are “stepping forward to fund the increase in the payouts to $600,000” (DALLASNEWS.com, 6/11).
Improved connectivity, designing more communal spaces and reducing traditional suite inventory are among the things teams are focusing on for upgrading their facilities, according to five team presidents speaking yesterday at the '14 Sports Facilities & Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Rapids President Tim Hinchey, Cavaliers President Len Komoroski, Coyotes President & CEO Anthony LeBlanc and Eagles President Don Smolenski all weighed in on the one aspect they feel needs to be addressed to improve the fan experience at their arenas and stadiums. For most, the answer was improving their Wi-Fi and DAS systems.
Hinchey: "It's Wi-Fi. We don't have it, we need it, we need to be more connected ... making sure that we're pushing out the most important data, the most important content to our fans, but also to connect with people and learn who they are. It's going to cost a lot."
Komoroski: "Our DAS and Wi-Fi was $5 million" at Quicken Loans Arena.
Coonelly: "We're going through it. The younger fan, they need to be connected. I have four (children), it's like their lifeblood. That's a must. Fortunately in baseball, it's taken some time but this was so important that MLBAM has funded this initiative. Our ballpark is now being wired. It was supposed to be wired by Opening Day. It's taking awhile, but we will be completely wired by August, now they're saying. You will be amazed how many wires it takes to become wireless. I walk the ballpark and the number of antennas and wires and trays that have to be put through your ballpark to be both Wi-Fi and DAS fully enabled is stunning, but it is critical."
Komoroski: "Our building is 20 years old. We're the third oldest arena in the NBA that isn't either new or hasn't had major structural renovations. It has a good operational footprint but from a fan experience end, we lack what I would say are neighborhoods, spaces where people can be communal. We lack spaces for interactivity, which are really more commonplace which you would see at newer-generation venues. That's something we're looking at, how do we enable our fans to have a quality experience at the venue beyond their seat. It's rethinking your space as a whole. We think we're fortunate, we have good bones. Now, how do we build on that?"
Smolenski: "We are in the second phase of a $125 million (renovation), so I hope we got it all. Otherwise, I'm going to be in trouble. Last year, we added Wi-Fi, and our DAS network went in a couple years prior. We've done complete audio-visual in terms of new HD video boards with Panasonic, 10-meter SMT. New ribbon boards. We expanded the gate entry points so hopefully ingress can go quicker. We've added points-of-sale with Aramark to speed up service and provide a better food experience, as well as a full renovation of all the club lounges. We added 1,600 seats to further enclose the space and make the environment that much more vibrant and exciting."
LeBlanc: "In our building, it's only 10 years old but really nothing has happened in those 10 years, in particular the last four years. So, really, everything needs to be refreshed. This offseason, we're working closely with Levy Restaurants, our F&B partner, adding 15 new points of (sale) through portables, refreshing seven of our permanent stands. We are putting in DAS this offseason as well. We won't get to Wi-Fi quite yet. That will happen next year. There's so much we have to do. We have too much suite inventory, 87 in the building. We want to do what we've seen in a lot of buildings, convert some of those into clubs and theater-style suites. The list is literally pages and it's a prioritization exercise."
Hinchey, on the business impact for the Rapids from the '14 World Cup: "We definitely expect a nice lift. When our sport is amplified like it is in a World Cup year, we have to take advantage of it. I think the league and the U.S. Soccer Federation did a great job by going to each of the franchises and ensuring all of us are doing some kind of massive interactive celebration in our cities. We're hosting a four-day festival starting this Friday at a park in downtown Denver. ESPN gave us approval to have outdoor boards for free viewing."
Coonelly, on whether he is interested in becoming the next MLB commissioner: "No, although that is an issue I'm watching. I'm not a candidate. I've got a very good friend and former colleague in Rob Manfred who is in the COO position. I know he is a candidate. I'm concentrated on finishing the job here in Pittsburgh and we're far from finished."
Smolenski, on whether Thursday Night Football will outrank Monday Night Football: "I think it has a chance. Thursday night has been a destination night on TV for a while as a lead-in to the weekend. It has a chance to certainly post results that are on par with MNF. Our partner in CBS is really putting a tremendous amount of assets to promote it and to make it a destination night and we're excited about what that's going to bring to the NFL."
LeBlanc, on rebranding to the Arizona Coyotes: "We're trying to enhance our brand. We don't want to be just a Phoenix team. It's interesting, we were the Phoenix Coyotes when we've played in Glendale. We want to be more than Phoenix and expand our footprint throughout the entire state. The Cardinals have done it, the Diamondbacks have done it. It just makes sense."