SBJ/September 29 - October 5, 2003/Facilities

Turner’s Sports Group all over the map for finish of 9 stadium projects

Turner Construction's 3-year-old Sports Group is winding up its busiest month ever after opening nine football stadiums worth $1.5 billion in building costs in 31 days.

"It took a quick balancing act to staff everything we had with the appropriate personnel and provide senior insight from a corporate standpoint. It was a great test," said Dale Koger, the division's general manager.

New York City-based Turner has 4,700 employees in 46 offices throughout the nation. The Sports Group in Arlington, Va., has 50 people spending the majority of their time in the field.

"We have one centralized entity with a pool of experienced construction professionals to augment our local resources," Koger said. "Prior to that, it would have been very difficult managing nine football jobs at one time that opened within 30 days of each other. The big challenge now is to get everyone placed on something else without missing a beat."

The four NFL and five college facilities, new construction or renovated, opened Aug. 30-Sept. 29: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; Soldier Field in Chicago; Lambeau Field in Green Bay; Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.; Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.; Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.; Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta; and Don Shula Stadium at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

With fewer major league projects on the horizon in the next few years, business focuses on the collegiate market. Turner recently won the construction contract to renovate North Carolina State's Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh and is bidding for stadium projects at Louisiana State University, Virginia Tech and the University of West Virginia.

BREEDERS' CUP CONCERT: For the first time in its 20-year history, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships will offer activities beyond horse racing. Guinness Beer and Ralphs supermarkets will sponsor "Guinness Rocks the Rail" with a performance by Celtic rock band Seven Nations in the infield at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 25 after the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the last of eight BC races. Advance tickets are $10 for the concert. Seven Nations is touring nationally, playing primarily smaller venues. Officials anticipate a crowd of 50,000-plus in the infield.

Santa Anita, which last had the Breeders' Cup in 1993, has what marketing director Stuart Zanville described as a "natural amphitheater" in the facility's northwest corner. There also will be a "Family Fun Zone" with pony rides, games and other children's activities. Santa Anita previously played host to microbrew festivals tied into horse racing with modern rock groups Reel Big Fish and New Found Glory.

Zanville said, "We found out that the talent was not as important as the event itself. Our infield is a mile across from end to end. This is the first time the Breeders' Cup has been able to do this. We have the physical setup, experience and the sponsorship interest to pull it off. We're reaching out to a new audience that might not otherwise come to the track."

CENTERPLATE CHAIRMAN REMEMBERED: The food-service industry suffered a big loss when John Dee, employed with several concession firms, died earlier this month at age 65 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., after a long battle with cancer. For the past five years, Dee served as chairman of Centerplate, previously known as Volume Services America. As CEO of Service America, Dee helped bring about the merger of that company with Volume Service in 1998. Dee started his career with Aramark in 1968, later joining Sportservice for a year before returning to Aramark in 1980 as group president for the leisure services division. He was president of Top Food Services from 1989 to 1992 before joining Service America.

"He was always positive, he found a way to work with clients and he let people do their jobs. Those were his strongest qualities," said Centerplate vice president Doug Drewes. Dee loved horses and owned six thoroughbreds, two of which won races July 26 at Saratoga Springs.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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