SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Facilities

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  • Fire escape: 2 San Diego sports-biz figures feel lucky to be home

    Qualcomm Stadium general manager Bill Wilson never knew that San Diego International Sports Council President Ky Snyder lived two blocks away. It took a major disaster for him to find out they were neighbors.

    Wilson and Snyder were among thousands of residents affected by the West Coast wildfires. Both are fortunate to be back in their homes, which were saved by a small group, including Snyder, that stayed behind to fight the fires after their loved ones were evacuated and firemen had left the area in Poway, Calif., north of San Diego.

    Snyder was among about 20 people who worked Oct. 26 to protect the Range Park subdivision. Snyder, however, didn't think his life was in danger and stressed he doesn't consider himself a hero.

    "I never really felt like the fire was out of control. I always felt like I had a back way out," he said. "Of course, had the winds been blowing as hard as they were earlier, it would have been different.

    "So many people did the exact same thing I did. At one point, there was a 45-mile fire line making its way through the county and there were simply not enough [fire department] assets to fight it."

    Snyder's story included neighbors ingeniously fitting a PVC pipe onto a fire hose to stretch another precious 70 yards.

    Wilson and his wife, Nina, had joined Snyder's family in evacuating their homes upon police orders. The wildfires had already torched nearby Scripps Ranch, burning 350 houses.

    "Thirty minutes before we left, authorities told us to take pictures of everything for insurance purposes, because it would all be gone," Wilson said. "Then here comes the wall of fire 35 feet high."

    Wilson was thankful for Snyder's efforts. "Together, they probably saved 200 houses. The fires burned all around us in a horseshoe. Everything still smells smoky, but we're delighted to be back."

    STARS FROM TWO WORLDS: Staples Center in Los Angeles early next year will be the center of the universe even more than when it played host to the NBA Finals three consecutive seasons. The first two weeks of February, the Anschutz Entertainment Group facility has the Grammy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game back to back.

    NBA and Staples Center officials meet Thursday through Saturday to discuss, among other topics, economies of scale regarding production for the two events.

    "It's going to be quite a challenge. This has never been done before," said Lee Zeid-man, AEG vice president of operations.

    "We are researching ways to combine Grammy elements into the All-Star Game and save money on rigging. We want to keep as much equipment in the air as we can for sound and lighting."

    With performing artists now almost as much a part of the NBA showcase as the Grammys, Zeidman said it makes sense to keep the staging platforms for both dates in one location, targeted for the north end of the building.

    "The NBA's stage is considerably smaller because we still have to run a game," he said.

    Don Muret can be reached at

    Print | Tags: AEG, NBA, San Diego Chargers
  • Renovated Toronto arena provides second home for hockey fans

    Ricoh Coliseum holds 9,000 after a $28.5 million renovation.

    Ricoh Coliseum, a renovated 80-year-old equestrian arena in Toronto with 9,000 seats for hockey, could prove to be a hit with hard-core hockey fans and families unable to buy tickets for the much-in-demand Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

    The AHL Toronto Roadrunners, an affiliate of the NHL Edmonton Oilers, provided a quick glimpse into what an intimate pro hockey venue has to offer, christening home ice with two games the first weekend in November.

    The Nov. 1 home opener drew a standing-room-only crowd of 9,300, building and team officials said. The next day, 7,800 were in attendance. Individual tickets range from $14 to $29.

    The Roadrunners sandwiched their brief homestand between extended road trips to accommodate the tight 10-month construction schedule made necessary by the Nov. 7-16 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the building's other primary tenant.

    The Winter Fair has eight decades of tradition in the building, which meant relocating that event was not an option, said Diane Young, CEO and general manager for the board of governors of Exhibition Place, the property owner. The Roadrunners return home for 10 games in December and early January.

    David Garrick, Roadrunners director of sponsorship and public affairs, said the Nov. 2 turnout, for a 2 p.m. start, was impressive considering the team was up against the CFL Argonauts and the NFL on television.

    Ricoh Coliseum scheduled the home opener and a few other games at 4 p.m. to avoid conflicting with Maple Leafs home dates, said Arlene Campbell, general manager for the Olympia & York/SMG joint venture.

    O&Y is a local real estate firm that partnered with SMG in signing a five-year lease to privately manage the arena for Exhibition Place. Ricoh Coliseum, site of the original Hockey Hall of Fame, underwent a $28.5 million renovation in which the interior was gutted with the exception of original brick-and-mortar features, such as doorways and window frames.

    Public and private money financed the project. Ricoh, an office equipment firm, signed a 10-year, $7.5 million naming-rights deal. The Roadrunners have sold 32 of 38 luxury suites ranging in price from $33,705 to $53,929 a year with four-, seven- and 10-year terms. Game-day rentals for party boxes, accommodating as many as 32 people, are $749 to $1,123.

    The Roadrunners have sold about half the 1,100 club seats, padded as opposed to fiberglass for regular seats. Club-seat prices are $35 and $39 a game for a 42-game season ticket. Club-seat holders pay $562 personal seat licenses on top of the ticket price and receive access to a private lounge.

    During the renovation, the suites were built to suspend from the ceiling of a new roof, also strong enough to withstand heavy snow loads. "It was the only way we could do it in this facility," said Bruce Norman, project engineer for PCL Constructors, which worked with architect Brisbin Brook Beynon. Both are local companies with Air Canada Centre and Corel Centre in Ottawa included in their portfolios.

    Print | Tags: AHL, Edmonton Oilers, Hockey, SMG, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Arena hires firm to trim debt

    Arrowhead Pond and city officials in Anaheim think a new private facility-management firm with more favorable contract terms will eventually stem the tide of red ink flowing around the 10-year-old arena, home to the NHL Mighty Ducks.

    Last Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council approved an agreement with newly formed Anaheim Arena Management to take over building management from Covanta Energy Corp. (formerly Ogden Entertainment), which went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. Henry Samueli, chairman and chief technical officer of tech firm Broadcom Corp., owns Anaheim Arena Management.

    Arrowhead Pond hopes to reduce $10 million annual payment on construction debt.

    A federal Bankruptcy Court must approve the transaction, which should be completed by Dec. 31, said Arrowhead Pond general manager Tim Ryan. The new contract is for 20 years with a 10-year option.

    As part of the deal, the city negotiated an estimated $100 million settlement with creditors in court over debt from construction costs. Anaheim Arena Management is responsible for $45 million in existing debt. Annual payments were reduced from $10 million to $4.5 million.

    "Now we can start the clock over in terms of debt on the building," said Ryan, who has been at the Pond since its pre-opening period in the early 1990s.

    Unlike the previous contract, the city will not pay a $3 million to $5 million management fee. Without the benefit of that fee, Ryan said, the new management company would "in the simplest terms, run the arena as a traditional business" by focusing on facility rentals, event production, premium seating and sponsorships among other revenue streams.

    Securing a second major tenant, perhaps the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, could boost revenue for Anaheim Arena Management because it would activate an incentive fee that would increase the leaseholder's share of revenue from 75 percent to 80 percent.

    The Clippers have played about 40 games at the Pond in the last decade.

    Team executives could not be reached for comment.

    Print | Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Basketball, Hockey, Los Angeles Clippers
  • Mudcats add restaurant, picnic area

    The Carolina Mudcats are upgrading their concession operation at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C.

    The Class AA franchise signed a five-year food service contract with Game Time Food & Beverage of Libertyville, Ill., which coincides with $3.4 million worth of capital improvements to include a 4,400-square-foot full-service restaurant and new picnic area.

    The Mudcats will pay the suburban Chicago firm a $250,000 management fee, according to Steve Blumenthal, Game Time's vice president of marketing. Team owner Steve Bryant will invest $250,000 to $300,000 in equipment. The Mudcats operated food service in-house for 15 years.

    "One of the reasons we decided to go with a concessionaire is that we're taking things to a whole new level. We talked to a number of companies over the years but decided a smaller one would give us more of a hands-on approach," said Carolina GM Joe Kremer.

    The first-base-side restaurant, with seating for 250, will be available for off-season dates such as Christmas parties and corporate events, according to Kremer. Patrons will have a view of the game during the season.

    The picnic area, called the Cabana Club, will be down the left-field line with a platform that could be used for booking live entertainment, said Eric Gardner, Mudcats assistant GM. The team hired Clearscapes of Raleigh, about 20 miles to the west, as the architect.

    Five County Stadium, 85 percent owned by Wake County and 15 percent by the town of Zebulon, opened in 1991, but several ballpark features were not complete. A two-year renovation in 1999-2000 added $17 million worth of improvements.

    The latest project, financed through hotel/restaurant taxes, also encompasses permanent staff facilities, new ticket boxes, a visitors clubhouse and a permanent maintenance building.

    Print | Tags: Baseball
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