SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Facilities

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  • 360 Architecture passes on bid for Nationals ballpark project

    360 Architecture didn’t submit a bid to design the Washington Nationals’ $435 million ballpark project last week after officials determined that the job wasn’t in the firm’s best interests to pursue, senior principal Bill Johnson said.

    The decision was an extremely difficult one to make after senior principal Brad Schrock spent the last two years working for the District of Columbia to help select a site for the MLB facility and plan for development around the ballpark, Johnson said.

    Teams bidding to design the Washington Nationals' new ballpark:


    1. Stadia 3 Design Collaboration: David M. Schwarz Architects with Devrouax & Purnell and Rosser International
    2. HNTB with Pei Cobb Freed and Devrouax & Purnell
    3. Rafel Vinoly Architects with Devrouax & Purnell, DLR Group and Leo A Daly
    4. DC Baseball Associates: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill with Devrouax & Purnell, Turner-Meis & Associates, Delon-Hampton & Associates and ReStl Designers
    5. Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects with Ellerbe Becket, Devrouax & Purnell and Janet Marie Smith
    6. HOK Sport with Devrouax & Purnell
    7. HKS with McKissick & McKissick and Lance Bailey & Associates
    8. EwingCole with Shalom Baranes Associates
    Source: SBJ sources
    “We set the right course by acting as the site planner,” he said. “If the task at hand is not a good fit, however, the right thing to do is to pull away. None of us are happy about it.”

    360 had in fact withdrawn its “very small, ballpark-specific” role as a consultant on the Anacostia waterfront development project about a month ago, after the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission sent out the ballpark design proposal, Johnson said. “There was nothing in the RFP that addressed the issue,” he said.

    The commission finally decided it was a conflict of interest for the firm to remain on the job if it were going to bid the design contract, Johnson said.

    360 officials felt they couldn’t meet the commission’s challenging requirements concerning local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises, and district residency, and still do a high-quality job while working on other projects, he said.

    Kansas City-based 360 has about 100 employees and isn’t as big as Ellerbe Becket, HOK Sport and HNTB, its chief competitors. The company prides itself on having principal-level involvement on every project, Johnson said.

    “The district has asked for an unprecedented amount of local participation,” Johnson said. “We felt strongly that we were not going to be able to perform at the level the project demanded and do the work we expect to do. It’s a great project, but we didn’t want to overextend ourselves.”

    District officials said privately they were disappointed with 360’s decision.

    There were eight bids, and the number of members on each design team ranged from two (HOK Sport and Devrouax & Purnell) to five (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, D&P, Turner-Meis Associates, Delon-Hampton & Associates and ReStl Designers).

    Print | Tags: 360 Architecture, Baseball, Ellerbe Becket
  • NFL stadium group plans test drive with country star Chesney’s tour

    The Gridiron Stadium Network, a group of 11 NFL facilities lobbying the entertainment industry for non-football events, plans to use a summertime country music festival headlined by Kenny Chesney as a test model.

    Heinz Field in Pittsburgh has tentatively booked Chesney for July 30, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are assuming the financial risk to promote the concert, said Jimmy Sacco, the Steelers’ executive director of stadium management. The Washington Redskins are doing the same for Chesney to perform at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

    The Steelers and Redskins are negotiating their deals with Louis Messina, Chesney’s tour producer. The veteran promoter created the George Strait Country Music Festival, a daylong event that grossed $100 million from four tours of stadiums in 1998 through 2001, according to Billboard magazine.

    Chesney’s 2004 route through arenas and amphitheaters grossed about $50 million and the artist was last year’s second most popular touring act behind Prince, Billboard reported. The roster of acts to support Chesney is still being completed.

    Network officials will meet March 9-10 in Houston to see Chesney perform during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at Reliant Stadium and discuss how publicly owned NFL venues managed by sports authorities or third-party firms can join the group. The issue to be resolved: who’s responsible for paying the Gridiron group’s annual fee of $25,000 for the next three years.

    Ten of the 11 facilities that are members are operated by teams, and their management entities are paying the fees. The Houston Texans were able to join the network because their agreement with stadium operator SMG allows Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, a separate company affiliated with the team, to produce five events a year at Reliant Stadium. Lone Star pays the network fees, said Jamey Rootes, Texans senior vice president.

    The Tampa Sports Authority, manager of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, is interested in joining the network and would have to get approval by the group’s 11-member board for “anything outside our normal budget,” said Mickey Farrell, the authority’s director of operations.

    Global Spectrum, which manages the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale, set to open in 2006, probably won’t join the network and would use its own resources to book concerts and other events, said John Page, Global’s chief operating officer.

    Gillette Stadium, owned and operated by the New England Patriots, also has scheduled Chesney but isn’t part of the network, Sacco said.

    NOT SO NEW: The new security guidelines that the NBA issued this month pertaining to arenas and their alcohol policies are nothing new for most of the league’s 30 facilities, building managers said.

    The NBA, in response to the ugly brawl Nov. 19 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, wants its venues and concessionaires to serve beer in cups no larger than 24 ounces, maintain a two-beer-per-purchase limit, stop serving alcohol at the start of the fourth quarter and initiate designated-driver programs.

    Beer vendors, here selling to a fan at the NBA All-Star Game, have been asked by the NBA to serve beer in cups no larger than 24 ounces in response to the Pistons-Pacers brawl.
    Food service consultant Dan Smith worked 26 years for Centerplate, and he thinks the league should have gone further by being proactive and setting a high standard for alcohol management. The two-beer limit “just puts a guy in line one more time; they’re going to be back,” Smith said.

    “The key is being able to spot someone who’s had too much to drink and not sell them that third beer,” he said. “If they really want to make a difference with security, [arena officials] should stop letting people in the buildings that are already intoxicated.

    “On the other side, focus on policing yourself as a facility. Adopt a zero tolerance policy and make it clear that if you’re an employee who’s overserving somebody and we have to eject them, your employment is terminated. That’s more in tune with the issue rather than putting in guidelines that are already followed.”

    Air Canada Centre in Toronto hasn’t had many problems during Raptors games because 19 of the team’s 41 home games this season are on Sundays and those dates attract more families, said Bob Hunter, executive vice president and general manager for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

    “We don’t sell a lot of beer at basketball games,” he said.

    The arena established a one-beer-per-buy limit six months ago for Toronto Rock lacrosse games and heavy metal concerts such as Metallica, and Hunter acknowledged the restriction has resulted in an 8 percent to 9 percent decrease in beer sales for those events.

    The policy, however, “has seemed to calm the crowds down a bit,” he said. “The big ruling [against Aramark] in New Jersey has put a scare into a lot of people, and everybody is more cognizant than they would’ve been previously.”

    COLLEGE ROUNDUP: HNTB, HOK Sport and Rossetti interview today to determine who will design improvements to the University of California’s Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, according to a source familiar with the project. The renovation could cost as much as $180 million, school officials have said.

    Ellerbe Becket, Heery International, HOK and the team of HNTB and Seattle-based LMN Architects are the finalists to design a study of improvements to Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle, confirmed Steve Tatge, project manager in the school’s capital projects office.

    The four will interview with the university’s architectural commission March 15 and a decision should be made at the end of that day, Tatge said.

    The University of Michigan conducted interviews last Thursday to design what the school’s architect said would be a $165.6 million renovation of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. HNTB designed a master plan for Michigan sports facilities two years ago and was among the finalists for the job, sources said.

    Ellerbe Becket, Rossetti and 360 Architecture officials confirmed they weren’t selected to interview.

    Don Muret can be reached at

    Print | Tags: 360 Architecture, Arizona Cardinals, Centerplate, Ellerbe Becket, Football, Houston Texans, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, NBA, New England Patriots, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, SMG, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Toronto Raptors, Washington Redskins
  • Orioles consider partial-season packages for some suites

    Faced with intense competition for the high-end sports dollar, the Baltimore Orioles are considering offering partial-season packages for some of the luxury suites at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

    Companies would be able to purchase a suite for a half-season — 41 games — or for as few as nine or 10 games under plans being weighed by team executives.

    There is limited availability among the stadium’s 72 luxury suites, said T.J. Brightman, vice president of corporate sales and sponsorships for the Orioles. Offering partial-season packages to smaller companies would be a way not only to keep the suites filled but also to introduce the Orioles to a new wave of corporate backers — at a time when the team faces new competition for the sports entertainment dollar thanks to the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

    “This is for a small company that says, ‘I want to entertain, I see the value the ballpark offers and I want to be part of it,’” Brightman said.

    Longtime luxury suite holders see that value, Brightman added, with several renewing their contracts after last season for three to seven years. Brightman said the organization recognizes companies “have more choices in the marketplace.”

    “Our competition includes all teams in the region: the Ravens, the [Maryland] Terps, the Redskins, MCI Center,” Brightman added. “Thirteen years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

    The Comcast Center, neighboring M&T Bank Stadium and other sports venues threaten to oversaturate the region with luxury suites, so the Orioles’ strategy is sound, said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., a sports business consulting firm.

    “An empty suite is like an empty airline seat once the plane takes off,” Ganis said. “You simply cannot recapture that revenue.”

    Brightman would not disclose the revenue the team reaps from suite sales and wouldn’t offer specifics about the number of suites available and sold since last year. He said all of the suites between the baselines have been sold for the 2005 season. The Orioles open the season April 4 with a game against the Oakland Athletics.

    Suites at Camden Yards sell for $100,000 to $300,000 for a season. Revenue from suite sales is part of the $129 million that the team booked in 2004, according to Forbes’ annual team valuations.

    Robert Terry writes for Baltimore Business Journal.

    Print | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens, Baseball, Comcast, Washington Redskins
  • Pistons spend big to land the big spenders

    The Detroit Pistons’ $20 million expansion of the Palace of Auburn Hills will include some of the industry’s highest-priced luxury suites in the NBA’s largest arena.

    The Pistons are building five floor-level “bunker” suites under the stands at the north end of the arena. The floor level suites will lease for $450,000 and $550,000 and won’t have a view of the court. But the price includes access to courtside seating and food and beverage.

    “Those are definitely on the high end of prices,” said Bill Dorsey, president of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors. “But you are also getting much more than the suite. There’s the food and beverage, courtside seats, and you are also incurring the cost of construction.”

    The Pistons are also building a courtside club and a three-story addition adjacent to the Palace that will include an upscale restaurant, a 20,000-square-foot concourse with a retail store and a food court, and eight other suites in the arena’s lower bowl leasing for $350,000 and $450,000. Rosetti Associates is the design firm for the project.

    The 22,076-seat Palace of Auburn Hills already has 180 suites, with 170 leased. But team officials are banking that the 13 additional suites will appeal to well-heeled fans who want to get closer to the court.

    “The goal is to give corporate people a better way [to entertain],” said Pistons President Tom Wilson. “We think we will have people changing their current suites to the courtside suites for the snob appeal.”

    Work will begin in April and finish in time for the start of the 2005-06 season.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Detroit Pistons
  • Rare I-A stadium project draws interest

    The stadium, which still has funding hurdles, would return the Gophers to campus.

    Sports architects don’t get many opportunities to design new NCAA Division I-A football stadiums, and that’s why the University of Minnesota’s plan to build an on-campus home in Minneapolis is high on their list of projects to pursue.

    Only five I-A football venues have been built in the last 18 years, according to SportsBusiness Journal research. The majority of the 117 Division I-A schools renovate their existing stadiums because they don’t have the available space for new construction or the money to pay for it, designers and builders say.

    Minnesota is different: The Golden Gophers have played football at the publicly owned Metrodome in Minneapolis since 1982. The team hasn’t drawn capacity crowds at the downtown facility except when Iowa and Wisconsin, two schools within a five-hour drive, come to town and help fill the venue’s 63,699 seats, said Joel Maturi, the school’s athletic director.

    School officials have said they want to recapture the true flavor and spirit of the college game by having the football team return to campus.

    Crawford Architects completed a preliminary design for the university that proposes a 50,000-seat stadium with 39 suites and 1,500 club seats. The project cost would be $235 million, with the stadium itself priced at $180 million, Maturi said.

    The Minnesota project provides designers the chance to set the bar in terms of planning a modern collegiate facility that goes beyond the game-day football experience, a building that could accommodate classrooms, said Crawford’s Tom Proebstle.

    “The way we’ve argued it is if there’s an opportunity to find a way to integrate the stadium into the campus, they should do it,” Proebstle said. “Previously, they’ve been nothing more than an engineering project and not fully ingrained into the master plan of the campus.”

    Creating a stadium that generates revenue beyond ticket sales and concessions is imperative in this era of big-time college athletics, and few football facilities have been built with premium seating and sponsorship zones to collect additional income, he said.

    “Division I schools are struggling with the concept of competing with the NFL for dollars,” Proebstle said. “Their coaches are getting plucked by the NFL with multimillion-dollar contracts. Colleges are forced to pay them [more money] and are trying to figure out a way to pay for it.”

    At the same time, however, universities are having to “walk a fine line between their athletes and other students … if they should build a shrine to those athletes and the [negative] image it portrays,” he said.

    “There’s always tension in maintaining the proper balance between academics and athletics,” said John Poston, director of collegiate sports for Ellerbe Becket, designer of the two latest I-A stadiums, UConn’s Rentschler Field and SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

    Minnesota plans to raise about $140 million in private financing and is asking the state Legislature to approve the rest in bond money, Maturi said.

    “We believe it will be passed this session, in May or June,” he said.

    The Gophers were once planning with the NFL Vikings to build a shared facility. Both teams, along with the MLB Twins, have fought unsuccessfully in the Legislature to get public funding for new stadiums. Maturi’s keeping his fingers crossed that the state will finally OK the project.

    “We believe our plan is solvent on its own and we’re going to be here for a long time,” he said. “We’re not going to be the L.A. Gophers.”

    Print | Tags: Colleges, Football, Minnesota Twins, NCAA, NFL
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