SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Facilities

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  • After 6 years, Rochester title rights not settled

    Paetec Communications has had its name attached to a professional soccer stadium proposed in Rochester, N.Y., for almost six years. When the stadium finally opens in May 2006, however, the venue’s naming rights could belong to another company.

    Premier Partnerships of Los Angeles, which brokered the $30 million title sponsorship for Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, has signed a contract to sell sponsorships for Paetec Park. The marketer would be responsible for selling naming rights for the 20,000-seat soccer stadium, should Paetec or Frank DuRoss, owner of the building and its two sports tenants, opt out of the current agreement, DuRoss said.

    Paetec, a local telecommunications firm, signed a 22-year, $13 million title sponsorship in December 1999 for the facility, where the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the United Soccer Leagues’ First Division and Major League Lacrosse’s Rochester Rattlers will begin play in June.

    Paetec Park’s first phase is scheduled to be complete
    in November, but talks over the naming rights may enter a
    third phase because of opt-out provisions in the contract.
    Paetec and DuRoss renegotiated the naming rights in October 2003 and reduced the terms to $2.1 million over seven years, after delays in public funds available for the project ultimately led to a decision to build a smaller stadium that could be expanded when more financing was secured.

    Paetec made its first payment when the project broke ground in January 2004 and will resume payments when the stadium opens, DuRoss said.The new deal included an escape clause for both parties, regardless of when the stadium opens, provided one gives the other 90 days’ notice, DuRoss said. They could go back to the bargaining table for a third time.

    “I’m very confident we can secure a deal more resembling the original naming rights than where we are today,” DuRoss said. “With all the events we plan to have, a full-blown stadium is back in the picture.”

    David Mihalyov, Paetec’s communications manager, said, “We can’t comment on what may happen down the road.”

    The HOK Sport-designed stadium’s first phase cost $27 million and should be completed in three weeks, DuRoss said. The facility will initially contain 12,750 fixed seats, 17 suites and 1,000 club seats, DuRoss said.

    The second phase, pending state approval of $15 million to finance future construction, should start in mid-November and be done by May, he said. The number of permanent seats will increase to 20,000, and 23 more suites will be built.

    Temporary seating for concerts could expand the building to more than 30,000, DuRoss said.

    The Rhinos have commitments for 22 suites, ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 annually, for five, seven and 10 years. The team recently started selling club seats for $600 apiece and had sold about 100 in the first few days, DuRoss said.

    FEY-GONE CONCLUSION: Alan Fey has left AEG Merchandising in Los Angeles to form a new company, XP Events LLC, and the firm has signed five-year contracts to operate team stores and souvenir stands for the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks at America West Arena and Chase Field.

    Fey, son of longtime Denver concert promoter Barry Fey, spent five years at AEG and worked previously for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment in Vancouver, the Denver Nuggets and the NBA.

    Jeff Newman, Alan Fey’s business partner at XP Events, used to work for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

    XP Events’ parent company is XP Cos. of Denver, a consumer products firm that has an events division, Alan Fey said. XP Cos. owner Tripp Wall is a third partner in the merchandise venture.

    “I’ve followed Alan’s career for a long time dating back to when he worked for the NBA,” said Rick Welts, Suns president and former president of NBA Properties. “He had the highest-grossing store in the league at Staples Center and did a bang-up job for the Angels.”

    AEG Merchandising has contracts with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Charlotte Bobcats and RFK Stadium, in addition to AEG-owned Staples Center.

    AEG, meanwhile, is restructuring its retail division and advertising for a vice president to replace Fey and manage the business, said Michael Roth, AEG’s VP of communications.

    TROPICAL FIGURES: Levy Restaurants posted a $9.25 food and drink per cap and Event Merchandising Inc. reported a $2.25 retail per cap for the Memphis Grizzlies-Miami Heat preseason game at Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, said Dale Adams, manager of the SMG-operated facility.

    Paid attendance was 16,113 for the Oct. 14 game, said Alberto Perez, the local promoter who staged it.

    Event officials had expected a sellout crowd of 18,000. However, local NBA fans balked at buying the $175 seats behind the baskets in the lower bowl, Perez said. “That price was a little high,” he said.

    Tickets ranged from $40 in the upper deck to $250 for courtside seats.

    The merchandise per cap wasn’t the $4 to $5 EMI had anticipated, acknowledged Jeff Simpson, the firm’s Charlotte-based representative. The vendor sold out of miniature basketballs and youth-size T-shirts, and 40 percent of EMI’s sales were children’s products, he said.

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

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  • Bredar’s position at HNTB brings him back to where his love of college football started

    Randy Bredar remembers feeling terrible that he wouldn’t be planning the renovation of the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, where he saw his first college football game as a 7-year-old in 1966.

    “It broke my heart,” said Bredar, a sports facility designer who was working for CDFM2 in 2003 when Iowa officials awarded the project to HNTB.

    In the revolving-door world of sports architecture in Kansas City, though, Bredar found himself back in the Hawkeye State overseeing the $86.8 million Kinnick project after HNTB hired him in early 2004 to take charge of its sports practice.

    “To have the opportunity to come back and inherit it was neat,” said Bredar, HNTB’s vice president of sports architecture.

    Bredar grew up in Davenport, 60 miles from Iowa City, and his father, Herman, used to get tickets about once a year to attend an Iowa game. Herman Bredar is also a big Notre Dame fan, and one of his son’s first sports projects after joining Ellerbe Becket in 1991 was the renovation and expansion of Notre Dame Stadium.

    “I grew up a Catholic kid, and we used to go to church at 9:30 on Sunday morning, and the priest would rush through the service because at 10 a.m., he had to be back to the rectory and we had to be back home to watch the Notre Dame reruns on TV with Lindsey Nelson,” Bredar said.

    Hanging out at Kinnick as a youngster didn’t prevent Bredar from attending rival Iowa State, where he got a bachelor of arts degree in architecture. His first full-time job was designing corporate office buildings for a small Texas firm.

    Bredar and his wife, Julie, wanted to move to the Midwest to start a family, and he got a job at Ellerbe Becket. They moved to Kansas City, the hub of sports architecture.

    “The idea of being able to combine the two passions that I love into one thing where I get paid ... the light bulb really went on,” Bredar said. “I thought this was what I was supposed to be doing.”

    Bredar and Tom Waggoner left Ellerbe in 2000 to start a boutique firm specializing in smaller college projects, and after struggling on their own for about six months, they hooked up with CDFM2 as that firm was expanding its market reach.

    HNTB came calling 3 1/2 years later.

    “It was pretty painful because I still remain really good friends with Tom Waggoner and Bill Johnson,” another CDFM2 associate, Bredar said. Waggoner and Johnson now work for 360 Architecture in Kansas City after CDFM2 merged with Heinlein Schrock Stearns last year.

    Under Bredar’s watch, HNTB, the firm that started the specialization of sports venue design 40 years ago, has strengthened its grip in the college market. Michigan, Illinois and California selected HNTB in the past year to design improvements to their aging stadiums, and Akron hired the firm to study the feasibility of building a $60 million on-campus facility.

    Bredar will be hands-on in designing the addition of premium seating at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, a tricky endeavor based on the desire of the alumni and the athletic department to keep the title of college football’s biggest venue.

    He’s also busy trumpeting HNTB’s portfolio in Minneapolis as the architect competes for the job of designing a new on-campus stadium for the University of Minnesota, a project on hold pending the Legislature’s approval of public money to ensure the deal.

    “The bar never stays put,” Bredar said. “It continues to move up in terms of facilities, revenue, how the two are connected and how they use the two to recruit student athletes and make that experience as rewarding as it can be.”

    “The general perception is that’s the state of the art of what’s going on at collegiate football stadiums. But the reality is that state of the art is sitting on the drawing board in Kansas City.”

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  • Hold the phone: NBA requires wireless access

    The NBA is requiring all 30 of its teams to provide in-arena wireless access, becoming the first of the major leagues to mandate the technology.

    The league is pushing for teams to phase in the wireless technology this season, with the requirement that it be in place by the start of the 2006-07 season. The wireless access will be available to the media, eliminating much of the demand for phone lines in media workrooms and courtside areas.

    “We wanted to take the lead in getting our arenas with wireless connections,” said NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre.

    While the wireless access will initially be provided only to the media, it is likely that long-term plans will broaden the service to allow fans to access it using personal digital assistants. Some teams also are including a wireless gate entry to better serve fans and monitor fan access.

    “The major advantage is that it eliminates the need to do lots of physical labor to cable and wire the building, especially for the media,” said Steve Schanwald, executive vice president of business operations for the Chicago Bulls.

    “The wireless gate entry can be a benefit to both us and the fan. For example, we can take orders from fans for concessions and place those orders wirelessly.”

    About 20 NBA teams now have the wireless access in place. Teams must pay for the access, but are not charging media outlets.

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  • Iowa packing its new premium seats

    University of Iowa officials last week were one suite and 200 outdoor club seats away from selling out premium inventory at Kinnick Stadium that will open next year. Money from the sales will pay for the bulk of the $86.8 million renovation of the facility.

    Private donations are financing the entire project, supported by the sale of $100 million in revenue bonds.

    The university is asking for more than $16 million for naming opportunities throughout the stadium, ranging from $5 million for the new south end zone plaza entrance to $50,000 for the equipment room.

    The four-story press box / hospitality structure is on its way up at Kinnick Stadium. The old press box will come down at the end of the season.
    The $4 million gift to name the new four-story press box/hospitality structure doesn’t include the $1.2 million in naming opportunities for 16 spaces within the building, including nine suites, five game operations booths, two radio and TV broadcast rooms and the Hawkeyes’ coaches box.

    Iowa expects to generate $6 million annually from suite and club seat leases from the 46 suites, 1,160 outdoor club seats and 120 indoor club seats being built on the 76-year-old stadium’s west side, said Jane Meyer, Iowa’s senior associate athletic director in charge of the renovation.

    The school started selling suites in May 2004 and club seats the following August, she said.

    “In a state of 2.5 million people, it’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Bob Bowlsby, Iowa’s athletic director. “I’m a little surprised, but not shocked. Whatever we’re building and have tried to do, our alumni and fans have always stepped up.”

    The Iowa City school is seeking a major donor to pay up to $250,000 a season for the remaining skybox, Bowlsby said. It’s a 12-seater on the first suite level that sits on the 50-yard line, said Mark Jennings, associate athletic director for development.

    The 45 other suites, ranging from 12 to 18 seats, sold for $45,000 to $60,000 a season. The indoor clubs are $5,000 annually and the outdoor clubs are $1,900 to $2,600 a season. Contract terms are three, five and seven years for the suites and clubs.

    The university used consultants Turnkey Sports, CSL International and Grenzebach, Glier & Associates, a firm affiliated with the University of Iowa Foundation, the school’s fund-raising group, to determine the appropriate premium seat mix. Martin Grenzebach conducted one-on-one interviews with 30 potential donors, Meyer said.

    HNTB and local architect Neumann Monson designed the Kinnick renovation. Mortenson Construction is the general contractor.

    “We built our [premium seat] model on 80 percent capacity,” Meyer said. “Anytime you exceed that capacity, then those [additional funds] become dollars that are available for the rest of the department. We’re [almost] 100 percent subscribed in our suites and indoor clubs, and that’s very important from a total program perspective.”

    Project officials adjusted the numbers during the process, Meyer said.

    “We started out with 40 suites and 310 indoor club seats, and based on the letters of intent we sent out, decided to make more suites and fewer indoor clubs,” she said. “We may have decreased some revenue, but it wasn’t significant enough to not meet the needs of the patrons.”

    The press box will be torn down in early December after the season. The new press box will be built on top of the premium-seat building.

    The second phase includes restroom and concession upgrades on Kinnick’s east and west concourses. The bleacher seats on the east and west sides will be renumbered as part of the process to increase the width of each seating space, and the stadium’s capacity will decrease slightly to about 69,500, said David Sandstrom, Iowa’s athletic ticket manager.

    All the improvements should be ready for the Hawkeyes’ 2006 season opener in early September.

    The project’s first phase, completed in August, created the new entry plaza and new grandstand in the south end zone, where students sit. There are 14,879 fixed seats and 158 seats for physically disabled fans and their companions, said Randy Bredar, HNTB’s vice president of sports architecture.

    The old end zone structure had 15,199 seats and virtually no concourse.

    New locker rooms were built underneath the south end zone structure.

    Daktronics produced Kinnick’s new scoreboards and video screens debuting this season, a package exceeding $2.1 million.

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