SBJ/April 3 - 9, 2006/Facilities

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  • ‘Yes’ vote could reopen Royals concessions contract

    The Kansas City Royals may get more than an updated ballpark if local voters approve a sales tax increase Tuesday. Language in concessionaire Centerplate’s contract at Kauffman Stadium allows the Royals to reopen the process for selecting a food provider if the public OKs stadium improvements.

    Jackson County voters will consider two stadium questions: the three-eighths-cent sales tax increase to raise $425 million over 25 years to help finance renovations to the ballpark and the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, plus a use tax on business purchases to raise $200 million for a rolling roof that could cover either stadium.

    If the former is approved, Centerplate’s contract at Kauffman Stadium, which runs through the 2006 season, gives the Royals the option to renew the current deal for an additional two years, enter into a new agreement with Centerplate or go through the process for selecting another concessionaire, said Mark Gorris, Royals senior vice president of business operations.

    Voters will consider paying for renovations and
    a rolling roof for the Kansas City stadiums.
    “We need the flexibility to start from scratch,” Gorris said. “We plan to review the agreement coinciding with the start of renovation.”

    Centerplate did not return a call for comment.

    The Royals recently disclosed a three-phase renovation designed by HOK Sport that includes the Taste of KC food court in a left-field plaza, a restaurant with rooftop seating and a banquet facility beyond right field, and up to 200 additional concession points of sale.

    The team plans to convert the Stadium Club banquet facility into party rooms, and the number of group seats would increase sixfold from 240 to 1,500, Gorris said. The improvements would be completed from 2008 to 2010.

    “We’re pleased with Centerplate’s operation, but at the same time, we want to talk to multiple concessionaires in thinking through the design aspects,” Gorris said.

    The Haddad Restaurant Group, a local firm, has the suite contract at Kauffman Stadium, and the possibility exists that the entire food operation eventually could be operated by one company, Gorris said. Haddad’s deal also expires after the 2006 season.

    “Most concessionaires now are interested in doing the whole building,” he said.

    Centerplate recently renewed its contract for Arrowhead Stadium, said Chris Bigelow, a food consultant who the Chiefs hired to facilitate the process. Levy Restaurants has the suites. Centerplate and its pre-merger predecessors have operated the concessions since Arrowhead Stadium opened in 1972 and Kauffman Stadium debuted in April 1973.

    Pizza Hut Park is part of a new generation of
    MLS stadiums also designed for concerts.
    WHEN COUNTRY COMES TO TOWN: Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas has booked three concerts for Pizza Hut Park in the next four months and is targeting up to five additional live music shows this year, said John Wagner, president of Hunt Sports Group, the team’s owner and building operator.

    Hispanic teen act RBD performs April 29, followed by George Strait on May 26 and Kenny Chesney on July 27. Strait and Chesney, two of country music’s bankable artists, are on the short list of A-list acts that can attract crowds surpassing 20,000 in a stadium. Chesney also is playing MLS buildings in Chicago, Columbus and Carson, Calif.

    Concerts play an important role in fulfilling the FC Dallas business model for operating Pizza Hut Park, which opened in August in Frisco, Texas. Wagner, however, declined to disclose revenue projections for those events. Frisco Stadium LP, Hunt’s stadium management company, and Anschutz Entertainment Group formed a partnership for AEG’s concert promotions division, AEG Live, to bring in concerts, Wagner said.

    “A lot of it is dependent on who’s out there and who can deliver 20,000 people,” he said. “It’s not a given on any deal, and we don’t want to do dumb things.”

    Pizza Hut Park, designed by HKS, is the first of the new generation of MLS stadiums to open that contain permanent stages at one end and suites that convert into dressing rooms for the performers. Rossetti designed a similar stadium setup for the Chicago Fire’s new venue opening in June in Bridgeview, Ill., and is doing the same for the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J. AEG owns the Fire and recently sold the former MetroStars to energy drink maker Red Bull.

    “We’re filling a little bit of a niche,” Wagner said. “It’s tough to sell 40,000 [concert] tickets in a stadium. Most of the [amphitheaters] do 16,000 to 18,000, and we’re in the 20,000-plus range. We can do a concert on a Friday night and a soccer game on Saturday. That’s unheard of for stadium venues.”

    MILWAUKEE’S BEST: Event Merchandising Inc. has signed a three-year contract to sell souvenirs at the Milwaukee Mile and plans to test-market a line of retro racing jackets similar to the ones worn by legendary USAC drivers A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue and Lloyd Ruby.

    Those six drivers competed at the West Allis, Wis., facility during open-wheel racing’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, as did Bill Simpson, father of Jeff Simpson, the EMI sales representative who negotiated the deal with Milwaukee Mile Holdings, the speedway’s new promoter.

    EMI plans to roll out a Parnelli Jones model at the facility’s July 21-23 Indy Racing League event, Jeff Simpson said. The cotton twill garments will probably sell for $89 to $99, he said.

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

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