Firm will help Cubs explore Wrigley Field improvements
Published May 31, 2010
Icon Venue Group will assist the Chicago Cubs over the next four to six months in exploring potential improvements inside Wrigley Field and a mixed-use development next to the ballpark, according to industry sources.
As of last week, no agreement had been signed with Icon, said Cubs spokesman Peter Chase. Officials with Icon, an owner’s representative for developing arenas and stadiums, declined to comment.
But sources said the Cubs, teaming with Icon to select an architect for the job, have scheduled interviews with designers in early June.
Hiring Denver-based Icon is the next step for new Cubs owner the Ricketts family as part of its five-year plan to renovate the 96-year-old facility, including vacant property on Clark Street next to Wrigley’s main entrance. A restaurant and Cubs hall of fame are targeted for that space.
Tim Romani, Icon Venue Group’s president and CEO, is no stranger to Chicago. As executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority from 1988 to 1995, Romani managed the process for building the White Sox’s new Comiskey Park, now U.S. Cellular Field, which opened in 1991.
More recently, Icon Venue Group, co-owned by AEG, served as owner’s representative for developing Toyota Park, the Chicago Fire’s stadium, which opened in 2006.
At Wrigley, Kansas City-based Populous has designed the bleacher expansion and new premium-seat additions. Local firm Barker Nestor planned the Captain Morgan Club outside the park and the PNC Club, a new group space on the suite level that opened this season.
SECOND ROOF: A closer look at the new retractable-roof project at B.C. Place reveals a second roof installed midlevel that cuts the Canadian Football League stadium in half for Major League Soccer.
The Vancouver Whitecaps will move to the stadium in 2011, when they move up to MLS, and the team wanted to find a way to transform a 55,000-seat facility into a smaller one appropriate for soccer crowds. The team hired Icon Venue Group to help find a solution.
Icon, working together with PavCo, the stadium’s public landlord, and architects and engineers tied to the new retractable roof now under construction, came up with the idea of a second roof to hide the upper deck from soccer fans sitting in the lower bowl as well as shield them from the elements.
The temporary roof, made of sheets of fabric similar to the permanent roof, would hang from a concrete rim above the suite level and connect to a catwalk supporting the main retractable structure, said Rachel Lewis, the Whitecaps’ chief operating officer .
“We feel this configuration along with many other specific elements of the building … will allow us to achieve the intimacy of a 20,000-seat venue and create an authentic soccer atmosphere,” Lewis said.
The second roof effectively shrinks B.C. Place without having to cover thousands of seats with large tarps in the upper bowl, a downsizing tool some may consider a “negative visual effect,” said Charlie Thornton, Icon’s senior vice president and project executive.
“It’s an interesting approach,” Thornton said. “You reduce [capacity] and not just mask it.”
The second roof system will be defined in coming months after officials receive cost estimates from companies interested in bidding for the project, Thornton said. It’s uncharted territory, considering no stadium has built a second roof, he said.
PavCo, a provincial group representing the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, has included the cost of a second roof in its $425 million budget, with most of that money being used to build the retractable roof, confirmed spokesman Duncan Blomfield.
WHO’LL SELL ’CAPS’ CAPS?: The Whitecaps, meanwhile, face the challenge of splitting their home season at two facilities in 2011. The club will open the season at Empire Fields, a temporary 27,000-seat stadium, before relocating sometime next summer to B.C. Place.
As such, the Whitecaps signed a five-year merchandise deal with Gameday Entertainment, a company well-versed in operating on the fly at multiple outdoor venues in the Pacific Northwest.
Gameday, whose principals include owner CEO Jeff Neal, President Alan Fey and Executive Vice President Jeff Newman, was the exclusive retail provider for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the event’s torch relay, setting up shop in multiple cities across Canada.
In addition, the Whitecaps knew Fey from his two-year stint at Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment in the late 1990s, when he ran retail for the Canucks and Grizzlies at General Motors Place. “We felt Gameday was the right choice based on its experience in Vancouver,” the Whitecaps’ Lewis said.
Gameday sees no problem making the transition with the Whitecaps from one stadium to another in the same season. They’ll use portable trailers from the Olympics, rebranding them in the Whitecaps’ blue and green colors, Fey said.
The retail provider’s deal started this season at Swangard Stadium, the 5,288-seat facility where the Whitecaps have played since 1987.
PITCHING TENTS: The Carolina Panthers signed local electronics retailer Queen City Audio, Video and Appliances to a three-year naming-rights deal for Champions Row, a stretch of corporate hospitality tents set up on the north lawn outside Bank of America Stadium.
Queen City has been a Panthers sponsor for seven years. The deal, valued in the low six figures annually, includes hospitality attendants wearing shirts containing the company’s brand, as well as television display areas, said Mike Mahoney, the team’s sports marketing sales executive.
Don Muret can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.