SBJ/August 29-September 4, 2011/Facilities

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  • Canadian arena will be first to use rainwater for hockey ice

    Don Muret
    A minor league hockey arena in western Canada will be the first sports facility in North America to make its ice surface out of rainwater that’s been collected from the building’s roof.

    Abbotsford (B.C.) Entertainment and Sports Centre, home of the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, recently installed a new rainwater harvesting system. The city receives 60 inches of rainfall on average annually, almost twice the yearly rainfall of some other major cities in Canada.

    The investment, valued at $20,000, is a partnership between the arena; Barr Plastics and Saxon Mechanical, the two local companies installing the equipment; and the city of Abbotsford, the arena’s owner. Barr Plastics has completed other rainwater collection systems for commercial and residential properties in Abbotsford, a 45-minute drive east of Vancouver. As part of the deal, Barr and Saxon signed one-year sponsorships with the team and the 7,000-seat arena.

    JEFF BOUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
    The Abbotsford arena is home to the Heat of the American Hockey League.
    To collect the rainwater, Barr Plastics set up a system with downspouts to capture 8,000 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. The portion of the roof where water is gathered measures 12,960 square feet, about one-quarter of the roof’s total size. After the rainwater is collected, it goes through a two-part filtration process before reaching storage tanks. The new system is connected to existing boilers to supply the Zamboni ice-making machine with hot water to form the playing surface.

    The benefits of using the elements to form the ice floor extend beyond reducing the arena’s environmental footprint, according to arena officials. Conservative estimates project a yearly savings of $5,000 to $10,000, split equally between the arena’s water and power bills.

    Rainwater harvesting also provides a cleaner look to the ice, said Tyler Wilson, Front Row Marketing’s corporate sales manager, who sold the sponsorship. City water has chemicals such as calcium sulphate and chlorine, and if left unfiltered, leaves a yellow hue on the ice surface.

    In addition to the concourse and LED signs and club seats Barr Plastics receives, it will produce a “white paper” explaining the system’s benefits for other arenas managed by Global Spectrum, the arena operator in Abbotsford.

    Front Row Marketing and Global Spectrum are both part of Comcast-Spectacor in Philadelphia. Dan Rubino, director of special projects for Global Spectrum, said he has yet to study how rainwater harvesting could be applied to other Global accounts. James Brown Arena, home to an ECHL team in Augusta, Ga., is going through a renovation, and it could be worthwhile to build a rainwater system there, in a humid climate with lots of rain, Rubino said. UCF Arena in Orlando, a college basketball facility without a hockey team, is another possibility in a region with heavy rainfall where the system could be used for irrigation and flushing toilets.

    “It’s a work in progress,” he said of Abbotsford. “Once we have an understanding of the apparatus, we can explore other buildings. Depending on the region, it might not be worth the effort. In the Northwest, where it’s rainy, it makes sense as long as you have the roof space.”

    Retrofitting older buildings adds to the expense, Rubino said. The Heat, the Calgary Flames’ top farm club, plays in the arena that opened in 2009, making it easier to install the rainwater system two years after the fact, project officials said.

    KEEPING SCORE: The Charlotte Bobcats are upgrading the center-hung video board at Time Warner Cable Arena to become HD compatible, according to team officials.

    When the arena opened in October 2005, the board was the facility’s signature element and the best in the NBA. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was so impressed after seeing it on a road trip that he instructed American Airlines Center management to get a newer board to replace an older center-hung structure that could have operated another seven years in Dallas.

    Six seasons later in Charlotte, the board needs both repairs and newer technology. The past few years, some observers attending events at the arena have noticed burned-out LED bulbs, leaving black splotches on what was originally a crisp, clear image on the board’s video screens.

    The Bobcats believe a power surge early last season damaged the board, although they were unable to pinpoint when it happened and what caused it, said Pete Guelli, the NBA club’s executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. “I think it is safe to say it had an impact on the life cycle of the board,” Guelli said.

    Last week, Daktronics, the board’s manufacturer, had employees working at the arena to replace every panel and pixel with new 6 millimeter technology, now the standard for high-definition LED screens in the NBA, said Steve Hellmuth, NBA Entertainment’s executive vice president of operations and technology. As part of the project, the Bobcats and NBA Entertainment are working together to reprogram the board’s graphics with a smaller “score bug” embedded into the live video feed, similar to what home viewers see on television, Hellmuth said.

    The board’s design with four single screens is unique in the NBA, and with such large spaces, the Bobcats have challenges with graphic presentations that no other team has to contend with, he said.

    The Bobcats plan to upgrade the arena’s control room in future years to go full HD with the video board.

    The center-hung board should be ready for operation in early September. The Bobcats refused to disclose the cost to repair and improve the board.

    Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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  • Packers plan 6,600 more seats, rooftop views

    The Green Bay Packers will add about 6,600 seats and a rooftop viewing platform to Lambeau Field as part of a $143 million expansion project.

    The Packers will add the seats in the south end zone of Lambeau Field and the rooftop viewing platform in the north end zone, along with new entry gates in both end zones. The team will fund the entire cost of the project, which will start this week and be completed by the start of the 2013 season.

    GREEN BAY PACKERS
    Additional gates for the end zone projects will ease congestion at other stadium entries.
    “This project will benefit the Packers and our fans through two new gates for better stadium entry and exit, additional seats and updated amenities, as well as more game-day crowd noise focused on our opponents,” said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. “It also will benefit our community, initially through construction jobs, but also in the long term through the increased economic impact of additional fans coming to Packers games each year.”

    According to the plans, the new seats in the south end zone will be added in four levels. General seating will be featured, in addition to themed areas with some indoor concession environments. A new south gate will include four elevators and escalators.

    The north end zone will include a new stadium gate, along with six elevators, that will enable club-seat and suite holders to enter and exit the stadium. The project will include construction of a rooftop viewing terrace for use by club-seat holders on game days and that will be available for special events on other days.

    Both new gates will lessen the traffic at other gates throughout Lambeau Field and improve the stadium’s overall entrance and exit patterns, Murphy said.

    The Packers are arranging to finance all the costs of the expansion, with funding components to include traditional borrowing. A stock sale is being considered, and the team will seek NFL approval for what would be the fifth such offering. With regard to a user fee, the team anticipates a program similar to what was used for Lambeau Field redevelopment. Additional funding options from the NFL will be explored.

    The ticket-pricing structure for the new seating area is still being established. Seats will be made available initially to current season-ticket holders, with priority given to those who have held tickets the longest.

    As an economic impact and benefit to the community, the project is expected to employ approximately 1,600 workers over the next two years and provide more than $70 million in wages.

    Previously, the team announced a plan to install new Mitsubishi Diamond Vision video boards, with the new boards to be ready for the 2012 season. This project, with a cost of $12 million, is being funded jointly by the Packers and the stadium district, through team funding as well as the district’s capital improvement fund.

    Elkus Manfredi, a Boston architect, is designing the expansion. Its expertise with retail and entertainment destinations, such as California’s Downtown Disney and The Grove developments, attracted the firm to the Packers, said Jason Wied, the team’s vice president of administration and general counsel.

    General contractor for the stadium expansion is Miron Construction of Neenah, Wis., a subcontractor for Lambeau Field’s $295 million renovation completed in 2003. Hammes Co. of Madison, Wis., is back as program manager, the same role it performed during the previous renovation.

    Mark Kass writes for The Business Journal in Milwaukee, an affiliated publication. Staff writer Don Muret contributed to this report.

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  • Doing the splits: Tech company helps teams bring charity raffles into the tablet age

    A Canadian entrepreneur is bringing high-tech to big league raffles.

    Dan Tanenbaum, whose uncle Larry Tanenbaum is chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is president and co-founder of the Toronto company Bump 50:50, which has developed an in-venue mobile technology using computer tablets to maximize revenue from 50-50 raffles. A number of hockey, basketball and baseball teams use the raffles, which split the money collected each night between the fan with the winning ticket and the team’s charitable organization.

    Bump 50:50’s system has helped raise more funds for the Blues’ charitable trust.
    The St. Louis Blues 14 Fund, the team’s charitable trust, used the system last season after signing a five-year deal. Bump 50:50 paid for the cost to set up the system at Scottrade Center and supply the fund with 10 iPads. In turn, the fund paid the vendor a percentage of sales.

    Using the tablets generated a cash total of more than $7,000 a game, said Bruce Affleck, the NHL club’s vice president of broadcasting, who sits on the fund’s board of directors. Two seasons ago, the average was $3,800 when the fund sold raffle tickets by hand for the final 15 games of the regular season.

    Under the traditional model, fans buying 50-50 raffle tickets receive one-half of a numbered hard ticket. The seller keeps the other half of the ticket. Toward the end of the game, the team randomly selects a winning number.

    Tablet technology speeds up the process, Tanenbaum said. After the fan decides how many tickets to buy, the seller chooses that option on the tablet and presses a button on the device. A mobile printer on the seller’s hip spits out a numbered ticket that’s given to the buyer. A ticket with the same number is printed in the nonprofit group’s office and thrown into a drum from which the winning ticket is drawn.

    The key to the technology is that it provides real-time updates on how much money has been collected, which in turn enables nonprofits to sell raffle tickets longer without having to stop to count the money. Having that information in hand is a big plus for fans who prefer to know how much money is at stake before buying raffle tickets, Tanenbaum said.

    Two years ago, the Blues’ fund had to stop selling raffle tickets at the end of the second period to count the cash. Last season, the group sold raffle tickets up to five minutes into the third period, a stretch covering the second intermission. The bulk of raffle tickets are sold before games and between periods, and that extra 20-minute break makes a difference, Tanenbaum said.

    The system also provides increased accountability and security, Tanenbaum said.

    For the Blues, the technology is a good fit for a fund that has distributed about $2 million to the St. Louis community since its inception in 1998, and fans enjoy seeing the technology at work, Affleck said. “It’s a lot more professional,” he said.

    This coming season, the Blues’ fund plans to post the running tally on the center-hung video board at Scottrade Center to promote the raffle and increase sales. Ten more iPads are also on order, Affleck said.

    Bump 50:50 is in talks with some NBA and MLB teams to use its technology, Tanenbaum said. He did not have a number for how many clubs conduct raffles.

    The company cannot sign a deal with Tanenbaum’s hometown Maple Leafs because raffles are considered gambling in Ontario. The NFL also prohibits in-game raffles, he said.

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  • Seven MLS teams band together to get more concerts

    Seven Major League Soccer teams have formed the Soccer Stadium Alliance to attract additional business from the music and entertainment industry.

    The group is modeled loosely after the group of NFL stadiums called the Gridiron Stadium Network. It comprises Crew Stadium in Columbus; PPL Park in Chester, Pa.; Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.; Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City; Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas; Jeld-Wen Field in Portland and BC Place in Vancouver.

    Ryan Smith, senior director of business development for the Columbus Crew, developed the idea after Crew Stadium was snubbed by an artist he declined to name.

    “We weren’t getting the number of shows that we feel we would like to have during a given year,” Smith said. “It makes a lot of sense: If we can become our own promoter, we can still work with AEG and Live Nation, but we can also go out and get shows on our own.”

    The number of annual concerts varies per stadium. Pizza Hut Park has put on three concerts in 2011 and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will host three consecutive Phish concerts in September, but PPL Park has yet to host a concert. Sources said gross sales for the one-day concerts can range from $850,000 to $1.6 million, depending on ticket price. Teams do not share the revenue with the league.

    Crew Stadium hosted four concerts this year. Ryan said he hopes the alliance will raise that number to six.

    Each stadium contributes $15,000 to join the alliance, and the fees pay a retainer to Modern Music Services, an Oklahoma-based music production and marketing company. Run by veteran music promoter Donnie Frizzell, Modern Music Services will book acts to perform at multiple stadiums in the network, and try to book acts for repeat business. Frizzell, who has promoted tours with Styx, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac, said he will promote the network at music industry trade shows, such as the International Entertainment Buyers Association meeting in Nashville in October.

    Like the Gridiron Stadium Network, teams in the Soccer Stadium Alliance will assume the risk for their own concerts.

    For the Gridiron Stadium Network, a group formed in 2005, the key to attracting concerts is the stadium operators’ willingness to assume the financial risk to buy the acts and serve as the promoter, said Jeff Apregan, the group’s consultant and a former promoter. Seven of the 11 Gridiron Stadium Network members have teams managing their buildings. The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, both part of the network, have spent millions of dollars on their own over the past several years to get blockbuster acts such as Kenny Chesney and U2.

    The payoff can be lucrative. Gridiron Stadium Network members do not have to share their portion of concert revenue with other NFL clubs. This summer, Chesney’s tour grossed $5 million in ticket sales at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, and $4 million at Heinz Field, where the Steelers play, according to figures compiled by Billboard Boxscore.

    Frizzell said creating deeper relationships with the acts will elevate the soccer stadiums in the entertainment industry. He said his initial goal is to educate musical acts on the versatility of soccer-specific stadiums. Depending on its setup, Crew Stadium can hold between 14,000 and 35,000 people for concerts.

    “These stadiums can hold 15,000 people and still look really good; it’s not like you have a bunch of empty seats,” Frizzell said. “I just don’t think anyone has been able to connect the dots between the agents and the musical acts to show how good these facilities are for shows.”

    Frizzell said the soccer venues’ unique size — smaller than a football or baseball stadium but larger than an arena — make them attractive for bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rascal Flatts and Nickelback. Pizza Hut Park, Livestrong Park and Toyota Park have permanent stages at one end that make it easier for acts to set up and tear down their equipment.

    Chris Wyche, executive vice president of operations for Sporting Kansas City, said the alliance also could shift some of the overhead costs associated with large concerts. According to sources, renting a stage runs $100,000 to $150,000, personnel costs are an additional $100,000, and stadiums must lay down plastic flooring to protect the field, which adds $80,000.

    Sporting Kansas City, which owns its protective cover, could rent it out to partner stadiums at a fraction of the cost, Wyche said.

    “I think it has potential to really create some economies of scale,” Wyche said.

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