SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Facilities

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  • Hero’s welcome: Military suite wins praise for ’Canes sponsor

    Don Muret
    A suite holder at RBC Center is at the forefront of a military tribute that has turned into a signature moment at Carolina Hurricanes games.
    ASC Volvo Construction Equipment, a maker of heavy construction machinery, entertains several members of the armed forces in its skybox during every Hurricanes home game in Raleigh.

    The company, whose North American headquarters are in Charlotte, has welcomed guests from all branches of the military, as well as from the Wounded Warriors, USO and veterans groups.

    They are provided free seats to watch the game and complimentary food and drink in the 12-person suite, said Rob Leavel, ASC Volvo’s regional general manager for East Carolina. The company typically donates eight tickets a game and two parking passes.

    The commitment started three years ago with former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward through his “Ward’s Warriors,” according to Leavel. At that time, ASC Volvo partnered with Ward on a suite that provided free hospitality for military personnel past and present.

    “We had been talking with the Hurricanes about doing something unique [with sponsorship] and the two ideas came together,” Leavel said.

    Two years ago, Ward retired from the NHL and ASC Volvo made the decision to buy a suite on its own to keep the tradition going. The company renewed it this year and plans to extend the lease for the 2012-13 season.

    “The big thing for us is to have our brand associated with doing something good for the community,” Leavel said. “We have had a lot of favorable response.”

    ASC Volvo works closely with the Hurricanes’ community relations department to select the military groups and make sure they have tickets in hand. With about 20 military bases in the Carolinas, there is no shortage of invitees, Leavel said.

    During a timeout in the second period of every game, a live shot of the military suite is displayed on the arena’s center-hung video board, leading to a standing ovation. A large red banner designating the suite’s purpose hangs above it in the bowl.

    “It has got to the point where every game, everybody knows where to turn and look,” said Doug Warf, the Hurricanes’ senior director of marketing.

    Other major league teams have done similar military promotions with tickets and single-game suite giveaways, but the Hurricanes think they are the only club where a suite holder reserves space for every game for the armed forces, Warf said.

    ASC Volvo is talking to the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate, about doing the same thing at Time Warner Cable Arena, Leavel said.

    The Cubs’ owners plan a high-end merchandise tent across from Wrigley Field.
    The owners of the Chicago Cubs are building a 4,000-square-foot, high-end merchandise tent in the McDonald’s parking lot across the street from Wrigley Field.

    The Ricketts family bought the restaurant property for $20 million in December and formed a separate company to run the tent operation, called The Cubs Store, said Dennis Culloton, a family spokesman.

    The Cubs Store will stock exclusive, limited-edition Cubs items such as game-used bats and balls and player-autographed items not available at other merchandise spots and sports apparel stores around Wrigley, Culloton said.

    In addition, Cubs apparel produced by Majestic, New Era, Nike and Under Armour, Cubs hats from New Era and customized Louisville Slugger bats will be available.

    The store is scheduled to open April 5, the day of the Cubs’ home opener against the Nationals, and will be open seven days a week through baseball season. A decision has not been made whether it will be open during the offseason, Culloton said.

    The tent will eat up a portion of parking space at McDonald’s. The restaurant will remain open for the “foreseeable future,” Culloton said. More details will be released closer to Opening Day on the future of the development, he said.

    Levy Restaurants runs the Cubs’ gift shop and souvenir stands inside the ballpark.

    In late February, Chicago Sports & Novelty, a company that ran a Cubs merchandise stand for about 40 years near where the new tent is situated, filed suit against the Ricketts family, according to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. The lawsuit claims that Chicago Sports & Novelty had a deal with McDonald’s to run its stand through the 2015 season but that it was terminated after the Rickettses bought the property.

    As of last week, the matter remained in litigation. The Cubs’ owners “hope the matter will be resolved quickly because they have terrific plans for the fans at that site,” Culloton said.

    DOUBLE PLAY: Last week’s handshake deal to build a new $387 million arena for the Sacramento Kings was good news for Turner Construction, a national builder of sports facilities.

    Sacramento city officials must still approve project financing before construction can begin. If the deal is approved, the NBA arena would be Turner’s second job building a new major league facility in California.

    In the NFL, Turner is teaming with Devcon Construction to build the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara, about 120 miles southwest of Sacramento.

    It would be a major triumph for Turner considering how difficult it has been for teams to develop new sports facilities in California over the past decade. Municipalities are unable to take on the debt, and clubs must adhere to the country’s strictest environmental standards for new construction.

    Looking back, Staples Center in Los Angeles opened in 1999, the last new big league arena to open in California. One year later, the San Francisco Giants opened AT&T Park in 2000. Both facilities were privately financed.

    Now it appears the drought could finally be over, thanks to the 49ers, Kings and San Jose Earthquakes. San Jose officials recently approved the MLS team’s $60 million stadium project, and it is expected to open for the 2013 season. Devcon is building that facility.

    The first key vote in Sacramento is Tuesday when the City Council is scheduled to meet to approve the deal’s framework.

    The city previously selected Turner as part of the arena development group with sports architect Populous, owner’s representative Icon Venue Group and Sacramento developer David Taylor.

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

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  • Sportservice lands Lambeau food contract

    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    The Green Bay Packers have agreed to a five-year deal with Delaware North Sportservice to take over concessions and premium dining at historic Lambeau Field.

    The foodservice deal coincides with the $143M expansion of Lambeau Field’s south end zone.
    As of last week, the deal was pending final negotiations. Tim Connolly, the team’s vice president of sales and marketing, refused to comment further.

    The Packers become Sportservice’s seventh NFL client (see box), and mark a big victory for the concessionaire, which was one of 10 food vendors that expressed interest in the contract. The account at Lambeau, which opened in 1957 and underwent an extensive renovation completed in 2003, carries some extra prestige thanks to the history of the team and the venue, but also because of the large volume of non-NFL business and special-event catering at the Lambeau Field Atrium, which opened as part of the $295 million renovation.

    No information was available on which concessionaires submitted proposals after the interested firms met with the team and toured the stadium in early October.

    Sportservice replaces Levy Restaurants, the Chicago-based company that had operated the stadium’s foodservice since 2002. When the Packers issued a proposal last fall for the contract, Connolly told SportsBusiness Journal that the Packers were satisfied with Levy’s operation but that new executives in the team’s front office, a product of significant turnover there over the past decade, wanted to evaluate other options.

    The Sportservice deal coincides with a new $143 million expansion project in the south end zone at Lambeau Field covering 6,600 new seats. New wireless technology to accommodate stored-value tickets and gift cards to pay for concessions is part of the project.

    Some food stands at Lambeau, one of the oldest NFL stadiums, did not have the ability to accept credit card transactions, but the Packers recently took steps to resolve the issue, signing a deal with tech vendor NCR to install a new point-of-sale system with 425 wireless and touch-screen terminals for the 2012 season.

    The upgrades will increase speed of service and sales with better management of gift card and loyalty programs for season-ticket holders, according to NCR officials. The technology also meshes with a new all-inclusive ticket package for 180 new seats.

    The Packers, the NFL’s only publicly held team, reported about $6 million in net revenue from concessions and parking income for fiscal 2010, the most recent period for which figures are available. Lambeau Field has 167 suites and 6,260 club seats, and 72,922 total seats. The Packers reported $58 million in sales and marketing revenue in 2010, a figure that covers 600 to 800 atrium functions annually.

    Sportservice has a strong presence in Wisconsin; the company has been the Milwaukee Brewers’ food provider since 1970, spanning Miller Park and the old County Stadium.

    For Sportservice President Rick Abramson, a Wisconsin native, winning the Packers’ business is a high point on both a professional and personal level. Abramson got his start in the business working as a hot dog vendor at County Stadium in the 1960s. From 1953 to 1994, the Packers played two to three home football games every season at the Milwaukee ballpark.

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  • Space solution for Pauley: Outdoor concourse

    The expansion of Pauley Pavilion at UCLA will showcase a new outdoor concourse.

    The patio and open-air concessions have been a part of the Pauley Pavilion experience since the arena opened in 1965, but it will be “formalized” by putting up a portable gate system on game days to enclose the space as part of the south concourse, said Ken Weiner, UCLA’s senior associate athletic director. Those gates will also serve as one of seven entrances to the arena.

    A rendering shows the refurbished Pauley in a central spot on UCLA’s campus.
    Photo by: NBBJ
    The $136 million project to expand the historic arena has been restricted by its location at the center of campus, at the crossroads for students walking to class. There were limits on how far the arena could expand without permanently blocking those pathways.

    There were also limitations on the building’s south side, just 30 feet from UCLA’s football practice field, said Tim Lambert, senior project manager for NBBJ, the architect designing the expansion.

    To meet those challenges, NBBJ designed a flexible concourse on Pauley Pavilion’s south side. Four vertical sliding doors, each measuring 11 feet high and 32 feet wide, can be rolled up, leading to an outdoor patio space with food concessions.

    UCLA got ideas for the new format from US Airways Center’s Bud Light Paseo, an outdoor bar and entertainment space, Weiner said. Michael Hallmark, the architect in charge of that project for the Phoenix Suns, was a UCLA consultant in the early stages of Pauley’s renovation.

    Inside the arena, the Pavilion Club is a new 12,000-square-foot space one level below the main concourse reserved for alumni and donors. The arena opened without a large hospitality lounge dedicated to UCLA’s biggest basketball boosters.

    The seating bowl has been reconfigured and expanded to 13,800 seats, an increase of 1,000 over the old setup. The basketball court was off-center in Pauley’s initial design, and the court was shifted to the center of the floor, which freed up space to install more seats on the north and south sides, Lambert said.

    Daktronics is producing a new center-hung video board and LED ribbon boards valued at $3 million.

    The expanded Pauley Pavilion is set to open in mid-October. The project is required to meet green building standards by achieving LEED silver certification and could reach gold, one level above the requirement, Lambert said.

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