SBJ/July 30-August 5, 2012/Facilities

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  • New name, new casino on the way in Florida?

    Don Muret
    The Florida Panthers’ arena could be renamed BB&T Center by October, pending regulatory approval of the bank’s purchase of BankAtlantic.

    The transaction is expected to close by the end of July, said Michael Yormark, president of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, parent
    company of the NHL team and BankAtlantic Center. SportsBusiness Journal visited with Yormark on the eve of the International Association of Venue Managers conference and trade show July 21-24 in Fort Lauderdale.

    The naming-rights deal with BankAtlantic, a 10-year contract valued at $3.2 million annually, expires in 2015.

    As BB&T positions itself to take over the arena’s naming rights, Boyd Gaming and Sunrise Sports announced last week that they had a deal in place to build a casino resort complex next to the arena in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

    Boyd Gaming and the Panthers are eyeing undeveloped land near BankAtlantic Center.
    Photo by: SUNRISE SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
    The Las Vegas gaming firm, as part of its second-quarter earning results, reported that the agreement will “take advantage of the potential of expanded gaming in south Florida at the site of the BankAtlantic Center.”

    If it were to be built, it would be the first casino situated next door to a big league facility.

    Ninety undeveloped acres are adjacent to the arena, which sits across the street from Sawgrass Mills. That outlet mall draws 23 million visitors annually and is the second-biggest tourist attraction in Florida behind Walt Disney World, according to Western Development Corp., the mall’s developer.

    The Panthers have been working on the project for 2 1/2 years, and even with the Boyd Gaming deal in place, the casino development remains a big question mark. To make the project happen, Boyd Gaming has to apply for a gaming license or transfer the pari-mutuel permit it holds at its South Florida jai-alai facility to the arena site. Both options would require approval by the state Legislature.

    “This is the big first step in the process,” Yormark said.

    Some experts speculate the value of the arena’s naming rights could skyrocket if the project moves ahead with a hotel and small theater attached to the casino.

    Others, such as Chris Lencheski, president of Front Row Marketing, a firm that brokers naming rights for teams and facilities, question whether the value would really increase as it relates to the casino project.

    Banks typically market themselves as “community-minded” assets, which would run contrary to the typical image of a casino, Lencheski said. “Of course it’s easy for me to say because it’s not my project,” he said.

    For BB&T, the cost to rebrand the NHL arena alone is estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million, with changes to include a new hard floor on the main concourse containing the bank’s logo. The concourse is now covered by carpet.

    The Panthers have lowered prices for seats at the new Club Red.
    Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
    THE RED AND THE BLACK:
    Sunrise Sports has cut the price of seats for Club Red, the arena’s new center-ice club, in an effort to sell the remaining seats for the new premium space.

    The all-inclusive season ticket packages are now $16,500 for all arena events, compared with the original price of $22,500, Yormark said. The hockey-only package was adjusted to $9,500 from $12,500. The $12,500 concerts-only package was eliminated.

    The price cuts were made at the suggestion of Legends Sales and Marketing, the firm hired by the Panthers to help sell Club Red tickets. More than half of the 732 seats for all events and 673 hockey-only seats have been sold, Yormark said.

    Those who bought Club Red seats before the reductions were made were given the option of a refund or a credit, team officials said.

    “We may have been a little overly aggressive with our pricing,” Yormark said. “We didn’t want to find ourselves in a position come fall where we had a ton of open inventory and we’re sitting with a club that’s empty. I’d rather make the adjustment now.”

    In addition, the opening of Club Red has been moved back to Oct. 1 because of construction delays. When it is completed, the 60-foot-long bar that’s the centerpiece of the 12,000-square-foot lounge supporting the seats will be one of the largest drinking destinations in sports.

    Aramark is the new food service provider at the University of Tennessee facilities.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    OVERHEARD: David Anderson
    has replaced John Sparks as general manager of Barclays Center. Anderson, an AEG Facilities employee, had been the arena’s vice president of event and guest services after AEG signed a multiyear deal last fall to provide operational support for the arena, which will open as the Brooklyn Nets’ home in the fall. Sparks had been on the job since May 2011, but he decided to “go in a different direction” and left New York a month ago, said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of the Nets and the arena. With two months before Barclays Center opens Sept. 28, Yormark turned to Anderson to fill the GM position. Anderson reports to Yormark. … Kohlberg & Co.’s sale of Centerplate could be completed soon now that proposals have been received from multiple private equity firms. No food-service competitors submitted bids, according to industry sources. Centerplate President and CEO Des Hague did not respond to requests for comment. … Ballpark developer Janet Marie Smith has met with the Los Angeles Dodgers about their plans to renovate 50-year-old Dodger Stadium. “Not for sure yet,” Dodgers President Stan Kasten replied by email when asked about Smith’s potential role in the project. Smith, vice president of planning and development for the Baltimore Orioles, worked with Kasten on the post-Olympics retrofit of Turner Field and on the development of Philips Arena in Atlanta. … Aramark is the new food service provider at University of Tennessee athletic facilities in Knoxville. The school’s Neyland Stadium (102,455 seats) and Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678 seats) are two of the biggest venues in college sports. Sodexo previously held the contract.

    The Philadelphia Eagles selected Turner Construction to provide preconstruction manager services for what could be a $100 million renovation at Lincoln Financial Field. Turner built the 10-year-old NFL stadium. … The Mercedes-Benz Superdome will spend $2.5 million over the next five months to install new carpet in the suites and club level, replace concessions and catering equipment, and buy new televisions for the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Those upgrades address spaces and equipment that were new six to seven years ago when the building was restored after Hurricane Katrina wrecked the dome in 2005, said Doug Thornton, SMG’s senior vice president of stadiums and arenas. … Across the street, Absen, a Chinese company, is supplying two new exterior video boards for New Orleans Arena, part of a two-year facelift of the Hornets’ home. Both screens measure about 4,700 square feet and will be installed by late October, Thornton said.

    ALSO OVERHEARD: Hunt Construction is a minority partner in the construction of a new 5,600-seat arena at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, set to open in fall 2014. The $109 million facility will be the new home of the Seawolves’ college basketball teams and the Great Alaska Shootout. The tournament has been played off campus the past 30 years at Sullivan Arena, a city-owned facility. … Greensboro Coliseum’s plan to install 20,000 new seats over the next two years will cut fixed seating by about 1,000, said deputy director Scott Johnson. What the building loses in capacity will be gained through fan comfort, since wider, cushioned seats will replace plastic chairs. Greensboro now has 23,500 seats, making it one of North America’s largest arenas. The seating project is a $3.2 million investment.
    Andy Frain Services has signed a two-year deal with the America’s Center in St. Louis for crowd management services. The complex includes the Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams. Another new client for Andy Frain is the America’s Cup in San Francisco, where grandstand seating will be set up on Alcatraz Island to view the sailing races in August and next summer, said Dane Vontobel, the company’s vice president of business development. … Rich Krezwick will stay put at Prudential Center after he declined an offer to become the new president and CEO at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants. Krezwick, president of Devils Arena Entertainment, operator of the New Jersey Devils’ facility, said he has unfinished business in Newark. The NHL club is undergoing a financial restructuring under team owner Jeff Vanderbeek. As of last week, Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, the consultant hired by the NFL teams’ joint venture to find Mark Lamping’s successor, was still looking for his replacement, Turnkey officials said. In February, Lamping was named president of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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

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  • ISC upgrades in wireless coverage at its tracks will benefit more than Sprint customers

    All 12 of the International Speedway Corp. tracks that host NASCAR events are being upgraded with enhanced wireless capability.

    After years of relying primarily on series sponsor Sprint to provide additional towers for cellphone users on race day, ISC has hired American Tower Corp. to design and install a permanent antenna system specially designed to improve the performance of smartphones and other wireless devices at the track for race days and nonracing events.

    Providing better cell signals previously was Sprint’s exclusive responsibility at NASCAR events. Sprint typically brings 12 to 15 cellphone towers to the track so that Sprint customers have no trouble accessing a cell signal. But when Sprint’s title sponsorship was recently extended, NASCAR and Sprint agreed that tracks could increase their cell coverage without worrying about which carrier benefited.

    ISC’s new antenna system — called DAS, for distributed antenna system — will provide customers of AT&T, Verizon and any other carrier better coverage.

    ISC’s improved coverage will be a “vendor agnostic improvement,” said ISC’s Craig Neeb, chief information officer and vice president for multichannel marketing. “This will give all of our fans a better experience on their mobile devices.”

    American Tower will begin installing its DAS infrastructure later this year. ISC hopes that all 12 tracks will have full connectivity via wireless signals in 18 months.

    The new antenna systems will allow smartphones to perform faster on tasks such as downloading photos, posting to social media sites, and staying in touch with the tracks for news and updates.

    Neeb pointed out that most ISC tracks offer mobile applications that provide fans essential information about traffic, weather, race stats and updates. The improved connectivity will enhance the tracks’ ability to stay in touch with its customers throughout an event. So, if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making an appearance at a merchandise hauler, or if Carl Edwards is going to be at a concert stage, the track can inform the fans with real-time updates “to improve their at-track experience,” Neeb said.

    “We can be more up-to-date and relevant with our content and have the confidence that fans are staying connected,” he said.

    In addition to American Tower, ISC has hired Corning Cable Systems to install the fiber optic cable network throughout the tracks to support the improved signal strength.

    ISC’s cost for the installation is minimal, Neeb said. American Tower will cover nearly all of the cost to install the equipment and then will make its money back by leasing the equipment to carriers.

    “This is something we have to have to build for the future,” Neeb said.

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