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The school kicks off its football program next year as an independent in the Football Championship Subdivision but will move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2015 as a member of Conference USA.
For DLR Group, a national sports architect that teamed with local firm Jenkins Peer Architects to design the UNC Charlotte stadium, the program’s plan to quickly move up the ladder meant designing a venue with enough concourse space to accommodate more seats, concessions and restroom buildings in future years. As a result, the east side concourse extends about 100 feet from the back of the seating bowl to the existing food stands and restrooms, much wider than the typical concourse at an NFL stadium, said Don Barnum, a principal at DLR Group.
Photo by:DON MURET / STAFF
In the initial design, there are no suites. Expansion could convert the existing press box/hospitality facility into a dedicated suite level with a second tier of seats built above the original structure.
UNC Charlotte’s stadium will open in August with 15,000 seats; plans to expand to 40,000 seats (left) are already in place.
Image by:DLR GROUP / JENKINS PEER ARCHITECTS
“It’s the advantage of doing a smaller stadium design now,” Barnum said. UNC Charlotte, he said, is “really excited about getting more hospitality in the future to take up this space. I imagine the demand for that will come pretty quickly because there really isn’t anything for sale now.”
DLR’s initial study for the university showed the possibility of adding 24 suites in the press box/hospitality building extending to both goal lines, said DLR Group’s Greg Garlock, Barnum’s partner on the project. “We could do more or less depending on need,” Garlock said.
As it stands now, there are three sections of 1,412 donor chairback seats between the 30-yard lines on the west side. Those seats are tied to $2,500 seat licenses. Benches with seat backs extending from the 30-yard lines to the end zones on the west side carry $1,000 seat licenses.
As of last week, UNC Charlotte had 662 seat licenses remaining to sell among the 5,000 originally put up for sale, said Judy Rose, the school’s athletic director.
The school has a proposal in front of a potential sponsor for corporate naming rights to the stadium, “but we are not able to reveal the particulars at this time,” Rose said. UNC Charlotte’s asking price is $5 million over 13 years, she said.
In November 2011, the school named the playing surface McColl-Richardson Field after receiving financial contributions from Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Hugh McColl, former CEO of Bank of America.
The 49ers play their first home football game Aug. 31 against Campbell.
In other college projects, DLR Group recently won the deal to complete a feasibility study tied to improving the fan experience at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium, a 50-year-old building in Colorado Springs, Colo. The firm also is designing upgrades to the University of Southern California’s Heritage Hall, a $24 million project covering an expanded hall of fame and a sports performance lab, and developing a new 41,000-square-foot basketball practice facility at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where DLR has its headquarters.
In Lincoln, Neb., DLR Group is putting the finishing touches on the design of Pinnacle Bank Arena, the new $181 million home of University of Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball. The 16,000-seat arena opens in September.
> BEAR DOWN: The Chicago Bears, in conjunction with the Chicago Park District, the owner of Soldier Field, plan to issue a proposal in the coming weeks to run the food service at the NFL stadium, said Bears spokesman Scott Hagel.
For Delaware North Sportservice, the Bears’ food and retail provider, it will be one of the vendor’s first major league deals in play after the company named John Wentzell president of Sportservice.
Wentzell, a veteran arena manager and former CEO of TD Garden in Boston, takes over for Rick Abramson, president of Sportservice since 2004.
Abramson has been named president of Delaware North’s parks and resorts division and executive chair of its Australia and Asia operations. Both moves will take effect Jan. 1. Abramson said he would be involved in Sportservice’s bid to retain the Bears’ business.
In Chicago, the Bears have hired consultant Chris Bigelow to represent the team in the selection of a stadium food vendor. The park district, through stadium manager SMG, will have its own consultant representing its interests, Hagel said.
Sportservice is in its 10th season of operating food and retail at Soldier Field.
The proposal will not include the stadium’s merchandise agreement because Sportservice’s retail deal extends beyond this season, Hagel said.
Don Muret can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.
Goldman Sachs, the investment bank behind the launch of Legends Hospitality Management in 2008 and one of its lead investors, is no longer a partner in the sports concessions and marketing company, a move tied to the departure of a top Goldman executive.
Gerry Cardinale, managing director in merchant banking for Goldman Sachs who originally brought the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys together to form Legends, is leaving Goldman at the end of this year.
With Cardinale’s exit, “there was no reason anymore for Goldman to stay involved,” said Dave Checketts, Legends’ chairman and CEO. “Gerry was the sponsor, the inspiration; he had the confidence of the Cowboys and Yankees, so the current shareholders bought them out.”
The new ownership structure, completed last month, is now split between the Cowboys, Yankees and the Checketts Partners Investment Fund, a $50 million fund, which has stepped up and increased its share of Legends. The two major league teams still own majority and equal shares. The Checketts fund has increased its share from the 16 percent stake it acquired in January after Dave Checketts was named to Legends’ top post. At that time, the Checketts fund bought out CIC Partners after Mike Rawlings, Legends’ ex-president and a CIC principal, was elected mayor of Dallas.
Cardinale could not be reached for comment.
The moves come as Checketts continues to try to expand Legends’ business, which covers a vast scope of services for major league and college teams and their facilities. Its business lines include food and retail concessions, the marketing of arenas and stadiums tied to premium-seat sales and naming rights, ticket-sales consulting and training, and CRM installations.
Last year, Legends’ revenue exceeded $200 million, company officials said. That number should increase substantially in 2013 after Legends signed sales and marketing deals with a number of sports properties. Checketts said the company could add additional investors in the new year, and he remains bullish on the company’s growth prospects.
“For now, we’re very happy with where we are,” Checketts said. “The company is nimble, it has capital, and we have like-minded investors across the business, both the investors in my company and our shareholders.”
One year ago, Legends got a major boost after it purchased CSL International and CSL Marketing Group, two Dallas firms specializing in the research and marketing of sports facilities. The merger positioned Legends as a dominant player in the development of arenas and stadiums.
Since its launch four years ago, the company’s sales division has grown to a point where it sells season tickets for several major college football and basketball teams and premium seats for iconic facilities such as Rose Bowl Stadium and Churchill Downs.
Legends also is responsible for selling suites for the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which had its first Formula One race last weekend.
In the NFL, its sales business under Chad Estis, president of Legends Premium Sales, has expanded from the development of Cowboys Stadium to the Bay Area, where Legends Premium Sales is marketing the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium under construction in Santa Clara. In Jacksonville, Legends has been assisting the Jaguars with season-ticket sales.
The company also has had talks with the Minnesota Vikings about selling premium seats at their planned $975 million stadium, but no deal has been signed.
“We’re hopeful that we get a chance there,” Checketts said.
While its ticket sales division has seen traction, Legends’ hospitality operation, the business on which the company was founded, has struggled to expand beyond its initial food and merchandise accounts at Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium. It did land food deals with MLS’s FC Dallas and about a half-dozen minor league ballparks, three of them home to Yankees’ farm clubs, but it has not made inroads with other major league accounts.
At the college level, Legends is expected to compete for Ohio State’s sports food business as the Big Ten school starts accepting proposals, said Xen Riggs, OSU’s associate vice president for student life.
Now, with Checketts firmly at the helm of New York-based Legends and with his fund having more skin in the game, industry observers see growth potential for the company on all fronts.
Checketts’ strong ties to the major leagues as owner of the St. Louis Blues and Real Salt Lake, in addition to his past tenure as president of the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, will serve Legends well as the company pursues new business, said veteran sports executive Harvey Schiller, former chairman and CEO of YankeeNets, the precursor to YES Network.
“The relationships Dave has are singular in terms of his experience,” Schiller said. “He is a brand to himself.”
Cardinale will stay involved with Legends as an independent director on the company’s board, Checketts said.
Goldman Sachs’ cutting ties with Legends comes at a time when the investment bank is close to divesting itself from YES Network. Cardinale helped create the regional sports network in 2002, five years before proposing the Cowboys-Yankees joint venture to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during a 2007 trip in the Caribbean. In July 2011, Cardinale approached Checketts about strategies for expanding Legends. That ultimately led to Checketts joining the company.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities that are in front of us, the ones that we’ve dug up and the ones that people are coming to us with,” Checketts said. “We’ll have a lot to talk about in the new year.”