SBJ/December 10-16, 2012/Facilities

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  • KFC Yum! Center must wait for a shot at ACC tournament

    Don Muret
    The addition of Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference brings new assets to the league, including one of the nicest arenas in college sports.

    KFC Yum! Center opened in October 2010 with 72 suites, four party suites, six lounges and about 2,600 club seats. With 22,000 total seats and amenities rivaling NBA arenas, the venue would appear to be a natural for showcasing the ACC men’s basketball tournament.

    It will be a while, though, before officials in Louisville get the chance to compete for the event, said Karl Hicks, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner for men’s basketball operations.

    The ACC men’s basketball tournament won’t be coming to Louisville any time before 2022.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The conference has selected tournament sites for the next three years, and the deadline has passed for bids to host the tournament from 2016 through 2021. The proposals in hand are being evaluated, and ACC athletic directors are expected to make decisions in early February, Hicks said.

    “We’re midstream in the process … pretty far down the road,” he said.

    Regardless, at some point in the future, the University of Louisville athletic department would be interested in proposing KFC Yum! Center for the tournament, said Kevin Miller, executive senior associate athletic director.

    AEG Facilities operates the publicly owned downtown arena, where the Cardinals are the primary tenant. Together, they jointly bid for NCAA events and most likely the same would hold true for the ACC tournament, said Dennis Petrullo, the facility’s general manager.

    On campus, there have been no internal discussions yet about bidding for the ACC event, Miller said.

    Last year, KFC Yum! Center was the site of NCAA men’s basketball second- and third-round games, and a men’s regional returns to the building in 2015. In addition, the arena is the site of next weekend’s 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.

    “We have experience holding these types of events, and our staff would be glad to take on the challenge of having the ACC tournament,” Miller said. “We want to be a good partner of the conference.”

    Greensboro Coliseum, in the North Carolina city where the league has its headquarters, has the next three tournaments, including 2015, the first season Louisville will play as an ACC member. The school officially joins the conference July 1, 2014.

    Over the past seven years, the tournament has also been held in Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

    > SEEING RED: Greensboro Coliseum Executive Director Matt Brown is among the sports insiders who believe Louisville is a good fit for the ACC. Looking back at past NCAA tournament brackets, coliseum officials don’t believe the school has ever played a game at the 53-year-old arena.

    “They have a vibrant fan base and the move provides the conference with more traditional geographic growth and boundaries,” Brown said. “[Coach Rick] Pitino will be a huge addition along with Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pitt.”

    ACC officials reacted swiftly after Maryland announced last month that it was moving to the Big Ten Conference. Nine days later, ACC presidents approved Louisville as the league’s 14th member.

    “It’s a positive in light of the Maryland loss,” Brown said. “It’s sad to have an original ACC member leave, but adding Louisville was a great recovery.”

    > WHAT’S NEXT? Hank Abate has left SMG after a 20-year run with the facility management firm, according to an email sent to friends and colleagues.

    Abate, senior vice president of SMG arenas, said in the email that it was time to move on and that he would “look forward to my next adventure, whatever it may be.” His last day on the job was Nov. 30.

    Abate left on his own and signed a one-year noncompete clause, according to industry sources. Abate and Wes Westley, SMG’s president and CEO, did not return phone calls for comment.

    Abate’s exit compounds a rough year for SMG. The firm failed to renew deals at Oracle Arena and Coliseum in Oakland and Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, three major league facilities where AEG Facilities took over management.

    In addition, Global Spectrum could take over operation of EverBank Field in Jacksonville, home of the Jaguars, pending resolution of a protest filed by SMG over city officials’ decision recommending its competitor. As of last week, the protest had not been resolved.

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

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  • Sonoma name wins out at track

    The name Sonoma Raceway is here to stay.

    Track President Steve Page last month officially changed the speedway’s name to Sonoma, opting to name the track after the Northern California area where it’s based rather than revert to the Sears Point name it went by for 34 years.

    “I probably changed my mind three different times,” Page said. “There’s a legacy to the Sears Point name that a lot of motorsports traditionalists associate with this place. Ultimately, we decided the Sonoma name is a good tie with the thematic elements we try to build into this raceway. Sonoma is something people can grab onto easily.”

    Page said the decision became official when the track ordered business cards two weeks ago.

    The track continues to look for a title sponsor. Page said that they are having discussions with companies. Tom Cordova, who sold the Infineon naming-rights deal in 2002, is assisting with the sale.

    Sears Point, which is the name of the peninsula where the track is located, was the name of the raceway from 1967 to 2001. It became Infineon Raceway in 2002 after the technology company signed a 10-year, $35 million naming-rights deal. When Infineon opted not to renew that deal last May, the track renamed itself Sonoma Raceway for its NASCAR weekend in June. Track executives planned to rename it Sears Point later this year if it failed to find another naming-rights sponsor.

    “But a funny thing happened when we drove into work,” Page said. “We saw the name Sonoma on the door and realized what a terrific name it is. It occurred to us if we went through a rebranding and shone a big spotlight on Sears Point that it would be difficult rebranding if we went through another naming-rights deal.”

    Page said that part of the reason the track is sticking with the Sonoma name is because of the cachet it carries in corporate circles. The name is linked to California’s most fertile wine region, and that has made the track a major hospitality market for NASCAR, IndyCar and the NHRA.

    “One of our assets is our location,” Page said. “That’s something we’ve always embraced and tried to take full advantage of. Wrapping the mantle of that around us in a big way for us is a very positive thing.”

    The logo for the new raceway was developed by Sonoma’s parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc.

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