SBJ/February 25-March 3, 2013/Facilities

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  • Screen gems: Dodgers break ground with new video boards

    Don Muret
    ANC Sports Enterprises is supplying the new video boards at Dodger Stadium as the 51-year-old facility catches up with the latest technology.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the first teams to introduce full-color video screens in sports when they installed a new board in left field in 1980. Now, 33 seasons later, the Dodgers will unveil baseball’s first 10-millimeter screens with 1,080-pixel quality. The new video board in right field replaces an old system without video that kept the line score and player lineups.

    The two new boards are surface-mount technology displays, providing higher resolution, brighter colors and expanded viewing angles. Surface-mount technology displays are common in big league arenas but still relatively new in the outdoor market, although the Seattle Mariners are installing a much larger SMT board at Safeco Field, a Panasonic display in center field using ANC’s existing software package.

    A rendering shows how the video boards will look.
    Image: ANC SPORTS ENTERPRISES
    In Los Angeles, size doesn’t matter. Instead, it was important for the Dodgers to upgrade the video portion without making it look out of place in MLB’s third-oldest park, said Janet Marie Smith, the team’s senior vice president of planning and development. ANC Sports developed a custom package to fit the hexagon shape of the original board in right field. The left-field structure is being restored to match the right-field sign.

    Both screens are about 78 feet long with a maximum height of 38 feet in the center portion. The ends of both boards are about 24 feet high.

    The new boards have active video space two-thirds larger than the old boards with the ability to develop creative player features and provide more statistics, something Dodgers fans have been asking for, said Lon Rosen, the team’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

    The total project cost of $10 million includes a new control room to operate the boards and maintenance over the next several years.

    ANC Sports won the job through a bid process, Rosen said. Dodgers President Stan Kasten used to sit on ANC’s board of directors, but he has not held that position for several years.

    “We had to dig deep [with price adjustments] to win this job,” said Jerry Cifarelli, ANC Sports’ president and CEO. “We wanted to be involved with their new ownership.”

    > DOLLAR SIGN: The Dodgers originally bought Dodger Stadium’s old left-field board from Mitsubishi for $1 so the vendor could showcase its early video technology for MLB team owners during the 1980 All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
    “It was a deal Peter O’Malley could not refuse,” said team spokesman Steve Brener, referring to the Dodgers’ owner at the time.

    > SCHROCK OF THE BAY: After spending the past 30 years working out of his hometown of Kansas City, sports architect Brad Schrock is relocating to the Bay Area as part of 360 Architecture’s expansion of its San Francisco office.

    Schrock, a Kansas City native who is one of 360’s three co-founders and a senior principal, has spent the past few years designing two big projects in Seattle, the $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium and the development of a new NBA arena. He is also principal-in-charge of the San Jose Earthquakes’ new stadium, to open in 2014.

    360 designers Anton Foss and Mathew Hallett, both working on the Seattle arena project, also are moving from Kansas City to San Francisco.

    Moving to the West Coast will make things much easier for 360 officials and the clients they serve in that region. The two-hour flight from San Francisco to Seattle is more manageable than flying from Kansas City, Schrock said.

    In addition, Chris Hansen, the primary investor behind the Seattle arena project, lives in San Francisco. As part of that development, 360 Architecture is responsible for updating Seattle’s KeyArena, where the Sacramento Kings are expected to play for two seasons, pending approval of their move by the league.

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

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  • Daytona refurb: An NFL stadium for racing

    Expansive concourses, concession areas as large as football fields and more than 40 escalators ferrying people in and out of the facility are just a few of the fan-friendly improvements Daytona International Speedway wants to make in the future.

    Track President Joie Chitwood III, who is leading an effort to renovate the facility in the coming years, last week showed the first interior images of how the remodeled facility would look.

    The images offered the first glimpse of the escalators leading into the stadium’s five grand entrances, an open concourse where fans could see the racetrack for the first time, and 11 “neighborhoods” the size of football fields where fans could get concessions, interact and use wireless or Wi-Fi technology.

    “If you’re going to claim to be the ‘World Center of Racing’ or the Super Bowl of the sport, there’s an expectation that comes with that — big, grand, the best,” Chitwood said. “This renovation gives us a chance to say that. It supports who we are and the claim we can make that we are important.”

    Daytona already has secured approval for a
    The renovations, which include grand entrances and an open concourse (shown in renderings), will help Daytona live up to expectations as the “Super Bowl of the sport,” said track President Joie Chitwood III.
    Images: ROSSETTI (2)
    zoning change that allows it to renovate the 53-year-old track. Chitwood and the architecture firm Rossetti, which is working on the project, are finalizing the redesign and hope to present it to the senior management and board of its parent company, International Speedway Corp., later this year for approval.

    The cost of the renovation hasn’t been determined.

    The new Daytona would look far more like a contemporary NFL stadium than a racetrack. A finished exterior will conceal the backside of the grandstands and reduce the number of entrances from 19 to five.

    The main entrance will have a series of four escalators, stairs and elevators that deliver fans to a series of three main concourses. It also has a manicured entrance with towering glass and steel. It’s what Chitwood calls a front door that will make people say, “Wow.”

    “This is what makes you pull off the side of the road and get out your camera to take a picture,” Chitwood said. “It takes on that professional stadium feel.”

    Under the redesign, Daytona would add more aisles and, therefore, shorten the lengths of its rows from as many as 60 or 90 seats to 20 seats each. The three concourse levels would divide the grandstand and reduce the number of rows that fans have to walk to reach their seats, as well. Right now, many fans climb more than 40 rows to reach their seat, but the proposed renovation would reduce the maximum number of rows in the three concourse levels to 20.

    By climbing down those 20 rows, fans would be able to reach one of 11 concession areas that Chitwood calls “a neighborhood.” The areas would be the size of a football field and include permanent concessions — a major improvement from the temporary concession stands that Daytona currently has — and space to eat and socialize with friends.

    “This is everything together that a fan wants,” Chitwood said. “Get a refreshment, talk to friends, tweet, do whatever. This is a space where you can do that.”

    The centerpiece of the renovated track would be the World Center of Racing, an open-air concourse in the middle of the grandstands that stretches for more than 150 yards. It’s there that Chitwood hopes first-time race attendees will enter the stadium.

    To get there, they will pass a number of images and information that tell the history of the track. Then they will emerge onto the concourse to see the track for the first time.

    “This is where I hope to hook you as a fan not just of the event but the sport,” Chitwood said. “It would be that main gathering area. A place to escalate up and see the track for the first time.”

    Chitwood said he hopes to announce the track’s hospitality plans in the next two months. He shared the concourse renovation plans with sponsors last Thursday night. The track has held preliminary discussions with existing sponsors about becoming the presenting sponsor of one of the five entrances.

    The final presentation won’t be made to ISC’s board until later this year, but Chitwood is hopeful that they will see what he sees when he looks at the track. After all, his father, who has been a Daytona season-ticket holder for 26 years, still has seats on a metal bench that hasn’t been changed in more than two decades.

    “You would assume it would change, but that’s why we have to go down this path of redevelopment,” Chitwood said. “If we expect a sponsor, a customer, for presidents to come here, this property needs that kind of attention so that we can live up to that World Center of Racing name.”

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  • Florida Atlantic turns to Sunrise

    Florida Atlantic University has signed a short-term marketing deal with Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to book events at newly renamed Geo Group Stadium, the school’s 30,000-seat football facility.

    The deal includes providing Sunrise Sports, parent company of the Florida Panthers, the opportunity to sell naming rights for FAU Arena, a 5,000-seat arena that opened in 1984.

    The Florida Panthers’ parent company will try to sell naming rights to FAU Arena, as well as booking events for FAU’s Geo Group Stadium.
    Photo: J.C. RIDLEY / FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY
    In addition, the Boca Raton school receives brand exposure at BB&T Center on digital signs, in-game advertising through the Panthers’ media partners, concourse displays and discounted tickets for students available one hour before every hockey game.

    Sunrise Sports is paid a monthly fee plus commission if it sells naming rights for FAU Arena, said Michael Yormark, the group’s president and chief operating officer.

    FAU wants to bring more special events to its stadium, which has an unusual amenity for a college football venue: an ocean view. It opened in October 2011 but has seen minimal use beyond the Owls’ five home football games a year, said Patrick Chun, Florida Atlantic’s athletic director.

    “It’s a beautiful on-campus stadium but it mostly sits empty, which is a lost opportunity for us,” Chun said.

    The stadium is in Palm Beach County, 33 miles northeast of BB&T Center. The county has a population of 1.3 million and continues to draw an influx of residents migrating north of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, making it key to Sunrise Sports extending its reach in South Florida, Yormark said.

    The stadium drew national attention last week after FAU officials announced they had signed Geo Group to a 12-year, $6 million naming-rights deal for the facility, an agreement the school did in-house. The company, which runs prisons, has been sued for human rights violations, accusations that Geo Group denies.

    Geo Group Chairman George Zoley is an FAU alum and a former member of the school’s board of trustees.

    Yormark, who has sold three naming-rights deals on his own, including two agreements for the Panthers’ arena, said the controversy over the Geo Group Stadium agreement should not affect Sunrise Sports’ marketing of the building.

    “We believe that ultimately the location, size, marketing assets and amenities offered at the venue will determine its ability to host concerts and other events,” Yormark said.

    Sunrise Sports’ first partnership with a university has been in the works since Chun left Ohio State to become FAU’s athletic director in July. The major league organization contacted FAU and had several meetings with Chun over the past six months before completing the deal.

    The agreement has similarities to the deals Ohio State has signed over the past three years to jointly operate Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, during Chun’s tenure as OSU’s deputy senior associate athletic director.

    Since May 2010, the same staff that runs Schottenstein Center on campus has helped turn things around financially at Nationwide Arena, resulting in a 15-year extension signed in March 2012, said Xen Riggs, chief operating officer for Columbus Arena Management.

    It’s in that same entrepreneurial spirit that FAU and Sunrise Sports forged a partnership, Chun said.

    “I have appropriate expectations,” he said. “For us, it’s mining a niche to see what we can do to attract special events.”

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