SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Facilities

Gensler gets the call to design Cleveland stadium refurb

Don Muret
The Cleveland Browns have selected Gensler to design a major renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium, according to industry sources.

In addition, sources said Turner Construction has been named general contractor for the two-year project, expected to cost more than $100 million.

For both firms, the common thread is Browns CEO Joe Banner. Before getting the job in Cleveland, Banner was president of the Philadelphia Eagles. Last summer, the Eagles hired Gensler to design $160 million in upgrades to Lincoln Financial Field.

The Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium renovation is expected to cost more than $100M.
Turner Construction, the Eagles’ general contractor, originally built the team’s stadium, which opened in 2003. At that time, Ron Turner, no relation to the builder, was employed by NBBJ, the firm that designed the Linc. Turner is now Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment.

The Browns are expected to announce the renovation later this month.

Gensler, based in Los Angeles, was selected in March 2011 to design Farmers Field in Los Angeles. Without an NFL tenant, the $1 billion project remains on hold.

> L.A. LIVE: Three weeks before the University of Southern California takes over management of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Pac-12 school has hired Mike Garcia to handle day-to-day operations of both facilities.

Garcia was most recently general manager of the Greek Theatre, a 5,800-seat outdoor concert venue in Los Angeles. At USC, his official title is executive director of strategic planning. He reports to Dan Stimmler, associate senior vice president for auxiliary services.

The hiring of Garcia comes as a surprise to some USC insiders who thought NFL veteran Jim Steeg would be named general manager of the stadium and arena. Since January, Steeg had been consulting with USC in the transition as the school takes over those venues.

Instead, USC took a step in a different direction and hired Garcia, whose job is to help the school get through the college football season. “We want to operate the coliseum and sports arena for some time and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the total operation and determine the direction we are going with it before hiring a new GM,” he said.

One factor weighing against Steeg’s chances was the departure of Kristina Raspe, USC’s former vice president for real estate and asset management, sources said. Raspe hired Steeg, and her department led the transition. She left the school in May to work for Apple.

Steeg did not respond to an email seeking comment.

USC expects to hire a concessionaire by early August, Stimmler said. The school is talking to all the national vendors after issuing an RFP. Stadium and arena food have been run in-house.

USC is projected to take over both facilities July 29, Stimmler said.

The school last week was preparing an RFP to renovate the coliseum after committing $70 million to $100 million in upgrades to the 90-year-old stadium. Those costs could increase to $300 million, said architects who have discussed the project with university officials.

In late June, the board of directors of Exposition Park and the California Science Center, the landlords of the two facilities, approved a 98-year lease agreement with USC. The deal gives the school the ability to sell naming rights to the coliseum to help cover the cost of the renovation.

> APP BAT: The Atlanta Braves are doing brisk business at Turner Field selling traditional merchandise and game-used items such as bats, balls and bases through MLB’s At the Ballpark mobile application.

To buy merchandise, fans must download the application before pressing the tab labeled In-Seat Merchandise Ordering. A credit card is required to complete the purchase, and fans can have the items delivered to their seats.
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes — the average length of an inning — to order merchandise and have it delivered, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Twenty games after activating the in-seat service, the Braves are averaging sales of $1,000 to $2,000 a game, Schiller said. Sales spiked at $5,000 on June 28, the night the Braves retired the No. 10 jersey worn by the team’s former third baseman Chipper Jones.

Through the application, game-used items are outselling traditional merchandise by more than 2-to-1. “By the end of the season, my guess is we will have generated a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue,” Schiller said.

The Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies are the only two MLB teams providing the option to buy merchandise through the At the Ballpark application, said MLB spokesman Matt Bourne.

Overall, according to data kept by MLB Advanced Media, the Braves lead MLB in the number of fans using the At the Ballpark application, he said.

> UNDER THE BRIDGE: The departure of veteran sports designer Bill Crockett, AECOM’s principal-in-charge of the Golden State Warriors’ San Francisco arena project, will have no effect on the team’s plans to develop its new home, Warriors President Rick Welts said.

AECOM has been a consultant to lead architect Snohetta, an Oslo, Norway-based firm, since the two were announced in August as the design team for the $500 million waterfront project.

“While AECOM has completed its current scope of work on the project, the firm remains on the team as a strategic advisor working with Snohetta,” Welts wrote in an email. “We expect with [both firms’] expertise, the project will continue to move along in strong fashion.”

AECOM and Crockett parted ways earlier this month. Crockett worked for AECOM and its predecessor, Ellerbe Becket, for 25 years and was one of its first hires after Ellerbe launched its Kansas City-based sports practice in 1988.

Crockett designed several major league facilities, including NBA arenas Barclays Center and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Crockett will remain in San Francisco and said he is fielding opportunities to join other firms.

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

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