SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Facilities

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  • Warriors add design veterans to arena development team

    Don Muret
    The Golden State Warriors have added two experienced NBA facility developers to their San Francisco arena project team.
    Manica Architecture, headed by veteran sports designer David Manica, and David Carlock, a former NBA team executive with the Houston Rockets, are both working for the Warriors to help develop their waterfront arena
    project, team President Rick Welts confirmed.

    The additions were a topic of discussion during VenueConnect 2013, the International Association of Venue Managers’ annual conference and trade show. The event ran July 27-30 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

    One year ago, the club hired Snohetta, an Oslo, Norway, brand design firm, to plan the arena in conjunction with AECOM, a sports design firm serving as project consultant. AECOM completed its initial work but will remain involved with the project, and Snohetta continues its role as lead designer, Welts said.

    Golden State added professionals with arena design experience to work on the team’s waterfront project.
    Image by: SNOHETTA AND AECOM
    Manica and Carlock have crossed paths professionally on several occasions, dating to the development of Toyota Center in Houston. Carlock was the Rockets’ senior vice president of business development at the same time Manica was lead designer for the arena, which opened in 2003.

    The two have also worked together on three arena developments in China as part of a joint venture between the NBA and AEG.

    Carlock has been consulting for the Warriors for the past several months, Welts said.

    The team hired both professionals because of their specific arena experience “and because the greatest arena ever envisioned should have the greatest team creating it,” Welts said.

    > SIZING IT UP: Jay Parker, Daktronics’ national sales manager, thinks the large number of major league teams and colleges ordering new video boards shows the economy has finally regained its footing.

    Company officials rattled off a list of a dozen arenas and stadiums that in the coming months will install screens produced by the Brookings, S.D., company. It’s on par with a good year when Daktronics averages 30 installations, Parker said.

    In the Big Ten Conference alone, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin will have upgraded HD-quality video boards this fall at their football stadiums
    Illinois and Iowa join Wisconsin in upgrading HD-quality video boards.
    Photos by: DAKTRONICS
    after their old screens became outdated over eight to 10 years of use.

    “The market is a lot more active, especially with renovations,” Parker said. “People are willing to spend the money. Look at Wichita State. They made it to the Final Four and then buy a new video board. It’s great for us.”

    Daktronics is building the video boards for Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ new facility opening in 2014, as well as an upgraded center-hung board at Madison Square Garden as MSG puts the finishing touches on its $1 billion renovation.

    More opportunities await makers of video boards for new NFL stadiums for the Vikings and Falcons and the Sacramento Kings’ arena project.

    There are a few holdouts to keep an eye on as well, such as Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, where the original video boards have been in use since the building opened in 1998, Parker said.

    > OVERHEARD: Greensboro Coliseum has booked a Duke-Elon men’s basketball game for New Year’s Eve. As of last week, tipoff time was still up in the air, said Scott Johnson, the arena’s deputy director. The two schools played last season at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. … Notre Dame hired 360 Architecture to develop a master plan for upgrades to the school’s football stadium. The initial concepts extend outside the facility, including new office and classroom buildings that could potentially ring the stadium at ground level, similar to the University Center surrounding Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium, sources said. … The RFP for private management of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium should be released this fall. AEG, Global Spectrum and SMG, all of whom manage NFL stadiums in other markets, are the primary contenders for the job. It will be the seventh NFL stadium to be run by an entity other than the primary tenant. … Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the Charlotte Bobcats, has booked the Avett Brothers for New Year’s Eve. The band hails from Concord, N.C., home of Charlotte Motor Speedway. … Mike Enoch, AEG’s general manager of the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, attended the IAVM conference. On Oct. 18, the arena plays host to the Warriors-Lakers preseason game. … Icon Venue Group can’t win every owner’s representative job. PC Sports is filling that niche for the Rupp Arena renovation in Lexington, the Kyle Field expansion at Texas A&M and the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, a CFL project. Paula Yancey is PC’s president. … Bob Sanders enters his second year as Manhattan Construction’s director of business development after coming over from Hunt Construction. The firm reached the pinnacle of sports construction building AT&T Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. Since that time, though, Hunt, Turner and Mortenson have all won NFL work, leaving Manhattan on the sideline. The Texas firm is handling construction of the $450 million renovation of Kyle Field and a new stadium for the University of Houston, but that’s not enough. “It’s my job to get Manhattan back to the level of those other guys,” Sanders said.

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

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  • Cubs renew deals with Levy, Ovations

    The Chicago Cubs have renewed deals with Levy Restaurants and Ovations Food Services for two high-profile food and retail contracts in Major League Baseball.

    Chicago-based Levy protected its home turf by signing a seven-year agreement to continue operating concessions, suite catering and merchandise at Wrigley Field.

    The renewals come as the Cubs consider $300 million in renovations to Wrigley Field that would greatly enhance food and retail operations, including this concept for the upper level.
    Photo by: CHICAGO CUBS
    Levy has a 28-year relationship with the Cubs dating to 1985, the year it began running premium food service at the ballpark. The vendor took over all food and retail operations, including general concessions, in 2005. Aramark and Legends were finalists for the Wrigley deal, Cubs President Crane Kenney said. In the end, seven months after the Cubs issued a proposal, the contract remained with Levy.

    “It doesn’t surprise me,” food consultant Chris Bigelow said after being told of the renewal. “They have been very aggressive financially.”

    Ovations, meanwhile, signed an eight-year deal at the Cubs’ new $84 million spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., which officially opens next year. Since 2006, Ovations has filled the same role at HoHoKam Park, the Cubs’ former spring training facility. Tampa-based Ovations also has deals with three other spring training parks.

    The extra year on Ovations’ deal reflects Levy’s contract at Wrigley, which was set to expire after the 2014 season. Now, both agreements run through the 2021 season, confirmed Alex Sugarman, the Cubs’ senior vice president of strategy and development.

    Sources pegged Wrigley Field’s current annual food and retail revenue at $35 million, down from a high of $45 million a few years ago when the ballpark consistently drew capacity crowds of 40,000. Despite the downward trend, it remains a marquee account in MLB.

    Sugarman refused to disclose Levy’s financial commitment other than to say it runs parallel with the Cubs’ plan to privately finance a long-awaited, $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.

    A source familiar with the negotiations said Levy — owned by Compass Group, the world’s largest food service company — committed $40 million to be spent on food-related upgrades as part of the renovation, but that number was tied to a 10-year deal, and “stuff can change real quick” in the eleventh hour of negotiations.

    The Cubs are covering most of the investment to ramp up the food operation in Mesa, the source said.

    For Levy, the renovation should greatly improve its back-of-house operation, increasing efficiency and speed of service. Built in 1914, Wrigley’s tiny kitchens and commissaries present unique challenges that food providers do not face at newer facilities. The proposed upgrades address those issues by adding 30,000 square feet of food preparation and commissary space and increasing points of sale by 50 percent, Sugarman said.

    The plan is for Levy to blend more local foods into its menus, similar to what it has done at Barclays Center, a building the Cubs toured as part of their research. Since it opened in September, the NBA arena has drawn raves for its “Taste of Brooklyn” brands.

    “We are looking at opportunities to expand local partnerships and bring more authentic, Chicago-only flavors to fans as well as leveraging smart technologies to elevate hospitality,” Levy President and CEO Andy Lansing said in an email.

    On the merchandise side, the renovation will more than triple the amount of square footage tied to retail, including a new 5,000-square-foot team store built at the corner of Sheffield Avenue and Addison Street near Gate D. To date, the ballpark’s size restrictions limit retail to about 2,000 square feet. The new park in Mesa will have multiple team stores, Sugarman said.

    “Our goal is to expand operations in [both buildings] with a much broader selection of retail items to push our brand,” Sugarman said.

    As of last week, the renovation was awaiting the signature of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, whose family owns the team, after city officials approved the project. But there is still a holdup. The Rickettses issued a statement that they will not start construction until rooftop owners across the street from the park sign a pledge not to sue the Cubs if they find out new advertising signs tied to the project block the views of rooftop patrons watching the games.

    “The Ricketts family has stated until remaining issues can be resolved with the rooftops, they will not begin investing in the restoration project,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said.

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  • New Orleans Arena gets long-awaited upgrades

    A hard-hat tour of New Orleans Arena reveals a mangled mess of steel cropping up from the floor like the offspring of some metallic Medusa.

    It is part of the new Chairman’s Club, one of two premium lounges at event level now under construction, and a portion of a two-year, publicly funded $50 million renovation to bring the 14-year-old arena up to speed with newer buildings.

    Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
    The rebranded New Orleans Pelicans are the driving force behind the overhaul, a team reclaiming its regional identity in the Gulf Coast after Saints owner Tom Benson bought the Hornets from the NBA in 2012.

    The Pelicans, in conjunction with SMG, the firm managing the arena, and architect AECOM are working together to redevelop the facility. It’s a long time coming: Most arena spaces have remained untouched since the Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002.

    The retrofit reaches all levels, from the
    Construction crews are working at New Orleans Arena (top) to create the Chairman’s Club, shown in rendering above.
    Image by: AECOM
    Chairman’s Club and revamped Capital One Club, another high-end space at event level, to the new midlevel loge boxes and new bandstand and public bars in the upper deck that speak to the rich music scene in New Orleans.

    The arena’s 56 suites and the Hub Club, a group suite product and one of the team’s best-selling ticket packages, are also getting a much-needed refresh.

    “Ultimately, creating a unique identity and experience for Pelicans fans is what we are dedicated to working on,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc, the team’s owner and vice chairman.

    All told, the upgrades should generate minimum incremental revenue of $5 million to $7 million a year for the Pelicans, said Doug Thornton, SMG’s senior vice president in charge of the arena and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

    As part of the new lease agreement, the Hornets’ old financial model that required the state to pay for revenue shortfalls tied to attendance levels has been eliminated. All benchmarks and financial inducements have been removed, leaving the Pelicans on their own, Thornton said.

    “The same principles we applied to the Superdome renovation apply here, meaning we wanted to enhance the fan experience, rebrand the building and create new inventory for the team to generate more revenue to allow us to change the business model we had previously,” he said.

    The project’s centerpiece is an 18,000-square-foot expansion of the front lobby extending outside the facility to the arena’s property line. The design is similar in scope to US Airways Center’s atrium in Phoenix, Thornton said.

    The addition makes up the project’s second phase, and construction will not start until after the 2013-14 season. Inside the arena, all premium upgrades are scheduled to be finished by Oct. 1. The arena plays host to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16.

    When the lobby expansion is done before the 2014-15 season, the Pelicans and their vendors Centerplate and FMI will have greater opportunities to sell food, drink and merchandise. A branded sports bar will be a prominent feature, Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said.

    The Pelicans plan to activate the new lobby space with interactive games for kids revolving around an educational theme matching the team’s charitable cause, the coastal erosion that threatens Louisiana wetlands, Lauscha said.
    It is an important connection to make to elevate the Pelicans’ brand to a level matching that of the Saints.

    “This region is very fanatical about football and we need to make sure it’s fanatical about basketball,” Lauscha said. “That’s why every time we have an opportunity, whether it’s youth programs or game day … we need to put a basketball in a kid’s hands so we can get them excited.”

    The business side remains top of mind as well. A full year after Benson bought the team, Pelicans full season-ticket sales are up 30 percent over last season. Total full season-ticket sales are expected to reach 12,000, said Mike Stanfield, senior vice president of sales for the Pelicans and Saints.

    “It has been a concerted effort within the organization,” Stanfield said. “The rebrand has certainly helped, the product on the court has helped.”

    Helping drive revenue for the Pelicans are 16 new loges. The four-seat boxes, midlevel on the east end, are an all-inclusive product and sell for about $30,000 annually, Lauscha said. The cost covers tickets, parking and food and drink, excluding hard liquor.

    As of last week, the loges were 75 percent sold. The Pelicans, working closely with the NBA’s Team Business Operations group, decided to build the loge boxes after seeing their success across the league, Lauscha said.

    The team has also renovated its north and south lounges connected to club seats priced between $2,500 and $6,500 a season.

    At event level, the Capital One Club is undergoing a complete facelift to better accommodate 150 season-ticket holders paying $52,900 to $78,000 a year to put their feet on the floor. There will be a new wine room, and an existing bar will expand to the club’s outdoor patio.

    The new Chairman’s Club, a 12,000-square-foot space and the arena’s most exclusive space, carries a $15,000 annual membership fee and is open to all season-ticket holders, Stanfield said. The price includes food and beverage and a personalized parking space.

    Similar to event-level clubs at other major league arenas, the Chairman’s Club will provide a view of Pelicans players walking from their locker room to the court. The team took the concept one step further by designing perforated glass for those patrons to hear the players’ banter.

    There are eight unsold suites among the 56 units, Stanfield said. Suite prices range from $60,000 to $240,000 a season tied to multiyear commitments.

    The Pelicans are speaking with three firms that have shown interest in buying the arena’s naming rights, Lauscha said. All three are global brands, he said, but he refused to identify the categories.

    “I wouldn’t want to make a prediction, but a lot of things are going positively,” Lauscha said when asked whether a deal could be signed by the time the NBA season starts in late October.

    The team is also pursuing deals to name the Chairman’s Club, the bandstand, the expanded lobby and loge seats, he said.

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