SBJ/Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2014/Facilities

Davis Cup date at Petco catches interest of NFL, MLS venues

Don Muret
This weekend’s Davis Cup match at Petco Park has piqued the interest of NFL and Major League Soccer stadiums about potentially booking those events at their facilities, according to U.S. Tennis Association officials.

The United States plays host to Great Britain in a first-round competition Friday through Sunday at the Padres’ ballpark. It is the first time a Davis Cup match will be held in an open-air ballpark and the second time at an MLB facility. The first one was held at Tropicana Field in 1990 (then known as the Suncoast Dome), eight years before the Tampa Bay Rays’ inaugural season, said USTA spokesman Tim Curry.

For future Davis Cup events, Global Spectrum officials have approached the USTA about using University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, and PPL Park, where the MLS Philadelphia Union plays. Global Spectrum runs both buildings.

In addition, the Boston Red Sox have expressed interest in holding Davis Cup matches at Fenway Park, said Jeff Ryan, the USTA’s director of team events.

“We see this year’s event opening a lot of doors for us with a lot more options,” Ryan said. “But there are other things that have be factored in, such as the players, schedule, weather and a venue’s availability. The tricky part is Davis Cup dates are so spread out and we often don’t know whether we’re going to be home or away. It’s been 15 years [for example] since we played Great Britain.”

In San Diego, the USTA had a choice of two sites for the event as part of a bid process involving a local organizing committee tied to the San Diego Sports Commission. One site was at The Embarcadero, a commercial strip that sits along San Diego Bay behind the city’s convention center. The waterfront property, future home of the San Diego Aviators, a new World TeamTennis franchise, was considered too small for the Davis Cup, though, and officials then turned their focus to the Padres’ facility.

“We jumped in with both feet,” said Padres President and CEO Mike Dee. “They loved the venue with the proximity of players heading back from the Australian Open.”

At Petco Park, the competitors, including Andy Murray, the reigning Wimbledon men’s singles champion, will play on a red clay surface surrounded by a temporary grandstand set up in left field. The total number of seats is about 7,000, including permanent seats down the left-field line and at the Western Metal building, a structure folded into the ballpark.

The Padres are renting ballpark space to the USTA in conjunction with the local organizing committee, Dee said. The team generates revenue from concessions, parking and selling some Western Metal suites for $10,000 apiece covering all three days of action. Those event dollars are exempt from MLB’s revenue-sharing agreement.

As of last week, the USTA had sold about 5,000 tickets for the event, a number that includes three-day passes, Ryan said. Single-day tickets range from $50 to $200 depending on seat location.

The USTA’s total investment to produce the event at Petco Park is about $1 million, Ryan said. “As much as it’s about revenue … to the USTA’s credit, it’s about having a home court advantage and coming out with a win,” he said.

> REAL NUMBERS: Many industry observers may be surprised to hear the true value of United Airlines’ naming-rights renewal for United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.

The 20-year extension, which was announced in December, carries a total value of $220 million, an average of $11 million a year, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. The annual value vaults United Center to the top of all NBA and NHL arenas that carry naming rights.

Initially, some naming-rights brokers estimated its value at $5 million to $8 million annually, the typical range for a two-team building. But new information from the source close to the deal reveals it to be a much higher number.

The deal was done in-house by the joint venture running the facility for the two teams, arena officials confirmed.

The success of the Bulls and Blackhawks and the arena’s event schedule, plus being in the country’s third-largest market, drove the value exponentially for a venue that turns 20 years old this year, the source said. United’s original 20-year deal was valued at $2 million a year.

To put the agreement in perspective, it matches the terms of the naming-rights deal for Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ new $1.3 billion facility opening in August.

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

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