The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Thursday voted to put a "new $18.3 million roof" on the Metrodome for the Vikings' last scheduled season there, "even though it's not entirely certain it can be ready in time for the team's August preseason schedule," according to Kevin Duchschere of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. MSFC officials "estimated that the total price tag for the project" probably will be $19M, though they "expressed confidence that the entire sum, save for a $25,000 deductible, will be handled by insurance." The goal is "completion of the new roof by Aug. 1, only two weeks before the NFL begins its preseason schedule." While the Vikings said that they supported the MSFC's plan "to replace the stadium's 30-year-old storm-tossed roof, they reiterated that they don't see it as a long-term stadium solution." The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires after the '11 season, and VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "Nothing's changed in terms of the challenges of (the Dome) in terms of fan amenities and revenues for the team" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/11). Bagley added a new roof is "not a long-term solution." Bagley: "It's still not a long-term, viable NFL facility." MSFC Chair Ted Mondale noted that the Vikings are under contract to play the '11 season at the Metrodome, "and therefore not fixing the roof was never an option" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/11). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote the "ideal scenario would have been to shutter the building entirely and begin construction on a replacement immediately." Seifert: "A plan to spend $18 million to repair a 29-year-old building has its faults, even if insurance covers most of the cost" (ESPN.com, 2/10).
ARDENT PURSUIT: In St. Paul, Dave Orrick reports in what Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are "calling 'an extremely important step,'" the Ramsey County (Minn.) Board of Commissioners is "poised to vote next week on a resolution expressing its intent to officially court the NFL franchise for a proposed stadium in Arden Hills." Commissioners Thursday, "armed with a laudatory letter" from the Wilfs, "made public a draft resolution -- to be voted on Tuesday -- authorizing county staff to negotiate with the team about a stadium at the abandoned and polluted Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant near Interstate 35W and U.S. 10." Bagley said, "We're really down to the wire in terms of we need to have a site and local partner, and Ramsey County has stepped up." Orrick notes Ramsey County Commissioners "had been hoping to have an exclusive relationship with the Vikings, who are considering or have considered at least four Twin Cities sites, but the Wilfs stopped short of that" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/11). In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson reports the resolution is "expected to pass easily." Bagley said that the Vikings are "interested in the Arden Hills site, 10 miles north of the Metrodome," and that approval of the resolution "means going ahead to determine whether the site is truly viable" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/11).
Quebec City has announced that it will "begin construction within several months on a new NHL-style hockey arena -- with or without any involvement from Ottawa or private industry," according to the CP. Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume and Quebec Premier Jean Charest Thursday said that the project "will proceed with a 50-50 funding arrangement between the province and city." Labeaume added that he "planned to discuss the matter immediately with NHL bosses." Charest said that the province "will increase its funding commitment and is now ready to pay half the arena cost -- as long as the total price tag doesn't exceed" $400M (all figures Canadian). He added that the "door's always open if the Ottawa or the private sector want to contribute later." Labeaume "repeated several times the city's projected share of the project -- $187 million -- would amount, over the life of its financing, to less" than 1% of the municipal budget. He "promised to get it built without raising municipal tax rates." Labeaume added that the arena "would 'not become a white elephant' because, as a multi-purpose facility, it would attract more non-hockey events to Quebec City." Still, there were "some notable absences at Thursday's news conference: nobody was there from Ottawa, or from Quebecor Inc., the media empire that has been talking about bringing NHL hockey back to Quebec City" (CP, 2/10). The GLOBE & MAIL's Curry & Seguin report "future private revenue from the Quebec City arena will be evenly split between the city and the province." This includes the "commercial naming rights for the building, marketing revenues, and operating rights." Labeaume indicated that "all of this could total several million dollars a year." Labeaume also said that he told NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Thursday that the arena is "going ahead" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/11).
The French Tennis Federation will vote on Sunday to decide whether the French Open will remain at Roland Garros or “move farther afield in 2015 to one of three other sites: Gonesse, Marne-la-Vallée or Versailles,” according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. Paris and Roland Garros, home to the Grand Slam tournament since 1928, "still look like the slight favorites,” but Versailles has the “requisite snob appeal, with its palace within walking distance of the proposed location on a former military base, and either Gonesse or Marne-la-Vallée would allow the French Federation to own its site outright instead of settling for a long-term lease.” FTF Dir General Gilbert Ysern said, “It’s true that when we started to talk inside our federation about the possibility of a move, the idea didn’t have much success. But we’ve come a long way. Thinking hard about it and laying out the possible advantages there would be in building a new stadium, there’s been a change in many people’s way of approaching it.” Retired tennis player Justine Henin said, “I have a hard time imagining Roland Garros anywhere else, but I think it’s definitely true that the site needs to grow. The players and the spectators suffer because it’s too small. They have to find a solution.” If the French Open stays at Roland Garros, the “plan is to build a retractable roof over the main Philippe Chatrier stadium, and the Paris municipal authorities have approved a proposal that would permit the tournament to expand from its current” 21 acres to about 33 acres, and “allow construction of a small stadium in the adjacent botanical gardens” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11).
In DC, Mike Jones reports the Redskins are in talks to move their training camp from team HQs in Ashburn, Va., "for the first time” since ‘02. Sources said that the team has “made arrangements to take over The Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel in Fairfax for the month of August, and have held preliminary discussions about using George Mason University's campus for training camp.” George Mason AD Tom O’Connor said that Redskins GM Bruce Allen and VP/Sales & Marketing Rod Nenner “have toured the university's campus and the Mason Inn more than once, but described the discussions as preliminary.” O’Connor: "We took them around and they liked what they saw. ... There are certainly logistical issues we would have to work through. Nothing has gone to the next level" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/11).
ON NEW TURF: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Matthew Sekeres reports the Vancouver Whitecaps will host “three games at the renovated BC Place Stadium” in their inaugural MLS season. MLS released its '11 schedule Thursday and the Whitecaps “had most of their requests met, including the opportunity to play several games at the retractable-roof stadium.” The 54,000-seat BC Place, undergoing a C$563M renovation, is "expected to be ready by Sept. 30.” The Whitecaps will play home matches at 27,000-seat Empire Field before BC Place is ready (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/11).
SHORT SALE:In North Carolina, Graff & Dell report Winston-Salem city officials “are talking again about selling Joel Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State universities, respectively, in an effort to save money.” Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said that the talks “have been ongoing for a number of years.” Negotiations are “included on a list of his priorities for the city” for ‘11. Garrity noted that the city has lost a total of about $850,000 a year "for the last five years on the two facilities.” Winston-Salem “spends an additional $1.5 million paying down the debt the city incurred to build or improve them” (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 2/11).
PACKING LABELS: In Rochester, Kevin Oklobzija reports Buffalo-based Sahlen Packing Co. has bought the naming rights to Rochester's downtown stadium, and the “10-year contract will help finance operation” of the USL Pro Rochester Rhinos and MLL Rochester Rattlers. Sahlen's Stadium also “will be the home” of the expansion WPS Western New York Flash (Rochester DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 2/11).