The Falcons “moved a step closer toward a possible new home field Tuesday, after the Georgia World Congress Center Authority signaled it is ready to move into detailed talks on the matter,” according to a front-page piece by Stafford, Ledbetter & McWilliams of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. The GWCCA agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Falcons on “plans for a potential $700 million open-air stadium downtown.” The GWCCA and Falcons emphasized that the “memorandum does not constitute a done deal, but rather allows them to begin negotiations over details of the project, including financing.” Officials said that a new stadium “could open as soon as 2017,” and would be “built on a site just over a half-mile north of the Georgia Dome.” Yesterday's action was the “first time the GWCCA committed to actively plan for the Falcons’ future.” The GWCCA approved the agreement after architecture firm Populous “delivered its look at the viability of an open-air stadium.” The stadium would have “65,000 permanent seats, 10,000 temporary seats, 7,500 club seats and 110 suites.” The plan “would leave the Georgia Dome standing.” The SEC football championship, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Men’s Final Four and ACC basketball championships “have all played at the Dome because they prefer an enclosed stadium.” GWCCA Chair Bob Prather said that “if the parties agree on a new stadium, the state or the GWCCA would go to the bond market probably in 2013 or 2014 when officials hope they can raise” $350-400M. Construction would “begin shortly after the bonds are secured.” The GWCCA said that the Falcons “would kick in the remainder of the funds” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/23).
The Cubs said that they "plan to build their spring training complex in Mesa before they work on a commercial district that's part of the project," according to Garin Groff of the EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. The Wrigleyville West component was "key to what the team and the city pitched to voters who approved the project in November," but Cubs co-Owner Todd Ricketts said that the team "needs to make the stadium its priority." Construction "should begin late this year, with an opening sometime in 2013." Ricketts said that it is "unclear if the stadium will debut in time for spring training that year." He noted that the recently opened Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., that is shared by the D'Backs and Rockies "was built in 15 months, but he said the Cubs don't want to rush the project." Ricketts added that the complex in Mesa "will include a field with the same dimensions of Chicago's famed Wrigley Field." He said that the team "may use some design cues from Wrigley ... but won't build a replica." Groff noted the facility "won't be as lavish as some new Cactus League parks because the Cubs want to focus more on the fundamentals: training the team to win." Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said that the city "will build the project and expects to select a design team in March that will turn a conceptual plan into something specific." Mesa "could break ground by year's end on roughly 100 acres that is now Riverview Park." The city "has $84 million for the complex and $15 million for related infrastructure work." The Cubs are "responsible for any costs beyond that," and the Wrigleyville West component will be financed by the Ricketts family (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, 2/22).
TRAINING IN STYLE: ESPN's Karl Ravech said "everything that Yankee Stadium is for a major league team during the regular season," the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex is for the D'Backs and Rockies for Spring Training. It has "every amenity possible." ESPN's John Kruk noted the facility has a 100-seat movie theater and a two-story weight room. Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki: "We're pretty spoiled now, but we had to wear a little bit being in Tucson for all those years. Being here is nice" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 2/21).
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Vikings officials confirmed that they met Friday “to discuss the team's future as it seeks a plan for a new home.” It was the “first such meeting between the team and Rybak since last year's legislative session, when a stadium bill failed to gain traction.” It is also the “first such meeting since Ramsey County last week made official its desire to explore a stadium in Arden Hills.” In addition, it is the “first substantive discussion with Rybak over a new stadium since the Dome's roof collapsed under the weight of a 17-inch snowfall in December” (TWINCITIES.com, 2/22).
HOUSE WORK: In Buffalo, James Fink reports Erie County, N.Y., is “seeking bids to replace the AstroPlay surface that was installed” at Ralph Wilson Stadium in ’03. The upgrade is the “centerpiece of $2.8 million in repairs and renovations to take place in the coming months.” Erie County, under terms of a ’98 lease signed with the Bills, will “foot the bill for the bulk of the routine, annual improvements at the stadium.” Bids are due Feb. 28, and Erie County Dir of Real Estate Michelle Mazzone estimated that the renovations will cost $1.6-1.9M (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO, 2/18 issue).
GRAND OPENING: In North Carolina, Amanda Lehmert reports the ACC Hall of Champions next week “will debut at the Greensboro Coliseum, just in time for the 2011 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament.” The $2.3M facility and a $1.6M “VIP lounge called The Terrace” will be “the first major public debuts in a year of what will be coliseum ribbon-cuttings.” By the end of the year, the “city-run entertainment and event complex will see about $23 million worth of upgrades and additions, including a new aquatics center and an amphitheater” (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 2/23).
POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The CP’s Jennifer Graham noted Saskatchewan “has tossed a political football to Ottawa, saying it will be forced to abandon plans for a new domed stadium in Regina unless the federal government kicks in cash by the end of the month.” The proposed “multi-purpose facility would replace Mosaic Stadium, the aging home” of the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders (CP, 2/22).