The Portland Timbers and Oregon-based window and door manufacturer Jeld-Wen yesterday formally announced a naming-rights partnership for the MLS club's stadium, now known as Jeld-Wen Field. The facility will open to the public on April 14 when the Timbers host their first MLS game, against the Chicago Fire. In addition, Jeld-Wen has signed on as the official window and door provider of the Timbers and MLS (Timbers). Jeld-Wen assumes naming rights to the Portland stadium from PGE, whose 10-year entitlement contract expired at the end of last year. In Portland, Geoffrey Arnold notes details of the Timbers/Jeld-Wen deal were not disclosed, but it "will likely be as long as PGE's." Jeld-Wen saw the naming-rights agreement "as an opportunity to expand its exposure." Jeld-Wen President Ron Wendt: "We like the demographics of soccer, the momentum that it has as a professional sport in the United States and around the world." Wendt said that the Timbers "approached the company about the sponsor opportunity a year ago." He noted that with Jeld-Wen's business "being negatively affected by the national and global economies, the company's decision-makers took their time deliberating" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/15). Jeld-Wen was Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson's "first choice," though he noted that "several companies were in the mix." The company will participate in "soccer-related community involvement programs throughout Oregon," which includes providing 25 tickets "for each Timbers home game to underprivileged youths" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/14).
The Bills' lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium expires on July 31, 2013, and the team and Erie County officials "have held preliminary talks that have been described as informal, social discussions," according to Gaughan & Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Both the Bills and the county "seem intent on bringing a third partner, New York State, to the table, to help pay for renovations to keep the 38-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium more relevant in the new NFL." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson, 92, has "no incentive to enter into a long-term extension," but his commitment to "keep the team in Western New York during his lifetime gives local officials confidence that an extension will get done." No one wants to be "known as the politician who couldn't nail down a new lease agreement and paved the way for the team to leave." However, county officials "also may have a difficult time explaining away county concessions to the Bills, when cultural agencies and local libraries are seeing significant cutbacks." The Bills' current lease for 15 years began in '98, and with "so much uncertainty about the team's future here, 15 years seems the longest a new lease might run." The state "faces a dire financial situation, and it's unclear whether it will be asked to fund a similarly large capital-improvement project" for the stadium. The annual upkeep has kept the facility "in good condition," but there are "plenty of ways it could be spruced up as part of a new deal," including "renovating the press box into luxury suites" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/14).
WILL CHARGERS MAKE LEASE PAYMENTS? VOICE OF SAN DIEGO's Andrew Donohue reported there is a clause in the Chargers' contract with the city of San Diego that lets the team "forgo paying the $2.5 million rent if a 'force majeure event' prevents the team from using" Qualcomm Stadium. The term is used to describe an "unexpected event, like a natural disaster, war or other 'act of God,' that would keep a party from living up to its contract." The Chargers are claiming that the NFL lockout "is indeed a force majeure." Chargers attorneys said that the term "isn't defined in the latest amended contract, so the definition falls back to the original lease." Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani noted a lockout is included in the lease (VOICEOFSANDIEGO.org, 3/14).
Two Minnesota state legislators "playing key roles in a public subsidy plan" for a new Vikings stadium "were cool Monday to a 'global solution' that would include stadium plans for other professional sports teams in Minnesota," according to Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The plan, which was "advocated" by the T'Wolves, "would create a regional sports authority and then issue bonds through" the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Council to raise $1.173B. That money "would fund not only a new Vikings stadium, but also renovate Target Center, build a new St. Paul Saints ballpark and address the remaining debt on the Xcel Center in St. Paul." The T'Wolves "suggested that funding for the proposal could come from a one-fifth cent metrowide sales tax, state tobacco settlement funds, a new casino in downtown Minneapolis and a Vikings lottery game" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/15). Kaszuba Saturday noted while the plan "would ask the teams to contribute," the "majority of the funding -- $74 million annually -- would come from taxpayers" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/12). MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO's Tim Nelson wrote the proposal is the "secret plan to end the stadium war." While "most of the stadium attention at the Capitol is focused on finding a new home" for the Vikings, the T'Wolves and the city of Minneapolis are "seeking a $155 million upgrade" to Target Center. T'Wolves Senior VP/Communications & CMO Ted Johnson said that the team "floated the plan with the Minnesota Wild; AEG Facilities, the company that manages Target Center; the Vikings and the city of Minneapolis." Johnson said, "We haven't had anyone who said no" (PUBLICRADIO.org, 3/11).
Mandalay Baseball Properties has struck a joint venture agreement with Professional Sports Catering LLC in which it will become a minority owner and strategic partner to the Illinois-based food and beverage service company, which focuses exclusively on minor league baseball and services a dozen teams. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the pact represents a meaningful expansion for the Mandalay portfolio, which includes six minor league teams it owns and/or operates. PSC was formed five years ago by Tom Dickson and his wife, Sherrie Myers, owners of the Class A Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts and Class AA Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits. "PSC offers a very different model to the norm and are very focused on the minor league baseball fan experience," said Mandalay Baseball Properties CEO Art Matin. "They understand this business acutely because they're in the business." But even with the alignment with PSC, no new decisions have been made yet on future concession services for the Mandalay portfolio clubs. The Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Yankees, co-owned by Mandalay and the N.Y. Yankees, will continue to be serviced by Legends Hospitality, another entity owned in part by the Yankees. "We're taking all of this one step at a time," Matin said. "The first thing is taking this first step working together." PSC had been approached several times in recent years with similar partnership and acquisition offers from various entities, but had declined them all until talks with Mandalay began last fall. PSC's existing name and management structure will remain intact. "We hadn't been interested at all, but this one with Mandalay is a natural fit with our company," Dickson said. "We've been growing, and now expect further, significant growth with this new structure."
In London, Tim Rich reports EPL club Manchester City has "secured permission to sell the naming rights" to City of Manchester Stadium. No talks "with any sponsor are yet under way" (London INDEPENDENT, 3/15). In Manchester, Mike Keegan wrote it is likely that the club's shirt sponsor, Etihad, "will be frontrunners" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 3/14).
ELECTION BEAT: In St. Petersburg, Richard Danielson reports Tampa mayoral candidates Bob Buckhorn and Rose Ferlita yesterday discussed "Tampa taxpayer involvement if the Rays end their play in St. Petersburg and look for a new home." Buckhorn noted that new ballparks recently "have included a combination of money from team owners, plus private equity, plus cities potentially doing infrastructure work around the new stadiums." Buckhorn: "There are all kinds of creative ways to do it." He said that he "would like to see a new stadium go downtown, because of its potential to fuel urban economic development." Buckhorn: "We need to find a way to keep them." Ferlita took a "harder line." Ferlita: "We cannot plan on spending any public dollars." Ferlita added that she "would love to see the Rays play in Tampa, but 'people are strapped now'" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/15). Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Delen Goldberg reported "none of the leading candidates for Las Vegas mayor think public money should be used to build a sports arena." All of the candidates "agreed that an arena should be a private enterprise" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/14).
MOVING FORWARD: In Milwaukee, Mark Kass reported the Packers are "moving ahead with plans for new scoreboards at Lambeau Field" despite the uncertainty of the '11 NFL season. Packers VP/Administration & General Counsel Jason Wied Saturday said that the team "would move ahead with a $14 million plan to upgrade the two scoreboards at Lambeau Field, along with its sound system." Wied: "We always try to look at investments in a long-term horizon. We are not going to sit on our hands and wait for this to play out. We are committed to making this a better place to come to" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/12).