Saints Owner Tom Benson indicated that he is planning to "build a 5,000- to 6,000-seat stadium on land between" Saints HQs and Zephyr Field, according to James Varney of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Benson owns 10 acres across the street from the club's complex," and he noted that a stadium "would provide an ideal spot for ... practice or a scrimmage." Benson: "We would practice there, and then when these 5,000 people come they've got a place to go, we've got a nice place available for them." The Saints "would also make the stadium, which he envisions opening in 2012, available for high school games." Varney also noted the Superdome's $85M renovation "is under way," and Benson said, "If you hadn't seen it for 20 years, and now you came back to it -- it's got a beautiful color to it, you see windows and you can see inside it, and you can look outside and it's not like you're all in some closed deal, all right?" Benson: "On top of that, the reconfiguration of it! It's like the new stadiums, now they're square more, even the end zones are going to be square. This is what we're going to have here: We're going to have the same thing that any new stadium that has been built has. And we're going to be able to see better in 72,000, 73,000 seats, depending on some little things. We're going to have more seats available and better seats" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/20).
SAVINGS FOR STATE: In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan reported a lockout "wouldn't put a dent" in the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District's finances since the Saints, "like most NFL teams, keep all game-day revenue from the state-owned Superdome." The state, "in reaching a deal nearly two years ago that would keep the Saints playing in the Superdome to 2025 and create revenue streams" for the team "built in a clause that alleviated much of its financial burden to the team if the 2011 season is lost because of a lockout." SMG Regional VP Doug Thornton, whose company manages the Superdome for the state, said that "if anything, a season-long lockout would allow the LSED to save nearly" $1.2M in game-day staffing (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/18).
The Cubs have signed United Airlines to a naming-rights deal for the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, according to industry sources. The multi-year agreement for the 235-person United Club takes effect this season at the 97-year-old facility. This deal is the first naming-rights deal for the members-only restaurant in the ballpark’s right field corner. United has an existing relationship with the Cubs and this deal is part of a new and larger team deal between the team and the Chicago-based airline, sources said. Opening Day is April 1 at Wrigley Field. Levy Restaurants operates the United Club. Elsewhere in Chicago, United Airlines sponsors the fine dining club at Soldier Field and has naming rights to United Center, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks.
Slight modifications to Staples Center security measures “were evident at the Clippers-Suns game Sunday, the day after a man wielding a knife reached the court before the Clippers played the Cavaliers,” according to J.A. Adande of ESPN.com. A man on Saturday “pulled a knife on security guards at the employee entrance, then made it to the court, where he was surrounded by Staples Center security and off-duty police officers in the building while waiting” for LAPD officers to arrive. Staples Center Senior VP & GM Lee Zeidman said that the “proper procedures were followed and that he does not anticipate major policy changes, although there will be a review.” The employee and media entrance that normally “has two security guards standing inside behind a metal detector,” had “a third security guard” stationed outside the door yesterday. The players “noticed an increased security presence,” as an “additional member of the Clippers' security staff was seated by the bench during the game” (ESPN.com, 3/20).
SCARY SITUATION: In L.A., Lisa Dillman reported “panic spread at Staples Center less than two hours before” the Cavaliers-Clippers game Saturday when the knife-wielding man and police engaged “in a standoff lasting nearly half an hour.” Zeidman said that a security officer “noticed an individual walking around the employee entrance about 10:45 a.m.” Zeidman: "He tried to enter the doors and we tried to secure him and stop him. … He pulled out a knife at that point and told our officers in no uncertain terms to get away from him." LAPD officers “ultimately tackled the man near the Cavaliers' bench and took him into custody without anyone getting hurt.” The three Clippers “closest to the man -- Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye and Al-Farouq Aminu -- were able to run off the court, as was Christian Eyenga of the Cavaliers.” Clippers assistant coach Howard Eisley “jumped over the scorer's table to get away.” There were “plenty of children around the court, but not many spectators in the building at the time.” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Cavaliers coach Byron Scott “both wanted to delay the game's start by 15 minutes.” Scott: “The league said five (minutes), which I don't understand. Either give us 15 or don't give us any" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). Police apprehended the man by “firing guns containing bean bags to finally subdue him.” Staples Center “was locked down and players were confined to their locker rooms” during the standoff (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/20). Clippers G Randy Foye, who was sitting courtside when the man reached the court, said, “I looked up and there was somebody standing like 15 feet from me with a long, shiny knife. I was looking like, ‘Is this real?’ I was in shock” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/20).
Dodgers attendance has “plummeted this spring,” according to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. The team is averaging 6,645 fans through 10 games at Camelback Ranch, down 42.3% compared to a record 11,589 in 17 games at the facility last year. The 13,000-seat ballpark is a “step away from embarrassing when it’s less than half full, which it often has been this spring.” Dilbeck wrote, “Maybe the Arizona novelty for Dodgers fans has worn off. Maybe it’s a result of a losing season or a state hit hard by the recession. Or just possibly, it’s a weariness with ownership.” Attendance throughout the Cactus League is “down significantly, and in spring training in general.” MLB attendance this spring “has fallen an average of 1,309 a game, or 17.2%.” The Dodgers said that attendance in the Arizona area “has been particularly hit” because the Rockies and D’Backs opened Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Glendale. Dodgers VP/PR & Broadcasting Josh Rawitch: "There’s no doubt that adding two more teams to the Phoenix area, including the Diamondbacks whose hometown fans are several hours closer to spring training, has had an impact around the whole league" (LATIMES.com, 3/18). MLB.com’s Scott Merkin noted MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday “preached patience in regard to Cactus League attendance.” Selig: "Everybody tells me, 'Let's see how we do in the last 10 days.' Now spring vacation is here and the crowds yesterday were very good all over. There's no way to really forecast that. They still think they can come very close to last year. We'll see if that's true.” Selig said, "Business is up from last year. Ticket business is up. I feel good about this year. I have a goal in mind which is a substantial increase over last year.” He added, “For the most part, ticket sales have been really good and all sales have been good. I think we'll set records in a number of areas" (MLB.com, 3/20).
WEST COAST BIAS: Nationals Owner Mark Lerner said that his team is “actively exploring options in both Florida and Arizona” for a new Spring Training facility. In DC, Adam Kilgore noted team officials “have been touring potential sites on the west coast of Florida and in Arizona since last season.” The Nationals “believe the dearth of teams on the east coast of Florida," where their current home Viera is located, and the "distance between sites has made for an untenable travel schedule.” The Nationals “would prefer to build their own, new stadium.” Lerner said that team officials have “already consulted an architect and begun making plans for their own spring stadium” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/20). In Boston, Peter Abraham notes the Nationals are “not pleased with training in remote Viera on the east coast of the state” and have toured the Red Sox' facility in City of Palms "but would prefer to have a new facility.” Lerner: “We do have a problem here. … Our problem is basically logistics. Our closest game is 120-mile round trip. We cannot do that. It’s tiring” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/21).