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Volume 24 No. 155


AEG has selected Gensler to design Farmers Field, the $1B NFL stadium proposed for downtown L.A. Gensler, an international firm with 36 offices worldwide, has not designed a pro football facility, but it did develop L.A. Live’s The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences and JW Marriott across the street from the Farmers Field site. In addition, Gensler Dir of Sports & Development Ron Turner was one of three principals at NBBJ when that company designed the AEG-owned Staples Center and two NFL facilities, Paul Brown Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field. Gensler was chosen over experienced NFL stadium designers HKS and HNTB because of the firm’s familiarity with the site tied to its work at L.A. Live, coupled with Turner’s knowledge of the location during design and construction of Staples Center. That is an important distinction for AEG as it moves quickly to file an environmental impact review for the project by the end of ‘11, said Icon Venue Group President & CEO Tim Romani, whose company is the project manager. The state of California requires those reviews for all new construction projects, and the process can take up to 18 months to be completed. AEG’s goal is to fast-track the process and have it filed by October, Romani said. “These are compact surroundings and knowing how this campus works will accelerate what we need to get done,” he said.

CONFIDENT OF WORKING WITHIN BUDGET: Turner, whose relationship with AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke goes back about 25 years to when both were working in K.C., is confident Gensler’s team can design a 1.75-million-square-foot stadium with 72,000 fixed seats within AEG’s budget of $725M in hard construction costs. The $1B total cost includes infrastructure upgrades but does not cover the cost to build new parking garages and rebuild the West Hall portion of the L.A. Convention Center that would be torn down for the new stadium. “We feel comfortable we can not only get it done but beat that budget. That’s our goal,” Turner said. “The unique thing about this project is it is not just a stadium. It is so integrated into the [adjacent] convention center that every event will be utilizing pieces of both buildings.” Gensler is looking at several options for the roof design at Farmers Field. The final drawings could include a fixed roof or a retractable system, Turner said.

LOOKING FOR CONVENTION CENTER ARCHITECT: In conjunction with Farmers Field, Icon Venue Group, co-owned by AEG, is acting on behalf of the city to hire an architect to design the convention center retrofit. Icon has received seven proposals to design the new West Hall, a project funded by $350M in bonds issued by the city under AEG’s plan to build the stadium. Gensler and HNTB, a firm with extensive experience designing convention centers, both submitted proposals. AEG/Icon and city officials will work together to select a designer for that job in the coming weeks, Romani said. The next step is to issue a proposal for a stadium construction manager, but no date has been determined for when that particular RFP is sent out, Romani said. It could be sometime this summer, industry sources said. All things considered, including the resolution of the NFL lockout and a team relocating to L.A., AEG officials say they remain on track to open Farmers Field by the start of the ‘15 season. Romani: “We could have drawings ready by early next year to get started with site work and start the process for constructing the stadium in the first quarter.”

Kentucky Speedway officials Thursday said that with less than four months until the July 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400, the "extensive renovation and expansion that started in September is ahead of schedule," and ticket sales also are "exceeding expectations," according to Kevin Kelly of the KENTUCKY ENQUIRER. The $82M project includes the construction of two 19,000-seat towers that "will increase grandstand seating to about 106,000." Workers were "installing seats in one of the new towers Thursday." In addition, pit road is "being moved 200 feet closer to the grandstands for the benefit of fans," and that "should be complete by early May." The track also "has added about 3,000 new campsites." Kentucky Speedway GM Mark Simendinger said that there is "some pressure to produce a sellout crowd for the inaugural race." He "didn't put a number on tickets sold so far, but is counting on a sellout" (KENTUCKY ENQUIRER, 3/25). SMI Construction Manager Steve Swift said that "despite the scope of the expansion," the project is "one of the easier facelifts he's done for the company." Simendinger "joked the track hardly looks like the same place he walked into when it opened in 2000." Simendinger said that he "doesn't anticipate making any changes to the track, like repaving it, saying the sometimes bumpy surface has produced an exciting product during the Nationwide Series' annual visit." The AP's Will Graves noted there are "plans to update and perhaps move the garage area, but that won't happen until the fall at the earliest" (AP, 3/24).

CenturyLink Manager of Market Development Tony Timmons, whose company recently reached an agreement to merge with Qwest Communications, said, “Each Qwest-named venue will be evaluated to determine the appropriate re-branding implementation." In Seattle, Danny O’Neil noted the Seahawks “have not been notified of any plans regarding a change to the name of Qwest Field.” Qwest bought the naming rights to the Seahawks' stadium in ‘04, and the deal runs through ’14 (, 3/24). In Tacoma, John McGrath writes fans should “all just say no” to a name change of Qwest Field. McGrath: “If the taxpayers of Washington were able to build a palace for the Seahawks and Sounders by contributing $300 million to the stadium’s $430 million construction budget, the taxpayers of Washington should have a voice in what to call it. … If CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest means a renaming of all Qwest properties, let’s not acknowledge the renaming of the taxpayer-built property in Seattle” (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/25).

VIKING QUEST CONTINUES: In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman writes “don't be surprised if there is talk of a hotel and car rental tax in the Legislature in the next few days to help finance a new Vikings stadium.” There also “still is a possibility that Hennepin County, with income from the sales tax paying for Target Field going well, would get involved in helping the Vikings, too.” Meanwhile, Hartman notes “there are rumors that while Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the city council won't offer future Convention Center tax income to a Vikings stadium, they might use some of that income once the Convention Center is paid off to remodel Target Center” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).

THE GREEN LIGHT: In Tampa, Jodie Tillman reports a $35M makeover of the Univ. of South Florida's Sun Dome “got the go-ahead Thursday from the Board of Governors.” The university's foundation “must set aside $20 million -- a quarter of its investment pool -- as a backup guarantee for the $26 million loan that is financing most of the project.” Board members “came up with that proposal after expressing concerns that USF's proposal to use a combination of revenue streams -- including concessions, ticket sales, parking and naming rights -- would not be enough to cover the debt payments.” Tillman writes USF “had expected the foundation would need to step up for the first few years given the revenue projections,” but officials “had not anticipated setting aside” $20M (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/25).

BRONX BOMBERS: In N.Y., Daniel Beekman notes Bronx Parking Development, the company that runs the Yankee Stadium parking system, is “bleeding money despite financial aid from the city and state, because its garages and lots are underused.” The company “owes the city more than $10.6 million in back rent.” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said that the solution “is building a fancy hotel above one of the garages that could save the firm and boost the local economy at the same time” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/25).