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Volume 24 No. 117


The NHL Panthers "have sold the naming rights to the ice floor at their arena to automaker Lexus, the first deal of its kind in the NHL and only the second one in major league sports," according to Don Muret of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The playing surface beginning next season "will be called Lexus Rink at the BankAtlantic Center." Sources said that the deal’s value is "in the mid- to upper-six figures annually." The "only other deal in the majors in which a team has sold naming rights to its playing surface is in Minneapolis, where the Vikings signed Mall of America in October 2009 to a three-year deal putting its name on the Metrodome field." Lexus has been a founding partner and sponsor of BankAtlantic Center's suite/club level since the facility opened in '98. Sunrise Sports & Entertainment President & COO Michael Yormark noted that the extension "moves Lexus’ assets from those premium spaces to the inner bowl, something company officials requested during negotiations." The deal "does not include in-ice exposure because the Panthers have already sold their four in-ice spots." The BankAtlantic Center name also is "painted near the center circle." Yormark said that the renewal "does give Lexus the first right to buy in-ice space when it becomes available." The Lexus Rink brand "will be spelled out front and center for hockey fans on a new permanent sign attached to the bottom of the center-hung scoreboard." Lexus Rink at the BankAtlantic Center marks also will "adorn the 'lip' at the top of the dasherboards facing the seats in the lower bowl." Panthers officials said that the terms of the agreement "stipulate that Lexus Rink signs will not be activated for concerts and other shows at the arena that do not use the ice floor" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/4 issue).

MLS Sporting KC "opens its $200 million, state-of-the-art" Livestrong Sporting Park against the Fire on June 9, and  “one word -- intimate -- best describes the stadium, designed by Populous and built by Turner Construction,” according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. The distance to the field from the first row of the north end zone bleachers and from the first row of east-side grandstands is 16 feet, and the “farthest any fan will be from the field is 103 feet, or one-third the length of a soccer pitch.” The stadium, which seats 18,467 for soccer and 25,000 for concerts, “includes 35 suites and five club levels, including one bleacher section -- the 2,000-seat Members Club.” Fans in the Members Club “can retreat to their own area for food and drink.” The 2,000-square-foot area will “include its own soccer sports bar that will be open not only on game day, but also daily for fans to watch international and MLS matches on the 23 flat-screen TVs.” Three hundred HDTVs “will be scattered around the facility.” Sporting KC officials said that the club “has sold about 10,000 season tickets and will cut off sales at about 16,000, leaving around 2,000 tickets available on a single-game basis.” The stadium was built “with the ability to expand and add a second deck to the south end and east stands for a capacity of 25,000.” The additional seating “would come in handy for international matches.” Covitz noted one “possible stadium component is the National Soccer Hall of Fame,” which “closed its doors in Oneonta, N.Y., and is looking for a new site.” Sporting KC VP/Development David Ficklin said the club has “had ‘lots of conversations’ about having the shrine as part of the new stadium and is awaiting clarification on what memorabilia and assets might be available” (K.C. STAR, 4/3).

In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes Target reportedly "still is interested in renewing the naming rights it has on Target Center" that expire in September. Lifetime Fitness and South Dakota-based Sanford Health “are candidates if Target doesn't renew” (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/4).

LOCAL FLAVOR: In Baltimore, Richard Gorelick notes yesterday was “opening day at Camden Yards for Delaware North Companies Sportservice, the Orioles' new concessionaire,” and the “big hits of the day had hometown appeal.” Lines were “steady at the new Polock Johnny's stands, corrugated-metal shacks lining the outer loop of the upper and lower concourse.” But there “were a few glitches” as well. Big Boog's was “among the concessions plagued by credit-card processing issues, which created extra-long lines at ATMs around the park.” Also, the “mood at the Free State Tavern, the third-base side counterpart to the Natty Boh Tavern, was flat in part because the two-beers-per-customer signs hadn't arrived.” Patrons heard about the rule “only after reaching the front of the line” (Baltimore SUN, 4/5).

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: In Milwaukee, Don Walker notes the Brewers’ new 5,940-square-foot videoboard at Miller Park “features a single-screen, pure high-definition display and is the fourth-largest scoreboard” in MLB. The new HD display “has 2,358,720 pixels, giving it nearly 18 times better resolution than the old board.” The photos of players are “so sharp, you can spot the stubble on their chins.” The videoboard is “just the third true 1080 HD display in baseball, and the fifth in existence in all major U.S. sports venues.” In addition to the videoboard, the Brewers also “renovated and upgraded the sound system” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/5).

GONE PHISHING: In New York, Jeff Murray noted Watkins Glen Int'l last week confirmed that Phish “will come to the racetrack for a music festival July 1-3.” The event replaces the IndyCar weekend the track previously hosted, but Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup said that “plans for a concert were in the works even before the track lost" the series. Printup said that track officials “agreed to cap attendance at 60,000 people,” which is “smaller than the average crowd for a NASCAR race” (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 4/4).