The Vikings and Ramsey County yesterday suggested a "combination of state grants, borrowing and tax exemptions to help pay for $131 million in road improvements needed" at their proposed stadium site in Arden Hills, but Minnesota Department of Transportation officials "warned that the plan may be more of a dead end," according to Olson & Duchschere of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The department indicated that "any state money used for roads near the stadium would count against the $300 million maximum state contribution that Gov. Mark Dayton has set for a stadium." The Vikings want to use the "entire state contribution on the $1 billion stadium itself." Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett said if the plan "gets rejected, we'll continue to work until the train leaves the depot" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/14). Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "We've been responsible. We've done everything we've been asked. And we think we're there." But in St. Paul, Dave Orrick notes the fact that "no lawmaker joined" Bagley and Bennett at a briefing on the plan yesterday "makes it difficult to gauge the likelihood of success" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 6/14).
SITE WRANGLINGS: In St. Paul, Charley Walters cited sources as saying that the Vikings' only chance for a new stadium in a Minnesota state special legislative session, "under current circumstances, is to accept a Minneapolis offer on the Metrodome site" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 6/12). However, a ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS editorial stated, "If we're going to make a stadium deal, now is the time, and the Arden Hills venue is the site." St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman "got it right" in terms of the financing of the stadium. His "proposal for a statewide, per-drink liquor tax to fund stadiums and arenas makes much more sense" than the current plan (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 6/12).
The Cubs have “struck out in their efforts to close down a block-long stretch of Sheffield Avenue for nine days to make way for a family-friendly, interactive street fair,” according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The Wrigleyville block party will “still be held,” beginning Friday when the Cubs start a three-game series against the Yankees. But instead of “shutting down Sheffield, the food, games and a Budweiser music stage featuring some of Chicago’s top cover bands will be set up on a parking lot owned by the Cubs that borders Clark Street on the west side of Wrigley Field.” Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney said, “Sheffield is a major arterial street. You’re blocking traffic for nine days where people have to be-re-routed. The community felt that was too much to handle.” He added the city has “also limited the hours and the occupancy (to 1,000 people).” Tunney: “They’re shutting down at 8 p.m.” Central Lakeview Merchants Association Exec Dir Gus Isacson said that the closing time “will ‘release people into the community,’ so local bars and restaurants can share the wealth for people.” The Cubs are 26-39 this season and seeing drops in attendance, and Isacson said, “I don’t think they want to be doing this. The Cubs are not in the street fair business. But, this is what they have to do to stay relevant” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/14).
BEAUTY IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes public opinion of Wrigley Field “seems to be shifting,” as “more people appear to be coming around to the idea that Wrigley is a crumbling mausoleum where baseball dreams go to die.” It is “a cleaner ballpark than it was in 2004” and the bathrooms are “nicer than they used to be, or, in the case of the men’s room, as nice as troughs can be.” But there is “still rust, the concourses still resemble dark alleys and people still have to elbow their way to their seats.” Morrissey: “The best thing about Wrigley is the ivy on the outfield walls and the hand-operated scoreboard towering over center field. You can have the rest of it” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/14).
RESOURCE GUIDE: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes GM Jim Hendry has “denied a report that the Cubs won't be able to spend on free agents for the next few years because of their debt load.” Hendry “pointed to expansion of the Cubs' Dominican facilities and their new complex in Mesa, Ariz., along with increases in the scouting and development budget, as examples of the Ricketts family's willingness to commit to building the organization.” The team has $50M “worth of contracts coming off the books” this offseason (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/14). Hendry was “less committal about free agency in the face of speculation the Cubs won’t have money to spend in the offseason.” He said, “That will be up to [Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts], and we’ll discuss that at the end of the year. There’s never been any talk of not (pursuing free agents)” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/14). ESPN CHICAGO’s Jon Greenberg wrote there is “little question” that Hendry will be “the scapegoat for this ramshackle team, whether it's his removal from his job, or maybe his demotion in importance with the hiring of a baseball operations president.” Fans are “showing their displeasure by not coming out to the ballpark.” Firing Hendry is a "quick way to win back public support" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 6/13).
The Nationals last night held an invitation-only VIP reception to open their new Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk, built in collaboration with Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. First announced prior to the start of the season as part of a multiyear concessions deal between the team and USHG, the area located behind the main scoreboard at Nationals Park features locations from Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, El Verano Taqueria and Box Frites. Each includes a substantial bricks-and-mortar element that makes each location more resemble restaurant fronts rather than simply food stands. The official opening of the Scoreboard Walk, which also includes areas for bands and more comfortable seating, is slated for tonight's Cardinals-Nationals game. "We're trying to create additional unique experiences for fans at the ballpark, and this was definitely a big one for us," said Nationals COO Andy Feffer. Development costs for the Scoreboard Walk were not disclosed. "This is really going to look like a park within a park. I think we're going to have a destination unlike anywhere else, and I'm saying that without hyperbole." Meyer said the company's prior sports-related installations at Citi Field and Saratoga Casino & Raceway have helped expand the overall USHG business, and a similar dynamic is expected as a result of the Nationals Park effort. "We were at two Shake Shack locations when we opened at Citi Field. We're now at 11," Meyer said. "We love being part of the sports business. Food is obviously becoming a more important part of the overall game experience, why people go to events" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
PARK WITHIN A PARK: In DC, Dan Steinberg notes the area contains “distinctive storefront facades of the four eateries,” 15 trees, as well as plants and bushes, and “'park-like space' filled with synthetic turf meant to reflect baseball’s 'backyard origins.'” There also are 14 shades that can “reduce ambient temperature by up to 20 degrees,” a 15’x25’ screen behind the scoreboard and “lounge furniture throughout the area.” Feffer said, “I think it will become the iconic, defining element of Nationals Park, the thing people leave and say, ‘Did you see that?’” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/14).
In Minneapolis, John Bream notes a Twins spokesperson yesterday confirmed that the team has been “negotiating with” Paul McCartney's agents for the musician to play at Target Field on Sept. 1. It would be the “first concert at the year-old stadium,” and McCartney will have played “in all three Twins stadiums.” As part of his On The Run Tour, he currently has concerts scheduled for July 15-16 at Yankee Stadium, July 24 at Comerica Field, July 31 at Wrigley Field and Aug. 4 at Great American Ball Park. The Twins “aren't planning to book many big music events” at their ballpark (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/14). In Cincinnati, Lori Kurtzman notes tickets for McCartney’s concert at Great American Ball Park go on sale to the public Friday, but Reds season-ticket holders and corporate partners “will be able to buy tickets starting” tomorrow (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 6/14).
OUT OF THE GATES: NYRA President & CEO Charles Hayward said that Belmont Park officials last Thursday made a presentation to the Breeders’ Cup BOD “to be the host site of the organization’s year-end event as early as 2012.” DAILY RACING FORM’s Matt Hegarty noted the BOD “has not yet named a host site for the 2012 event.” The organization “is believed to be considering naming the same host site for both the 2012 and 2013 events.” Hayward on Saturday said that he “expected Breeders’ Cup to make a decision on the host site within the next month” (DRF.com, 6/11).
FROM DOWNTOWN: In Sacramento, Lillis & Bizjak note Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday named a task force of elected, labor and business leaders who "will explore how to finance" a new downtown arena. The group “will hold its first public meeting on Thursday, during which it will discuss ways that public and private finances can be combined for a project.” While the funding method for a new arena “hasn't been determined, city officials are convinced downtown is the right spot to build it.” But the proposed arena “lacks a substantial parking structure, and planners are counting on 20 percent of event-goers to take light rail.” Those who drove “would likely need to park their cars at existing downtown garages at least a few blocks away from the arena” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/14).
OWNING THEIR HOME: Dallas CFO Jeanne Chipperfield said that American Airlines Center “should be completely paid off and owned lock, stock and barrel by the city before summer’s end.” In Dallas, Rudolph Bush noted the Dallas City Council will “vote June 22 to retire $10.45 million in remaining bonds” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/14).