Fans attending NASCAR races at Michigan Int'l Speedway this weekend "will notice plenty of changes, including a new tower scoreboard in the infield, an expansion of the pedestrian tunnel under the race track at the start/finish line and the removal of three grandstands between turns 3 and 4," according to Mike Pryson of the JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT. The improvements are "part of nearly $60 million in upgrades at MIS during the past five years." MIS Dir of Guest Services Tim Booth said that "many of the ideas for recent improvements have come directly from interactions with fans through surveys, a fan advisory board and emails and letters from fans." Booth: "Some of the changes may not be the sexiest things, but as far as enhancing the fan experience in a practical way, they’re big upgrades." Pryson noted the "most visible of the upgrades is the new scoreboard in the infield." The new scoreboard, nearly 155 feet tall, "has replaced the 108-foot-tall infield tower scoreboard that was erected" in '08. It includes a "larger LED area that will be able to display even more track announcements, advertising messages and race information." The removal of some of the grandstands "reflects the drop in ticket demand during the past decade." The move "has reduced the seating capacity of MIS by about 14,000," and the capacity of the grandstand is "now listed by the speedway at 106,000 seats for the 2011 season." This year marks the "first time since 1997 that MIS does not have a seating capacity larger" than the 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium (JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT, 6/14).
STOP LIGHT: Kentucky "plans to speed traffic toward the inaugural Sprint Cup race in the state by stopping a half-dozen construction projects along Interstate 71/75 during the weeks around the race." The July 9 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway is "on the tail end of the high-traffic July 4 holiday travel weekend." Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Nancy Wood said that "nearly all the work being done as part of the $91 million Revive the Drive-NKY project will be halted from June 30-July 12" (AP, 6/12).
The Univ. of Memphis last night unveiled the “Vision for Victory, a $10 million capital campaign for the football program, $8 million of which will be used to build a 74,000-square-foot indoor practice facility on the Park Avenue Campus,” according to Phil Stukenborg of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The remaining $2M will be “allocated for improvements to the existing facility's meeting rooms and locker rooms and to resurface the grass practice fields.” UM AD R.C. Johnson said that “slightly more than $1.3 million had been raised” for a campaign scheduled to run through Dec. 31, 2012. He “announced the formation of a 21-person executive committee to oversee the campaign” and named former Memphis football players DeAngelo Williams and Isaac Bruce “honorary chairmen at the national level” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/15). UM football coach Larry Porter said, "I truly believe this will revolutionize Memphis football.” But in Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes $10M “won't revolutionize anything in college football these days.” Calkins: “Nothing about Tuesday night was revolutionary. But it was refreshing. It was good to see. It was well-conceived, smoothly executed and heavily attended” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 6/15).
ON THE PROWL:In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan reports although there are “no definite plans, LSU and the Tiger Athletic Foundation are surveying season-ticket holders to measure interest in two potential expansion projects at Tiger Stadium.” LSU Senior Associate AD for External Affairs Herb Vincent yesterday confirmed that the university and its athletic department's fundraising arm “are interested in adding club seats and/or suites on the south end of Tiger Stadium, or perhaps a club section within the existing structure on the east side of the stadium.” LSU also is “considering adding a club lounge below the east side upper deck that would be accessible to fans on the east side of the lower bowl, for an additional fee.” The 92,400-seat stadium is “among the 10 largest on-campus stadiums in the nation” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 6/15).
The groundbreaking for the College Football HOF in Atlanta is now “scheduled for February 2012 and the opening for fall 2013,” after both dates were "pushed back from the targets set when the hall's relocation to Atlanta was announced in September 2009," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Atlanta Hall Management President & CEO Gary Stokan, whose company is licensed by the National Football Foundation to build and eventually operate the facility, said that the reasons for the delay were a “shift in preferred sites and a swelling of the project from a 50,000-square-foot, $50-million facility to a 75,000-square-foot, $82-million facility.” Raising money “remains a top priority," and two members of Stokan's staff recently “were in Michigan, pitching a sponsorship deal to Ford Motor Co.” Stokan said that $33M “in commitments have been secured,” including $15M in Georgia state bonds, $6M from Chick-fil-A, $5M from the Chick-fil-A Bowl and $2.5M from Coca-Cola. Stokan said that another $15M “needs to be raised before ground-breaking.” He said that the “design-development phase is ‘100 percent complete’ with the architects and will be complete with the exhibit designers in the next month.” Stokan said of the HOF, "I've termed the phrase 'edutainseum.' It's going to be highly educational, highly entertaining and then a museum” (AJC.com, 6/13).
In Detroit, Bill Shea notes it has been two years since Red Wings Owner the Ilitch family "declined to renew" the team's lease at city-owned Joe Louis Arena and a year since that lease expired, but "no new agreement is believed to be near." The team "has operated under undisclosed terms at the venue while the Ilitches continue to both negotiate a new lease and advance plans to build a modern arena elsewhere in the city." Neither the Ilitches nor the city will talk about the lease situation, "citing a confidentiality agreement." The old Joe Louis lease "would have automatically renewed for 20 years." It is "believed the Ilitches want a shorter deal" that would allow the team an "easy exit so it can move to a new, modern arena" (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 6/13 issue).
IN NEED OF A BAIL OUT: In Toronto, Paul Moloney reported the city is "looking at taking over the debt-plagued Lakeshore Lions Arena, also known as the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence, where the Toronto Maple Leafs train." The city "would assume responsibility for repaying about [C$40M] borrowed to build" the arena, which is operated by the Lakeshore Lions Club. The facility since opening in September '09 has been making about C$1.6M a year with the "major tenant" being the Maple Leafs and AHL Marlies. There also is "500 hours a year of no-charge ice time allocated to the public school board, which owns the land" (TORONTO STAR, 6/14). Toronto Mayor Rob Ford yesterday said that "he's 'furious' the city will have to bail out" the arena. When asked if the Maple Leafs should be paying more toward the venue, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said the team is "paying plenty now" (TORONTO SUN, 6/15).
WEEDS IN THE GARDEN: The GLOBE & MAIL's Matthew Sekeres wrote TD Garden "is a dump." Sekeres: "On the outside, it is a monstrosity, an eyesore in an otherwise charming city. ... On the inside, it is so inefficient you wonder if a single engineer was consulted before its construction." The visitors' locker room is "smaller than the rooms at your local rink, and the Bruins dressing room is smaller than the visitors' dressing room at Rogers Arena." Sekeres: "All in all, a horrible place to work, and given how miserably they failed on this building, they might as well have just kept the old Garden" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/15).
In St. Paul, Jeremy Fowler reports the Vikings have notified annual training camp host Minnesota State Univ. in Mankato of their “July 18 cutoff date for holding camp at the school's facilities.” If the NFL lockout “pushes beyond that date, the Vikings might be forced to schedule an impromptu camp at the team's Winter Park facility.” The Vikings are “tentatively scheduled to report to camp July 31.” Coach Leslie Frazier said that the team has “prepared for housing players and holding team meetings should camp take place in Eden Prairie” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 6/15).
CAMPING OPTIONS: A Rams spokesperson Friday said that “as the lockout drags on, the chances increase that camp will wind up at the Rams' facility in Earth City for the third year in a row and the sixth of the last seven seasons.” In St. Louis, Bill Coats noted the team “had considered Missouri Science & Technology in Rolla and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale” as training camp site options. Coats: “Time is growing short for the club to make a commitment to one of those schools, and without a labor agreement in place, the league schedule is up in the air” (STLTODAY.com, 6/10).
SUMMER MOVE: Oklahoma City officials yesterday said that the Thunder's new practice facility is “under budget and should be ready for the team to move in by August.” The DAILY OKLAHOMAN's Michael Kimball notes the facility is “about a year behind” schedule. It was “originally slated for completion last August.” Oklahoma City Public Works Department Project Dir Wayne Courville said that “work on the exterior of the practice facility is expected to continue after the team moves in.” Meanwhile, Kimball noted “renovation and improvement work on Oklahoma City Arena, including a new entrance on the arena's southwest side, new restaurants and team offices, should be completed by May” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 6/15).
WORKING ON THE DOCKS: In DC, Mark Giannotto notes the World TeamTennis Washington Kastles yesterday held a “ribbon-cutting to inaugurate” their new home on the Southwest waterfront. After “three years at a temporary facility erected each June on the former site of the city’s convention center, the franchise believes the latest version of Kastles Stadium will be a significant upgrade.” The new stadium “offers views of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial, and will have a capacity of 2,700 for tennis matches.” It could “seat up to 4,000 for concerts and other events once the Kastles season ends.” And “since it’s just steps from the water, this will be the first tennis facility in the United States to allow limited boat parking” (WASHINGTON POST, 6/15).