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Volume 24 No. 114


IOC President Jacques Rogge described the US$439M Aquatics Centre for the '12 London Games as "majestic" at yesterday’s official unveiling of the venue, according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. The building is the sixth and final permanent venue to be constructed that will be used during the Olympics, and its "signature wavy roof is expected to provide one of the defining images for the Games." LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said Rogge was "quite taken aback" when he entered the Aquatics Centre. Coe: "It’s hugely impressive. You need an iconic building that defines the [Olympic] Park." However, O'Connor notes the building "has been criticised for its ugly temporary stands, which contain most of the 17,500 seats for the Games." In "legacy mode, they will be removed, leaving 2,500 seats around a pool intended to be used by the local community as well as elite swimmers." Coe "defended the decision to use cheaper temporary stands" than building designer Zaha Hadid had originally envisioned, meaning the Aquatics Centre "will look better after the Games than during the event it was built for." Coe: "They do their task. They’re not the prettiest things on the side of a beautiful pool but we’ve been consistent whether the economy was at the high water mark or bumping along the ground that we were going to deliver sustainability. It would have been ridiculous to have left a swimming pool (that big). We got it right." IOC Coordination Commission Chair Denis Oswald acknowledged that there "was not a 'perfect' view from every angle," but LOCOG insisted that "no seat has a restricted view of the pool" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28). The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson writes, "If the exterior had divided opinion, there was widespread praise for the inside of the venue, with its steep sides concentrating all 35,000 eyes on the 50-metre pool and diving pool beneath the undulating roof." However, there may be "concerns about how far away the back rows are from the action" (GUARDIAN, 7/28).

TOUGH TICKET: In London, Sam Munnery reports tickets for the London Games are "expected to be sold out by the opening ceremony next year." LOCOG expects "all 6.6 million tickets to have been snapped up in the 365 days' time." Another batch of tickets "will go on sale early next year." LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton said, "The only tickets that we had left over were some soccer tickets. With soccer we have sold more tickets than any other kind of ticket and, of course, people do not even know yet which matches are being played or what the draw is. With that information we would hope we would have a really good chance of selling those too" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28).  

Aides to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that they are "focused on user fees such as ticket surcharges" to help finance a new downtown arena for the NBA Kings, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. That revenue "could be coupled with event-night parking fees at downtown garages, new corporate sponsorships, and up-front money from private companies that could build and operate the arena for the city." According to a financing update that will be discussed today at a meeting of Johnson's 70-person regional arena committee, the city also "could sell up to a dozen parcels that it owns to developers, raising $30 million to $60 million." City officials said that they are "even considering renting the arena's rooftop to telecommunications companies for cell towers." An "element of the proposal is likely to be a ticket surcharge at the arena -- possibly in the $2 or $3 range -- and surcharges on merchandise bought there." Johnson's advisers estimated that arena events "could generate between $1 million and $5 million annually in parking revenue at city garages." Sacramento First arena task force co-Chair Chris Lehane said that his group also is "exploring business arrangements with private companies for corporate sponsorships, advertising rights and arena naming rights." The mayor's group "also may suggest the city erect electronic billboards for lease or sale at the arena and elsewhere." Lehane "declined to say whether the mayor's group has come to an arrangement with the Kings on how much rent the team would pay" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/28). 

A $35M-plus facelift underway at the 15-year-old St. Pete Times Forum is "promised not only to fix the wear and tear of time but create the best fan experience possible," according to Eduardo Encina of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke said, "We knew we were coming up short, so we said, 'Hey, we need to get this done now.' Something that would have maybe taken years, we're trying to get done in a calendar year." The project, which is being financed by team Owner Jeff Vinik, is "slated to be mostly complete by the Lightning's home opener on Oct. 17." Some parts, "mainly the renovation to the west entrance will be completed in time for the arena to host the Republican National Convention in August 2012." The overhaul will give the Forum a "completely different look, with new sight lines and seats, and features that the Lightning's front office hopes will become signature facets of the arena." Every suite is "being rebuilt, with 60 square feet added to each." Eight suites "were removed -- two in each corner of the lower level bowl -- where standing tables and drink rails will give fans a direct view of the action from the concourse." Leiweke said that he and Vinik are "proud of the suite upgrades but just as excited about the work being done on the upper concourse." Plastic seats "will be replaced with plush cushioned seats, each with a drink holder." An 11,000-foot outdoor deck and party area "is being built on the roof of the arena's west side." Fifty-four flatbeds worth of concrete "were removed from two upper-deck end zone seating sections." There were 574 seats that "gave way to a pipe organ, which will have a bar on either side, a fixture Leiweke hopes becomes a staple of the arena, similar to the pirate ship in the Raymond James Stadium end zone." Another "signature addition will be Tesla coils on either side of the scoreboard that will shoot lightning 25 feet" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/28).

The proposed $1.3B plan to build a football stadium in downtown L.A. and expand the Convention Center "got mostly positive reception at its first big public airing Wednesday night, as city officials repeated assertions that it would not cost taxpayers any money," according to Rick Orlov of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. City officials noted that the plan "would likely save the city money because Anschutz Entertainment Group is helping pay for the Convention Center renovation, work that would otherwise cost the city substantial funds." L.A. Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller said, "I cannot reasonably see a scenario where there is a risk to the city treasury." Under the plan, AEG "would pay for the stadium construction and guarantee some $285 million in bonds to relocate" the West Hall of the Convention Center. Some $80M of the bonds "would be issued under the Mello-Roos Act -- a state law in which taxes can be imposed on property owners in a specific district to help repay bond financing for improvements in that area -- in which AEG guarantees the full funding." Yesterday's meeting "was dominated by a review of the" memorandum of understanding, in addition to questions from council members. The majority of the speakers "were AEG supporters, with only one person voicing strong criticism of the plan" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/28). City Council member Bernard Parks at the meeting said that he "wanted negotiators to push for an NFL team to play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and not the Rose Bowl in the years leading up to the completion of the stadium." He said, "That's essential as part of the discussion" (L.A. TIMES, 7/28).

Hamilton County (Ohio) taxpayers are "buying the Bengals a $300,000 new instant replay system" after county commissioners voted 2-1 yesterday to make the purchase, according to a front-page piece by Sharon Coolidge of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. However, the commissioners voted for the replay equipment "only because their lawyers said they had to or risk being sued by the team." Under the team's lease, the county is "obligated to replace equipment in Paul Brown Stadium." The technology, "by the county’s own admission, is simply outdated." Commissioner Todd Portune -- the lone "no" vote against the video replay purchase -- used the discussion to "suggest the county stop making repairs and improvements to Paul Brown Stadium and that the county reform its lease" with the Bengals. He "simply wants a state court to reform the contract in a way that’s fair to county taxpayers -- something the law allows under certain circumstances." However, Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann after the meeting said, "It’s just not in the county’s best interest to even talk about violating our lease obligation. Todd’s proposal violates the lease and could land us back in court." Coolidge notes the county "has twice sued the Bengals over its lease, which is considered lopsided in the team’s favor, and lost" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/28).

Legends Hospitality execs said that as the company “looks to expand to sports venues nationwide, Dallas’ central location remains a plus,” according to Karen Robinson-Jacobs of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Legends COO Dan Smith said, “We have a big hunk of business in Dallas. And we have 70 people (on staff) there.” Smith said that the Cowboys-Yankees joint venture “is in various stages of discussions with other venues.” The New Jersey-based company "will be the concessionaire" for the independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters when the team makes its debut next year. Meanwhile, Smith said that “some of the most popular Super Bowl entrees” at Cowboys Stadium “will be back this season, including celebrity chef cooking stations.” Legends “plans to bring in at least two chefs per game, including Scott Romano of Charlie Palmer at the Joule, Anthony Bombaci of Nana at the Anatole and Bill Trevino of Cafe Pacific.” The stadium this year also is “adding 11 portable wine bar/kiosks staffed by bartenders, and it is expanding the offerings of gourmet popcorn.” Legends CFO David Hammer said that “at least 24 ‘major, stadiumwide’ events are scheduled for 2011, in line with 2010.” The company declined to release sales figures, but Hammer said that Legends’ revenue at Cowboys Stadium “gained 29 percent last year from 2009, the stadium’s inaugural year, when there were 20 major events.” Robinson-Jacobs notes Mike Rawlings, who had served as CEO of the company since ’08, was recently elected mayor of Dallas. Rawlings’ bid for mayor “prompted him to step down from Legends’ top job,” but he will continue to serve as BOD Chair. Smith said that Rawlings will offer “strategic vision for the company” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/28).