Kentucky Speedway and the state Transportation Cabinet “plan to spend more than $11 million on parking and road improvements in response to the traffic problems that tarnished last month’s inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race,” according to Kevin Kelly of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. There will be “more lanes off Interstate 71, a new parking area serviced by a new pedestrian tunnel, a new company handling the parking and an overhauled traffic plan” for the ’12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400. Crews “demolished the old tobacco barn across Ky. 35 on land the speedway purchased last week and will utilize to expand parking by 35 percent.” Kelly notes “thousands of fans endured lengthy delays” during the July 9 race and the “ordeal left NASCAR concerned and state and speedway officials vowing to fix the problems.” The Transportation Cabinet “will be tapping into its contingency fund to pay for $3.6 million worth of improvements to surrounding roadways and to build a pedestrian tunnel beneath Ky. 35.” The state “plans to bid the project before the end of the year with work expected to be finished before the next Quaker State 400 on June 30.” Kentucky Speedway in July “operated 10 parking areas with a total capacity of about 33,000 cars.” The track “purchased the 142 acres last week for $1.5 million and plans to turn it into a parking area capable of holding 10,000 cars.” In addition, the speedway “plans to spend an additional $6 million on parking improvements and other services, including more restrooms” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/31). Kentucky Speedway also “will reinforce lots with gravel and will paint lines for individual spaces to help maximize available space.” The track has hired Veteran’s Security and Patrol Co., which “already runs parking at several tracks, to manage the parking” (SCENEDAILY.com, 8/30).
The Patriots and Putnam Investments yesterday unveiled Gillette Stadium's "upgraded, plugged-in and plush luxury clubhouse renovations," according to Greg Turner of the BOSTON HERALD. The Boston-based financial services firm has turned the two 3,000-seat sections at Gillette Stadium "into a posh sports marketing playground called the Putnam Club." Under a new corporate sponsorship, Putnam's "game plan is heavy on social media interaction, dazzling video displays and better views of the field for well-heeled football fans watching from behind the glass." The Putnam Club improvements "range from basic upgrades, such as fresh carpeting and switching the color scheme from Fidelity green to Putnam blue, to renovations that included removing fireplace seating areas and coaches’ booths to make room for more dining areas overlooking the gridiron." Outside Gillette Stadium, Putnam is "installing massive video screens above the club entrances to display tailgating fans’ Twitter messages, and painting Quick Response codes directly onto the VIP parking lots." The QR code designs "will connect smartphones to videos on Pats history, fan polls and other social media features" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/31).
ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM? The AP's Howard Ulman reported while most of Foxboro "remains without power from Tropical Storm Irene, service is back at Gillette Stadium." The Patriots' final preseason game is scheduled for tomorrow night, but National Grid spokesperson Jackie Barry, whose power company serves the town, said that it "was 'absolutely not' true the team received special treatment." The Patriots "had internal discussions about how to handle the game against the New York Giants if power was not restored, but no decision was made before the lights went back on." National Grid indicated that as of late yesterday afternoon, 7,287 of 7,820 customers in Foxboro "still had no power because of damage from Sunday's storm" (AP, 8/30). Gillette Stadium got power back Monday, but Patriots Senior VP/Operations, Administration & Finance James Nolan said that "none of that power came from the Foxboro substation that serves the rest of the town." Nolan added that the team "spent millions of dollars" building the stadium to ensure it would have backup power "after suffering a blackout during the 1996 AFC championship game" in the old Foxboro Stadium (FOXBORO REPORTER, 8/31).
AEG has "launched an unusually direct and public attack on one of the most prominent critics" of the developer's proposal to build Farmers Field in downtown L.A., according to Zahniser & Therolf of the L.A. TIMES. L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich "had planned for the county board to take a position Tuesday opposing AEG's bid for special state protection against environmental lawsuits." But AEG revealed that his wife "had been seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from the company's affiliate in Shanghai, posing a potential conflict of interest." As a result, Antonovich "abruptly abandoned his proposal Tuesday, canceling the vote and handing AEG a victory." Antonovich said that he "was 'blindsided' by AEG's allegation and disputed the notion that there was a connection between his proposal and his wife's consulting work." He said, "My wife was not involved in football. She was in the entertainment industry. She was a famous actress in China." Antonovich noted that he "had not informed his staff or county lawyers that his wife had a financial dispute with AEG." Zahniser & Therolf note AEG "has become increasingly aggressive in its arguments for the $1.2-billion stadium, putting pressure on state lawmakers to provide relief before their recess Sept. 9." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke recently "lashed out at Majestic Realty," also aiming to build an L.A.-area NFL stadium. Leiweke yesterday said that AEG's "recent assertions, coming just days before the Legislature goes into recess, were an effort to respond to critics" (L.A. TIMES, 8/31).
THE WAITING GAME: In Orange County, Scott Reid reported AEG's "failure to provide" the L.A. Planning Department with documents for the environmental impact report regarding Farmers Field "has surprised city officials and raised questions about just how far along AEG is in the planning of the project." AEG in March "filed a notice of preparation" for the EIR with Planning Department officials, the "first step in completing a study that must be approved by the city agency for the project to proceed." More than five months later, the city officials "are still waiting" for necessary documents. Hadar Plafkin, the L.A. Planning Department's environmental review coordinator, said, "Truthfully, it (AEG) may have filed a little prematurely." While AEG officials "repeatedly have said the project has a tight deadline in order for the stadium to open in time" for the '16 NFL season, Plafkin said that his department "won't be rushed" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/30). Meanwhile, in L.A., Dakota Smith notes the L.A. County Board of Supervisors "will likely have some role in approving" the Farmers Field project. The board "appoints five members to the Joint Powers Authority, the group that oversees the Convention Center," and Board of Supervisors Public Information Officer David Sommers said that "any changes to the debt structure of the Convention Center or the site's land use would require consideration by the JPA." But Sommers added that "until a final deal is hammered out with the city and AEG, it's unclear whether the JPA will be asked to weigh in" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/31).
WHO'S IN CHARGE? A SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE editorial states the success of AEG's effort to build Farmers Field is "one of the wild cards that may determine if the Chargers remain" in San Diego. AEG's campaign to win city approval "seems to be working." But the editorial continues, "AEG’s argument is a form of economic blackmail: The project may die if politicians don’t get into the game. ... If -- and it’s a dicey if -- San Diego were to approve a stadium, would our developers get such a sugary deal? On principle, we believe the rules could be streamlined. But whatever they are, they should be the same for everyone, from an individual remodeling a home to a developer planning a stadium" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/31).
The Univ. of Southern California by the end of this year may be "getting control of the football team's 88-year-old home," the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, according to Arash Markazi of the ESPN L.A. USC and the Coliseum Commission are "expected to begin formal negotiations on a master lease for the Coliseum after the commission's Sept. 7 meeting." An agreement is "expected to be reached within 90 days and would give the university the exclusive right to use, manage and operate the stadium." A special four-member committee "to determine the future of the Coliseum has already been assembled and convened and will meet with the rest of the Coliseum Commission at their Sept. 7 meeting to determine how they will proceed with USC's request for the master lease." The vote "wouldn't automatically grant USC a master lease; it would simply allow the commission to move forward with formal negotiations with the university." Both sides "have yet to talk about the legal and financial details of a deal, but after preliminary talks it seems the commission and the school will be able to come to an agreement before the commission's Dec. 7 meeting." Markazi noted USC "has wanted to gain control of the Coliseum for years and is finally poised to do so after commission members acknowledged earlier this year they would be unable to keep their promise to USC to make $50 million in improvements to the aging facility." USC this week announced plans to raise $6B, and a "portion of that figure would go toward capital projects and infrastructure." The Coliseum "has recently been brought up as a potential temporary home of an NFL team if one decides to relocate" to AEG's Farmers Field, and USC officials said that they "would be open to the possibility of an NFL team playing at the Coliseum on a temporary basis, with the revenue generated from those games being used to further improve the stadium" (ESPNLA.com, 8/30).
In Denver, Joey Bunch notes people driving past Sports Authority Field at Mile High yesterday noticed a "new sign on the newly renamed football stadium." The sign was described as being an "off shade of the Denver Broncos' burnt orange," and it "lacked prominent display of the sacred subtitle 'At Mile High,' a tribute to the beloved Mile High Stadium." A Sports Authority spokesperson yesterday said that the sign is "just a temporary 'banner' that holds a place until the permanent sign goes up in the next week or two." The company also indicated that the new sign "will include 'At Mile High' and match the color of the Bronco uniforms" (DENVER POST, 8/31).
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In St. Petersburg, Michael Van Sickler reports Mayor Bill Foster submitted "a two-page letter Tuesday to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board" concerning the Rays' ballpark effort. Foster in the letter "describes his plan to keep the Rays as a broad strategy that includes supporting private groups and business professionals who are 'knowledgeable about the economics of baseball and development.'" Foster did not "disclose names of specific developers who might be working on such a plan, nor did he divulge all the details of the city's efforts." Van Sickler notes Foster "strays from his St. Petersburg focus and calls his plan a strategy to keep the Rays 'competitive in the Tampa Bay region'" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/31).
NEW SHOW IN TOWN: TENNIS.com's Andrew Friedman wrote there is "a new show court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and its name is ... 'Court 17.'" The court currently seats 2,500. Friedman noted the seating, "while not terribly high, spreads out from the court and up at a very gradual angle; in many ways, it feels like the courtside tier of a much larger venue." Court 17 also offers "a number of immediate and irresistible benefits to the U.S. Open, namely a large, stadium-style venue for fan favorites and players of particular interest who might not merit a name-court booking" (TENNIS.com, 8/30).