The 49ers are “going into the theme park business, investing in a $70 million deal to buy the Great America theme park -- and bumping out of the way one of its biggest opponents to building its new stadium in Santa Clara: the park's current owner,” according to Fernandez & Mintz of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Teaming up with S.F.-based real estate firm JMA Ventures to buy Great America "will pay off immediately on one front: eliminating the park's owner, Cedar Fair Entertainment, and its lingering lawsuit to hold up the $1 billion stadium deal.” JMA Ventures in a statement “praised the prospect of pairing Great America with the 49ers stadium, a stark departure from public comments by Cedar Fair officials who have expressed concern that an NFL stadium could damage the park's business and create parking headaches for park patrons.” The level of the 49ers' investment in Great America has not been disclosed, but sources said that “the price tag was tied to the park's revenue estimates, and sealing the sale allows the team to secure crucial control over how park operations relate to the stadium” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/20). In S.F., JK Dineen noted the purchase of the Great America property would end the lawsuit and the “parking proceeds from the Great America lot could also generate revenue for the team.” Former 49ers President Carmen Policy said, “Now I think with some serious luck and some very creative financing opportunities and an attractive win and loss record, the Niners might be able to get that stadium built as a one team stadium” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/19). However, also in S.F., Will Kane notes opponents of the plan "are still skeptical.” Financing the stadium “remains a major question, and the price tag has grown by $50 million over the past year, sending the cost to nearly $1 billion” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/20).
The Chargers have “asked their architects to produce an $800 million stadium plan that would include convention space and eliminate the need for a $550 million expansion to the San Diego Convention Center now being prepared,” according to Showley & Weisberg of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani said that the meeting in the city with the architects “about 10 days ago will be followed up in October with a proposal expected by year's end.” Fabiani yesterday said that the team “could exercise its exit clause between February and May to leave San Diego, but he expected the team to be still working on a local stadium plan in that period.” Fabiani: "If we get totally shut down here, people say they don't like the idea ... they tell us to get lost with our ideas, we'll obviously reassess where we are. Obviously, I hope that doesn't happen." Fabiani said that the architects “have been asked to design several hundred thousand square feet of convention space” into the proposed downtown stadium and “make it flexible enough to host major sports events.” He “estimated the cost at $750 million to $800 million, including a retractable roof, with perhaps half the funding coming from local taxpayers.” Fabiani: "If we could do two facilities as one and save money, that's important. If we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars from the Chargers and the NFL, if we're talking about access to other revenue sources that might be available for a convention-type facility, then we're talking about actually a financial package that could work" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/20).
Target Corporation, the T’Wolves and AEG Facilities announced yesterday they have extended the Target Center naming rights partnership for three years, through '14. Target has been the sole naming-rights holder of Target Center since the building opened in '90 (Target). SPORTSBUSNIESS JOURNAL's David Broughton reports the previous rights deal “expired Aug 31.” Financial terms of the extension “were not revealed,” but Target Dir of Strategic Partnerships, Events & Lifestyle Marketing Dan Griffis said that terms “were comparable to the company’s previous agreement” of about $1.5M a season. T’Wolves President Chris Wright said that the “physical condition of the arena will play a critical role when it comes time for the two sides to revisit the new three-year deal.” Wright: “Target demands an outstanding customer experience in all their stores, and they would like that to be true in the arena. Three years allows all parties to work together to get our building to where it really needs to be” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/19 issue). In Minneapolis, John Vomhof Jr. reports the three-year deal “is much shorter than what ... Timberwolves officials previously said they were seeking.” They had hoped to “land a 14-year deal to match the years remaining on the team’s Target Center lease.” As the previous deal neared expiration this summer, the T’Wolves had “engaged in talks with multiple companies, including Chanhassen-based Life Time Fitness Inc., about possibly renaming the facility.” The extension makes the arena's naming-rights deal “the longest running” in professional sports (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/19).
A group of architects is expected to tour 12-year-old New Orleans Arena tomorrow to get ideas for developing a master plan to renovate the venue. SMG, the company managing the arena for the Louisiana Sports & Exposition District, issued a proposal about three weeks ago to nine firms with sports facility experience. Officials from six firms will participate in the tour and attend an initial meeting for the project, according to SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton. The goal is to renovate the arena and generate incremental revenue for the arena's NBA tenant, the Hornets. New premium seat options and digital technology could be part of the plan. The Hornets' lease runs through the '13-14 season, and the master plan will play a key role in talks between the club and SMG for extending the agreement, Thornton said. The NBA currently owns a majority interest in the Hornets. "We are looking at some long-range capital planning," Thornton said. "We have no idea what that would mean in terms of cost, whether it is $35 million or $40 million. The master plan will give us a blueprint toward what could be done in the next two to five years to upgrade the facility and keep it competitive with other NBA facilities with all the modern technology and features." SMG expects to hire an architect by late October, with a master plan completed by the first quarter of '12, Thornton said. The source of funding to pay for the arena upgrades has not been decided but could include state money, he said. The most recent renovations to the arena came in '02, the year the Hornets moved to New Orleans from Charlotte. Aecom, formerly Ellerbe Becket, designed a $25M face lift covering 12 additional suites and a new restaurant, among other new features. New Orleans Arena opened in '99 without a major league sports tenant.
The NFL Panthers plan to “conduct a search in the coming months for an architecture and design firm to develop a master plan that will guide any makeover” for Bank of America Stadium, according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Industry experts point to “several areas” that could use improvement, including modifying concourses, upgrading luxury suites and "reducing premium seating (suites and club seats) to spur demand.” Likely options include a “massive renovation” similar to the $375M overhaul of the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium in ’10, or a “more deliberate, piecemeal process, tackling various areas of the venue over several years.” Bank of America Stadium opened in ’96, and Panthers President Danny Morrison and Owner Jerry Richardson are “careful to say the team is happy in its current home.” Morrison: “You’re always looking at your facilities and putting together long-term plans of continuing to improve the stadium. That’s really an ongoing process.” Team executives and city administrators said that “they have had no talks about building a new stadium.” Still, “it’s clear the Panthers can’t stand pat.” The team has invested $30M “in stadium upgrades over the years, including $10 million in 2008 for video boards.” Those screens now measure “2,414 square feet in each end zone, up from 768 square feet when the stadium opened.” Spanberg: “A quick glance around the NFL -- or around town -- demonstrates how quickly the Panthers have fallen behind.” Charlotte Motor Speedway unveiled “the world’s largest high-def TV, covering 16,000 square feet.” The Cowboys' $40M, four-sided screens “covering 25,000 square feet provide constant envy and incentive for NFL rivals to go bigger.” Despite the Panthers’ "strong attendance," industry experts said that “the pressures of having one of the larger stadiums while being located in one of the NFL’s smaller cities has become a heavier burden.” That could lead the team to “explore reducing capacity” and potentially turn end-zone seats in the corners of the field into “sponsored party or festival areas” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/16 issue).
BACK FOR ANOTHER SEASON: The CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Spanberg reported the Panthers “renewed sponsorship agreements with the team’s two major beer sponsors, MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch.” And the addition of rookie QB Cam Newton, new head coach Ron Rivera and Richardson’s “recent investment in re-signing key veterans could spur additional interest in the months ahead.” Spanberg notes in some areas, "the effects of the economy and losing campaigns are more obvious." Lengthy sponsorship-renewal discussions with Duke Energy Corp. "have yet to produce an agreement," and the Panthers "lack exclusive ... partners for the wireless-phone and automotive categories" (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/16 issue).
"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" will be the "first movie ever shown at Wrigley Field on Saturday, Oct. 1," according to Jamie Sotonoff of the Illinois DAILY HERALD. Groupon is sponsoring the event and selected the film, which "contains a famous scene at Wrigley Field." The movie "will be seen on multiple screens around the perimeter of the field." A Groupon spokesperson said that the night "also will feature a Guinness World Records attempt to have the most people sing 'Danke Shoen' -- a song Ferris sings in the movie -- and there'll be cast look-a-likes and other surprises" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 9/20). Groupon said that tickets to the film, "marking its 25th anniversary, will be sold at Groupon.com, Cubs.com and the Wrigley Field box office" beginning today. Admission "costs $10 for bleachers, $25 for lawn seating and $75 for VIP lawn seating with food and drink at the stadium's Captain Morgan Club" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/20).