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Volume 24 No. 113


Even as the Vikings “push ahead with plans to build a new stadium in Arden Hills, a third possible site for the project has emerged in downtown Minneapolis,” according to Kaszuba & Olson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. An informal group of business leaders is “pushing a 41-acre site just north of the Basilica of St. Mary, not far from another proposed stadium location that includes the city's Farmers Market.” Both sites are close to the Twins' Target Field “and on the other side of downtown from the Metrodome, where the team has played since 1982 and which is the preferred site for city officials.” The drawings of the project “show not only a new stadium but an amphitheater, art garden and an area for outdoor sports.” Minneapolis officials indicated that AECOM “had produced the drawings but said those leading the project were not altogether known.” City officials noted that the proposal's “biggest draw is that the city and Xcel Energy own about 75 percent of the site, making it potentially less complicated to assemble the land package.” But the Vikings, who were “briefed on the new location within the past two weeks, were dismissive of the plan.” Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "We've been asked if we would be interested in looking at it. We said no” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/2). In St. Paul, Brian Murphy cited sources as saying that if state lawmakers “do not budge in the next few months,” Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf “just might wash his hands of Minnesota politics, sell the franchise and try to buy another NFL team because moving to L.A. would be too costly in power and cash” (ST. PAUL PIONEER EXPRESS, 10/1).

Augusta National Chair Billy Payne "continues to pull the club into the modern ages with a luxurious new hospitality clubhouse that's expected to be among the most lavish in golf," according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The new permanent structure, which will be called Berckmans Place, "will debut at the 2013 Masters and resemble a stately Southern mansion on the exterior with white columns framing the expansive front porch." Sources said that passes for the week "will run $6,000 each," creating "new revenue for the club and a top-of-the-line entertainment setting for the Masters' partners." The building is being constructed "along the right side of the fifth hole on course property next to Berckmans Road." Though Berckmans Place "won’t open for another 18 months, the club has begun distributing sales materials to some of its closest partners within the last few weeks." Club officials did not return calls seeking comment. One industry expert said, " The renderings give the appearance of something that will rival anything in golf. You’re seeing what happens when you have a sports marketing expert in charge of the Masters.” Sources indicated that the "first round of sales for Berckmans Place has focused on 'friends of the Masters.'" That circle would "include AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM; additional partners, Rolex and Mercedes-Benz; and CBS and ESPN." Will Jones, "who runs Masters marketing, sponsorship and broadcasting, is spearheading the sales effort." A source said that Oklahoma City firm, Tom Hoch, "is handling design of Berckmans Place" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/3 issue).

B.C. Place had its “grand reopening 28 years -- and $546 million -- in the making” Friday night with the CFL B.C. Lions hosting the Edmonton Eskimos, but the opening “did not go off without a hitch,” according to Mike Raptis of the Vancouver PROVINCE. Frustration "mounted around the concessions, with fans spending 20 to 30 minutes away from their wide and comfortable seats." But when the 50,000-plus crowd “did find their seats, there was much to be marveled at." The “plush turf, now a beautiful eathry tone, is illuminated by a lighting system that brings the building to life.” The scoreboard, "said to be among the biggest in the world, is so crisp and clear." The roof "opened spectacularly just prior to kick off, retracting in an umbrella-like manner that took 18 minutes to unfold." Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said, “It’s phenomenal to be inside with the roof open and such a great crowd.” He added, “It didn’t come cheap, but it’s definitely as good as a stadium gets.” Raptis wrote, “B.C. Place has a world-class feel to it once again.” There are “1,300 plush premier seats, two new club lounges and 50 renovated guest suites.” Raptis: “The building is fresh” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/1). In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote, “The new B.C. Place is wondrous, the equal of any facility of its kind in the world” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/2).

FEW ISSUES TO WORK OUT: In Vancouver, Gary Kingston noted “it wasn’t all good news Friday.” Food lines “were long, some concessionaires had trouble keeping up with demand a half-hour before kickoff.” And some of the 50,213 fans “weren’t overly pleased that the end-zone replay screens had been removed in favour of a massive, centre-hung, high-definition video board, that is the second largest in North America,” behind the screen at Cowboys Stadium (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/1). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Matthew Sekeres noted the Lions “decided to lift the local television blackout just hours before game time, averting a potential public relations disaster.” He added the “one disappointment was the sound.” The old stadium “was known for muffled sound from the public address system and the on-field microphone; the problems have carried over into the new facility” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1).

SHORT-STAFFED: In Vancouver, Mike Hager  notes, “Few problems were reported Sunday, when the Whitecaps drew a sold-out crowd of 21,000 -- less than half of Friday’s football crowd” -- for their MLS game against the Timbers. Some fans “reported certain concession stands had run out of several types of burgers, draft beer, fries and cups.” Centerplate Regional VP Adrian Dishington, whose company runs the stadium's concession stands, said that Friday’s issues "were caused primarily by a shortage of staff" (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/3).

The Lightning have renewed beer deals with Coors Light and Bud Light that cover new branded destinations in the upper deck at the St. Pete Times Forum. The terms of the deals were not disclosed. On the south end, the Coors Light Mountain Bar is anchored by a J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ perched on top of the bar. The Lightning removed close to 500 seats at stage end to make room for the bar and the organ. The club hired an experienced pipe organ player to replicate the sounds of yesteryear in buildings such as the old Chicago Stadium, said Lightning COO Steve Griggs. The overall space is officially known as Between the Pipes Presented by Coors Light. The Bud Light Party Deck replaces the old rooftop restaurant outdoors on the arena¹s west plaza. The 11,000-square-foot area with 10 points of sale overlooks downtown Tampa and the bay, providing another amenity for fans sitting in the upper deck. Both branded spaces are part of the arena's $40M renovation paid for by the Lightning.

A "noticeable work slowdown" at Austin's F1 track site and a “possible change in the track's promoter or management is raising new questions about the future of the circuit and the ability of developers to meet a tight construction schedule with the inaugural race now 14 months away,” according to Maher & Novak of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Tavo Hellmund, the promoter behind bringing F1 to Austin, last Monday called state Comptroller Susan Combs “asking whether a change in management or promoters would affect the circuit's eligibility for money from the state Major Events Trust Fund.” The state has “pledged $250 million over 10 years from the fund.” In a letter Tuesday to F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone, Combs said that “the race would still be eligible for the incentives.” Combs' letter also revealed that “major investors in the track, including Texas billionaire Red McCombs, haven't secured the rights to hold the race.” Combs in the letter revealed that Ecclestone “bestowed the rights to Hellmund, but he has not transferred them to his partners in Circuit of the Americas.” The letter also refers to “a proposed transfer of the contractual rights from Hellmund's company to Circuit of the Americas, a group that includes McCombs, [investor Bobby] Epstein and others.” Construction of the grandstands, paddock and medical center “has yet to start.” Developers have maintained that “they are still on schedule and that building will begin soon on what has grown to a 1,100-acre site” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/30).