The Bills have hired architect Populous to "conduct an exhaustive study of Ralph Wilson Stadium's infrastructure," according to a front-page piece by Graham & Gaughan of the BUFFALO NEWS. The study, which Populous began "about four months ago," will determine "how much necessary improvements will cost." Populous Senior Exec and former Bills LB Scott Radecic hope to have the study "done by the end of the season." Until the study is complete, the Bills and Erie County "can't broker a lease extension because they won't know how much money they'll ask from the state." The price tag "will be in the tens of millions and likely well past $100 million." Erie County Exec Chris Collins said, "Cost is an unknown and could be in a wide range. I'm expecting New York State to pay for these improvements. But you can't sit down and have meaningful negotiations until this study is complete." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson last month said that he thought the stadium "would be adequate for 'the next 10 or 15 years' if properly maintained." Sources said that the Bills "expect to sign a 10-year lease extension that would coincide with the collective bargaining agreement the NFL and its players brokered this summer." Most improvements to the 38-year-old stadium "would be basic and largely unnoticeable to fans." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said the areas for upgrading are "not the sexiest elements you'd think of" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/21). Brandon added that the renovations are "necessary in order to keep the stadium viable and competitive with many of the NFL's newer facilities to help ensure the Bills long-term future in western New York." He noted that the team is considering making changes "both inside the stadium and outside," but he "all but ruled out adding more club seats or suites." Collins has had "informal talks with the Bills over the past year, and expects the cost of the project to be included in lease negotiations" (AP, 10/20).
The Marlins are teaming up with South Beach hotel The Clevelander to "add a pool-party flavor" to their new ballpark next season, according to Manny Navarro of the MIAMI HERALD. The team will work with The Clevelander to "open a satellite club behind the left-field wall in the area formerly known as 'La Playa' adjacent to the Marlins’ bullpen." In addition to "poolside entertainment that will include dancers and DJs open to approximately as many as 120 partygoers, there will be field-level seating and table service featuring food selections from the South Beach location." Marlins President David Samson and The Clevelander GM Mike Palma said that the area "will be open before and after games, and on non-game days, as late as" 3:00am ET. Individual tickets to the area "will be available when the area is not bought out for private parties" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/21). MLB.com's Christina De Nicola noted The Clevelander "will incorporate its menu from the original location and add ballpark essentials like buffalo wings, burgers and nachos." Approximately 120 fans -- 21 or older, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian -- "will be able to visit the area with either standing-room tickets near the bar or Field Level seats to catch the action on the diamond." Live dancers and DJs "will also provide entertainment away from the diamond." Samson "envisions the area being open 365 days a year" (MLB.com, 10/20). Samson said, "We want this ballpark to be different, and the Clevelander is an example. It’s just not done anywhere, and you can’t do this in most cities, but in Miami you can, so why not take advantage of where we are? We don’t need fireplaces. We need entertainment venues, and that’s what we have" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/20).
In Houston, Joseph Duarte cited sources as saying that Rice Univ. officials “will unveil next month a nearly $40 million project that includes the construction of a football complex and improvements" to the 62-year-old Rice Stadium. A source said that the renovations and construction “are part of a larger-scale initiative that ‘will go toward the long-term revitalization of the football program.’” Since opening in '50, Rice Stadium “has undergone only minimal improvements.” A formal announcement of the project “is expected in early November” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/20).
MORE FUNDING: Rose Bowl stadium officials said that the facility's $156M renovation project “is now facing an estimated financing gap of $16.2 million, nearly $2 million more than the shortfall projected in July.” Officials also said that the exact figure “won’t be known until more construction bids come in this week and in December.” In California, Brenda Gazzar noted construction on the three-year renovation “began in January.” Rose Bowl Project Dir Margo Mavridis said that the renovation “is now estimated to cost $156.2 million, up from $152 million at the project’s outset.” But Rose Bowl CEO & GM Darryl Dunn said, “I still believe at the end of the day, we’ll be fine.” Bernards/Barton Malow’s project manager Michael Cawlina, the principal in charge, “blamed the projected increase on a spike in some material costs, the recent finalization of some design components and undervaluing the costs of constructing the press box in two phases” (Whittier DAILY NEWS, 10/20).
PROACTIVE APPROACH: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ted Hutton wrote Florida Atlantic Univ. AD Craig Angelos met with staff Monday and Tuesday “to go over all areas” concerning the school’s new stadium that “need improvement -- ticket sales, concessions and parking.” Most of the complaints from fans “were about the lines encountered at the ticket and will call windows, at the student entrance and at the concession stands inside the stadium and confusion on parking areas” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/18).