Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that he "never gave approval for Bristol Motor Speedway to be redesigned with progressive banking" as was done in '07, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. Smith said Thursday that the decision to "add progressive banking was made by an employee that still works for him." He added that a "final decision on whether to return the track to its original design ... will be made over the next few days after he collects all the data from engineers, fans and drivers." Smith: "It was one of my engineers. He made the decision without mentioning it to me. In my opinion, that is where we went wrong." Smith added, "The gentleman is a good man. He still works for me. We didn't shoot him or anything like that." He continued, "We listen to the fans because they are the ones that pay the tab. ... For years this speedway was voted No. 1. We respect the fans' opinions. It has a great bearing on what we want to do." BMS Exec VP & GM Jerry Caldwell "applauded Smith for polling fans." Caldwell said, "He's one of the most progressive thinkers in all of sports and somebody who is passionate about giving the race fans what they want. As these numbers are starting to show, we're hearing loud and clear from the race fans what they want to see. You've got to listen to the race fans" (ESPN.com, 3/22). ESPN’s David Newton said Smith talked to “quite a few” drivers and “they have almost begged him not to make any changes, but the fans have predominantly...have said they prefer the old Bristol.” ("NASCAR Now", ESPN2, 3/22).
In Ft. Worth, Sandra Baker notes the Rangers are “making minor adjustments and tweaks” to the construction at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. There were “$11.5 million in improvements to the center-field plaza area including new concession areas, more restrooms, individual seats in center field, and a beautiful restaurant and bar connected to a children's play area.” The team “couldn't begin the project until after the World Series, which pushed the start date into November.” New additions include the Captain Morgan Club, Kids Zone and the Batter’s Eye Club (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/23).
WHY DON'T YOU STAY: Hillsborough County (Fla.) Commission Chair Ken Hagan said that he “plans to ask county attorneys in coming weeks for an opinion on whether the Rays' lease at Tropicana Field stops Hillsborough from talking directly to the team about its future in the region.” If the county “can pursue those talks, he wants to ask the team what it wants and how local government can help.” Hagan said that he “wants a more active role in moving the discussion forward, including by courting the Rays, if necessary” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/22). A TAMPA BAY TIMES editorial stated Hagan’s path "may not be the best approach.” But his "frustration is understandable given St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's failure to lead.” As long as the mayor “refuses to engage in a meaningful stadium discussion or view the Rays as a regional asset, pressure will build for someone else to step up and force the issue.” Now Hagan “appears poised to explore a more direct approach and challenge Foster's pinched reading of the Tropicana Field lease” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/22).
BILLION DOLLAR VACATION: La Liga club Real Madrid has “revealed plans to build a $1bn holiday resort in the United Arab Emirates that is due to open in January 2015.” The Real Madrid Resort Island will be “supported by the government of the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah." A presentation the club's stadium “showed plans for sports facilities, a marina, luxury hotels, villas, an amusement park, a club museum and a futuristic 10,000-seat stadium with one side open to the sea.” Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez said, “It is a decisive and strategic step that will strengthen our institution in the Middle East and Asia” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 3/22).
NO END IN SIGHT: In Minneapolis, Roper & Kaszuba report “backers of Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to pay for a Vikings stadium tried to persuade a majority of the City Council to sign letters of support.” Several on the 13-member council “were willing to put their approval in writing, but the votes remained short as council offices closed Thursday night.” State Rep. Morrie Lanning said that “council support and resolving concerns over electronic pulltabs need to be wrapped up by the end of the week.” Lanning said, “If those two things aren't done this week, we've got a real problem. I'm not going to say (the stadium's) dead, but it obviously is a serious problem” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/23).