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Volume 24 No. 156


The Kraft Group, owned by Patriots Owner Bob Kraft, has “filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town of Foxborough, alleging that Kraft’s representatives have been repeatedly denied the right to speak at open public meetings,” according to Mark Arsenault of the BOSTON GLOBE. The suit “seeks a declaration that the town has violated Kraft’s constitutional free speech rights.” The complaint, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, stems from a dispute between Kraft and the town government “over two billboards on Kraft-owned land near Gillette Stadium.” The Kraft Group under a ‘07 agreement with Foxborough “has managed the marketing of the billboards and split the advertising revenue with the town.” Town leaders are now “seeking to put the management contract out to public bid.” Foxborough officials to settle the dispute over the billboards “will ask Town Meeting voters in May to approve taking the land by eminent domain” (, 3/27).

A majority of the Minneapolis City Council now backs Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to "fund a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, setting up a last-ditch effort by Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton to persuade reluctant Republican legislators to support the project," according to Roper & Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Yesterday's "surprise announcement" that seven council members had "signed letters of support seemed unlikely just a week ago," when seven members publicly opposed the plan. However, the deal is "far from done." Legislators were "still scrambling" yesterday to obtain an agreement "over the use of charitable gambling funds to pay for the state portion of the stadium." It is also "uncertain whether there are enough votes at the Legislature to pass the plan." Under Rybak's plan, Minneapolis would contribute $150M "toward building the stadium, plus an additional" $189M to help operate it. The money would come from "excess city sales taxes that become available when debt is paid off for the Minneapolis Convention Center." Even as Rybak, Dayton and other stadium supporters "cheered the breakthrough, Republicans who hold a majority in the House and Senate were still lukewarm to the stadium project as the Legislature heads into its final weeks" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/27). In St. Paul, Doug Belden notes the letters "aren't identical, and they don't guarantee support will continue" if the $975M stadium deal is amended in the Legislature, but they "do appear to address one of the remaining roadblocks to legislative action on the stadium bill." Vikings President Mark Wilf said the letters were "a critical component for us to resolve this issue in 2012" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/27).

NORTH STARS: In Minneapolis, Thomas Lee noted naming rights to a new Vikings stadium "arguably represent the most grandiose marketing opportunity in Minnesota." With 20 Fortune 500 firms, Minnesota "certainly doesn't lack companies with financial firepower." Lee wrote right now, the "smart money seems to be on" Target, which also has naming rights to the Twins' and T'Wolves venues. However, a lone company with deals for "all three major sports facilities in one city would be unprecedented." For this reason, Target "may decide to pass, fearing overexposure of its brand and wallet." Best Buy Senior Dir of PR Susan Busch said that the company has "no interest in naming the stadium." U.S. Bancorp "could be a top candidate," as the company's Chair, President & CEO Richard Davis has been "working hard to keep the Vikings in Minnesota." Mall of America VP/PR Dan Jasper, whose company currently has naming rights to the field at the Metrodome, wrote in an e-mail, "I can tell you that our partnership with the Minnesota Vikings has been very good, and we have found value in being the field naming rights sponsor for Mall of America Field. As the stadium issue moves forward we can connect again" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).

On Long Island, Zachary Dowdy noted an inspector for the New York Department of Labor has been "analyzing the Nassau Coliseum to determine whether asbestos in the ... venue poses a cancer threat." Nassau County has "previously acknowledged that the arena, which opened in 1972, contains asbestos within its walls, but the issue surfaced again this week." Islanders Senior VP Michael Picker said in a statement, "The Islanders, as the primary tenant, expect that the building owner, Nassau County, and the building facility manager, SMG, will review the allegations and take any and all appropriate action" (NEWSDAY, 3/24).

SCOUTING THE AREA: Wells Fargo Championship organizers "confirm they have suggested area courses as potential homes for a future PGA Tour event" in Charlotte. Host course Quail Hollow Club has the tournament through '14, but Quail Hollow will be "unable to support another tournament during course preparations" in '16 for the PGA Championship the following year. Title sponsor Wells Fargo also has "yet to make a decision on whether it wants to extend the agreement" (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/23 issue).

NEW FACILITY: The Univ. of Tampa yesterday announced that a seven-figure gift from former Rays Owner Vince Naimoli is "paying for a new athletic field" at the school. In Tampa, Kim Wilmath notes the field will be used "primarily by UT's [D-II] lacrosse and intramural sports teams" and is "expected to open by December." Plans for the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex include a 1,450-seat stadium, a "concession area, restrooms and team meeting rooms" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/27).