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Volume 24 No. 114


The Superdome has undergone another round of corporate branding, now with "18-foot-tall letters that spell out 'Mercedes-Benz Superdome'" painted on the dome's roof, according to Doug MacCash of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Four large backlit "Mercedes-Benz Superdome" signs in October were "placed over the primary entrances, with smaller signs everywhere." The new roofline lettering "adds a daylight dimension to the inescapable branding." A Mercedes-Benz logo also has been "applied to the summit of the Superdome, though it is invisible from the street." The roof-top logo is intended to be "gazed down upon by airline passengers and be featured in flyover footage from blimps during televised events." SMG GM Alan Freeman, who oversees the management of the venue, said the cost of the roof branding was around $350,000. Freeman: "It is one of the final elements of the naming rights agreement between Mercedes-Benz and the New Orleans Saints." Freeman added that all branding, including the roof painting, "was meant to be finished in time" for this weekend's men's Final Four. Though most of the large outdoor signs will be exposed during the games, some, like the "smaller signs over the parking lot entrances, will be covered with Final Four signs" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/29).

PREP WORK: In New Orleans, Tammy Nunez notes the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was "abuzz Wednesday with hundreds of workers cleaning seats, hauling metal poles and hoisting electronics into the air via cable pulleys." Freeman said, "We are ready. The thing that we want to be able to do is when people leave the city of New Orleans, they will say, 'Man, that was great, that building was great, we had a great time. We're going back.' That's what this is all about." Nunez notes the NCAA's "signature octagon scoreboard ... hangs from cables to give the venue a distinctly college fieldhouse feel." The setup for the Final Four took 18 days and was completed Tuesday, "employing about 150 laborers working 12-hour days." Freeman said that the venue "chipped in more than $500,000 for the transformation" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/29).

The Predators and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s office are "close to completing negotiations over a new Bridgestone Arena lease deal, which will diminish the city’s subsidy to the hockey team in the short term in favor of an incentive-laden deal" built to last through '28, according to Nate Rau of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Predators CEO Jeff Cogen offered "little detail, but said the new deal would provide incentives for the local ownership group" and Metro Nashville to "split incremental revenue increases generated at the downtown building." The team yesterday released the economic impact report, which indicated that the venue has an "annual economic impact of $410 million and has created 2,350 local jobs." Cogen said that the report "demonstrated the value of the arena and the hockey team to the local economy." Even still, he acknowledged that the new lease agreement "will diminish the guaranteed public dollars going to the local owners." Cogen said that negotiations are about 80% complete, and the two sides "planned to meet again later in the day." In '07, Metro Nashville and Predators' ownership, led by former Chair David Freeman, struck a deal that "pays the ownership group $7.8 million annually in subsidies, management fees and incentives." Though both sides claim that the deal "was a success, things have changed over the past five years." The sagging economy "has taken a toll on Metro’s budget, and the way Metro funds the subsidy has changed as well." The economic impact study showed that the "total public sector profit" since the '07 arena deal has been $25.5M. The Predators receive "more than $12 million annually in public dollars from Metro and the state" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/29).

SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that he has "given the green light for making changes to the concrete track surface" at Bristol Motor Speedway, according to Allen Gregory of the BRISTOL HERALD COURIER. Smith: "We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. As a result, I have ordered the equipment and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August." Smith added that an announcement regarding the scope of the work "will be made soon" (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 3/29).'s David Newton noted track surveys indicated early last week that about 75% of the fans "wanted a return to the surface" the track was composed of prior to renovations in '07. Smith has estimated costs would be approximately $1M, and the changes "would take about 90 days" (, 3/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg wrote none of the tracks which have recently installed progressive banking have "reverted back to a consistent corner banking system." He adds that theoretically, it "seems easy to do if that's a potential fix," but that is likely "easier said than done -- and it's far from a guarantee that the 'old' Bristol will return." It is also no guarantee that the grandstands "will magically fill up because of the 'newer' Bristol in August" because the "costs of hotels in the area and fuel are things out of the speedway's control" (, 3/28).'s Newton wrote BMS officials "thought they had the perfect plan when they repaved and reconfigured the track's worn surface" in '07, but it has been "a public relations nightmare ever since." Adding progressive banking "has turned many fans off to the half-mile track in Tennessee, and turned many on to the half-mile track in Virginia." However, the folks at Martinsville "aren't pounding their chests over this." Even if they were to sell every ticket for this Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, "which they're getting close to doing, their capacity of 55,000 will fall well short of the 80,000-plus who were at Bristol's 160,000-person stadium" March 18. Martinsville officials also know that, had an '02 planned project to grind their entire track surface been completed, "they could have had a similar disaster." Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said it would have been "catastrophic." Campbell: "It was just by chance it turned out the way it did" (, 3/28).'s Ed Hinton wrote late BMS President & GM Jeff Byrd "was the one who took the blame" for renovating the track in '07, and he "felt so bad about it, until the day he died" of brain cancer in '10. Byrd "knew he'd made a mistake," and was "sorrier for you the fan than for himself" (, 3/28).

In Houston, Sam Khan Jr. reported the Univ. of Houston Board of Regents Tuesday "approved the location for the Cougars' new football stadium," finalizing the intention to "place it where Robertson Stadium sits." After reviewing the options, the board "felt confident with sticking with the originally planned site, with plans to begin demolition of Robertson in December." Building on the current site "allows UH quicker completion, with [a] planned opening for the 2014 football season." It also allows for "fewer costs," as the current projected cost of the stadium is $105M, and "less difficulty in expanding the stadium to 50,000 and as much as 60,000 in seating capacity." UH AD Mack Rhoades said that the school has "had discussions with officials at Reliant Stadium about using that as a potential home for the 2013 season" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/28).

SOONER OR LATER: In Tulsa, John Hoover reported the Univ. of Oklahoma Board of Regents is "expected to approve a recommendation for improvements to the football stadium." Phase VI of the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium improvements will "include refurbishment of the eastside suites, the Santee Lounge and the Kerr McGee Stadium Club." Regents are also expected to "approve partial guaranteed maximum construction costs of $950,000." Funding for the project "has been identified, is available and will come from general revenue bond proceeds." Early construction efforts will "begin this spring and be completed during the summer," although the majority of work will begin after the '12 football season and is "expected to be completed before" the '13 season starts (TULSA WORLD, 3/28).

BROWN OUT: The AP reported the Univ. of Cincinnati "won't play any games at Paul Brown Stadium next season, a change in philosophy for a school trying to make itself more attractive to fans and recruits." UC played one game at the 65,000-seat stadium in '10 and two in '11 in an attempt to "give themselves a bigger profile," but the "experiment didn't meet expectations." UC AD Whit Babcock said that the crowds "weren't large enough to justify playing more games there" instead of the 35,000-seat, on-campus Nippert Stadium. Babcock: "Is it better to sell out Nippert at 35,000 and create some demand for tickets, or have 40,000 to 42,000 that looks half-full at Paul Brown?" (AP, 3/28).