The Pistons this summer will begin a $15M arena improvement project at the Palace of Auburn Hills that will eliminate 16 suites while renovating 40 others. The total number of suites at the arena will be cut from 180 to 164. The 16 suites will be cut from the arena’s 300 level, cutting the total number suites on that level to 64. The space from the eliminated suites will be converted into a lounge for gameday ticket buyers. The 40 renovated suites are located in the 100 level area of the building. In addition, the Pistons will remodel the main concourse level of the Palace of Auburn Hills along with an overhaul of the Club West lounge located above the West Atrium entrance. The project is slated to be completed by the start of next season with no interruption of any events inside the arena this summer. Pistons officials will consider cutting more suites and making other arena changes. “We will look more closely at that next season,” said Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion. “It is most prudent not to do a wholesale change. It will be an evolution.” The team has hired architectural firm Rossetti, the arena's original designer, for the project and Int'l Facilities Group will provide project management consultation. Since opening in '88, the arena has undergone more than $117M in renovations.
With MLS DC United introducing new investors Erick Thohir and Jason Levien yesterday, the club “strengthened its case and financial muscle in efforts to build a facility in the city,” according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. Thohir has partnered with remaining investor Will Chang to “provide the cash infusion needed to bankroll a medium-size stadium and mixed-use development, preferably at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington.” Levien’s monetary stake in the club is “considerably smaller, but with legal and government experience, he will play an equally critical role: navigating the turbulent political, business and real estate waters of Washington.” Levien said, “We see a pathway and we also know we’re going to have to use our machete to get there.” Thohir said, “We want a good location for the fans. If we have a stadium two hours from here, maybe it’s not D.C. United.” Team officials said that playing at RFK Stadium is "no longer economically feasible and a new facility is needed to keep the team in Washington.” Goff notes DC United has "suggested paying for the entire project, should the city agree to help pay for land acquisition, infrastructure and tax incentives." Other MLS teams have "used similar formulas in striking deals with local jurisdictions." DC United has also "explored an option in Baltimore, which has proposed constructing a stadium in the Westport neighborhood near the city’s football and baseball venues.” Each investor’s stake in the club "wasn’t released," but sources said that Thohir and Chang "are about equal”(WASHINGTON POST, 7/11).
LOOKING FOR A HOME: In DC, Thomas Floyd notes Levien “will be the public face of the partners,” but the three co-Owners “hope to accomplish two primary goals: to find a permanent home for United and cultivate a global brand.” The discussion at the introductory press conference “naturally turned to United’s stadium situation.” Levien cited “proximity to public transportation as a key aspect of the stadium search." He said, “At this point, the advantage that we have is that we’re bringing a fresh perspective to this. So we want to move quickly, but I also want to move thoughtfully through it.” Levien also mentioned the “possibility of moving the team to Baltimore,” but said, “We’re D.C. United. That’s our name. That’s our brand.” Floyd notes Levien, who lives in N.Y. and “carries deep ties to the D.C. area, will provide the team with a local presence in its stadium negotiations the way” Chang, who lives in Northern California, “never could” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/11). Also in DC, Craig Stouffer noted the new partners are “expected to impact D.C. United at all levels right away.” With their investment, Thohir and Levien "become the largest single ownership entity of the team." Though Chang's stake is less, the three "maintained that they will be equal parties in the club's major decisions.” Chang said, “I've been somewhat frustrated in trying to get a stadium negotiation going because I'm not here all the time. I needed someone who would give us continued presence on behalf of ownership here, and Jason will be here all the time.” Stouffer noted while Levien "works the local channels, the deep-pocketed Thohir will bring the financial muscle” (WASHINGTONEXAMINER.com, 7/10).
COMING TOGETHER: SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus wrote, “This apparent odd couple who met through their investment in the Philadelphia 76ers pledged both their devotion and their millions to doing more than restoring United to its former glory. They want to take D.C. global and, according to Levien, make the club the league’s ‘gold standard.’” Levien said, “We’re trying to get to MLS 3.0.” Thohir and Levien began to think about acquiring a stake in an MLS club "after attending an exhibition that Thohir arranged last November between the L.A. Galaxy and the Indonesian national team.” DC United President & CEO Kevin Payne said, “Our new partners have real staying power. They come into this with their eyes wide open. This isn’t a land grab. This is a sports opportunity and they recognize they have to invest in the team initially and they’re willing to do that” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/10).
76ers CEO Adam Aron said the team needs a new practice facility as the players “spend far more time at the practice facility than they do” at Wells Fargo Center, according to John George of the PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL. Aron said the practice facility is “really where their home is.” Aron: “As we are approaching free agents to want to come to play in Philadelphia over the next several seasons, it will take two to tango. They have to want to come here in addition to us wanting to get them. If the practice facility is state of the art, that’s a big factor in attracting big-time talent. But 40,000-square-foot buildings don’t get designed and built in a day, so it will take some time for that to happen. But it’s certainly a high priority. We are already scouting sites.” Aron added, “We would certainly have a naming rights sponsor on the building.” Meanwhile, he said of sponsorships, “Almost all of our corporate sponsorships are up for renewal. This is one of the areas we identified when we bought the team that was ripe with opportunities.” Aron: “As of July 1, it will squarely become our responsibility to build and enhance and grow our corporate sponsorships. We hired Tom Ward from the New Orleans Hornets. ... By all accounts he’s one of the best sponsorship guys in the entire NBA. It was a real coup to land Tom. He’s very knowledgeable. We’re going to dedicate a lot of resources to his burgeoning department. We want to triple sponsorship revenues” (PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL 7/6 issue).
The Nets have signed Sony as a building partner at Barclays Center in an extensive deal covering showroom space, permanent signs in the inner bowl and the supplier for the arena’s HDTVs. The four-year deal is valued at seven figures annually, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. In return for its investment, Sony receives dedicated space on the main concourse for on-site consumer product demonstrations, and will provide about 600 HD displays throughout the facility, including digital menu boards at all Levy Restaurants concession stands. The screens range in size from 22 inches to 60 inches with more than 300 46-inch displays installed at the 18,200-seat building. The Sony equipment, tied to an HD broadcast control room, will capture and produce video for playback during events on Barclays Center’s televisions and LED screens in the concourses, suites and club spaces with the ability to integrate game content with advertising on the displays. Sony has greatly expanded its relationship with the Nets after signing a smaller deal with the team during the two years the team played at Prudential Center in Newark, said Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. For Sony, the deal is its most comprehensive sponsorship package at an NBA facility, said company Senior PR Manager Tom Di Nome. Sony has similar deals at AmericanAirlines Arena, Wells Fargo Center, MSG and American Airlines Center. All told, the electronics retailer has deals with more than 20 major league teams and facilities. Barclays Center opens Sept. 28 with a concert by Jay-Z.
While SMG "has the backing" of the Jaguars and AFL Sharks to run seven major venues across Jacksonville, including EverBank Field, Comcast's Global Spectrum "says it can do a better job and it may have the backing of the city," according to Jamie Smith of WAWS-FOX. If the mayor and the Jaguars "take separate sides there will be a showdown that could affect the future of the football team." SMG and Global Spectrum "submitted very different proposals" for running the facilities. SMG has "dramatically slashed it's fee to the city" from $1.2M to $125,000. Global Spectrum "is offering a base management fee of $300,000, but promises to make a $1.5 million investment to improve the facilities." It "might not be a simple matter of money and could actually come down to relationships." Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is a "close friend" of lobbyist William Gray, whose firm "spent more than $110,000 the first quarter of this year lobbying on behalf of the Comcast Corporation." Comcast-Spectacor President & COO Peter Luukko "concedes his company's relationship with Gray works in his company's favor." Luukko said, "He's a part of our team. Obviously, this is a political process and to be able to utilize different people in town to get through the process is important to us." SMG "issued a formal protest of the city's actions last week after a sub-committee of high ranking members of Mayor Brown's office recommended the city sign with Global Spectrum." Brown said, "We all have relationships. But at the end of the day, it's what's in the best interest of the city that's going to take this to the next level" (ACTIONNEWSJAX.com, 7/10).
TROUBLE WITH THE TARPS: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino noted Jaguars officials are trying to "come up with new ideas to improve the fan experience at EverBank Field this season." Jaguars President Mark Lamping said that the team will "make an announcement in August before the first preseason game outlining all the new features, though the stadium's new video scoreboards might not be installed before 2014." He added that the team is "finding it difficult to implement one of their bigger ideas -- taking the tarps off the covered seats without increasing the size of the stadium." Lamping: "We'd like to get something done this year, but maybe we won't be able to. It needs to be done in a way to enhance the fan experience as opposed to an advertising panel." Owner Shahid Khan earlier this year said of removing the tarps, "To me, every day I look at the tarps, it is like underachieving, and I can't wait to be able to do that" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/9).
In Minneapolis, Chris Riemenschneider wrote it is “rebuilding time again for the Twins.” After the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw concert Sunday at Target Field, the Twins ground crew yesterday had to “assess the impact of the event.” Twins Corporate Communications Dir Chris Iles said, “Overall, it's in better shape than we expected, but there are a few places where they're going to have to patch." The primary trouble spot “is in center field, where the concert's massive stage stood.” New grass will also “have to be placed around first and third bases, where forklifts rolled onto the field to erect two giant sound and light towers in the middle of the field late last week” (STARTRIBUNE.com, 7/10).
MONEY ISSUES: On Long Island, Robert Brodskey reports Nassau Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs has “unveiled an alternative proposal to build a new Nassau Coliseum using private and county dollars.” But County Exec Edward Mangano’s office “dismissed Jacobs’ plan and Nassau Democrats … have little leverage to implement it.” Construction of a new arena “is expected to cost" about $400M. Jacobs said that roughly $320M “would come from Islanders owner Charles Wang, along with possible funding from the state, other private investors and a potential increase in sales tax revenue that the new arena would be expected to generate” (NEWSDAY, 7/11).
AMERICAN DREAM: In New Jersey, John Brennan reported Triple Five, the developer that is attempting to revive the American Dream Meadowlands, “filed a motion in Superior Court in Hackensack on Tuesday seeking a dismissal of a recent lawsuit filed by the Giants and Jets.” Triple Five spokesperson Alan Marcus said, “The teams are attempting to use the courts to make our days and hours of operation subject to their self-interest in controlling the entire complex on game days.” Brennan noted Triple Five “requested a July 27 hearing date” (NORTHJERSEY.com, 7/10).
GAME FACE: ESPN.com’s Ted Miller reported Univ. of California-Berkley yesterday sent out a release stating the renovation of Memorial Stadium will have the facility “game ready” by opening day. But there has been “whispers” the renovation “won’t be complete in time for the Bears’ season-opener" against the Univ. of Nevada on Sept. 1. Miller: “That’s probably true. But that doesn’t mean the game will be rescheduled for elsewhere in the Bay Area” (ESPN.com, 7/10).