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Volume 24 No. 157


The Steelers on Tuesday “moved to sue the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority in a spat over how to pay for a planned 3,000-seat expansion the team wants in Heinz Field,” according to Jeremy Boren of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. The dispute “hinges on how much the taxpayer-supported SEA, which owns the stadium on the North Shore, should contribute to the roughly $38 million to $39 million expansion of the 11-year-old stadium’s south end zone and construction of a second video scoreboard.” Steelers officials “want the authority to contribute about two-thirds of the cost, which they say is in line with a provision in the team’s lease.” SEA officials “want to contribute less than that, but it's unclear how much.” The two sides “discussed extending the Steelers’ 30-year lease of the stadium as part of the expansion deal.” A notice that the Steelers “intend to sue ... does not detail the team’s complaint.” SEA Exec Dir Mary Conturo said that she “expects the two sides will meet to work on an agreement despite the lawsuit.” Steelers President Art Rooney II in a statement said, “The SEA is our landlord, and it is not holding up its end of the lease” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/1). Rooney added that the Steelers have “already advanced more than $6 million in funding for Heinz Field improvements as well as design and planning costs related to the proposed expansion.” In Pittsburgh, Peter Diana notes team officials “had hoped to have a deal in place on the expansion by the end of October so that they could have the new seats ready for the 2013 season.” But "without a final agreement, the Steelers last week canceled an order for the steel needed for the construction” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/1).

In an architectural review of the new Barclays Center, which hosts its first regular-season NBA game Saturday night, the N.Y. TIMES' Michael Kimmelman writes, "At first blush, it's a shocker, which is one of its virtues." The arena's "rusted, reddish-brown exterior consists of 12,000 grainy weathered-steel panels." The panels "swoop and curl lengthwise around the building, ancient chains binding a giant Gulliver." They leave "openings here and there for ribbons of windows that provide peekaboo views out from and into the interior." Crowd circulation "is smooth, and the steeply raked seats, accommodating up to 18,000 fans, provide excellent sightlines for basketball, even from the nosebleed sections." The "black-box vibe, with its gray-and-eggplant palette and terrazzo concourse, distinguishes it from Madison Square Garden, exuding a sophisticated chill, warmed by an eager, Disney-trained staff." The fact that the center, "like every other sports arena, serves both inside and out as a giant billboard for corporate naming opportunities deserves mention because naming rights and other financial gains from the arena should be factored into the subsidized housing equation that remains one of the major obligations" made by developer and Nets investor Bruce Ratner. This is not a "beautiful or ingratiating building, but it’s technologically smart, with an underground turntable for trucks that may sound eye-rollingly dull but makes traffic engineers like the city’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, swoon because it reduces the number of backing up and double-parked 16-wheelers on nearby streets like Dean." Barclays Center architecture firm SHoP has "also spared Brooklyn another retro stadium." The architects have "created something tougher, more textured and compelling, an anti-Manhattan monument, not clad in glass or titanium but muscular and progressive like its borough." Kimmelman: "What’s clear now is that Barclays makes the Garden the second-best arena in town, which is to say even worse than we already thought it was" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/1).

The Circuit of the Americas is a "first-rate facility, more modern and F1-worthy than anything presented previously in the States, but questions remain as to whether it will draw a consistent and enthusiastic audience," according to Jeff Olson of USA TODAY. COTA President Steve Sexton said, "Not only is this the first purpose-built facility for F1 dating to Watkins Glen, but we always intended to make this world class. So far, we've had fantastic reviews from drivers and fans." COTA "can seat 100,000 spectators and has sold that many tickets (at an average of $400 each for the weekend)." There are "videoscreens throughout the circuit." Sexton on Monday said, "We've got our work cut out for us, but construction is not one of the issues." F1 has "tried and failed in America in multiple ways -- street races, permanent road courses and most recently at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000 to 2007." The series "continues to pursue the U.S. market in part because many of its partners -- namely Ferrari, Mercedes and Pirelli -- have large market shares" (USA TODAY, 11/1).

WAITING GAME: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Tripp Mickle writes the decision to delay the F1 Grand Prix of America in New Jersey until '14 "brought an end to a turbulent, two-year effort that was punctuated by a back-and-forth exchange between" Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery and F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone. Hindery "insisted the race would happen in 2013" while Ecclestone "regularly questioned the event’s viability." Their "battle was over one thing: money." Ecclestone said that Hindery "failed to raise the cash to pay race fees and got behind on payments." Hindery "insisted as recently as last summer that money was not an issue," but sources said that he "struggled to find enough investors for the project and his search was complicated by rising construction costs" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/29 issue).

The campaign to approve potential upgrades at the Crandon Park (Fla.) Tennis Center has drawn "opposition from a member of the pioneering family that donated the park land to the county," according to Patricia Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. Bruce Matheson "sits on a four-member committee that governs future plans for the park" and "called for a 'resounding NO' vote on the Miami-Dade ballot measure in a full-page color ad in Sunday’s Miami Herald." Matheson said, "The ballot language is incomplete, which prevents any voter from making an informed decision." But Sony Open tournament organizers pushing for the ballot measure said that that is "not so." The measure has "drawn the support of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and conditional support from the Key Biscayne Village Council." The proposed charter amendment would "allow tournament organizers to seek commission approval for a nearly $50-million makeover, paid for by the tournament and tournament revenues, such as parking surcharges and ticket fees." In his ad, Matheson "called the plans a '50-year sweetheart contract' for the tournament, whose lease -- set to expire in nine years -- would be extended to a total of 30 years, with two optional, 10-year extensions." Matheson "questioned whether the county would be on the hook to pay back any debt taken on for the project if the tournament were to go out of business or leave town." The tournament has "proposed building permanent grandstands, shaded pavilions and multi-story additions to the tennis center’s stadium." Tournament officials said that the "improvements are necessary" to keep the Sony Open in Key Biscayne. If it is approved at the Nov. 6 polls, the project "would require support from the special committee Matheson sits on, and it would need to meet terms set by the Matheson family, which sued the county when it planned to build the tennis stadium" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/1).