SMG, the company that has managed EverBank Field “for the past 20 years, will keep its contract to run city facilities after slashing its fee from almost $1 million to $100,000,” according to Timothy Gibbons of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown last Saturday announced that the company “signed a three-year agreement with the city,” and will be able to earn "an additional $100,000 in incentives on top of its base fee.” SMG will give the city “an open-ended $1 million grant and establish a $500,000 fund to attract and promote events at city facilities.” In addition to its management fee, SMG will have “exclusive rights to provide food, beverage and other concessions at the city facilities, for which it will earn 4.5 percent of gross sales and 2.5 percent of net operating income.” The company “guarantees the city $1.6 million a year in net profits from concessions and will pay $100,000 to upgrade the food service operation at the arena.” The Jaguars in May said they “wanted SMG to keep the job,” but the city’s selection committee in August chose Global Spectrum despite an SMG protest. However, the team’s contract with the city says both parties have to agree on who will run the stadium.” Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said that finalizing the deal with SMG is the “first step in enhancing the fans’ experience” at EverBank, with other announcements “in the works.” SMG “fought hard for the contract.” SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton acknowledged that the “new rates are ‘aggressive.’" He called the higher price tag the company had been paid the result of "a different era." SMG’s new contract will begin Jan. 1 and “run through February 2016, with an option for two one-year extensions” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 12/23).
Santa Anita Park Publicity Dir Mike Willman said that on-track attendance on opening day Wednesday "was recorded at 27,273 this year, compared to last year's 55,000-plus attendees," according to Brenda Gazzar of the SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE. Willman credited the drop in attendance to early rain on Wednesday, as well as last year's opening day taking place on a Monday, "when most people had the day off." Despite the showers, most of the "storm clouds cleared well in advance of the first post at noon." Racetrack officials said that they were "grateful the weather ultimately broke in their favor" as they waited to "see how badly the forecast of rain would affect opening day attendance" (SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE, 12/27).DAILY RACING FORM's Jay Privman noted on-track attendance was "down 9.1 percent from the last time Santa Anita opened on a Wednesday, in 2007." The overall handle Wednesday was "$13,494,676, a decrease of 13.1 percent from last year’s $15,531,307." Santa Anita President & GM George Haines said, "For opening on a Wednesday, we had a great crowd. ... I'm very happy with how everything turned out, considering what it was like here from 3 in the morning until 7." Musician Gene Simmons, a friend of the Stronach family, which owns Santa Anita, was "out and about greeting fans both in the morning and then at the afternoon’s races, when he presented the trophy following the Malibu." Although he has "no official title, Simmons is clearly acting in an advisory capacity with the track, seeking to raise its profile in the clutter of sports marketing" (DRF.com, 12/26).
SUNSHINE STAKES: BLOODHORSE.com's Jim Freer reported Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course have "started the annual process of picking racing dates, with Gulfstream stirring up yet another dispute by saying it plans to expand its four-month schedule to 'year-round racing' starting in 2014." Racing dates are "set through June 30, 2013 for the two southeast Florida tracks, which are eight miles apart." Florida tracks have "until Feb. 28 to give the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering their lists of proposed race dates for the 12 months between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014." That schedule could be "changed dramatically with the unwelcome prospect of some days of head-to-head racing if Gulfstream carries out anything close to its ambitious plan." Gulfstream now has live racing from "early December through early April -- southeast Florida's prime winter season." Calder has live racing "the other eight months." Gulfstream President & GM Tim Ritvo said that the change "would involve having races at least several days most weeks each year from early 2014 onward." Ritvo added that Gulfstream would "continue to race five days a week during its winter season." Gulfstream "will end its 2012-2013 race meet on April 5." Calder will "open the following day and has dates through June 30, 2013" (BLOODHORSE.com, 12/26).
The Rays' “single most popular stadium option is simply to keep the team playing at Tropicana Field,” according to a recent telephone survey of 521 Pinellas and Hillsborough residents cited by Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Much of this sentiment “stems from fear that public money would have to underwrite any new stadium.” Survey respondents “opposed that idea 50 percent to 41 percent -- even if their own taxes were unaffected.” The survey's margin of error “is 4.3 percentage points overall and about 6 percentage points for a single county.” Considerable stadium speculation this year “focused on downtown Tampa.” But the “hometown folks aren't keen on the idea,” as only 16% of Hillsborough residents “want a stadium there.” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, downtown Tampa's “biggest booster,” said of the current location in St. Petersburg, "Certainly the status quo is the safe position, which is why the numbers at the Trop are what they are. But that's not a realistic solution. Clearly, the Rays don't want to be there. The business model doesn't work, so I don't know that that's even available as an option.” Nohlgren noted the survey results “closely mimicked a similar Times poll taken last December.” The only “statistically significant shift from last year's sentiment came from how Pinellas residents view Tropicana Field.” In ‘11, 50% listed Tropicana Field “as their favored site, down from 54 percent in 2010,” compared to this year’s survey where “Pinellas support for the Trop dropped to 42 percent” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/25).
The Barclays Center is listed among the WALL STREET JOURNAL’s “Best Of 2012 In Architecture.” Julie Iovine writes the arena, designed by SHoP Architects, “is winning over Brooklyn.” The 675,000-square-foot arena “sits at the edge of a residential neighborhood,” and it is “as hulking and out of scale as feared, but locals have found it interesting enough architecturally to reconsider its potential.” The architects “animated a very basic arena form, covering it with rusted steel panels -- thousands of them, each one slightly different in size -- turning something ponderous, dynamic.” In a “bold gesture at street level, a swooping oculus projects out over the subway and commuter train stairs.” The “excitement over Barclays is mostly about sports teams coming home to Brooklyn, but credit is also due to the building's design." Architecture "really only succeeds when it's about places that work for the people closest to it” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/28).
In Houston, David Barron noted Texas Tech recently began "construction on a $15 million renovation" of Jones AT&T Stadium's north end zone that "will boost seating capacity to about 61,000." Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt "has plans for a second round of changes to the north end zone that could begin after the 2013 season if budgets and funding are finalized." That leaves the "south end zone, where the plaza in front of the Tech athletics administration building still features the Southwest Conference logo and the names of its last eight member institutions, as the final step in boosting stadium capacity toward 70,000." Scheduled to debut next fall will be a "new video board measuring 100 feet long by 40 feet high, a new sound system, about 1,600 additional seats, and an expanded concourse wrapped within Spanish renaissance-style exterior columns." Phase II of the north end-zone plan would "include 500 club seats overlooking the grassy knoll behind the goal posts and perhaps suite spaces in the north end-zone building that now houses the ticket office and other business operations" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/26).
PENNY PINCHING: Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said of the school's $425M planned redevelopment of Kyle Field, "Our goal is to build the best stadium there is for the fewest amount of dollars, and so far we're on track for both." In San Antonio, Brent Zwerneman noted Texas A&M officials recently "announced Manhattan-Vaughn as their construction partner -- a combination of Manhattan Construction Group and Vaughn Construction." The school had "hoped to make a recommendation on a final plan to its regents this past fall, but that has been pushed back to later this winter or spring." Zwerneman noted what is clear is "A&M, home to about 50,000 students, does not intend to play its home games away from College Station for a season or two, and the seating capacity likely will be more than 100,000." A&M, which plans to "pay for the renovation through donations to the 12th Man Foundation and bonds paid for by future stadium revenue, also intends to capitalize on the Aggies' recent on-field success -- and growth" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/27).
EXTREME STADIUM MAKEOVER: In Cincinnati, Cliff Peale reported donors at the Univ. of Cincinnati said that they are "ready to support a $70 million renovation of Nippert Stadium." The ACC is UC’s "preferred destination in the dizzying game of conference realignment that so far has left it on the outside looking in." UC officials "insist they didn’t promise the Nippert renovation to the ACC, Big 12 or any other conference, but they know those conferences are watching." Premium seating would add to UC's "$27.5 million athletic budget, one of the lowest among big-time football programs across the country." UC AD Whit Babcock said that "even with no private donations, selling three-quarters of the new seats would cover debt payments on the renovation" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 12/23).