Daytona Int'l Speedway today shared the first images of the racetrack’s renovation, illustrating a sweeping redesign that would convert the simple, 50-year-old facility into a NFL-style stadium with grand entrances, wide concourses and improved amenities. The design, which was done by Detroit-based architecture firm Rossetti, shows a grandstand that is divided into four seating levels. The exterior has a more polished look and reduces the number of entrances from the current total of 19 to five. DIS President Joie Chitwood said, “We’ve been working for well over a year on what Daytona could be. We’ve had a great 50 years, but the goal is to have a vision for the next 50 years. We want to continue to be the Super Bowl of the sport. To do that, we need to focus on fan amenities.” Funding for the stadium has not been approved by ISC, which owns the track. ISC senior management is expected to evaluate the plan -- how much the renovation costs and how much revenue a renovated track would generate -- later this year. If senior management approves the plan, construction could begin as early as next year.
Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney yesterday said that the proposal by Cubs owners to pay for renovations at Wrigley Field by relaxing advertising restrictions and other rules at the landmark ballpark is "just one of many ideas being floated to pay for the work,” according to John Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. But Tunney “did not rule out easing city landmark rules that make it difficult for the team to erect lucrative billboards, a key component in the proposal" by Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts to pay for the $300M renovations without using taxpayer money. Tunney said that Cubs officials “would need to negotiate with the owners of rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley, who gave an icy reception Monday to the idea of new signs that could block their views.” Tunney said that one possible compromise “would involve the billboards being built on the rooftops and the Cubs splitting the proceeds with the businesses.” He added that the Cubs would “need area residents to buy in" to the team's idea of adding more night games. Tunney also “wondered about the Ricketts family's decision to drop plans for the so-called triangle building on land west of the ballpark in favor of an open area that could be used for outdoor activities.” Tunney said, "That building was going to include the kinds of businesses that would draw people to the neighborhood year-round" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/22). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, “The proposal made by the Cubs is the most one-sided stadium deal in favor of the city that I have seen in my lifetime.” Ganis said if he were advising Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “I’d tell him to get it in writing and get it approved before Tom Ricketts woke up” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/22).
MAKING A CASE: In Illinois, Mike Imren writes, "As long as the Cubs continue paying taxes at a high level, the only better new plan would be to build a replica Wrigley Field somewhere else like the suburbs.” While it is “too dramatic to say that Wrigley Field is an ill wind away from falling down, it has outlived its usefulness for 21st century professional baseball.” As long as the Ricketts are “willing to ante up, the city should be willing to let them, albeit with a sane system of checks and balances” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/22). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states the Ricketts “deserve credit for their efforts to get buy-in from fans, neighbors and surrounding businesses.” The editorial: “We're especially happy that the Cubs have come up with a Plan B to finance the face-lift. … This is no time for taxpayers to shoulder the costs and risks of upgrading a privately owned stadium.” But it continues: “It's not fair for the team to have its hands tied, either. Yes, the stadium is a landmark, but it houses a functioning business that can't survive unless the owners are allowed to adapt to consumer demands” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/22). In Chicago, Rick Telander writes under the header, “It Should Be Cubs First, Wrigley Second.” The Cubs' job is “to win a World Series before we all drift beyond the vines” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/22).
Scottsdale-based Hunt Construction and Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction are "among three firms competing to build the new home" for the Vikings, according to Richard Meryhew of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Hunt has built "a dozen NFL stadiums," while Mortenson built Target Field, Target Center, Xcel Energy Center and TCF Bank Stadium. Sweden-based Skanska AB also is "bidding for the contract, which is expected to pay" 2-4% of the stadium's $682M building cost. Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "I think we've got a very solid group. We're confident any one of the three could handle the project and deliver what we're looking for." Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that while Mortenson is the "only local firm to submit a bid, it's possible that Hunt and Skanska will pair with smaller, local construction companies to coordinate work." Meryhew notes Hunt has built "two NFL stadiums with retractable roofs" -- Lucas Oil Stadium and Univ. of Phoenix Stadium. The Vikings "hope to break ground on the stadium in October and open it in time for the 2016 NFL season" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/22). The MSFA will "interview the three companies later this week." Kelm-Helgen said that the authority "will weigh price, experience building sports venues and local participation" (TWINCITIES.com, 1/21).
ENHANCING THE MOBILE EXPERIENCE: 49ers CEO Jed York yesterday during an appearance on CBS Sports Radio's "The Jim Rome Show" discussed his attempts to eliminate hardware from the fan experience at the team's new Santa Clara stadium when it opens in '14. York said, "I don’t know that you’re going to eliminate it, but you don’t want it to be your focal point. I’m sure you have a smart phone, I’m sure you have a tablet, and when you go to a game sometimes it’s hard to just send a text message or an e-mail (or search the Internet). … So you want to make sure that your phone connects you to the game in a way that is better than your home experience. When you look at the great tech companies that are in Silicon Valley, I don’t want to compete with those guys in hardware. I want to make sure that if their hardware works in our stadium beyond all other capabilities and that we give you more in our 68,000-seat stadium than you can get anywhere else. So you can connect to the game, you can connect to any other game and you just make it less of a hassle going to a sport event” (“The Jim Rome Show,” CBS Sports Radio, 1/21).
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage yesterday announced a number of changes at the track for the '13 season. The majority of the changes, known as the "Fan-Fueled Evolution," will go into effect immediately while others will be in place when the racing season opens April 11-13 with NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. Changes include a new children's ticket program, adult individual ticket restructuring, unique race-related perks for season-ticket holders and a ban on smoking in the track's grandstands (TMS). Gossage announced plans to reduce ticket prices "on more than 15,000 seats for the 2013 racing season," and said that there would be "no price increases." Gossage: "We drew the biggest crowd of 2012, so it runs against the thought of how you do business with the free enterprise system. If you're selling out or doing well, you raise prices ... But the best way to show you're fan friendly is to lower your prices." In Ft. Worth, Drew Davison notes there are "approximately 8,000 tickets on the frontstretch that will be priced at $49 for the Cup races, down from $86 in 2012." Gossage said, "It's better to keep fans engaged at $49 than to lose them over $55. ... When the economy comes back around, and it will eventually, then they're still with us and we can creep those ticket prices back up." He added, "We're lowering the bottom end (frontstretch tickets) to get more people where they can see the pits and the start/finish line." Davison notes roughly 7,400 seats along the frontstretch that are closer to the start/finish line also have "been reduced from $92 to $79 for Cup races." Frontstretch tickets are "as low as $25 for Cup races" for kids 12 and under. The initiatives "came from the track's 22-person fan council" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/22).