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Volume 24 No. 157


Indianapolis Motor Speedway is "seeking aid from the state as part of a plan to fund up to" $100M in improvements at the track, according to Campbell & Murray of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Track officials said that the plan would "create a 'motor sports investment district' to collect existing state sales, income and corporate taxes generated in an area that includes the IMS to help pay for the improvements." The collected taxes would raise up to $5M a year that the "state would contribute to help pay off bonds for the improvements over a 20-year period," while IMS would put up $2M each year. Legislation to "enact the plan will be unveiled" today. Approval by the General Assembly would be "required before it could become law." IMS officials said that the track "plans to upgrade its infrastructure with changes including new video boards, better lighting and more modern grandstands." Plans "call for spending" between $70M and $100M. Officials added that they "want to make the speedway more flexible, perhaps for different types of events down the line." The lighting, for example, would "make it possible for some races to run at night." It is "possible, too, that the venue would be used for other types of events, but it’s too early to speculate." The proposal also could "help address a looming cost for the IMS." Under a deal announced last month with federal authorities, the IMS is "required to spend millions of dollars on renovations to make its facilities more accessible for disabled patrons within the next 30 months." In deciding to "seek public assistance, IMS officials cited other racetracks around the country that have received such help." Officials said that they "began discussing possible state assistance with lawmakers about 18 months ago, largely" with State Sen. Michael Young (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/9).

The MLB Cardinals on Friday saw the groundbreaking of a “long-awaited but scaled-down Ballpark Village” near Busch Stadium, according to Lisa Brown of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Ballpark Village’s $100M first phase “calls for two buildings and a canopied space, with a total of 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment outlets” to open by spring ‘14. Developer Cordish Cos. said that the spaces are 85% leased and a new tenant “will be announced Thursday.” Cordish said that other tenants “will be announced during construction.” Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said, “It’s a relief.” Brown noted the 10-acre site has “remained vacant since the former Busch Stadium was demolished” in ‘05. The project’s backers “promise not only to open new dining and entertainment venues by Opening Day 2014, but also to realign the street grid in the area and add parking and public spaces.” The first phase “features a 30,000-square-foot building, 'Cardinals Nation,'" which will include a restaurant, a Cardinals HOF and museum and "seating for more than 300 with views into the ballpark.” Nearby, a 20,000-square-foot “Budweiser Brew House,” to be “built with a rooftop deck, will also offer views into Busch Stadium.” In addition, a “Live! At Ballpark Village” venue “with a retractable canopy will be open year-round.” DeWitt said, “We have a little momentum with the economy improving.” Future phases “include plans for residential and office buildings in the seven-block neighborhood” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/9). "Cardinals Nation" will be on three levels, including a two-story restaurant, retail store and a special events space in addition to the ticketed rooftop deck (Cardinals).

The Charlotte City Council on Friday gave "tentative approval" to a plan to provide the Panthers with $143.75M and keep the team in Charlotte for the next 15 years, according to a front-page piece by Harrison & Bethea of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The bulk of the money would "go toward upgrades" at Bank of America Stadium, while other funds would "go toward stadium maintenance and paying for traffic control on game days." The vote came "after a three-hour closed door session by the City Council, including a talk" with Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson. Richardson declined to offer specifics on the team’s request, but said "the process is continuing." Richardson: "I never would want our team to move somewhere else." Harrison & Bethea noted in exchange for the monetary backing, the Panthers "must agree to not leave Charlotte for 15 years." That would keep the team in the city "through the 2027 season." Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said, "If we had not made this decision -- and at some point in the future, the team had been sold and moved away -- we would feel that loss." The city's deal "hinges on state lawmakers agreeing to a 1 percent increase in the food and beverage tax levied in the city, as well as the state chipping in $62.5 million in aid toward the stadium upgrades." Some state legislative leaders have "indicated it would be a difficult fight." The City Council "approved the plan" by a 9-1 vote (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9).

INVESTMENT PLAN: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted a total of $302.5M would be invested in the team -- which includes payments from the city, state and team -- and $250M of that total would be dedicated to stadium upgrades. The Panthers' share would be $96.25M. Sources said that the "state could help the team in other ways, perhaps through incentives or other inducements." One clause in the city contract "gives the city the option to buy the stadium from the Panthers if the franchise relocated in the five years following the 15-year commitment." Shifting the "burden of game-day traffic control expenses would remove a longstanding source of frustration for the Panthers." A Panthers spokesperson said that the team "would comment on the stadium issue next week." Foxx said that Richardson was "emotional" when he met with Foxx and the City Council on Friday (, 2/8).

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: An OBSERVER editorial was written under the header, "Unnecessary Secrecy Cloaks Panthers Deal." It is "distressing the city has been so secretive and plans to raise taxes more than required." The Panthers are a "treasure for Charlotte." They create "jobs and ignite economic activity while creating an undeniable cachet." The $125M they "sought from the city may feel like blackmail but is much smaller than what other cities are paying to keep their NFL teams happy." Foxx, Richardson and the council "shouldn’t be so scared of the public who would benefit, and who would foot the bill" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9). In Charlotte, Mark Washburn sarcastically wrote, "We did it!" Washburn: "We did it behind closed doors so the public would be spared the boredom of listening to the facts. ... We did it without ever learning what the money is going to go for. An escalator and a scoreboard?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/10).

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday regarding a proposed $1B downtown stadium for the Falcons said that an "information offensive is in the works, starting with a public briefing Wednesday before the City Council’s finance/executive committee," according to Jeremiah McWilliams of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Reed said, "You’re going to get more transparency. We’re going to give the public every piece of data that we can possibly give them. Everything is going to be known. Questions are going to be answered in public and on television." State and Falcons officials have been "invited to the Wednesday meeting." The move "comes after two years of closed-door talks between the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority." Reed said that his administration is "assembling a finance and legal team focused on a stadium deal." He "expects that team’s analysis to be delivered within two to three weeks." There could also be "one or two more public meetings in addition to Wednesday's." Reed said the additional public meetings will be held "so that there is no sense that this transaction happened ... behind closed doors." He added that he is "confident the idea of using public money in the form of local hotel-motel taxes to partially finance the stadium enjoyed support of at least 50 percent support inside Atlanta." That is "far higher than across the state of Georgia" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/9).

Operating revenue at the BMO Harris Bradley Center "plunged in fiscal year 2012, the result of the NBA lockout and reduced state assistance," according to data cited by Don Walker of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Operating revenue for the year that ended June 30 totaled $12.6M, compared with $16.3M the year before. The NBA lockout last season "forced the cancellation" of eight Bucks home games. In addition, the center "received $581,000 from the state as reimbursement for capital maintenance and repair, compared" with $3.6M in FY '11. Including depreciation of $2.7M, the arena "reported a net loss" of $3.1M in the fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year, the net loss was "just over $304,000." The reduced state assistance "occurred because the BMO Harris Bradley Center drew on the bulk" of a $5M grant in the previous fiscal year. The new financial report "does not take into account a commitment" of $18M over six years by a "consortium of sponsors, including BMO Harris Bank and 25 other companies and organizations." The report also does "not include an additional" $5M state grant approved in September '12 (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/11).

The AP's Stacey Plaisance reported the "glitzy Mardi Gras Krewe of Endymion rolled its parade and super float through the Superdome on Saturday night," marking the venue's first major event since the Super Bowl XLVII blackout. While the black tie ball was "nowhere near the size of the championship game a week ago, it was a test for dome officials and the stadium's electricity provider, Entergy." The stadium lights were "dimmed for the ball, but there were no signs of any electrical problems" (AP, 2/10).

BANG FOR THE BUCK: In Daytona Beach, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean cited a report as saying that Kansas Speedway's $300M casino was "providing positive cash flow" to ISC. that should be in the $15M range for the '13 fiscal year. The success of the casino and restaurants also suggests new development around Daytona Int'l Speedway "could stay busy year-round as well." DIS President Joie Chitwood said that with tourists "coming to Daytona Beach year-round ... he's not worried about [the] new development sitting empty" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/10).

NAME GAME: In Houston, Joseph Duarte noted during a Friday groundbreaking ceremony for the Univ. of Houston's new football stadium, AD Mack Rhoades announced a $5M gift from the John O'Quinn Foundation to "keep the name John O'Quinn Field at the stadium." An agreement has "not been finalized, but the Cougars are expected to play their six-game home schedule and Bayou Bucket against Rice next season at Reliant Stadium" (, 2/9).

DEVILS IN THE DETAILS: In Phoenix, Metcalfe & Ryman reported the Arizona Board of Regents "approved" Arizona State Univ.'s plan to "move its baseball team to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, likely starting in the 2015 season." ASU now can "finalize a 25-year lease agreement with the city of Phoenix to replace the Oakland A’s as Phoenix Muni’s sole tenant" (, 2/8).