Univ. of Colorado AD Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano yesterday "outlined a plan for approximately $170 million in upgrades at Folsom Field but did not provide a specific timetable for when the projects will begin," according to a front-page piece by Kyle Ringo of the Boulder DAILY CAMERA. CU is "challenging donors to raise $50 million toward the project and will begin construction when that figure is met by donations." No tuition, student fees or state funding would be "used to fund the project." It will be "paid for entirely through private fundraising and money the athletic department earns through television contracts and future revenue from the Pac-12 Network." The plan "includes both renovations to current facilities and new construction, including a new student-athlete academic center, a new permanent indoor practice facility and eventually a new soccer and lacrosse field." The first phase of the project would be "building the academic center beneath the east side club level of Folsom Field and also taking precautions against shifting ground beneath the north side of the east stands." Board of Regents members seemed to "respond favorably to the presentation." The board "won't have to approve anything until a program plan is completed, which the school hopes to do by December." CU plans also include "expanding the Dal Ward Center on the east and west sides and enclosing the north end of the stadium, which would add to the capacity of the stadium, which currently seats 53,613." Improvements to the Coors Events Center are "not included" in the $170M project, but also are "planned" (Boulder DAILY CAMERA, 2/21).
An online petition has been drafted calling on Florida Atlantic Univ. to drop its association with private-prison operator GEO Group, and it includes "a pledge to 'no longer support FAU athletics' until ties are severed," according to Hal Habib of the PALM BEACH POST. FAU Tuesday announced it had signed a $6M, 12-year naming-rights deal with the company, but numerous visitors to the school's Facebook page were "critical, with many citing the moniker 'Owlcatraz,' playing off the athletic nickname Owls." But the deal also "attracted 333 Facebook 'likes' as of" yesterday afternoon, and many "acknowledged that FAU, like most athletic programs, hardly can turn away from" $6M. Z Sports & Entertainment Exec VP & Managing Dir Scott Becher said, "You want the right price at the right term. Ideally, you want a local company involved, and you also benefit if there’s an authentic connection to the university. And they hit all those criteria." GEO Group VP/Corporate Relations and FAU alumnus Pablo Paez said, "We are not going to be apologetic about this partnership. As people realize the benefits and see the positive impact on the university and on this area, they will come around” (PALM BEACH POST, 2/21).
JOKES COME ROLLING IN: ABC's Jimmy Kimmel noted the agreement and said, "The stadium’s being sponsored by prisons. I guess they figured a lot of the athletes end up in prison anyway and this just cuts out a step. The GEO Group paid $6 million for the naming rights, but the school says very little will change. The only change they're making is hot dogs will now go for two packs of cigarettes” (“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC, 2/20). NBC Sports Network's Dave Briggis asked, "So you're going to name it what? The Big House is taken.” Briggs: “Instead of the whiteouts and the blackouts, you got to have ‘Orange Jumpsuit Night’” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 2/20). In West Palm Beach, Frank Cerabino writes a parody piece under the header, "FAU Not Being Held Prisoner To New Stadium Partnership With GEO Group." Cerabino sarcastically writes, "As for the stadium itself, we’re planning for watch towers on all four corners of the end zone and conjugal visit trailers on the loge level for VIPs. ... Coach Carl Pelini said he’d be willing to work with the team to see how feasible it would be for them to play with loose-fitting drawstring pants. The wide receivers will have get used to making one-handed catches" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/21).
NO LAUGHING MATTER: A South Florida SUN-SENTINEL editorial states jokes must be "expected for the new name of the football stadium." However, GEO is a "legitimate company, with $3 billion in assets." This is a local company "doing legitimate business, and $6 million will go a long way toward addressing the financial challenges facing FAU's athletics program." It is "not as if securing big money for stadium naming rights is easy." Have you "noticed that a year after it opened, the Miami Marlins are still playing in Marlins Park?" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/21).
NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said the league will be "more proactive" in deciding how or when to resod fields, according to Clark Judge of CBSSPORTS.com. While Anderson said that the NFL "would not assume control from local stadium authorities," he indicated that the league "needs to be more involved in overseeing field conditions to minimize the chances" of another incident similar to the poor conditions at FedExField for the Jan. 6 Seahawks-Redskins NFC Wild Card game. Anderson: "Going forward, we're going to be much more proactive about making sure we, at the league level, make determinations, particularly with natural surfaces, later in the year subject to weather factors. We must be more attentive and more assertive about when certain standards or resodding or maintenance needs to be redone." He added, "As a league, we go out and inspect and monitor (fields), but we've got to be more forceful about taking (matters) into our hands. I'm not necessarily talking about taking it out of their hands. But when our observers see a situation we will be much more forceful about saying this needs to be done and that this in fact will be done" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/20).
In Boston, Fee & Raposa cite sources as saying that Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake will "play Fenway Park this August." The Red Sox yesterday went to City Hall "asking for concert permits for Aug. 10 and 11," but the team "didn't specify the musical act." Rolling Stone magazine reported that Jay-Z and Timberlake are planning a "major stadium tour this summer" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/21).
RINKED IN? In Toronto, Tony Van Alphen reports the city of Markham, Ontario, "hasn't approved an NHL-size arena or its funding," but the Canadian Women's Hockey League yesterday suggested that the project "will proceed." The CWHL said that Markham's proposed arena is "sponsoring the group's annual awards night next month during the Clarkson Cup championship" in the city. Van Alphen writes the announcement "left the impression that construction of the 20,000-seat arena in a public-private partnership will go ahead." CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress said that the league is "aware that the proposed project, including a long-term lease, still needs" approval by the Markham City Council (TORONTO STAR, 2/21).
NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTTS: Charlotte Motor Speedway has implemented a smoke-free policy for all three of its tracks. The policy also applies to the terrace boxes, kids' play zones, bathhouses and restrooms. Smoking lounges with flat-screen TVs and high-top tables will be located at each venue. Smoking will be allowed in open-air campgrounds, parking lots, hospitality and souvenir display areas (CMS).
LET'S TALK TURKEY: In Norfolk, Andy Bitter reports Virginia Tech is "replacing the video board and sound systems at both Lane Stadium and Cassell Coliseum, projects the school expects to have completed before the start of the next football and basketball seasons." When finished, the new Lane Stadium high-definition LED video board -- at 48.2 feet tall and 108.2 feet wide -- will be "nearly five times the size of the current one," installed in '05. It will be the "eighth largest in the country" among stadiums for FBS teams, and is "expected to cost" about $3M (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 2/21).