The Seattle City Council yesterday received an update “on plans to build a new half-billion-dollar arena in Sodo and to prepare the Sonics’ former home at KeyArena for up to three seasons starting in November,” according to Lynn Thompson of the SEATTLE TIMES. The council also “questioned the timing for its final decision to approve the project, which wouldn’t come until at least November, after the environmental assessment is complete and, potentially, after the Sonics have already begun playing at KeyArena.” In addition, the City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council “have ordered an economic-impact study of the proposed arena and two additional studies that will look at the interplay among industrial uses, sports facilities and transportation in the greater Sodo area.” Some council members “expressed surprise that the city could be on the hook for up to $5 million in consultant and attorney fees for the city’s work to respond to the arena proposal.” Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, whose group is vying to buy the NBA Kings and relocate them to Seattle, has "agreed to repay those costs, but only if the project goes forward at the Sodo site.” Hansen also will “pay all costs for permitting the arena, including the environmental assessments.” Council members Nick Licata and Richard Conlin, who “both voted against the deal to publicly finance the arena, expressed concerns that the city would lose $5 million if it decides the Sodo site has too many negative impacts.” Council members said that they “also wanted to ensure that the current tenants at KeyArena were involved in future scheduling decisions and would not be shut out of their home court" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/26).
ON THE HOME FRONT:In Sacramento, Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler cited Sacramento city officials yesterday as saying that they “aren't starting from scratch in their quest to develop a financing plan for an arena.” But the officials acknowledged in a staff report to the City Council that last year's plan "and all its detail will likely change in this scenario." The City Council “will be asked tonight to give top city officials the go-ahead to begin formal arena negotiations with a private investment group interested in buying the Kings and keeping them in Sacramento.” The council at the moment “still hasn't officially been briefed on whom the city will be negotiating with.” But it is “widely known” that Mayor Kevin Johnson “has been talking to" Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness Founder Mark Mastrov (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/26).
The Devils and the city of Newark have "hashed out a revenue-sharing deal surrounding the Prudential Center arena that, if approved by the City Council, could bring an end to years of legal battles," according to a front-page piece by David Giambusso of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Sources said that per the deal, Newark will "build a parking deck next to its municipal courthouse on Green Street, and the Devils will rent a healthy share of spaces, guaranteeing income to the city." The sources added that Newark will pay $2.7M in "parking revenue to the team annually for other lots surrounding the arena, as mandated by arbitrators last year." The sources said that the city will impose a 1.37% tax "on all tickets for tenant events," including games played by the Devils, WNBA Liberty and Seton Hall Univ. They added that for non-tenant events, "such as concerts or conventions, the city will impose a $1.25 facility fee per ticket," and that fee will "go up after five years." Giambusso notes the deal "has been agreed to by all parties." All that remains is "for the council to approve the accord and for the state legislature to agree to the ticket tax." City council members were set to "take up the measure" today (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/26).
Florida Atlantic Univ. President Mary Jane Saunders has "agreed to meet Friday with students upset about a decision to name the football stadium after a prison operator," according to Scott Travis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. About 100 students yesterday "protested FAU’s decision last week to name the facility the GEO Group Stadium." Saunders said that she will "hold a public meeting at noon Friday in the recruiting room of the stadium to discuss the concerns." Saunders said that she "didn’t anticipate the gift would be controversial" since GEO Group is "publicly traded and has had strong ties to FAU." Student protestors "arrived on the FAU lawn" yesterday morning "holding up signs reading, 'Profit from Pain is Inhumane,' and 'GEO: Find Another University.'" They then "moved into the president’s office, where Saunders agreed to the Friday meeting." But Saunders "showed no signs of declining GEO’s gift, which she said will be used for scholarships and to help pay off the debt of the $70 million stadium." Saunders: “This is a tough economic time. I don’t think we’ll ever be at a point where we can get all of our social issues perfect" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26). Saunders was "less effusive" than she had been last week about the GEO Group "but also defended" the company. Saunders: "I don't know everything about this company" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/26). In Ft. Lauderdale, Michael Mayo asks, "How much grief, ridicule and bad publicity is $6 million really worth?" It "doesn't seem FAU or Saunders has fully thought out the downside to what seemed like easy money just last week." Saunders yesterday "handled herself well," but FAU has "fumbled on this deal." The situation has the "potential to turn into a long and damaging firestorm" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26).
HOOT WITH THE OWLS: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports FAU has “signed a short-term marketing deal with Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to book events" at Geo Group Stadium. The deal includes providing NHL Panthers parent company Sunrise Sports with “the opportunity to sell naming rights for FAU Arena, a 5,000-seat arena that opened” in ’84. The school additionally receives "brand exposure at BB&T Center on digital signs, in-game advertising through the Panthers’ media partners, concourse displays and discounted tickets for students available one hour before every hockey game.” SSE President & COO Michael Yormark said that the group is “paid a monthly fee plus commission if it sells naming rights for FAU Arena.” The stadium opened in October '11, but FAU AD Patrick Chun said that the venue has "seen minimal use beyond the Owls’ five home football games a year.” Yormark said that the “controversy over the Geo Group Stadium agreement should not affect Sunrise Sports’ marketing of the building” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/25 issue).
The Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday announced a "complete ban on smoking" at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, according to a front-page piece by Chris Korman of the Baltimore SUN. MSA Exec Dir Michael Frenz said that the new policy brings the stadiums "more in line with other stadiums across the country." Camden Yards was one of 10 MLB venues that "designated smoking areas within the ballpark last season." M&T Bank Stadium was one of 11 NFL venues to "reserve space within the stadium gates for smokers." It allowed smoking "in designated areas of the concourse and near gates." Many stadiums have "created a process to allow fans to leave the stadium and return after smoking." Both the Orioles and the Ravens have said that they will "implement plans to allot space for smokers outside of the stadiums." The ban covers "all areas within the stadium gates, and extends to within 25 feet of any entry, outdoor air intake or operable window of the stadium structures." Smoking will "be allowed in the parking lots." The ban takes effect March 4 and "covers only lit tobacco." Chewing tobacco and "increasingly popular electronic cigarettes will be allowed" (Baltimore SUN, 2/26). Frenz said that the non-smoking policy will also "apply to non-sports events, such as concerts." In Baltimore, Jack Lambert noted 20 MLB stadiums and 25 NFL stadiums are "either smoke-free or have designated smoking areas outside of the stadium" (BIZJOURALS.com, 2/25).
SHoP Architects Founding Partner Gregg Pasquarelli during a recent presentation at the Columbia Univ. Graduate School of Architecture “revealed the first designs" for the $300M, 25,000-seat soccer stadium that "MLS wants to build for an expansion franchise in Flushing-Meadows Park,” according to Rich Calder of the N.Y. POST. Pasquarelli’s presentation was “primarily about his firm’s design of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, but it briefly offered four preliminary renderings for the MLS stadium project that SHoP was hired to design in October.” The renderings “show an open-air stadium that’s enclosed in a mesh design.” Pasquarelli said, "It's all about making a new kind of stadium that has no walls -- that’s completely open at all times." Calder notes the stadium dimensions “could allow for the project to expand to 35,000 seats.” The entire presentation was “captured on You Tube and later posted by the sports blog Nets Daily.” The video yesterday was “pulled” from the site. MLS hired SHoP to “handle the initial concept drawings, but the future owner of the planned Queens franchise would be responsible” for hiring an architect, whether SHoP or another firm, “to design the final version” (N.Y. POST, 2/26). In N.Y., Stephen Rex Brown notes MLS “sought to downplay the significance of the leaked drawings.” MLS Exec VP/Communications Dan Courtemanche said, “Those renderings were an architectural design study. It's not what the stadium is going to look like” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/26). CRAIN'S N.Y.'s Annie Karni reports MLS in meetings as recently as last week "appeared to have scrapped the early plans." New Yorkers for Parks Exec Dir Holly Leicht said, "These were always presented as theoretical renderings, not actual renderings." Leicht added that MLS "no longer brings renderings with them to meetings" (CRAINSNEWYORK.com, 2/26).
The push for a new professional soccer stadium in downtown Orlando “could pit the region's powerful tourism industry against boosters of the world's most popular sport,” according to Schlueb & Damron of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The stadium proposal “depends on public funds covering more than two-thirds of the price tag,” and a portion of that money “could be tourist taxes already earmarked for Visit Orlando, the group of hoteliers and others in the tourism industry who jealously guard their funding.” The conflicting interests “demonstrate the challenges Orlando City Soccer Club faces as it tries to cobble together support" for what would be the only MLS franchise in the Southeast. The club, which currently plays in the USL Pro division, has pledged $30M, and the "rest would be a mix of state sales tax, cash and land from Orlando, and tourist taxes controlled by Orange County.” Tourist taxes “wouldn't have to be increased,” as the money in question “is already being collected.” Visit Orlando "projects it will receive" about $36.3M in tourist taxes this year, but is "expecting" a $2.8M bump in funding in '18. That surplus is what Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando City Owner & President Phil Rawlins “have asked county officials to steer toward the stadium.” Dyer and Rawlins have “opted for a more diplomatic approach in recent weeks, meeting with leaders from Visit Orlando and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association to win support.” Their pitch is MLS would be “broadcast around the world, bringing wide exposure to Orlando as a travel destination" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/23). In Orlando, Mark Schlueb reports the City Council yesterday approved the $4M purchase of "four parcels of land in Parramore, a block west of the Amway Center.” City officials "would not confirm the property is the favored site" for a soccer stadium. Rather, the Council called that purchase a "strategic acquisition" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/26).
In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote of the NFL’s talks with Dodgers Owner Guggenheim Partners about building an NFL stadium at Chavez Ravine, “At first blush, the idea is enticing and makes sense.” But the concept of scrapping AEG’s downtown plan for Farmers Field “in favor of a stadium on the hill is not as clean and simple as it sounds.” Former Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt has “half-ownership of the parking lots” at Dodger Stadium, and “nothing can be developed on the parking lots unless Guggenheim and McCourt agree.” It is “doubtful that [McCourt] can generate the public support necessary" (LATIMES.com, 2/25). Also in L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote, “At some point, you have to wonder whether the NFL ever wants to come back to Los Angeles.” The idea is “tired now" and it is "hard to imagine the city getting all excited about starting this stadium process over again” (LATIMES.com, 2/25).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING:NFL Panthers President Danny Morrison yesterday said that he is “confident a deal can be reached” on a proposal to renovate Bank of America Stadium. He said that “timing is an issue, since the team would have to order new escalators and other upgrades by this fall in order to undertake construction after the 2013 season” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/26).
ADDING TO THE PLAN:In Hartford, Kenneth Gosselin noted plans for “more shops, restaurants and entertainment venues at Rentschler Field in East Hartford may finally be getting a boost.” United Technologies Corp. spokesperson Ian Race, whose company owns the property near the venue, said UTC “has signed a letter of intent with OTB Destination, which is putting together plans for a destination retail and entertainment complex” (COURANT.com, 2/22).
WANT TO BUY SOME PRODUCT? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted the Mets “have a new tenant at Citi Field: Amway.” CapitalNewYork.com reported the Amway Business Center “opened Saturday on the 126th Street side of Citi Field, near the ballpark’s bullpen gate” (NYTIMES.com, 2/25).