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Volume 24 No. 159


The Falcons committed “another $65 million toward a proposed downtown stadium as the team and the city unveiled agreement on several key issues Thursday, moving the project closer to a final deal,” according to a front-page piece by Stafford, Suggs & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The “bulk of the money, $50 million, would go toward road, sidewalk, utility and other infrastructure work required for the new stadium.” Those aspects are “key city terms” in the deal announced by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Falcons Owner Arthur Blank. The Arthur Blank Family Foundation “would invest $15 million in projects aimed at boosting” neighborhoods close to the stadium. The agreement states that the amount would be “augmented by another $15 million from Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency.” The deal “offers financial relief to the city from infrastructure costs and is also aimed at answering calls for improvements to surrounding communities.” The public contribution for stadium construction “will be capped at $200 million, generated through bonds backed by the hotel-motel tax collection by the city of Atlanta.” Everything except the $200M in public money “would be paid by the Falcons, the NFL and personal seat license sales.” Stafford, Suggs & Tucker report while Reed “ardently backs a new stadium to keep the Falcons downtown, Thursday’s announcement does not mean a final deal is in place.” A memorandum of understanding between the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, on whose property the new stadium would be built, and the Falcons “on operational, financial and other details of a stadium deal” is still needed. But the Falcons, more than “two years into stadium negotiations, considered the latest development a breakthrough” (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 3/8). NBC Sports Network's Mike Florio said, "It doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, but it’s a key step in the process towards shaking a little public money out of the trees in order to help pay for that stadium” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/7).

BREAK THIS DOWN: In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote, “Once you fan away the smoke, this is what happened Thursday: Blank affirmed previous comments that the public portion of his $1 billion Valhalla would be capped at $200 million. After hearing complaints from officials and residents (read: potential ticket and T-shirt buyers), he also vowed to assume responsibility for $50 million in infrastructure costs around the stadium and promised that his family foundation would invest another $15 million in the scarred neighborhoods that surround the proposed venue.” This shows that Blank will "really try to make this work and appease the masses." Schultz: "For that, I commend him." But it is "not nearly enough” (, 3/7).

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel believes “figures from Alberta's budget Thursday show there's enough cash to fund” the proposed C$480M downtown arena, according to Angelique Rodrigues of the EDMONTON SUN. Mandel said that the funds are “still on the way Thursday, even after Finance Minister Doug Horner introduced a lean provincial budget with no funds earmarked for the project.” The mayor said that while it “may not be clear where the dollars are coming from, he's still certain help is on the way.” Mandel: “I have been reassured time and time again that the issue of the arena will be dealt with in this physical year.” Rodrigues notes it was believed that Alberta "would grant Edmonton funding for the arena in the form of Municipal Sustainability Initiative dollars.” But officials said that the fund "for the province on a whole will stay the same.” Rodrigues adds Edmonton will receive C$170M in MSI funding -- an increase of C$3M for ’13 (EDMONTON SUN, 3/8). Horner said of how the city uses the MSI funding, “That’s Edmonton’s decision. It’s not ours.” Downtown Business Association Exec Dir Jim Taylor said that the city "doesn’t need” a check for C$100M immediately, but it “just needs an assurance the money will be there over time” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 3/8).

Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney on Thursday was "talking tough about his terms of agreement" with progress "stalled" in the Cubs' effort to strike a deal with the city of Chicago for a $300M Wrigley Field renovation, according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Tunney said that he "would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and 'aesthetic' assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses -- all issues that have yet to be settled." He added, "It's not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry." Regarding Cubs Owner the Ricketts family's push for a deal, Tunney said, "You're talking about one of the wealthiest families in America." At stake is a $500M investment with $300M to "fix up Wrigley" and another $200M "for nearby development, including a plaza and hotel." The owners of the 16 rooftop clubs "give 17 percent of their annual revenue to the Cubs under a 20-year deal brokered by Tunney." They "fear their lucrative birds-eye views will be blocked if the Cubs put up signs in the outfield." They also said that it would "violate their deal" with the team (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/8). In Chicago, Fran Spielman reports Tunney on Thursday was "asked repeatedly whether he would agree to any signs inside the ballpark that block the rooftops’ birdseye view." He insisted that he has "not yet made that decision and won’t until the Cubs present a comprehensive plan for all of the ballpark signs they intend to sell." Meanwhile, the Cubs "got the go-ahead Thursday to hold two more summer concerts at Wrigley Field" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/8).

SMI President & COO Marcus Smith said Las Vegas Motor Speedway's focus is on "capturing the next generation of race fans," according to Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. Snel noted the company will "put that business strategy to use" at this weekend's NASCAR races. LVMS Dir of Communications Jeff Motley said that grandstand tickets for children 15 and younger "will be $24.50 -- half the regular $49 cost." He added that children 15 and younger also can "enter the Neon Garage for free ... instead of paying the $49 charge." Motley: "We're trying to make it easier for kids to make it to the track. We want to make it more affordable for families to come to a race." UNLV professor Nancy Lough, who discussed with her class ways to attract a younger audience at the track, said that some of her students "suggested selling the tailgating and carnival-spectacle feel." Lough said the students were "interested in what was happening, but they wanted to be more mobile during the race, yet still watch it, almost in a sportsbarlike atmosphere" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/7). LVMS President & GM Chris Powell said, "We've certainly reviewed every nook and cranny about the speedway and about the catch fence that we have. We keep up with that very closely and we listen to whatever NASCAR might have to say in that regard." He added, "I have been a little bit pleasantly surprised [at] the few number of fans that have called asking any questions. I think NASCAR fans are wise enough to know that what happened at Daytona was a few and far between incident and I'm certainly optimistic that we won't have any kind of incident." Powell reiterated he was "pleasantly surprised that fans do not seem to be concerned that they're in a dangerous situation" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 3/6).