Architects for NBA Kings bidder Chris Hansen yesterday "released the first drawings of the interior of the planned new Seattle sports arena," according to Lynn Thompson of the SEATTLE TIMES. The drawings show a "steep lower bowl, which puts fans closer to the action and improves sightlines." The upper seating is "dramatically shortened and features three stacked balconies dubbed the 'Sonic Rings,' on which fans can stand and scream." Hansen said reduced stratification between seating levels would give "typically premium seating amenities to all our fans." He added the building will not feature exclusive suites that “speak to status superiority and isolation.” Instead, Hansen said that the design "allows for flexible suite layouts to accommodate groups and businesses of different sizes" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/14).
TIGHT ON TIME IN THE VALLEY: A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states while the "tight timetable on a deal for a new downtown arena is being driven by the NBA," Sacramento officials can "still control how open the process is." For something "this important, involving so much public money, the schedule City Hall is on falls far short of the transparency that Sacramento deserves." The plan is to "post the agreement on the city's website" on March 21, "mere hours before the only scheduled public meeting." That "isn't enough lead time," and City Manager John Shirey "warned council members even that isn't guaranteed." A forum "without a specific proposal to comment on would be an empty gesture" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/14).
The city of Charlotte yesterday asked the North Carolina General Assembly to "approve a smaller and shorter increase in the prepared food and beverage tax to help pay for renovations to Bank of America Stadium and keep the Carolina Panthers tied to the city," according to Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The new request is to "increase the so-called meals tax by a half-cent for 15 years." The city said that the increase "would raise" $176M. The city "originally asked legislators to increase the local prepared food and beverage tax" from 1% to 2%, for 30 years. Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell yesterday in a letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger said he feared the state's inability to raise the meals tax would “ultimately lead to the sale and relocation" of the Panthers. Mitchell was "the only elected official who signed the letter," and it is "unclear if the full City Council endorsed his plan in a full vote in closed session." State Rep. Becky Carney, a co-sponsor of a bill to let the city use existing taxes for the Charlotte Convention Center, said that "any tax increase is a non-starter." Carney: "They've already been told there's no appetite for a tax increase for anything." Harrison notes under the city's latest plan, Charlotte would "still use money from the Convention Center fund to help the Panthers." In the first year of the deal, the city would spend $16.7M "from the Convention Center surplus." After the first year, "revenue from the tax hike would cover the city's annual debt payments" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/14).
SMI is building six more pit road suites at Charlotte Motor Speedway after selling out the six original suites at track level in '12. The new outdoor suites, elevated 11 feet above the NASCAR pit crew boxes, are attached to the existing units at the end closest to Turn 1, said CMS Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Dan Farrell. Four of the new suites have been sold, and contracts for the two remaining units should be signed in the next 10 days, Farrell said. Those purchasing the additional inventory are all new buyers, he said. The new suites have the same design as the original units, with 15 seats and roof cover. They also carry the same price -- $45,000 annually tied to three-year commitments. In return, they receive 15 tickets to eight NASCAR events every year. For all pit road suites, catering is a separate fee. As part of the package, suite holders get exclusive access to the Winners Circle Lounge behind the structure. The lounge opened last year adjacent to the Sprint Cup garage, and track officials discovered NASCAR drivers took shortcuts through the indoor space on their way to driver’s meetings. In that respect, the pit road suites provide an additional amenity for premium patrons getting an up-close look at some of their favorite drivers, Farrell said.
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts yesterday "took the opportunity of the first public viewing of the team's new spring-training facility" in Mesa, Ariz. to "make another pitch to move along talks for Wrigley Field improvements," according to Dave van Dyck of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Ricketts was asked if there was any "irony in the Cubs having what will be the best spring-training facility and one of the worst major league facilities." He responded, "You can't be a first-class organization with third-class facilities. We've addressed the issue in the Dominican (with new facilities), we addressed the issue here with the help of our good friends from Mesa. We'd like to take some of that momentum into Wrigley and get that project started too." Ricketts said there are a "handful of issues" to be worked out with Chicago aldermen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and neighboring rooftop owners. He added, "We're hopeful we'll get some resolution soon. If we're going to be in the ground in October, we have to get to some resolution in the next few weeks" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/14). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer notes the Cubs organization is "barely two weeks away from what it has said is a rough deadline for starting the process in time to break ground on the project in October." Ricketts "made it clear the club has no intentions of committing to its 2013 timeline until it gets the concessions it wants to allow street closures and more ballpark signage" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/14).
A WIN-WIN PROPOSITION:Ricketts said of the Cubs' new Spring Training site, "This is a big win for the team to get this started. It's a big win for our fans who go to Spring Training, it's a big win for the city of Mesa, it's a big win for economic development for the whole area, to be honest, so everybody's winning. It also translates into literal wins. When I look out, I see 'W' flags. We have to build a foundation of first-class facilities throughout our organization." MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports there are "three separate projects combined: commercial space, the Cubs space and city space." The facility will include "a park to be used by Mesa residents." Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said, "This is much more than a baseball stadium, it's an experience." Muskat notes the Mesa facility, "for now, is called Wrigleyville West" (MLB.com, 3/14).
Miller Park Stadium District officials said that the stadium's retractable roof is helping the Brewers "draw an average of 1 million more baseball fans a year than the team attracted in its final years at County Stadium -- about 2.56 million a season." In Milwaukee, Don Behm cited a Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee survey as showing that 45% of fans attending Brewers games come "from outside the five-county Milwaukee metropolitan area," and those fans are "opening their pocketbooks." The study was "commissioned" by MLB (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/13).
THE SECRET GARDEN: A N.Y. TIMES editorial states architects, designers and "a few visionary politicians have been trying to persuade" MSG Co. to relocate MSG to facilitate reconstruction on Penn Station, which is below the arena. The hope for a new grand entranceway to Penn Station will be "crushed for years, maybe decades," if MSG Co. manages to "persuade the city to give them a new lease that will allow the Garden to stay just where it is 'in perpetuity.'" The Garden has "moved twice since its original location," and it "can move again" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/14).
FIT FOR A QUEEN CITY: Triple-A Int’l League Charlotte Knights VP & COO Dan Rajkowski said that construction on a new $54M stadium is "on schedule and on budget." In Charlotte, April Bethea reported work is "expected to be 'substantially complete' by year's end with the Knights set to begin playing uptown" by the start of the '14 season. The team has "offered past season ticket holders a chance to choose seats they'd like in the new stadium" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/13).
SAY CHEESEHEAD: Packers officials said that a $143M renovation project to Lambeau Field is "on budget and on schedule." While some outside seating work "still needs to be done," the project is "expected to be done in time for the Packers' popular Family Night scrimmage this summer" (AP, 3/12).