A key "sticking point in the negotiations over the rehab of Wrigley Field is whether to allow the Cubs to erect a giant video screen," as the team is seeking a 6,000-square-foot display that would be "about triple the size of the iconic center-field scoreboard," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Sachdev & Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The sources said that the debate is focused "more on the size and placement of a Jumbotron-like screen than on whether it would be allowed at all," with Cubs Owner the Ricketts family "rejecting anything smaller than 6,000 square feet." The sources also said that city officials have "suggested a video screen of about half that size, but the Cubs have said no." They added that the video screen's location also is a "significant issue." Since the Cubs "have not suggested moving the center-field scoreboard, which is protected under Wrigley's designation as a Chicago landmark, a video screen would have to be placed behind the bleachers in either right or left field." A screen as large as the Cubs are proposing could "potentially block views from rooftop businesses." The current scoreboard was built in the late 1930s and is "about 2,025 square feet." Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday said of Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts' April 1 deadline for a deal to renovate Wrigley Field, "We're not there yet ... but I think there's enough wins there for everybody to declare a victory and have enough to go forward." Emanuel said that he "isn't worried the Cubs might accept a recent offer of free land from Rosemont to build a ballpark" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/29). Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton said of possibly failing to reach a deal by the deadline, "Our focus is on getting a deal done with the city. ... I'm not gonna speculate on that" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/29).
The Mariners on Thursday unveiled their new scoreboard at Safeco Field which contains "the largest video screen" in MLB, and also ranks as North America's "third-largest sports venue video screen," according to John McGrath of the Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE. Mariners Senior VP/Marketing Kevin Martinez said that when fans were "asked for ways to improve their ballpark experience, the 'No. 1 suggestion' was an upgraded scoreboard." Mariners VP/Communications Randy Adamack said, "For the past few seasons, we’ve kind of kept the old one together with tape and baling wire. It’s been 14 years, and we’ve gone through three or four generations of technology since then. It was time to replace it." In addition to the "fundamental information -- runs, hits and errors -- a statistical chart for batters will include such 'advanced' statistics as on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS, a combination of the two." Replays will be "enhanced by four manned cameras as well as a fifth camera over center field, operated from a booth in the press box broadcast center." Tweets from fans will "appear periodically" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/29). In Seattle, Nick Eaton noted fans will be able to "get their first look at the new screen Monday at a Safeco Field 'open house,' during which the screen will show the Mariners' regular-season opener" on the road against the A's. The video quality "is impressive." Watching it from "as far away as home plate is like watching high-def TV at home -- even better, perhaps." Martinez said, "The size of the video screen posed a challenge for us; we wanted to make sure it felt it belonged here" (SEATLLEPI.com, 3/28).
Univ. of Illinois AD Mike Thomas on Thursday said that "major" construction on Assembly Hall is scheduled to start in March '14 and be completed by November '16, though "some utility work will likely begin this summer," according to Julie Wurth of the Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE. Illinois athletic officials said that the building "has two dozen opportunities for 'naming rights' -- from the hall itself to the court, entrances and sports displays honoring various teams -- but those won't be made public" until the $160M project is brought to the school's Board of Trustees for final approval in late May. Associate AD/Media Services Kent Brown said that the school needs 80% of project funding to "be in place before trustees will approve it." Illinois "kicked off its public fundraising for the project this week, sending brochures to about 8,000 season ticket holders and I-Fund donors outlining the prices for 'premium seating' at the renovated Assembly Hall" (Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE, 3/29). Thomas said that 75% of the $160M project will be "funded by donors." Student newspaper the DAILY ILLINI's Dan Welin notes Illinois students earlier this month approved "a $25-per-semester fee," which will cover 17% of the cost. Assembly Hall's new capacity will be "between 15,200 and 15,300." The premium seating will "include 12 suites with 14 seats, 80 four-person mini-suites, approximately 1,000 club seats and 120 courtside seats." Thomas said that the estimated total cost of the project is $260-300M "once it is paid in full over the course of the 30-year bond." Architectural firm AECOM "submitted its design to University officials Nov. 1." Thomas said that the overall renovation, which "includes the addition of air conditioning, will allow for use of the facility another four months out of the year in order to attract more events" (DAILY ILLINI, 3/29).
ASSEMBLY'S AMENITIES: In Illinois, Mark Tupper notes Assembly Hall renovation plans include "a new overhanging video scoreboard and 'ribbon' scoreboards." There also will be "increased restrooms and concession areas," as well as "wider concourses on the lower level." Another upgrade will be "a 'grand' main entrance on the west side of the building that will include a Hall of Fame area, retail shop and ticket office." Other amenities include "new team locker rooms and new dressing rooms for theater and musical acts" on top of a "new sports medicine area and expanded meeting areas" (Decatur HERALD & REVIEW, 3/29). Illinois basketball coach John Groce said, "Our staff has been involved in the locker room design based on our experience of seeing other facilities and of bouncing ideas off one another. Let’s just say that in every phase or area of the building, we are not leaving one stone unturned. It’s going to be right up there among the best buildings in the country when it’s done" (Decatur HERALD & REVIEW, 3/29).
UNLV "received an offer" from MGM Resorts to help build its proposed 60,000-seat UNLV Now stadium project before the school "ditched" Majestic Realty as its private partner for the venue, according to Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. MGM Resorts, which "unveiled plans for a 20,000-seat arena just off the Strip four weeks ago, suggested that UNLV transfer events from its Thomas & Mack Center to the new MGM venue." In return, MGM would provide "meaningful support" for the proposed stadium, and "asked for a noncompete agreement." The deal would "allow the university to keep" basketball games and kids events at Thomas & Mack Center "while surrendering 15 to 40 events such as concerts each year to MGM’s arena." But UNLV College of Hotel Administration Dean and UNLV Now project head Don Snyder said that he had "no knowledge of an MGM offer." He added that the school "dumped Majestic Realty so that it could work directly with Las Vegas’ 'Big 6' hotel-casino owners -- MGM, Las Vegas Sands, Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts -- and the entire resort industry." MGM Resorts VP/Public Affairs Gordon Absher said any suggestion his company would tie support to a stadium to events that would move to its new arena was "offensive and ridiculous" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/29). Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Paul Takahashi writes under the header, "Why UNLV's Decision To Drop Partner In Stadium Project Could Be Risky" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/29).
Several MLB teams are rolling out new concessions for the '13 season, and the Pirates yesterday introduced new items consisting of "both healthy choices and items that will have ambulance drivers on high alert," according to Jon Schmitz of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. A notable addition to the options at PNC Park is the Brunch Burger, a patty made from Angus beef and ground bacon that is "topped with maple bacon, a fried egg and cheddar cheese, and served on a glazed donut that has been sliced in half and toasted on a grill.” PNC Park's Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club offers the Scotch Egg, a "hard-boiled egg surrounded by spicy Italian sausage that is breaded and deep-fried and served with Rivertowne's signature Fire Sauce.” Club Founder Christian Fyke said that the space is open “to all fans,” and will serve “six craft beers.” Additionally, two new “healthy choices will debut this year, a tomato and mozzarella salad dressed in balsamic vinaigrette and an heirloom tomato watermelon salad.” Also, Levy Restaurants is “opening two new stands” on the club level. Meanwhile, Pirates Exec VP & CMO Lou DePaoli said that the "All You Can Eat Seats Presented by Pepsi" have moved to “five sections in the right-field side of the stadium's club level.” DePaoli acknowledged that “isolating the section in the club level will put a stop to fans sharing the bounty with those who didn't buy the special tickets" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/29).
EVERYTHING IS BIGGER...: In Ft. Worth, Gordon Dickson writes the Rangers are “putting more boom" into their concessions by offering fans "even more oversized food items that are sure to be a home run with gluttons, but containing enough fat and sodium to make nutritionists balk.” Rangers officials on Thursday “unveiled a menu featuring new variations on the Boomstick -- a 24-inch goliath of a hot dog with enough chili, cheese and other toppings to feed four or five people.” This season, the “popular mega dogs can also be topped with brisket, or polish sausage and sauerkraut.” The new Beltre Buster burger “features a pound of beef and 8 ounces of bacon.” Other items include a 24-inch "Murph-a-Dilla" quesadilla named after RF David Murphy, and "steak sandwiches featuring meat provided” by CEO Nolan Ryan's company (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/29).
A BOTTLE OF RED: In K.C., Jeff Rosen notes Royals fans at Kauffman Stadium this season “will be able to purchase single-serve vino in an innovative ‘glass.’” Made by a company “called Zipz, the 187-milliliter vessels, which resemble medieval goblets, come in either ‘Quartz White’ or ‘Crimson Red’ blends.” Zipz said that the “recyclable cups, which contain one-fourth the amount that’s in a standard 750-ml bottle, will retail between $9 and $11 at the ballpark.” They also will be “available in grocery stores this summer” (K.C. STAR, 3/28).
Univ. of Hawaii AD Ben Jay said that in light of struggles to sellout Aloha Stadium for UH football games, he "envisions consolidating fans in some areas and removing other sections from use in the 50,000-seat facility to reduce the school's nearly $80,000 per game operating and cleanup costs," according to Ferd Lewis of the HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER. Also under scrutiny is "reconfiguring the student sections and expanding the family sections." It would be the "boldest initiative attempted there by UH since premium seating was imposed" in '03. Jay said, "What I'm targeting right now are the upper levels on both ends of the end zone." Lewis noted that could be nearly 15% of the "available seating." While it "isn't as choice as some locations, it does have its hard-core regulars." UH "no longer pays rent at the state-owned and operated facility and doesn't share in concessions revenue, but is charged for cleanup and operational costs." It is "going on six seasons" since the football team last "attracted a sellout" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 3/28).