Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel yesterday “blasted” Alberta’s lack of support for the Oilers’ downtown arena project, and “insisted the government act within two weeks,” according to Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Mandel said, “The time has come for the provincial government to respect the decisions the city council has made and to support what we’re doing here, and stop with the politics.” Kent notes Edmonton “needs to find [C]$55 million to complete funding" for the C$480M arena, "projected to be the centrepiece of [C]$2B worth of office towers, hotels, condos, shops and restaurants.” Mandel has “insisted he had assurances from provincial officials that they would help finance the project, despite” Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s “repeated denials that the province intends to provide any direct money.” City Councilors are “scheduled to vote May 8 on a dozen ‘catalyst projects’ to be funded from a community revitalization levy that would use property taxes from downtown growth.” The proposal “must be sent to the province for approval” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 4/25). In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky was asked whether he thinks a statue of him “should remain in front of the Northlands Coliseum, where he played, or downtown in front of the new Rexall Place.” Gretzky yesterday said, “Whatever they decide is good by me. Having a statue anywhere is a tremendous honour. So, to me, I guess it’s a minor issue” (EDMONTON SUN, 4/25).
The Bulls yesterday in a presentation before Chicago's Plan Commission "showcased their $25 million plan to build a new practice facility on a United Center parking lot, but reported no progress on their quest for an extended property tax break needed to build a $95 million entertainment complex," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The 60,000-square-foot facility that will replace the Berto Center after next season was "designed by 360 Architects" and "includes a 'saw-toothed' façade with opaque glass at the pedestrian level 'for security' that become transparent at higher levels." The plan also "calls for new parkway trees and landscaping along Madison and Wood that should enhance the experience for fans" going to Bulls and Blackhawks games at the United Center. The Bulls are "building the new practice center without a subsidy." But their plan to build the complex is "contingent on nailing down a modified version of the property tax formula that has saved the Bulls and Hawks millions on property tax bills assessed against the United Center." The tax break is "due to expire in 2016." Bulls President & COO Michael Reinsdorf said, "This is step one." He was "arguing that the request is 'more about an extension of a tax formula -- not necessarily a tax break'" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/25).
IN THE ZONE: In Chicago, Hal Dardick notes zoning in the area of the proposed facility "already allows the practice center, so no vote was taken" by the commission. The presentation the Bulls put on was "done as a courtesy to city officials." Reinsdorf said that the facility would "include new or improved features such as therapeutic pools, a larger court, nicer locker rooms and a video room." The "saw-toothed façade" on Wood Street will "feature architectural metal panels, glazing and wood." The north side of the building along Madison will "be mostly glass." A parking lot will "have 162 spaces, with 56 in a fenced-in secure area with gated-entrance for players and staff on the east side of the building, adjacent to the Pink Line train." They will "have outdoor courtyards and a second-level green roof terrace" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/25).
UCF administrators yesterday “laid out a comprehensive plan for upgrading the university's athletic facilities, beginning with a baseball stadium project expected to break ground in July and including plans for an eventual 10,000-seat expansion of Bright House Networks Stadium,” according to Paul Tenorio of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The facility development plan, which “includes 13 different projects spanning from an open-air club in the football stadium to a new tennis facility, would cost an estimated total of $69.47 million.” Three projects have “essentially been given the green light already and have projected construction start dates: the Wayne Densch Center for Student Athlete Leadership, an open-air club in Bright House Networks Stadium and the baseball club level seating deck and media facility.” The leadership center and baseball stadium expansion “will be paid for through the university refinancing a line of credit, a move which still must be approved by the Florida Board of Governors.” The open-air club will “come from private funding.” UCF Senior Associate AD/Internal Operations David Hansen said that the school has “heard from several parties who wish to help fund the concept, including companies who may be looking to sponsor the club area.” A two-part plan to expand the football stadium “would come through fundraising.” UCF also hopes to raise money to build “a new football operations building on the south end of the stadium, a renovation of the current Wayne Densch Sports Center to be used by Olympic sports and a new tennis complex” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/25).
The crossover gates at Daytona Int'l Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway have been "reinforced following a third-party review of a Feb. 23 accident" at Daytona that injured more than two dozen fans, according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. NASCAR, DIS and Talladega officials yesterday announced additional cables "have been installed at the eight crossover gates at each track." Tethers also have been "added between the gate frames and support posts." The changes "put the crossover gate areas more in line with the rest of the catch fencing as far as reinforcement." NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said that it is possible "other tracks used in NASCAR’s three national series ... could eventually implement the crossover gate changes as well." No other changes are "planned for NASCAR’s visit to Talladega next month" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/25). DIS President Joie Chitwood said that some of the steel cables in the fencing "did not extend across the gate area, but now there will be continuity, which should increase strength" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/24). Chitwood said that the cables at the crossover sections are "the same size as the existing cables on the other sections of the fencing at Daytona and Talladega." Chitwood added that "no race fans with seats in February's debris zone area have asked to relocate seats" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 4/25).
A coalition of civil rights groups is "threatening to sue over what it calls a lack of minority-owned businesses" working on the 49ers' new Santa Clara stadium, according to Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. However, project officials "deny those claims and say they gave contractors of all races an equal opportunity to participate." A group of attorneys last Friday in a letter to the city of Santa Clara, the 49ers and the NFL wrote that they "could not find any minority-owned companies working on the project," and argued that "black-owned firms should have gotten more of the construction contracts largely because African-American players are behind the team's success on the field." Rosenberg describes the attorneys as civil rights lawyers "with a history of suing public agencies." Project officials said that "under Proposition 209, an anti-affirmative-action law passed by California voters in 1996, they were required to be 'color blind' when they selected the firms that won roughly 60 public subcontracts" worth more than $700M. The civil rights groups "charge that project officials should have specifically reached out to minority-owned businesses to let them know of the stadium contracts." Santa Clara stadium project rep Dave Hatheway said that the project officials were "worried about running afoul" of Proposition 209 by "reaching out to minority-owned contractors separately, creating a quota for them or even tracking the race of the owners that won contracts" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/25).
In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe writes Arizona State Univ. officials are "back to behind-the-scenes negotiations that would satisfy" the D'Backs after ASU President Michael Crow on Tuesday said that the school would like to play football games at the D'Backs' Chase Field. ASU Senior Associate AD/External Operations Rocky Harris has "held two meetings with Select Artists Associates, which books non-baseball events at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, with another scheduled for May 2 that is expected to include" a D'Backs rep. Select Artists Founder & President Charles Johnston said, "We all got blindsided. Dr. Crow was a little bit ahead of the curve. [D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall] was not involved in our preliminary conversations (with ASU)" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/25).
LOOKING FOR A BOOST: In Sacramento, Bizjak & Van Oot in a front-page piece note the city's proposed downtown arena project could "get a boost under major environmental legislation unveiled" yesterday by State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Steinberg's proposed "rewrite of the landmark California Environmental Quality Act, months in the planning, aims to reduce the chance that urban projects like the Downtown Plaza arena will get hit by lawsuits that stall construction." Steinberg said that it could "expedite Sacramento's efforts to build an arena" for the NBA Kings. Steinberg said that the "fact that the bill was unveiled at a critical time for Sacramento's arena efforts was a happy coincidence" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/25).
UNITED WE STAND: DC City Administrator Allen Lew said that he is "working diligently toward a deal with DC United to build a new stadium for the team on Buzzard Point in Southwest DC." Lew said that after "repeated meetings with DC United’s new ownership and other stakeholders he hopes to have the framework for a deal to build a new stadium for the team 'inside of a year.'" In DC, Jonathan O'Connell noted Lew "oversaw construction of Nationals Park and the convention center" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/22).
ON THE ROAD AGAIN? In Hartford, Paul Doyle writes the XL Center "once again is getting strong competition from the Mohegan Sun Arena" to host the former Big East women's basketball tournament. The decision on where the American Athletic Conference will place the tournament "won't be made until league meetings in May." AAC Associate Commissioner/Women's Basketball Danielle Donehew said that "no decision has been made and that both venues are being considered." The Big East women's tournament has "been in Hartford for 10 years, but the new conference might be ready for a new location" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/25).