The Vikings' new stadium will be "taller and bigger than the Metrodome and will have a sloped roof and possibly, sliding walls, windows or doors that open to the downtown Minneapolis skyline," according to Meryhew & Moore of the Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE. Documents released yesterday provided "the first glimpse" of the project, which is expected to be complete prior to the '16 NFL season. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority "plans to unveil the architect’s preliminary design at a special meeting May 13 at the Guthrie Theater." The 65,500-seat stadium, which "can seat as many as 73,000 fans for special events such as a Super Bowl, will be nearly twice the size of the Metrodome, encompassing up to 1.7 million square feet." The stadium facade "could be made up of a combination of metal panels, Kasota limestone and curtain walls that appear transparent or translucent when lit." It will feature four entrances, but 75% of fans "are expected to enter and exit through the west plaza, which faces downtown." That entrance "could feature sliding and pivoting doors." The stadium’s roof "will be nearly 100 feet taller than the Metrodome’s highest point." The roof "could be permanent or retractable, and include a combination of hard deck and fabric, which would allow sunlight into the building much like the Beijing Water Cube made famous" in the '08 Beijing Games. MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that all the options for a retractable roof and retractable walls or windows "are still in play" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/30). Stadium officials have said that "they will only include retractable elements in the new stadium if sufficient money can be saved from elsewhere in the $975 million project to fund them." In St. Paul, Doug Belden reports the public will "get a chance to review and comment" on the proposal at a May 22 meeting to be held at the Metrodome (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/30).
NFL Panthers President Danny Morrison said that with a deal approved for public funding toward Bank of America Stadium renovations, the franchise has “turned its attention to getting started on planning" for the upgrades, and the team “wants to accelerate its plans,” according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Panthers' “first priority is adding escalators to the upper deck of Bank of America Stadium during the next off-season and in time for summer 2014.” Charlotte-based architect David Wagner has “started work on the escalator designs.” Morrison “hinted the initial phase of construction could expand.” He said, “Now that we’ve been through the City Council vote, we’re speeding up the process of looking at video boards, ribbon boards and sound.” Spanberg noted the team “hopes to add all of those after the 2013 season and have them ready, along with the escalators, in time for 2014.” Morrison: “In a perfect world, we would like to be able to do (all of those projects) next off-season. That’s our major focus right now, to see if there’s any possible way to do that after the 2013 season.” Spanberg reported the Panthers “would have to borrow extra money" because the $28M cost of the escalators and the $30M video-audio additions "far exceed" the initial $28M city payment next year (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/29).
AS GOOD AS IT GETS: Several Charlotte City Council members are saying the deal with the Panthers likely was the best deal the city could have reached. The city will pay the team $87.5M toward the renovations, with the club chipping in $37.5M. Charlotte City Council member Andy Dulin said, “I would have preferred no deal and let the Panthers cover it. That wasn’t going to happen. ... Regardless of whether you like it or not, and most of the folks that support me don’t like it, this is a good deal for Charlotte.” Dulin noted the Panthers currently “are the only NFL team out of 32 that has no tether, no connection to the city at all because they own the stadium.” However, included in the team's deal with the city is now a six-year hard tether. City Council member Michael Barnes noted the city is “not increasing taxes” as part of the pact. The Charlotte Business Journal’s Spanberg said since the state of North Carolina “provided no help, this was the best option.” Spanberg: “The Panthers were trying to get away from paying property taxes. They wanted a parking deck built. So I think city negotiators at least pushed back a little bit in a situation where they really didn’t have much leverage” (“Flashpoint,” WCNC-NBC, 4/28).
WHERE'S THE BEEF? In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote fans complaining about the Panthers deal were either "quiet or not present” at the team's free NFL Draft Party on Saturday. The fans in attendance were "upbeat and optimistic" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/28).
The Florida Senate yesterday got a “strong push” from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross, and “signed off on a proposal to let pro sports teams such as the Dolphins compete for tax dollars to fund stadium projects,” according to Haughney & Deslatte of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The 35-4 vote “ends weeks of gridlock between the House and Senate over whether to give tax rebates to teams, particularly the Dolphins, who have pushed hard for years for state help to renovate Sun Life Stadium.” The bill, which “still differs from the House proposal, allows pro sports teams, with the exception of the NBA, to apply to the state" for up to $13M annually to pay for the construction or renovation of a stadium. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity would “evaluate the application, then make recommendations to the Legislature, which would have the final say-so.” The bill also “requires local referendums for counties to approve the project.” Miami is looking for “some form of assistance" for a $400M renovation to Sun Life Stadium (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/30). In Miami, Tolu Olorunnipa wrote the Dolphins "still face major hurdles in Tallahassee, where the House must approve a sports package before the full Legislature officially adjourns on Friday.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott also “must sign off on the legislation.” Goodell after meeting with Scott said final approval by Scott, the Legislature and with Miami-Dade voters would "send a strong message" to NFL owners, who meet next month to decide the host cities for upcoming Super Bowls. But Goodell warned that he “could not guarantee Miami would land a Super Bowl even if the May 14 stadium referendum passes” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/29).
WHEELS COMING OFF? In Daytona Beach, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean notes Daytona Int'l Speedway officials "are still waiting to see what will become of bills crafted to give the racing giant well over" $70M in sales tax rebates. Two bills as of yesterday “hadn’t been scheduled for discussion and votes on the floors of the House and Senate.” DIS Senior PR Dir Lenny Santiago said that track President Joie Chitwood III “wasn’t in Tallahassee Monday, but he most likely will make a trip to the state capital later this week.” Chitwood has said that if the bills fail to pass, the "timing and scope of the proposed Speedway overhaul which could include everything from new seats to new restaurants could be impacted.” However, State Rep. Dwayne Taylor “suspects a measure that includes the Speedway and other professional sports organizations will ultimately get support at the end of the week" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 4/30).
SWITCHING FIELDS: In Orlando, Schlueb & Damron wrote the USL Orlando City Soccer Club is counting on a $30M state-sales-tax rebate "to help pay" for a new $110M stadium, a "requirement if the minor-league team is to move up" to MLS. Team Owner & President Phil Rawlins in an e-mail wrote, "If legislation does not get passed this year, it is likely MLS will choose to locate their expansion team in Atlanta or Nashville rather than in Orlando." Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer this week took “a quick trip to Houston" to tour the MLS Dynamo's BBVA Compass Stadium, which was “built for about the same amount as has been proposed in Orlando” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/29).
Univ. of Illinois basketball arena Assembly Hall "has a new name: the State Farm Center" after the school yesterday announced a 30-year, $60M agreement with the Bloomington-based insurance company, according to Christine Des Garennes of the Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE. Some utility work on the venue "may begin this summer," but a $160M renovation project "is not expected to begin in earnest until March 2014, with completion in November 2016." The school "will start using the new name sooner rather than later," as State Farm Center will be "referenced for the building immediately and be incorporated into the building at the earliest availability as the project moves forward." Donations "are expected to cover" about 75% of the cost of the renovation (Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE, 4/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg wrote the name change "predictably hasn't been received well by Illinois fans, many of whom are pledging to still refer to the building by its former name." A corporate name change to "a hallowed building is an easy target for criticism, but Illinois fans would be wise to remember what they're getting out of this deal" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/29).
The Rose Bowl's new premium seating pavilion is not yet open, but stadium officials "say seats are already selling fast,” according to Joe Piasecki of the L.A. TIMES. Construction of pavilion and press box levels on the stadium's west side “has been the most significant -- and expensive -- aspect of ongoing stadium renovations now priced" at $181M. The pavilion is “expected to cost" about $84M. Rose Bowl COO George Cunningham said that the 185,000-square-foot, tri-level pavilion “replaces roughly 50,000 square feet of press box and archaic luxury suites with two glass-walled press areas and various patron amenities designed to boost long-term revenue and keep the 1922 stadium competitive with newer venues.” The expanded layout “features 48 midfield loge boxes with access to a shared indoor loge lounge below 54 indoor/outdoor luxury suites on two upper levels.” Next to the loges and suites are 1,199 club seats "on two levels with access to a pair of club lounges.” Legends VP/Sales & Marketing Cory Shakarian, whose company was hired by the Rose Bowl to market pavilion seating, said that revenue “generated by suites, loges and club seats is expected to exceed" $7M per year. Shakarian said that the stadium has “already sold three-, seven- or 10-year leases for about 75% of the 16- to 30-person suites, with pricing at about $20,000 per year for the UCLA season or $47,500 to add in the Rose Bowl game.” Suites also can be “rented during other events and on off days for business meetings and private parties.” Shakarian said that four-seat loges “sell for $16,000 or more per season, and annual club seat access goes for upward of $2,000 per seat, with food and parking included in both options” (L.A. TIMES, 4/29).