After issues with Minnesota's plan for electronic gaming to serve as a revenue source for the state’s share of the new Vikings stadium, the sports memorabilia tax, "once thought to be a fallback plan, may also be doomed," according to Stassen-Berger & Ragsdale of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. With six days left in the legislative session, senate leaders yesterday "declared the idea of taxing sports memorabilia nearly dead, because of the effect it might have on a single corporation: Target." Senate Taxes Committee Chair Rod Skoe said that because the tax would be "levied at the wholesale level, it would have a disparate impact on Target, which warehouses the sports memorabilia for its more than 1,700 U.S. stores in Minnesota." The uncertainty comes a week after Gov. Mark Dayton "demanded a new solution to the disappointing revenue from electronic charitable gambling." Legislators are now looking at a "wide range of other solutions, including corporate taxes, income taxes or even cigarette taxes to help fund the stadium" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15).
NEW DIGS: Twin Cities developer Ryan Cos. said that it has reached a deal with the Minneapolis Star Tribune to "buy five square blocks in downtown Minneapolis, adjacent to the planned Vikings stadium," for a $400M mixed-use commercial and residential complex and public park. Ryan's proposal includes a "two-block green space leading into the planned entrance of the new stadium to the immediate east, a parking ramp, 1.16 million square feet of office space, 40,000 square feet of retail and 300 units of housing" (ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS, 5/15). Twins President Dave St. Peter yesterday said of the Vikings' new stadium design, "It's a gorgeous building. What's really cool about it is it's unique. There really isn't another structure in the National Football League, or anywhere else in American sport, that looks like that" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/15).
The Cubs have “stepped up a public relations campaign to build support for Wrigley Field renovations” by launching WrigleyField.com yesterday, according to Ameet Sachdev of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The website asks visitors to sign an online petition "to save Wrigley Field." It also “includes artist renderings of the proposed changes to the stadium as well as a link encouraging supporters to call” the office of Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney. The online appeal follows public appearances by Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts “targeting business people and public officials for support.” The Cubs also recently “hired a consulting firm to contact residents who live near Wrigley to ask if they endorse the plans and encourage supporters to attend neighborhood meetings" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15). CSNCHICAGO.com’s Tony Andracki noted the website “features a full breakdown of ‘The Plan,’ including a five-minute YouTube video of what the renovated ballpark could look like.” The site also will “serve as a platform to update fans and Wrigleyville/Lakeview residents on construction and progress throughout the ordeal” (CSNCHICAGO.com, 5/14). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Byrne & Pearson report in a poll of Chicago voters, “nearly half said they side with neither the Cubs nor the rooftop owners in the ongoing debate to renovate Wrigley Field.” In the poll conducted among 800 registered voters from April 30-May 6, "the team's efforts were backed" by 28% of voters while the rooftop owners were backed by 21%. The results “might be indicative of a level of fatigue -- or indifference -- among Chicagoans" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15).
THE BUILDING IS THE STAR: The AP’s Jim Litke writes, "If the Cubs were half as good at baseball as they are at artist's renderings, the team would have left Wrigley Field behind long before now. But it's the aging ballpark that's propped up the franchise for nearly a century now, not the other way around." While the Cubs “stunk last year,” Forbes “ranked them as the most profitable organization in baseball.” In a town that “always prided itself on making deals, that was the deal the Cubs finally struck with their fans: You can't beat fun at the old ballpark -- so long as you don't waste too much time worrying about what was happening on the field.” Even “measured against a century-and-counting of futility, the best thing you can say” about Ricketts’ “tenure is that the organization is making scant progress.” So “just in case things don't work out on the baseball side, plowing money into Wrigley turns out to be a very good hedge bet” (AP, 5/15). In Illinois, Les Winkeler writes Ricketts' “desire to build a huge new video scoreboard at Wrigley Field is misguided in so many ways.” The stadium is “hallowed ground.” Some things “deserve respect,” and Wrigley Field is “one of those places” (SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN, 5/15).
BORROWING A PAGE: In N.Y., Joe Gose notes the Cardinals Nation and Budweiser Brew House restaurants in the Ballpark Village development around Busch Stadium “will include rooftop decks that look into” the facility. Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said that the “vision stemmed from the residential rooftops that overlook Wrigley Field in Chicago, which to him seemed to integrate the stadium into the fabric of the city.” DeWitt: “We wanted that interaction. I’ve always been fascinated by having something across the street and creating a window into the ballpark" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/15).
Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner’s plan to have six Islanders games each season at a redeveloped Nassau Coliseum starting in '15 could face challenges from a number of NHL entities. According to a source, the NHL, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, has to approve the annual relocation of six games to the Coliseum. As would MSG, Ratner’s biggest competitor in the request for proposals for the Coliseum project and the owner of the Rangers. All NHL clubs have to approve a team’s plan to play home games outside of their regular arena. “Ratner has the Islanders, but the NHL and MSG can block it,” said the source. “The Islanders, just like all NHL teams, don’t get to scatter their home games. It wouldn’t be easily approved. Among other things, there is the attendance issue.” Ratner’s group, Forest City Ratner, has proposed scaling down the 16,200-seat coliseum to 13,000 seats for games. As it is, when the Islanders move to Brooklyn in '15, the maximum capacity of 15,000 seats for hockey at Barclays Center will be the smallest in the NHL. The Islanders playing six games before a maximum of only 13,000 might not sit well with league execs. Having Islanders Owner Charles Wang’s consent to have the NHL team play six games in the Coliseum was, in the words of Barclays Center and Nets CEO Brett Yormark, “a big differentiator for our group in this bid.” Besides MSG, the other bidders for the Coliseum are Long Island developers Edward Blumenfeld (who is working with SMG, the coliseum’s current manager) and Bernard Shereck. In October, the Islanders completed a 25-year lease agreement to play in the Brooklyn arena (Christopher Botta, Staff Writer).
THE ISLAND LIFE FOR ME: Ratner this morning appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box," where he discussed his bid for Nassau Coliseum. He noted the venue needs a "lot of work," but he wants it because of "live content." Ratner: "You have Nassau and Suffolk County, 3 million people, and they're some of the richest counties in the country. You've got 3 million people and you can't duplicate an arena location. So now you have an arena that's old and tired and you've got to change it. How do you change it? Architecturally, you've got to make it look spectacular on the outside and the inside." The project will cost about $230M for the "inside, the outside, and it also includes doing restaurants, doing an amphitheater outside, doing a club outside because those kind of uses go very well with an arena" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 5/15).
The Broward County (Fla.) Commission yesterday agreed to pay $4.2M for a new scoreboard at BB&T Center, after commissioners "questioned irregularities" about the NHL Panthers' finances "cited in a county audit," according to Robert Nolin of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The audit report said that Arena Operating Company, a division of Panthers Owner Sunrise Sports & Entertainment that manages BB&T Center, "filed late or incomplete financial statements and shifted" $4.2M to the team that should have gone into a county reserve fund. The Panthers' request was to "use tourist development tax money to replace the team's 15-year-old, trouble-prone scoreboard." Panthers President & COO Michael Yormark "promised to deposit" the $4.2M into the county's reserve fund by Aug. 31. Yormark said, "It's an internal accounting issue. There are dollars that flow back and forth between the AOC and the Panthers." He added that a Jehovah's Witness convention scheduled for '14 would "have an economic impact" of $96M, including $5.7M in sales tax. The group will "only come if it has a large suspended scoreboard capable of broadcasting feeds from off-site speakers" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/15). County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger said that the Panthers paid the county $26,000 last year -- "only the second time Broward County received anything from the team" since the arena opened in '98. In Miami, George Richards writes the Panthers and the county have a "complex profit sharing agreement in which Broward basically gets" 20% of every dollar over the first $12M "the team clears." County Commissioner Tim Ryan proposed "lowering the threshold" to $9M, but that was "voted down" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/15).
The Univ. of Minnesota is “hurriedly moving to renegotiate its contract with its longtime concessionaire to funnel more alcohol proceeds to the school after reporting that it lost money in its first year selling beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium,” according to Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. University officials said that the new tentative agreement with Aramark “would substantially increase its percentage of beer and wine sale proceeds from the stadium’s general seating area.” The school two months ago “reported it lost nearly $16,000 in its first year of selling beer and wine at the four-year-old stadium, even though it sold more than $900,000 worth of alcohol.” UM and Aramark “have since been renegotiating the contract,” and a new agreement “would raise the university’s percentage" from 22.5% of net sales to 35% of net sales up to $475,000 and 40% of sales "above $475,000 in the stadium’s general seating area.” UM officials said that the school in the new agreement “would make $110,000 this coming football season based on last year’s sales.” UM Exec Associate AD David Benedict said that Aramark, as part of the new agreement, also “pledged to give the school $37,000 to help erase its first-year loss” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/15).
In Miami, Mazzei & Caputo in a front-page piece note a majority of Miami-Dade voters who voted in the Sun Life Stadium renovation election before it was called off were opposed to the stadium bill. A count released by the elections department yesterday showed that among the 60,678 voters who "voted by mail or at early-voting sites," 57% opposed the Dolphins’ proposal, while 43% were in favor. But Dolphins stadium campaign consultant Eric Jotkoff "dismissed any notion that the proposal would have failed" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/15).
DON'T BANK ON IT: In Baltimore, Eileen Ambrose reports 1st Mariner Bancorp "says it does not plan to bid for naming rights" to 1st Mariner Arena after its deal expired last year. Company Exec VP/Retail Banking Dennis Finnegan said, "We talked some numbers. We weren't close to what they're suggesting." Finnegan declined to disclose the price tag Legends Hospitality placed on the arena's naming rights, but said it was "multiples" of what the company had been paying. He added that 1st Mariner "might reconsider if Legends comes back with a lower figure that's closer to what the company proposed" (Baltimore SUN, 5/15).
PERSONAL DEMONS: In Chicago, Rick Telander writes the plan for a new DePaul Univ. basketball arena at McCormick Place is a "dumb idea on the face of it." If DePaul plays 18 games at the new arena, it leaves 347 "days of emptiness." Telander writes this is "such a guaranteed money-loser that it boggles" his mind. The United Center is "much closer to DePaul than McCormick," and it "already offered itself to DePaul for 10 years, rent-free" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/15).