Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today is expected to unveil a $173M plan to "build a 10,000-seat arena for the DePaul Blue Demons next to McCormick Place, couching it as part of a broader blueprint for boosting tourism, much of it to be publicly funded," according to Kathy Bergen of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The program, dubbed "Elevate Chicago," includes "development of two hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues surrounding the convention center; the long-awaited launch of a redesign at the Navy Pier lakefront entertainment complex; and reconfiguration of a congested section of the lakefront bike path." The publicly supported arena, which is expected to "book corporate and convention assemblies, concerts, and civic and school events, is likely to be the most controversial part of the plan." A neighborhood organization "already vows a fight, fearing it will turn out to be a mostly unused hulk that fails to liven up street life in the neighborhood." Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch declined to "estimate how many days per year the arena would be in use, noting there would be a ramp-up period." But city officials noted that DePaul will "pay rent and that they expect the center to break even." The plan calls for the city to provide $33M in "special taxing district funds to buy the land necessary for the arena project." The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the state-city agency that owns McCormick Place and Navy Pier, will contribute $70M "toward construction from its bond fund, which is supported by hotel taxes, while DePaul will contribute another" $70M (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/16).
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE: In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes by shifting the focus to Navy Pier, Emanuel "draws attention away from those who have questioned his decision to use public money to bankroll" the project. The arena would "double as an 'event center' for mid-sized shows too large for Navy Pier and too small for McCormick Place." DePaul will "control revenues from the stadium’s concessions, 22 suites and 300 club seats, but only during DePaul games." The school also will have the "exclusive right to name the arena -- either for DePaul or for one of the university’s major donors, but not for a corporate sponsor." The city under the agreement would be "free to use the arena 24 times a year -- either for athletic events involving Chicago Public Schools, Chicago City Colleges or other public events" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/16). Also in Chicago, Mark Brown writes, "From the moment this idea was first publicly floated, I’ve said we have enough publicly-subsidized stadiums in Chicago, and nothing I’ve heard yet convinces me otherwise." Providing a "subsidy to a private university’s basketball arena is going to have a lot of people questioning the city’s priorities" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/16).
Since last year’s Indianapolis 500, thousands of grandstand seats “overlooking Turn 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been removed,” and the result means the May 26 race “will have the smallest seating capacity since 2000, the last time the Speedway had a major makeover,” according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Also gone are “several rows of seats on the front straightaway, reducing capacity at the venerable venue by another couple of thousand.” Those alterations “follow the removal of the First Turn Terrace, a bleacher section that five years ago sat on the inside of Turn 1.” IMS in ’04 had “257,325 seats,” compared to today’s figure “at 235,000.” It adds up to “nearly a 10 percent reduction in capacity.” But IMS officials yesterday declined “to reveal the actual total, a closely guarded secret since Tony Hulman bought the facility in 1945.” Still, the third year of an infield party area in Turn 3 -- known as “the Snake Pit -- should bring 10,000 who weren’t there previously.” Cavin writes fans should “expect a crowd of approximately 250,000 on race day.” Some seats are “better than others, and in some locations,” Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles sees the “need for cushioned chairs instead of hard bleachers that squeeze people into 18- and 22-inch boundaries.” Currently, only about “2 1/2 percent of the IMS seating capacity have outdoor chairs -- there are 5,200 of them -- and they’re only in corporate suites overlooking the exit of Turn 4.” Miles also “wants more places for group entertainment that have views of the track, party decks of sorts.” That was the “drive behind removing the parts of the North and Northeast Vista sections” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/16).
BY BUS OR BOAT:In Detroit, Mike Brudenell notes Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix organizers yesterday “announced a more streamlined transportation plan from the heart of the city to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park for the IZOD IndyCar Series weekend” on May 31-June 2. Ferries will “operate on half-hour intervals,” while about “100 luxury buses also are available to carry passengers all three days from designated spots on the Cobo Hall Roof and the Joe Louis Arena parking deck and from marina lots near Atwater and Orleans streets.” No public parking “is allowed on Belle Isle during race week.” The upgraded ferry service -- this year “it features two ferries instead of one like in 2012 -- will cost $10 round-trip for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.” Buses will charge “adults $10 for a round-trip ticket and $5 for children 12 and under” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/16). In Detroit, Tom Greenwood notes the “only way on and off Belle Isle for the running of the Grand Prix races will be by bus or ferry boat” (DETROIT NEWS, 5/16).
When the Cubs unveiled ballpark renovation plans last month, the proposal for a "new entrance to Wrigley Field received little notice," but the entry would be "a dramatic alteration of the historic park's exterior walls, while enhancing the Cubs' plan to create a plaza filled with entertainment and advertising on the west side of the park along Clark Street," according to Cheryl Kent in a special to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The plaza would be the "landing point for a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street from a hotel the team plans to build." The exterior walls of Wrigley Field are "protected by a city landmarks ordinance." Any alteration to "protected areas of Wrigley must be approved by the City Council." The gate was "not included in the Cubs' application for approval." The Cubs said that it will be "added after the design is complete" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/16).
VISION OF LOVE: Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts appearing yesterday on "The Dan Patrick Show" said his "vision" of Wrigley Field is "we want to take the entire experience of coming to Wrigley and just make it better all the way around." He added, "It's obviously a beautifully laid out park ... Our vision is basically not just preserve it and restore it to the days when it looked great, but to just make it a better experience for fans when they're there and I think we're kind of on the right track and we're moving forward on that." Ricketts said of his previous comments that he might leave Wrigley Field without the improvements to the ballpark, "In the context of the question, basically the question was, 'What if you're not able to put any type of signage or videoboard in your outfield?' And I said at that point, then we'd have to put some options back on the table. But I think people read a lot into that. But the key is -- and we've been pretty consistent about this the whole time -- it's our goal to save Wrigley" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 5/15).
Since the Univ. of Utah joined the Pac-12 in '11, there have been a number of changes to the athletic facilities, and "more changes, a lot more, are on the way," according to Dirk Facer of the DESERET NEWS. Last week, things "got rolling on a $24 million men’s and women’s basketball training and sports performance center when an architect was hired." The project is expected to "be complete by the spring of 2015 and will likely be done simultaneously with renovations to the Huntsman Center." Upgrades to the 15-year-old Dumke Gymnastics Center are "already under way and plans are being finalized for an outdoor tennis facility, a ski building and a throws area for track and field." Expansion of the Burbidge Academic Center also is "on the list of immediate plans." Other projects on the books include "renovating the Ute Natatorium, possible soccer field relocation or drainage upgrades to the current facility, a potential on-campus baseball stadium and an indoor driving range for the golf team." Utah AD Chris Hill said, "Almost every sport needs to upgrade some things. Most of them have the underpinnings of a good start or a good location." Hill is hopeful that the "major projects will be completed in the next two-to-three years -- including fundraising." He said, "The Pac-12 money has allowed us to essentially make the projects Pac-12 caliber rather than from our previous league, which has caused an increase in prices. But we’ve been able to budget some of that money so we could help fund these projects over the next 10 years. It’s the first time we’ve been in this position" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15).In Salt Lake City, Tony Jones notes the new football practice facility costs $32M, with "half of the total coming from fundraising efforts." Additional plans are "in place for a new outdoor tennis stadium adjacent to the Eccles indoor tennis facility" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/16).
MORE INTIMATE SETTING: The DESERET NEWS' Facer noted Hill outlined "several proposals that could come to fruition, including modernization of the Huntsman Center -- improved lighting and sound and a draping system that would make it a more multi-use facility." A $5M "draping set-up would make the 15,000-seat arena less cavernous for sporting events like volleyball and women’s basketball." It also could be used "for things like graduation or guest speakers." There currently are "no buildings on campus capable of holding crowds between Kingsbury Hall (1,200) and the Huntsman Center." The draping, which would "lead to removal of the familiar 'cloud' above the arena floor, would negate the need to build a smaller venue." The concourses at the Huntsman Center also could "undergo a facelift." One proposal is to "move all of the athletic department offices out of the arena and into the new basketball and sports performance facility." That would "allow for the current concourses to be expanded greatly" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15). Meanwhile, Facer noted "nothing is imminent" for the Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion. Hill said that there are "other projects that need to get done at this time." But initial drawings with "major changes to the south end of the stadium have already been created" (DESERET NEWS, 5/15).
In Boise, Chadd Cripe reports Boise State has a “splashy new videoboard.” The Idaho State Board of Education yesterday gave the school “approval to go shopping for a board that would be approximately 60 feet wide by 33 feet tall at a cost of" up to $2M. The current videoboard in the north end of Bronco Stadium, which “debuted in 2001, is roughly 24x18.” BSU “did not provide a timeline,” but was accepting bids through yesterday, which “hints that the Broncos would like to install it this year.” BSU “presented a funding plan to the State Board,” and the school “hopes to limit the cost to $1.5 million -- $750,000 from athletic department reserves, $250,000 in equipment money from the sponsorship contract with Learfield Sports and $500,000 in donation commitments” (IDAHO STATESMAN, 5/16).
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES:In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein notes Northwestern AD Jim Phillips is “well aware Illinois plans to spend $165 million to renovate the rechristened State Farm Center and DePaul wants a $300 million arena near McCormick Place.” Phillips said, "We're paying attention. No question we have to address Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena. But we have to stay true to our priorities." That means “moving forward with the lakefront facility that will benefit NU's entire student body -- and be a boon to programs such as football and women's lacrosse.” Phillips said that $70-80M of the $220M project “has been raised.” But he declined to “put a timetable on the groundbreaking” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/16).
GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER:In Cincinnati, Tom Groeschen reported Cincinnati “soon will replace the FieldTurf playing surface at Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats football team is the main tenant.” The current turf is “near the end of its shelf life, having been in place since 2005.” UC AD Whit Babcock said that the project will “cost about $600,000, and that some of the money will come from the former Big East’s exit fees distribution.” The turf project is “separate from the planned $60 million-$70 million Nippert renovation” (CINCINNATI.com, 5/10).
PLAY BALL:In K.C., Terez Paylor noted the Missouri will “be building a new softball stadium.” UM Exec Associate AD Tim Hickman confirmed “the building is now in the school’s plans, though no site has been determined.” He expects the stadium “to cost in the neighborhood" of $15M. Hickman said that it “would be nice if the stadium is ready" for the '15 SEC softball tournament, which Missouri is slated to host. But he added that if it is not, the school “might look into hosting it another year” (K.C. STAR, 5/15).
In Edmonton, Elise Stolte notes the city council “voted to approve the final funding deal and move ahead" on the proposed Oilers downtown arena Wednesday after the Katz Group "volunteered an additional" $15M. The vote “passed 10 to 3,” with a matching $15M to “be paid by the city through an increase to the community revitalization levy.” Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said that he “expects to break ground by early next year” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/16).
PART TWO:In New Orleans, Terrance Harris reported the “interior construction being done to upgrade the New Orleans Arena has been under way since May 1, and all indications are that the work will come in right at the budgeted amount.” But that “doesn't appear to be the case for phase two of the project, which is the exterior work.” SMG Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton “informed the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board during Wednesday's monthly meeting that the second part of the project will have to be revised" after coming between $5-7M "over the expected budget.” Thornton said that he has “already begun meeting with the contractors and members" of the Pelicans staff to "discuss ways of revising the design of the planned exterior lobby” (NOLA.com, 5/15).
FINDING VALUE:Travis Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler yesterday said that Circuit of the Americas “will have an assessed tax value of slightly more than" $290M for '13. In Austin, John Maher notes the appraisal “could result in a tax bill for the circuit of more than” $7.8M. The appraisal for the circuit “includes 20 parcels covering 1,303 acres, 515 of which qualified for agricultural or wildlife valuation.” Appraisers “determined the market value of the property to be” $298M. Circuit officials recently “placed the cost of the project at anywhere from” $400M to as much as $450M (AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, 5/16).
TRACKING THE UPGRADES:BLOODHORSE’s Tracy Gantz noted Santa Anita Park on Tuesday “unveiled renovation plans for its turf club and clubhouse at a community meeting held in the track's Chandelier Room.” Many of the renovations are “slated to be completed in time for the track's fall meeting, which begins Sept. 25, and its hosting of the Nov. 1-2 Breeders' Cup World Championships at the track in Arcadia, Calif.” Plans include an “update for the Chandelier Room,” as well as the “creation of a couple of banquet rooms that will overlook the track.” Those areas encompass some of what The Stronach Group California Operations Chair Keith Brackpool, whose company owns Santa Anita, called "underutilized areas." The cost of the renovations was not revealed (BLOODHORSE.com, 5/15).