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Volume 24 No. 156


The Detroit Downtown Development Authority yesterday "approved a plan offered" by Red Wings Owner the Ilitch family for a $650M "multipurpose arena and entertainment district within easy walking distance of Ford Field and Comerica Park," according to a front-page piece by Louis Aguilar of the DETROIT NEWS. The proposed 45-block area, "described as an 'entertainment district,' also will include retail, office and residential space, a hotel and parking buildings." The public, through an "economic development fund," will pay $283M toward the project, and $367M will "come from private funding sources -- a 44-56 percent split." But officials "emphasized there will be no new taxes, and the money won’t come out of the city’s battered coffers." The DDA "entered into a memorandum of understanding with Wayne County and Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate arm of the Ilitch empire, that proposed the project’s financing and location." It is the "first step in a series of approvals needed from city, county and state agencies." The DDA will own the 650,000-square-foot, 18,000-seat arena, and Olympia Entertainment, "another unit of the Ilitch organization, will manage it under a long-term contract." The Red Wings will pay $11.5M "annually toward the project, as an arena concession fee." The DDA will pay a projected $12.8M per year "from property taxes collected from within its boundaries." This revenue stream, which "could vary each year depending on the economy, would repay 30-year bonds, issued by the Michigan Strategic Fund, used to finance construction." Detroit Economic Growth Corp. President & CEO George Jackson said that he "hopes to wrap up negotiations by year’s end, but there’s no firm timetable for construction or when the first puck will be dropped" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/20). In Michigan, David Muller noted the "timeline for the actual project to be complete is still a ways off," with DEGC spokeperson Bob Rossbach saying that '16 or '17 would be an "aggressive finishing point" (, 6/19).

LESS IS MORE: In Detroit, Karl Henkel notes the arena's seating capacity is "roughly 10 percent fewer than the 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena." The "idea behind new stadiums and arenas is to create more value, and in most cases, that means shrinking the capacity to improve sight lines and game experiences." It also is a "move to combat the growing secondary ticket market" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/20). Also in Detroit, Brian McCollum notes officials are "billing it as a multipurpose venue that would host concerts and entertainment events year-round." Since talk of the proposed venue "began percolating several years ago," concert industry experts said that a new arena will "likely become an instant magnet for many acts as they sketch out Detroit tour stops" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/20).

YO JOE: In Detroit, John Niyo writes under the header, "Joe Louis Arena Will Scarcely Be Missed When Red Wings New Arena Goes Up." It is a "common refrain by now, but the Joe -- the fourth-oldest arena in the 30-team NHL -- was outdated almost from the moment it opened in 1979." The steps are "too steep" and the concourse is "too narrow and dimly lit." These days the "bathroom lines are legendary in length." As modern "amenities go, it leaves much to be desired." But to be "fair, it's also one of only three NHL arenas that aren't currently named for a corporate sponsor" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/20). Also in Detroit, Helene St. James writes, "At this point, the best part about the Joe is that it’s not named after a corporate sponsor." Otherwise, it is "outdated." St. James: "I don’t see anything but an upside to a new hockey arena" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/20).

FAMILY SHARE PLAN: Meanwhile, the DETROIT FREE PRESS reports the Pistons "might be interested in sharing an arena with the Red Wings someday, but in the near future, that seems unlikely." Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion has been "making changes and upgrades in the past year as if the Palace of Auburn Hills will be the Pistons’ home for a long time." It is "hard to imagine a scenario in which the Pistons would leave a place with significant investment that still is considered a top-notch facility and move somewhere else to become a tenant" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/20).

The Jaguars and the city of Jacksonville yesterday agreed to terms on a $63M EverBank Field improvement project that will "feature the largest video scoreboards in the world," according to a front-page piece by Ryan O'Halloran of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. The deal has the Jaguars paying for $19.9M of the project and "any cost overruns." The videoboards -- one in each end zone -- will "measure 55 feet by 301 feet, making them longer than a football field and eclipsing in size those in Houston and Dallas." Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan said, "This will put EverBank Field squarely in the discussion of world class … while making us a destination for college football, international soccer and many other major sports and entertainment events.” Construction is scheduled to "begin in January and be completed in time for the Jaguars’ preseason schedule." In addition to the "mega video boards in each end zone, seven LED board displays will be built around the stadium and 7,000 seats will be removed in the north end zone so a fan area can be constructed." Gator Bowl Association President & CEO Rick Catlett said that the project "will help Jacksonville keep the annual Florida-Georgia game, add more neutral site matchups and, ultimately, compete for a seat at the National Championship Game table." Catlett said that he did not think there was "any doubt” that the improvements will "help lure neutral-site games featuring Florida State, Notre Dame or Navy starting in 2015 or 2016." O'Halloran notes Khan’s investment into a "new locker room last year, a plethora of projects inside the stadium this year and the scoreboard project next year exhibits how committed he is to keeping the Jaguars in Jacksonville" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/20).

COVERAGE PLAN: The AP's Jeff Elliott noted the 7,000 seats being removed "were previously covered by tarps." Temporary seating can be "installed for major events that require a larger stadium capacity," such as the Florida-Georgia game. The Jaguars will fund 75% of the videoboards' estimated $26.5M cost "with the city of Jacksonville funding" the remainder. The city also will fund the estimated $36.4M to build the "north end zone fan engagement area as well as the necessary infrastructure and control room to support the video scoreboards" (AP, 6/19). Sports architect Populous is designing the stadium upgrades. Senior Principal Dennis Wellner is in charge of the project. The K.C.-based firm developed the facility’s last major renovation in '95 (Don Muret, Staff Writer).

HOME IS WHEREVER I'M WITH YOU: Khan yesterday "emphasized the organization’s commitment to Jacksonville but also the benefit of playing one game per year in London." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that if the NFL "goes to three London games per year, 'what we’ll likely do is ask Jacksonville to potentially play two or ask three different teams to host.'" In Jacksonville, O'Halloran notes Khan "didn’t express disappointment with Goodell’s comments." Khan: "What I’m focused on right now, what we’re focused on as a team and what we’re committed to is four games in London." The Jaguars have a four-year agreement to "play a home game in London" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/20).

Allegheny County (Penn.) Common Pleas Judge Joseph James yesterday said that the Steelers "failed to show" that a proposed 3,000-seat south end zone expansion at Heinz Field "met the requirements to be classified as a capital improvement" under the team's lease for the stadium, according to Mark Belko of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The decision "amounts to a victory" for the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA), the stadium's owner. The SEA had argued that the Steelers "first must show the project meets the criteria for a capital improvement" before the government entity is "obligated to fund two-thirds of the cost, as the Steelers are insisting." While the dispute over the lease language "likely will end up going to trial, Wednesday's ruling could be problematic for the Steelers in trying to force the SEA to fund the bulk of the construction because it clearly implies they must first establish the expansion meets the standards for a capital improvement." The proposed agreement would have "funded the extra seats through a $1 increase in an existing surcharge on Steelers tickets and a new parking surcharge of $2 to $3 at lots around Heinz Field during home games, a formula the SEA thought was unworkable." Team officials originally had "hoped to have the new seats ready for this season." Steelers Dir of Strategic Planning & Development Mark Hart has said that if there is "no resolution to the squabble by early September, the team won't be able to complete the expansion for the 2014 season" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/20). In Pittsburgh, Adam Brandolph notes the dispute over the cost of additional seating -- "in addition to a disagreement over a scoreboard in the north end zone and upgrades to an audio-visual control room -- will be settled at a late-season trial on Dec. 4." The cost of the upgrades has been "estimated" at about $40M (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/20).

The MLB Giants opened a social media café -- called @Café -- at AT&T Park on Monday. Located behind the centerfield bleachers, the first-of-its-kind social media HQs will serve as a gathering spot for fans who want to follow chatter about the team, players and all things Giants and MLB. Inside the space, fans will find a 12-foot-by-4-foot video wall displaying Giants social chatter, including trending Tweets, Instagram photos and results from Facebook polls and check-ins. Adjacent to the wall are two 50-inch LCD screens that will carry both batting practice and the game live. The café will include a full-service coffee and espresso bar, featuring Peet's Coffee and Tea (Giants). In S.F., Jeff Elder noted there also is a "phone-charging station" and "powerful wi-fi" in the café. Giants Social Media Dir Bryan Srabian said that the idea is to "let fans who follow the team on social media get a little face to face." He said, "Social media is huge for us. And this place gives it a home the fans can visit." Srabian's social media team uses a "Panda-sized touch-screen for surfing Tweetdeck, where they are ever watchful for the quips and pics from fans that the team can curate." The team "finds tweets to retweet and curate onto the @Cafe's big display screen." Other staff members "surf smaller screens to find the Instagrams that go up on the park's scoreboard, and to moderate other accounts." Srabian: "This was my dream" (, 6/19).

The Harris County (Texas) Sports & Convention Corp. yesterday recommended converting the Reliant Astrodome "into a massive convention and exhibit space," according to a front-page piece by Kiah Collier of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The move comes two months after the agency called on Houston residents to "submit proposals for redeveloping" the stadium. HCSCC Exec Dir Willie Loston said that the group introduced its own $194M idea after "none of the 19 privately submitted ideas for repurposing the 48-year-old landmark met required criteria, which included private funding and compatibility with lease agreements with the Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/20). Loston said, "We feel we have the best idea. That idea is a space that will allow many of the ideas that the proposals brought forward to take place." In Houston, Matt Schwartz reported the facility's seating would be "removed and the existing below-ground portion of the stadium would be filled in to create a street-level exhibit space of 355,000 square feet." The proposal will be "officially presented to Harris County Commissioners Court at its June 25 capital improvement projects meeting" (, 6/19). The AP's Juan Lozano reported among the "private plans was one that would have turned the Astrodome into a tourist area with retail and restaurant space and another that would have stripped the structure to its steel frame and turned the area into a park" (AP, 6/19).

HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: NBC's Brian Williams noted the National Trust For Historic Preservation has placed the Astrodome on its most recent list of the "most endangered places" in the U.S. The stadium has been "abandoned for years," and a "buyer and a new life of some sort." is being sought. Williams: "It's now dilapidated and unsafe, with pieces falling down, the seats rotting and the Astroturf now looking like an old, worn, torn-up green carpeting that it now is" ("Nightly News," NBC, 6/19).