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Volume 24 No. 156


The Jaguars will open a high-tech fantasy football lounge at the start of this season at what formerly was the Sky Patio at EverBank Field. The air-conditioned room is estimated to accommodate 200 to 300 fans, and will feature up to 30 HD TVs streaming games, plus "NFL RedZone." It also will have high-density WiFi, various forms of seating and a high-end bar -- all of which will overlook the field -- and will eventually phase in tablets. Given the increasing attractiveness of the at-home experience, Jaguars Senior VP/Fan Experience Hussain Naqi said that the team decided to build the lounge to bring some of those features from home to the stadium. He added, “One of the things we hear from our fans is the fact that they want to be able to check their fantasy scores, to be able to see ‘RedZone,’ to be able to be at a place where they can cool off. They want to be able to go to a place where they have amenities so they can come and take a break from all of the hustle and bustle of going to a game. This will allow us to provide that amenity to fans irrespective of whether they’re a premium customer or not.” The cost of the project was not available. The Jaguars will join the 49ers as teams that are building fantasy lounges. Jaguars President Mark Lamping also recently noted that the stadium's new videoboards will give the team the capacity to run the "RedZone" channel throughout the game. Naqi added that precise requirements for admission to the lounge have yet to be determined, but he is hoping the room will be available for all ticketed fans. The Jaguars are still in talks with companies considering sponsorship of the lounge, including those in the wireless, insurance, legal and construction sectors. The team hopes to have a deal in the coming weeks.

There are a considerable number of out-of-town transplants in the Jacksonville market, which makes the lounge an attractive measure in getting fans of other teams into EverBank Field. But Naqi said that increasing demands for bandwidth at NFL stadiums -- and the lagging service that often ensues -- also furthered the lounge’s attractiveness. Naqi: "What ends up happening in these large outdoor venues is, coming up with a feasible solution where you get enough density and capacity to be able to service folks properly becomes a real challenge, particularly in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We wanted to combine the luxury of having an air-conditioned space -- particularly because of the heat in the first part of the season down here -- with the amenities of being able to watch games: To check your fantasy scores; of being able to access WiFi with no problems at all, and to do so in sort of a lounge-type setting." The room's dimensions have yet to be finalized because the organization is still mulling over whether to just retrofit the existing 7,000-square-foot structure or slightly expand it. Figuring that out has been complicated by the fact that the structure cannot be permanent, as capacity for the annual Georgia-Florida college football game must be expanded in a way that necessitates the room's temporary removal.

: Naqi said that he expects the fantasy football lounge concept to spread throughout the league as teams are forced to compete with the at-home experience. The Falcons and Vikings have already expressed varying forms of interest in getting one. Naqi added, "You’ll really start to see that take hold in the next few years as people [around the league] start being able to figure out within their own context what’s the most cost-efficient and executable way. Because what we need to do -- certainly the Jaguars need to do -- is make sure that any obstacle anybody has to going to a game is removed." As for the future of fantasy lounge sponsorships, Competitive Sports Analysis President & CEO Diane Bloodworth, whose company creates predictive data for fantasy sports players, said the industry should expect more deals like the 49ers-Yahoo pact. That sponsorship will see Yahoo use new forms of integration, such as bringing in fantasy football experts to the lounge. Bloodworth added, "They want more users to come online to Yahoo Sports and play their fantasy football game. And this is something they’re offering that the other two big names -- CBS Sports and ESPN -- currently do not offer, so it really does differentiate them. You can imagine if they were at most of the venues in the NFL, that would really set them apart."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon must "work out a plan to keep" the Rams in Missouri "now that local leaders have all but officially rejected" the $700M plan to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome, according to Samantha Liss of the ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority Chair James Shrewsbury said that the issue "has moved out of the hands of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) and onto Nixon’s desk." Anheuser-Busch Senior Adviser and St. Louis Sports Commission Chair Dave Peacock also is "said to be part of the negotiations to keep the Rams in St. Louis." If no upgrades are made to "make the Dome a top-tier facility, the Rams can void their current lease and go on a year-to-year lease starting March 2015." CVC President Kitty Ratcliffe said that the next step is for her group "to write a formal letter to the Rams organization indicating how the city, county and state plan to proceed" (ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/28 issue).

A proposed $400M mixed-use development to complement the planned new Vikings stadium "cleared another hurdle” yesterday as the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chose developer Ryan Cos. “to negotiate a contract with its staff and the city of Minneapolis to build about 1,700 parking stalls in two ramps adjacent to the stadium site,” according to Nick Woltman of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Having Ryan Cos. develop the stadium parking “was seen as essential for completion of the broader project, which calls for building up and beautifying five largely under-used city blocks east of downtown.” The state-appointed MSFA “doesn't need to vote again to approve the contract that is agreed upon, which could be in the next two weeks.” MSFA Chair Michelle Kelm-Helgen yesterday emphasized that costs of the parking project “would fall within the stadium's" $975M price tag. The parking facilities “are mandated in the stadium legislation passed by the Minnesota Legislature" during its '12 session. The ramps “would be funded by the MSFA and the city.” Revenue generated “would be applied to pay off bonds the city will issue for its share of the parking facilities and the two-block public park also included in the proposal” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/2). In Minneapolis, Janet Moore noted the Ryan Cos. deal “is inextricably linked to Ryan’s development of nearby offices, apartments, retail shops and a park that will transform a barren stretch of downtown.” Two other bidders on the contract “include Vedi Associates, a ‘subconsultant’ to HKS Architects, the Texas firm that designed the stadium, and Timeshare Properties, an entity associated with the Basant Kharbanda family, which owns several properties near the stadium” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/2).

Talk has "swirled over the years about the fate" of the Carrier Dome, but now Syracuse Univ. AD Daryl Gross is "busily hatching potential arena alternatives," according to Donna Ditota of the Syracuse POST-STANDARD. But with the "ever-escalating race to build the biggest, shiniest athletic facilities, does the Carrier Dome still resonate with recruits who might select it as their college destination or with fans that pay to push through the turnstiles?" Gross said, "I think Central New York deserves an unbelievable place. You've got all these great new stadiums in New York City and then you start coming upstate and the next biggest thing you run into is the Dome. And so there will be a day one day for folks up here to be able to enjoy and take advantage of those kinds of amenities." ACC Commissioner John Swofford said conference members were "comfortable" with the Dome as a host for college athletics. Gross said, "I wouldn't even put a time frame on it right now. I would just say that there's been talk about the aging of the Dome" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 7/1). In Syracuse, Brent Axe wrote, "While I get the appeal of a new facility for Syracuse University sports as the Dome isn't getting any younger, here is hoping Daryl Gross can find a way to keep the white bubble in the Syracuse skyline for years to come." There is "no question Syracuse University is gaining a lot by joining the ACC, namely TV money." It is "financial windfall that will benefit SU Athletics." But joining the ACC also "means sacrifice." SU fans "don't cheer for TV money." The Carrier Dome "may be all that Syracuse fans have left that gives them a unique identity in the sanitized world of college sports" (, 7/1).

In Boston, Donna Goodison reports the Red Sox are "beefing up perimeter security at Fenway Park to defend the historic ball field from terrorist car-bomb attacks." Fifty-four security bollards will "be installed in front of Gates B and C to prevent explosive-laden vehicles from being driven into the park during events." The concrete-encased steel barriers, in the "planning stages before April’s Boston Marathon bombings, were among recommendations that emerged from a December security assessment of Fenway conducted with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security." The Red Sox, who are "paying for the bollards, are going through city permitting with the goal of completing the first-phase installation by Aug. 15" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/2).

UP FOR GRABS: In New York, Adam Sichko notes the Univ. at Albany is spending $18M "building a football stadium, set to open in time for the team's Sept. 14 home opener." UA officials said that any day now they will "begin bidding corporate naming rights for the stadium." The school expects to "award a 10-year contract, likely with an option to re-up for another decade" (Albany BUSINESS REVIEW, 6/28 issue).

WATER DAMAGE: Calgary Stampede organizers said that some signature events this year "have been cancelled because flood repairs to the Saddledome cannot be completed in time." The Flames said that everything "below the eight row in the Saddledome is ruined by flooding." Record floodwaters "filled the Saddledome up to the eighth row over a week ago" (CP, 7/1).