Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg yesterday "sounded optimistic" that his "long-standing stadium impasse with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster might soon be resolved," according to a front-page piece by Topkin, Puente & Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Sternberg said, "The mayor and I have had a number of conversations over a lengthy period of time, and I would like to believe that that's going to bear some fruit and allow us the opportunity to put this franchise on great footing for generations to come." St. Petersburg City Council Chair Karl Nurse said that city and team lawyers "'have been trying to draft an agreement' for months that would allow the Rays to look at potential stadium sites in Tampa, as well as St. Petersburg." Nurse said that an agreement would "define ground rules for the search and reinforce the team's current obligation" to play at Tropicana Field through '27. He added that the city would be "protected ... because neither side could break the team's current contract to play at Tropicana Field 'unless both sides agree.'" Nurse said that he "didn't know any other details." Sternberg said the Rays want "to do what we think is necessary to at least see what's out there." His remarks are "noteworthy because they come only a month before a tight mayoral primary in which the three main candidates have staked out distinctive positions on the stadium issue." Sternberg said that pressure from league execs and other team owners "has 'been ratcheted up' on the Rays to improve their stadium situation, as they rank 29th in major league attendance despite stellar play" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/24).
The Univ. of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium renovation has "long been considered crucial to UC’s success not only in football, but in the entire athletics program," and when the school was "left out of the five major conferences in the most recent wave of realignment, the project assumed greater urgency," according to Bill Koch of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. AD Whit Babcock had to "decide if the Bearcats would be better off financially by moving their games downtown to Paul Brown Stadium rather than spending the money to renovate Nippert." Babcock said, "We did surveys and while people liked going to Paul Brown here and there it was overwhelming in favor of Nippert Stadium. The financial piece of moving downtown was not a long-term solution. Playing in a 35,000-seat stadium, even without the renovation, was more financially viable than moving downtown.” Babcock said that the school has "determined that the new seating will generate enough money to pay off the annual debt and to generate a profit beyond that." The new pavilion will have "three levels -- a club level, a suite level and a press level that will also include suites and coaches boxes." Naming rights will be "sold for each level." UC already has "commitments for the suites and loge boxes, but has yet to begin its push to sell approximately 1,500 club seats." The new construction also will include "patio suites -- outdoor loge boxes with four or eight seats." The east side of the stadium will "not receive premium seating, but will undergo a facelift in an attempt to improve the fan experience." There also are "no plans to replace the existing bleacher seats with chair back seats," but Babcock said that he would "not rule that out in the future" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/23).
FEELING BLUE: In Lexington, Jennifer Smith wrote the Univ. of Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium renovation is "starting to take shape." UK has signed "formal deals with an architectural firm and a construction manager and has rough drawings in place" for the $110M renovation of the stadium and other football facilities. The project is "scheduled in several phases, outlined in the construction manager's proposal, with completion planned before the start" of the '15 football season. The formal model "probably will be unveiled in October." UK has "signed a contract worth $5,895,580 with Skanska/Congleton-Hacker, the same company that completed the recent Rupp Arena locker room renovation." The contract calls for "'substantial completion' to take place by Aug. 14, 2015, and a final completion date for 30 calendar days after that." There are built-in safeguards in the contract for UK "should the company fail to meet those completion dates." The construction manager's preliminary schedule shows that phase one is to "take place from" Sept. 1 of this year to December '14 (KENTUCKY.com, 7/23).
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has "signed a crucial piece of legislation ... in the new revenue-sharing deal between Newark and the Prudential Center that will allow the city to collect more money on each arena event," according to David Giambusso of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. One of the "sticking points in the years of tortuous negotiations between the Devils and Newark was a ticket tax." State law mandated that taxes "collected by the city had to be" 5% of the ticket cost. The bill, "sponsored and lobbied for" by Assembly member Albert Coutinho, calls for a 1.37% tax and "allows the city to collect more revenue." The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Teresa Ruiz, was "one of the last stumbling blocks in a deal that promises to end years of bitterness between" the Devils and the city over revenue sharing at the arena. The deal also "calls for construction of a new parking deck next to the municipal courthouse on Green Street, a shared $1.25 per ticket facility fee for concerts and non-tenant events, and an annual" $2.7M payment from the city to the Devils for parking (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/20).
SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote the "first hint that something might be amiss with the temporary grass field" for tonight's Gold Cup semifinals "came when I saw the pile of green sand at Cowboys Stadium." The sand is for "filling the gaps in the seams of the field, which are just one of the reasons CONCACAF should be embarrassed over the playing surface." The field up close "is atrocious." Unlike most temporary grass surfaces, which are "usually laid over an artificial-turf base, the one at Cowboys Stadium is laid directly over concrete" (SI.com, 7/23).
HOMES AWAY FROM HOME: In Hartford, John Altavilla cites sources as saying that UConn is "in the preliminary stages of negotiations with both Bridgeport's Harbor Yard Arena and the Mohegan Sun Arena to play men's and women's basketball games at both venues, as soon as the coming season." UConn is "interested in moving several games in an effort to expand its brand and allow fans in other areas a chance to see the teams play" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/24).
SUMMERLIN LOVIN': In Las Vegas, Alan Snel reports the new owners of the Triple-A PCL Las Vegas 51s are "making the rounds to three main stakeholders in their bid to draw public financing for a new minor league ballpark in Summerlin, and they hope to have a game plan for their campaign in two to four weeks." Team Managing Dir Steve Mack said that the owners are "reaching out to officials with the city of Las Vegas, Clark County and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to draw feedback on the baseball park plan." Mack added that the ownership group "hopes to have a public strategy game plan for a new 51s ballpark in a few months" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/24).
VENUS RISING: In Ft. Lauderdale, Arlene Satchell reported the U.S.' "oldest black amateur tennis association," the American Tennis Association, "wants to build its first permanent home and training center in Fort Lauderdale's historic black Sistrunk Boulevard community." The estimated $6M facility -- "excluding land, with a specific site still to be determined -- will add luster to an area that has been undergoing a renaissance in the past several years." The facility also will "house a Black Tennis Hall of Fame," with tennis player Venus Williams "designing the interiors" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/23).