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Volume 24 No. 112


MLS DC United and city officials have reached a preliminary $300M deal to build a 20,000-25,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in the Buzzard Point area of Southwest DC. The venue is expected to be built in time for the '16 season. Under provisions of the terms sheet, the city anticipates that it will swap DC-owned property to assemble the stadium site parcels. The term sheet calls for DC to act as a horizontal developer and assume the cost of land acquisition and infrastructure (approximately $150M), while DC United would build the venue (approximtalely $150M). There is not yet a finalized design for the proposed stadium (DC United).'s Brian Straus tweeted from the press conference announcing the deal, "Marion Barry interrupts mayor, who admits other 2 land swaps req not finalized. 1 owner says its 'early.' Welcome to DC. This far from over." blogger Garrett Quinn noted, "DC United's stadium deal leaves New England as the only original MLS club without a soccer specific stadium."

SEARCH COMES TO A CLOSE: In DC, Jonathan O'Connell in a front-page piece notes the deal could "end a decade-long search" for a new venue. The team has played at RFK Stadium since '96, but its investors "say the team loses money every year" at the venue. DC United Managing Partner Jason Levien said that the team had "yet to decide whether to build a 20,000-seat stadium with room for expansion or build 25,000 seats at the start." O'Connell reports DC United would be "granted a 25- to 35-year lease for the land and would have the opportunity to develop restaurants, shops and possibly a hotel." The new stadium would be located "a few blocks southwest of Nationals Park." DC Mayor Vincent Gray, "unlike previous mayors who considered stadium options to keep the team from relocating," enjoys a "stable budget outlook and a negotiating partner" in Levien and team investor Erick Thohir. The two partners bought a majority stake in the team last year, and say that they "can help finance the project." But the plan "hinges on a series of proposed land swaps and development projects across the city that could lead to political and logistical land mines." The deal has several aspects which "have not been finalized and would require approval" from the city council. A sales and use tax abatement "worth as much as" $2.6M in its first year also is "part of the tentative deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/25).

DOLLARS & SENSE: In DC, Steven Goff writes United moving out of RFK Stadium "is about more than aesthetics" it is "about revenue streams." If the Buzzard Point deal is finalized, the team will play in "one of the most urban settings in the league, accessible by public transportation and close to commercial development." But Buzzard Point "does have drawbacks." The venue's "tight footprint leaves little room for parking, although lots utilized by the Nationals would be available when baseball is idle." The city "plans to have streetcars running through the area in the future" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/25).

MOTOR CITY EXPANSION? In Detroit, Marlon Walker reports the owners of the city's Penobscot Building "hope to build" an MLS stadium "atop the Wayne County Jail site." Toronto-based Triple Group of Companies Managing Partner Steve Apostolopoulos said that "extensive research studies show downtown Detroit is ripe for a soccer team." He added that his company "began talks with MLS officials after purchasing the Pontiac Silverdome" in late '09 for $583,000. He said that after the purchase, the company "began looking at the dome as a possible soccer facility." The dome instead will be "used for multipurpose family-style events if county officials select their bid for the downtown site" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/25).

The Chicago City Council yesterday unanimously approved the Cubs' $500M Wrigley Field renovation, but Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts in a statement said that his family "is not willing to start work until the rooftop club owners with lucrative views into the ballpark agree not to sue if new outfield advertising signs block their sightlines," according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Ricketts also "demanded that the city enforce rooftop regulations, and he wants assurances about what happens with the organization's control over outfield signs once its revenue-sharing agreement with the rooftop owners expires at the end of 2023." Also "muddying the water is the Cubs' agreement to defer their request to build a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street to link the hotel they want to build with an office-retail complex and plaza." A source said that in "exchange for giving that up," the Cubs want Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney to "consider other moneymaking options for them." Those include an "archway over Clark with advertising and a new spectator deck behind the right-field bleachers." To build that deck, the right-field wall would "have to be moved onto Sheffield Avenue," which is eight feet more than "first envisioned." That would "remove a lane of traffic, and the deck would extend over the remaining width of the street." The Cubs also have "agreed to a 10-year moratorium on additional outfield signs beyond the two that have been approved." But in "exchange for that moratorium they are demanding that the rooftop owners agree not to sue over blocked views during the remaining 10 years of the revenue-sharing agreement." It is "expected that the Cubs and rooftop owners will discuss the issues soon and perhaps try to hammer out a written agreement." The Cubs, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tunney yesterday "heralded the deal as something of a breakthrough" despite those remaining issues (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/25).

DRAMATIC ALTERATIONS: In Illinois, Don Babwin notes Wrigley's upgrades, some of which "could be completed as early as next season," collectively "represent the most dramatic additions since at least 1988, when the Cubs became the last team in the majors to install lights" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 7/25). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg notes the team's entire building process is "expected to take five years and should provide the Cubs with plenty of revenue streams." A source said that the team's new videoboard is "probably two years away from being up at Wrigley Field." If the Cubs can begin construction this fall, the "first order of business will be to improve the player facilities, which include expanding the home clubhouse and adding batting cages and workout facilities, along with other amenities common at other stadiums." The team also will "expand the visitors clubhouse as part of an expansion on Sheffield and Addison that will include a new restaurant" (, 7/24). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes, "This is going to be a better Wrigley Field for fans, or least the fans who want a clean, comfortable, more modern experience at the ballpark." Morrissey: "I used to be in the keep-Wrigley-as-a-museum-piece camp, but then I opened my eyes to the disagreeable seats, the cramped concourses and the nasty bathrooms. The wider my eyes, the more I wanted to see replays and stats on a video scoreboard, too." The cement and "old girders don’t make Wrigley Field; the people in the stands do" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25).

: Tunney said, "The balance that I’ve been trying to negotiate has been exhilarating, upsetting, exciting, exasperating ... I care too much and I know too much about my community." In Chicago, Fran Spielman writes Tunney "drove a hard bargain on behalf of his constituents and small businesses." Tunney: "Just make sure the Cubs do what they say they’re gonna do. No more head fakes." He added that he "wasn’t looking for a 'civil war' with the Cubs." But Spielman writes the team "had better honor its commitments to local residents if they want to avoid one." Tunney: "What is the adage? You have to be a good neighbor. Otherwise, I’ll be up your butt every day." Ricketts after the "unanimous vote he thought might never come" issued a statement thanking Emanuel, Tunney and the city council for "giving him the flexibility he needs to renovate Wrigley without a public subsidy." The Ricketts family has been "miffed by what they viewed as Tunney’s 'bizarre comments' on the Council floor -- particularly the alderman’s claim that the Cubs 'are supposed to be a catalyst for the other businesses, not try to snuff them out'" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25). Also in Chicago, Mark Brown writes Tunney "still harbors a lot of resentment against the Cubs, in part for transgressions committed" by previous team Owner the Tribune Co. As with "many longtime neighborhood business owners and residents who predated the 'Wrigleyville' resurgence, Tunney also is resentful of those who think the Cubs are entirely responsible for the community’s economic well-being" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/25). 

The N.Y. City Council yesterday notified Madison Square Garden that it "has 10 years to vacate its 45-year-old premises and find a new home, the Garden’s fifth since it opened in 1879," according to Charles Bagli of the N.Y. TIMES. The Council voted 47-1 to "extend the Garden’s special operating permit for merely a decade -- not in perpetuity, as the owners of the Garden had requested, or 15 years," as N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration "had intended." Officials said that 10 years "should be enough time" for the Garden to find a new location and "for the city to devise plans for an expanded Pennsylvania Station, which currently sits below the Garden." City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, "This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century. This is an opportunity to reimagine and redevelop Penn Station as a world-class transportation destination." Quinn "renewed her call for the creation of a commission to devise the plans." MSG Exec Chair James Dolan "expects to complete this fall" a $968M overhaul of the Garden. Dolan in '08 announced the Garden's most recent upgrades, just after the last $14B effort to "move the Garden and transform the train station collapsed amid a severe recession, insufficient financing, an absence of political leadership and overreaching by the developers selected for the job" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/25). In N.Y., Erin Durkin notes since the City Planning Department "already approved the permit, the Council vote makes it final." The permit "does not need a signoff" from Bloomberg (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/25).

The N.Y. City Council "approved a plan Wednesday to allow the use of parkland to replace two of three tennis stadiums and add 7,000 seats along with parking and walkways" at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, ending a "yearlong battle over a move to expand" the home to the U.S. Open, according to Michaelle Bond of the N.Y. TIMES. The approval, by a 47-to-1 vote, came after the USTA "agreed to help set up an alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park," to commit $10M for "park maintenance and programming, to return to the city more land than it is taking and to increase its community outreach." The USTA also will "create an annual job fair for Queens residents and try to help local businesses benefit" from the U.S. Open. In addition, it will "help develop programs, like a community festival during the Open and low-cost tennis coaching for area families" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/25). In N.Y., Durkin & Trapasso write the USTA's $10M donation helped achieve "nearly unanimous approval of its expansion plan," which will allow the organization to "build new tennis stadiums on two-thirds of an acre" in the park. The donation is meant to "set up a public-private alliance to maintain the overcrowded park." The USTA "plans to tear down two aging stadiums," built for the '64 World's Fair, inside the 46-acre site. It also will "create expanded walkways between facilities to ease pedestrian congestion and turn a pair of parking lots into two-story and three-story parking garages" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/25).

The Michigan Strategic Fund board yesterday "approved issuing" up to $450M in bonds to finance construction of a $650M project that will "include a new arena" for the Red Wings and other events in Detroit, plus $200M more to develop the 45-block area between downtown and Midtown, according to Tom Walsh of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. To move the project forward, the city, state and the Ilitch family-owned Olympia Development "must now complete a concessions management agreement that would commit to the Wings playing there for at least 35 years, with 12 five-year options to follow." Yesterday's approval was a "major step toward securing money for the arena district project, but the bonds still must be issued and sold." The approval "came by unanimous voice vote." Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder after the meeting "voiced his support for the project." When asked why taxpayers and city employees should support public funds for a sports arena at a time when Detroit is bankrupt, Snyder "defended the use of state-issued bonds, saying Detroit needs the tax dollars and jobs." The Detroit Downtown Development Authority would "own the arena and Olympia Development would operate and maintain it, much as the Ilitch organization has done with Joe Louis Arena" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/25). In Detroit, Louis Aguilar notes Snyder touted the $650M arena "as an example that big Detroit development projects will continue to move forward amid Chapter 9 bankruptcy." He added the long-term impact of the new arena will "create a better environment" for the city (DETROIT NEWS, 7/25).

Churchill Downs Inc. after "selling out its nearly 300-seat Mansion at prices of $7,000 and up" for this year's Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby is "planning another new seating area -- the Churchill Downs Rooftop Garden," according to a front-page piece by Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Plans show the track "would build the two-story facility on two acres near the big race’s starting point, at the top of the homestretch." The project "anticipates adding second-level seating overlooking the track near the quarter pole." The facility would "include betting windows and machines, a food court, at least one bar and a VIP area." Meanwhile, the rooftop garden plans "show two buildings would be torn down and a two-level terrace being built behind the northern-most section of the grandstand." The new structure would be 48-feet-high and would "have 22,500 square feet of renovated space and 52,300 square feet of new construction on the first floor and 44,800 square feet of renovated space and 5,300 square feet of new construction on the second." The development plan "did not specify how many people the new structure would hold or provide an estimate of its cost" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 7/25).

In Atlanta, Stafford & Tucker report the site of the new Falcons stadium yesterday "remained very much in flux" after a meeting of a Georgia World Congress Center Authority committee. GWCCA Exec Dir Frank Poe said that two potential stadium sites "remain on the table -- the preferred site immediately south of the Georgia Dome that requires buying two churches and an alternate site a half mile north of the Dome." With an Aug. 1 deadline to buy the church property approaching and no deal in place, the Falcons "want to begin 'due diligence work' on the alternate site" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 7/25).

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS: In N.Y., Perlman & McShane cited Pollstar data as showing that Barclays Center is "already the nation's No. 1 venue in the number of tickets sold and gate revenue." The arena "sold 657,423 tickets to concerts and family shows between Jan. 1 and June 30 -- the highest figure in the U.S." The only buildings worldwide "with better ticket sales numbers were the O2 arena in London and Manchester Arena in England -- and only the O2 outgrossed Barclays Center" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/24).

ICED COFFEE: Rhode Island Sports Commission Exec Dir John Gibbons said that the Dunkin’ Donuts Center "will bid for an NCAA Division I men’s hockey regional" in '15 and probably in '17. In Providence, Mark Divver reported Brown Univ. is "expected to be the host school." Gibbons said that the "deadline for the submission of bids is Sept. 20, and the NCAA will make its decisions in December" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/24).