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Volume 24 No. 154


USTA officials Thursday unveiled $550M worth of improvements to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a project that will eventually yield "two new stadiums, up to three covered courts and -- at last -- a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium,” according to Wayne Coffey of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The project will “proceed in three phases, the first of them encompassing the construction of a new 8,000-seat Grandstand Court (in a new location on the southwest part of the grounds); a two-tiered deck overlooking five relocated practice courts; and, the centerpiece of it all, the retractable roof over Ashe -- one that will be made of 1.6 million pounds of Teflon-coated panels and supported by eight columns and 10 million pounds of steel.” The roof “will be undergirded … by 160 pilings, driven down as far as 200 feet.” It will be “able to close and open in five to seven minutes.” Officials “hope to commence with the project after this year’s Open, if the requisite approvals and reviews are complete.” The plan is for the roof to be “ready for the 2017 Open.” A new Louis Armstrong Stadium -- also with a roof and 15,000 seats -- is “part of the final phase of the project.” USTA Exec Dir & COO Gordon Smith said a third show-court roof on the Grandstand is “being thought about.” The transformation of the venue will “allow for better flow around the grounds” as an “additional 10,000 spectators per day will be possible with the new design” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/16).

: In N.Y., Naila-Jean Meyers notes the U.S. Open was the only Grand Slam event that “did not have at least one showcase court with a roof, or plans for one.” Smith said that the USTA “felt competitive pressure to improve facilities not only from the other Grand Slam events but also from local sports teams, which are all playing in new or recently renovated stadiums and arenas.” USTA officials had long said that they were “committed to adding a roof on Ashe as soon as they could figure out how, but a roof was not initially in the renovation project when it was announced last year.” National Tennis Center COO Danny Zausner said that if the plans “received the necessary approvals from various city agencies, construction of the Ashe roof could begin as early as next spring” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16).

Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano on Thursday chose Forest City Ratner to "renovate the Nassau Coliseum," with the company guaranteeing Nassau a minimum of $4.4M in the first year and $334M over the 49-year agreement, according to Brodsky & Marshall of NEWSDAY. Forest City Ratner Chair & CEO Bruce Ratner's $229M proposal "calls for a renovated 13,000-seat arena, a 2,000-seat indoor theater, an outdoor amphitheater, restaurants, an ice-skating rink and retail space." The Islanders, who will move to Brooklyn in for the '15-16 season, would "play a combination of six regular or preseason games at the renovated Coliseum." Ratner is working with Syosset-based developer Ed Blumenfeld, financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, Live Nation, Roc Nation and Legends Hospitality. Mangano said that there were "major differences in the financial impact of the Ratner and MSG proposals." Bid documents show Forest City Ratner will pay Nassau County 8% of all annual revenue generated by the Coliseum each year, "including tickets and concessions," and 12.75% of parking. The lease is for 34 years with an option for 15 more "if both parties agree to an extension." If there is no extension, "Ratner will pay Nassau a total" of nearly $195M over 34 years. Ratner also will pay the county 8% of the gross revenue "from new entertainment facilities surrounding the arena or a minimum of $400,000 a year -- whichever is greater." The minimum annual payment by Ratner "will escalate" by 10% every five years. Ratner would "take over all capital expenditures and maintenance of the arena," and it also "agreed to make payments in lieu of property taxes to Nassau, while MSG did not" (NEWSDAY, 8/16).

SMALL GETS SMALLER: In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes the Islanders, by moving to Barclays Center, will "already have the smallest capacity of any building in the NHL, just under 15,000 seats." The renovated Coliseum "would hold even fewer, probably around 12,000." In hopes of "making up for the possible loss of 3,000 ticket sales, it’s believed tickets for the Islanders’ games at the new Coliseum would be significantly more expensive." The NHL has "made no declaration about the deal, but the league would have to approve it before one of its teams begins to play home games in two different venues" (N.Y. POST, 8/16).

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday said that the "slow pace of stadium talks" between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg may "prompt him to intervene," according to a front-page piece by Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Selig said Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg had given him a "very discouraging" update on Tuesday. Selig: "We were optimistic that this was moving in a very positive direction. Unfortunately, we are stalled." But St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster "scoffed at Selig's comment that talks have stalled." Foster said, "We had a great conversation this week. The fact that we met Monday does not lend credence to his statement.'' Foster declined to say when the next meeting with the Rays would take place, but said the parties are "still talking." Sternberg said, "I am still optimistic that we can make progress to ensure baseball thrives in Tampa Bay for generations to come. To this point, MLB has left it in my hands to come up with a solution." Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan, who has been "active in seeking to position his county as an option for a new Rays stadium, said Selig's statement Thursday underscored the importance of ramping up the dialogue." Nohlgren notes Selig's office occasionally has "injected itself in other local stadium disputes, including a committee that for years has tried to find a new home" for the A's. An MLB exec also "took an active role in negotiations between the Marlins, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County, who jockeyed for years before reaching a deal" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/16).

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: The club is locked in its current lease at outdated Tropicana Field until ‘27 and ranks next-to-last in attendance in the league despite six straight winning seasons. Selig declined to specify how MLB would get involved, but signaled that Sternberg will no longer be seeking a solution alone. Selig said, "We need a resolution. This is a very troubling situation. They've been a model organization." Sternberg added his inability to reach a ballpark deal in nearly eight years of owning the franchise "has reached a boiling point." Sternberg: "Something needs to be done. It's been too long, and there's a frustration at the league level that I haven't been able to get this done." Selig declined comment when asked if relocation out of the Tampa area was a possibility, but Sternberg downplayed that option (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).'s David Schoenfield wonders if the Rays would "be better supported if the ballpark were located in Tampa or another neighboring city?" Or does the region "just lack the fervor to better support the franchise?" Thursday's Mariners-Rays game "drew 13,299 fans; as a comparison, the horrible Brewers, playing in a smaller metro market, drew more than 36,000." The Tampa-St. Pete market is "larger than St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Cleveland." The Rays "might be stuck if no solution arises" (, 8/16).

The Univ. of Utah unveiled the $32M Spence & Cleone Eccles Football Center on Thursday, and the “ribbon-cutting ceremony of the 152,211-square foot facility proved to be quite a grand opening as the university prepares for its third season of competition in the Pac-12,” according to Dirk Facer of the DESERET NEWS. The center, which will be used "by all of the university’s sports teams and more than 400 student-athletes, is a state-of-the-art facility with a variety of amenities.” Features include a “large sports medicine area with hydrotherapy technology, a cafeteria with 250 seats, a 6,500-square foot football locker room, 47,000-square feet of meeting rooms, offices and team auditoriums, group study areas, a hydration station and a player lounge.” There also is “a Hall of Fame, a press room, a production studio, equipment storage and management, an area to get a haircut and an event plaza” (DESERET NEWS, 8/16). In Salt Lake City, Lya Wodraska notes the two-level observation deck “overlooks the practice fields and the Salt Lake Valley.” The “gem of the facility” is the training room. The facility is “just a chunk” of the $64.2M the school has invested in upgrades as part of the move to the Pac-12. The university has set aside $24M for a basketball facility, $4.2M for a new softball complex, $2.5M for track upgrades and $1.5M for an outdoor tennis facility (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/16).