The city of Cleveland will "pay a firm nearly $400,000 to determine what repairs must be made at FirstEnergy Stadium before the city considers" the Browns’ projected $120M "wish list of renovations," according to Leila Atassi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The Cleveland City Council on Monday "approved a contract with URS Corporation to conduct the capital repair audit between now and January, when work is slated to begin on the city-owned stadium." The city’s lease with the Browns "requires that the city conduct a repair audit every five years," but Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Chief of Staff Ken Silliman said that the city "has not done so" since the lease was signed in '99. Silliman said that under new team Owner Jimmy Haslam III, the Browns are "expected to submit a formal proposal to the city in the next month, outlining improvements to the 'fan experience' at the facility, including a new scoreboard, audio equipment and physical changes that would allow fans to move more freely within the stadium." Silliman added that before the city "can get a grip on what kind of contribution it can make toward those luxury improvements, the comprehensive repair audit will identify the necessary upgrades that must take precedent." Atassi noted the city is "obligated to cover the expense of all emergency fixes or repairs of the stadium’s roof, foundation, structure or utilities, whether or not the money is within the repair budget." Silliman said that when it "comes to capital improvements -- defined as modifications and amenities that would rank the facility among the top NFL stadia -- the lease only requires the city to pick up the tab if the money is available" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/16).
IN THE DAWG HOUSE? In Cleveland, Mark Naymik notes the report will "help the city prioritize how it spends what little money is available for stadium repairs." Cleveland "needs this report to block any attempt by the Browns to pass to the city the costs of luxury improvements or upgrades that Haslam is eyeing." The city believes that it "only has to pay capital improvements if it has the money available after material expenses are covered." Cleveland "doesn't have the money and will never have the money." The report will be "critical to make the case that the repair fund is already spoken for." The city "needs to play rough to protect tax dollars" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/18).
A POPULAR OPINION: The PLAIN DEALER conducted an editorial board roundtable about who should pay for the renovations. Peter Krouse offered, "The city should pay the Browns what it is legally obligated to provide and nothing more. That's not a dig at the Browns or Haslam, both of whom are at a low point right now ... it's just that taxpayer money at this point could be more wisely spent." Sharon Broussard: "The city should be very careful for paying for anything over that amount. If the Browns want to improve the 'fan experience,' they should try winning." Thomas Suddes weighed in, "There's no justification for public subsidies to the owners of professional sports franchises." Elizabeth Sullivan: "The city has to draw the line -- and doing a repair audit to fairly map out legitimate repairs required under the lease, as opposed to the team's 'fan experience' wish list, is the way to start." Christopher Evans: "The idea that taxpayers have to keep ponying up millions of dollars to support the playground of millionaire athletes and billionaire owners is reprehensible" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/17).
Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP), the group seeking a public vote on the city’s plan to subsidize a downtown arena, "received a pivotal boost over the weekend when it obtained 18,000 signed petitions financed by Chris Hansen," according to a front-page piece by Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Those petitions likely place STOP "within just a few thousand signatures of what it needs to qualify a measure for the June ballot that would require voter approval of public contributions to sports facilities." STOP needs 22,000 "valid signatures from city voters -- and it has three more months to reach that threshold." Hansen "requested in a letter Tuesday that STOP return or destroy the petitions, which he said were both financed with his money and given to the campaign without his consent or knowledge." Hansen stopped "short of threatening legal action against STOP if the petitions are filed with city election officials." However, he said the group "does not have any legal right to them." Hansen wrote in part, "Please do the right thing." But STOP said that it would "deny Hansen’s request to return the petitions" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/18). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes, "I honestly don’t care if Seattle ever gets an NBA team. But I do hope Hansen is forever frustrated in his bid to be an NBA boss for the smarmy stunt he pulled in Sacramento." Hansen "opposes a public vote on the arena he wants to build in Seattle, but essentially finances one in Sacramento -- all because he got his fancy pants in a bunch at being passed over for the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/18).
The Bucks have designed a new court "with a throwback touch," as it "borrows elements from Pop artist Robert Indiana's much-heralded 1977 MECCA floor," according to Mary Louise Schumacher of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. The design "will be unveiled at the Milwaukee Art Museum" on Sept. 24 and will be "on the court in time for some preseason games in October." Indiana's court in '77 "made headlines and captured national attention." The new floor "draws enough elements from Indiana's original design that the team sought his blessing." Bucks Senior VP & Chief Revenue Officer Theodore Loehrke said the new floor will position Milwaukee as a city "that cares as much about art as it does about sport." Schumacher reports designing the new court "involved months of wrangling with the NBA, setting aside the idea of working with a local artist, and a drive through the night to get the permission of an aging and reclusive artist." The old floor, which the Bucks and Marquette Univ. "abandoned in 1988 when they moved to the then-new Bradley Center, was put up for auction" in '10. The idea of "doing something like the original MECCA floor was floated early on in the brainstorming process among the design and marketing teams for the Bucks." Loehrke said that with NBA games televised internationally today, the league has "become pretty fussy about what these floors look like." Schumacher writes the Bucks in the end "came up with something that is inspired by and that pays homage to Indiana's floor." But that "introduced another hurdle -- they needed the artist's approval" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/18).
Pelicans GM Dell Demps said the team's new $10M training facility in Metairie, La., has "all the amenities a team could ever want," according to Darrell Williams of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. Construction on the 50,000-square-foot facility "began the first week of December and was finished in late August." Pelicans Owner Tom Benson said, "We believe we have the finest facility in the NBA." Williams writes the entrance of the new facility has "much to like, starting with finger-access security that allows players to come in at any time." The building also features a board room and a weight room, which Demps said was "five times" the size of the team's weight room at the Alario Center, its practice home since relocating to New Orleans in '02. Pelicans players entering from the rear of the facility "will pass an autograph room," while a theater in the building "has inclined stadium seating." There is a breakfast room, but that is "not to be confused with the cafeteria, which is a short walk across the parking lot." There also are "two pristine basketball courts." Woodward Design & Build is "still building The Fourth Down Cafe, which is where players will get nutritious protein shakes and the like" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 9/18).