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Volume 24 No. 113


Cleveland taxpayers "will be kicking in" $2M in each of the next 15 years toward the $120M in upgrades at FirstEnergy Stadium "under a tentative agreement" reached yesterday between the city and the Browns, according to a front-page piece by Mark Naymik of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The Cleveland City Council will "consider legislation to confirm the deal Monday." The "true cost of the city's contribution" is estimated at $22M, not $30M, because the money is "being committed at the present-day value of the dollar." The city will give the Browns "more input on how to spend" about $12M of the $24M already in the stadium's "existing capital improvement fund set by the stadium lease and fed by the existing Cuyahoga County tax on alcohol and cigarette sales, known as a sin tax." The Browns in exchange will "allow the city to reduce its payments to the capital repairs fund in the final years of the lease." Browns CEO Joe Banner and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that they would "support a campaign to extend the sin tax," which expires in '15. Naymik writes the deal "avoids a drawn out and potentially costly legal battle over the stadium lease, which spells out repairs and improvements that must be made by the city and the team." Asked how he would characterize Jackson as a negotiator, Banner said, "He kicked our ass" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/20). In Akron, Nate Ulrich notes the Browns during the first year of the proposed upgrades would "install two new video boards nearly triple the size of the boards currently in each end zone, moving them closer to the fans." The project in '14 also would "increase the lower bowl's seating capacity while improving sightlines" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/20).

 In Cleveland, Terry Pluto notes the Browns "plan to borrow the entire amount" needed for the $120M in upgrades, with a $60M loan from the NFL and another $60M in "loans from 'private sources.'" But they will "receive a lot of help from the city -- thanks to the terms of the stadium lease" inherited by Jackson. The city had "huge obligations to the Browns over the next 12 years," set to pay close to $40M into the stadium through '25. The new deal "could have been much worse for the city" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/20).

Cobb County (Ga.) yesterday released a Memorandum of Understanding with the Braves that "outlines the basic terms" for construction of the team's new $672M ballpark and "adjoining mixed-use development," according to a front-page piece by Bluestein, Klepal & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The Cobb County Commission "will vote on the proposal next week, without holding any public hearing." The agreement, "as expected, calls for the county to be responsible" for $300M of the ballpark cost. It also "stipulates that the Braves have the option of cutting the stadium budget" by up to $50M, thus "reducing the team's contribution." The agreement "dictates that the county's bonds be issued by Dec. 31, 2014; that construction starts by Jan. 1, 2015; that the team takes occupancy by Dec. 15, 2016; and that all construction be finished by Feb. 1, 2017." The agreement runs through '47, with the Braves "having the option for a five-year renewal." The Braves "will hire the architect and construction manager." Of the team's $372M portion of the project, $92M "will be from additional bonds to be issued by the county and repaid" with $6.1M annual payments. The Braves have "full control of the stadium and will pocket revenue from concerts, festivals or other special events." The county can "host three events per year, and must use any earnings on paying debt service on the bonds until they are paid off." The memorandum states that the county and the Braves "will share responsibility 'on an equal, 50/50 basis' for all capital improvements, maintenance and repairs" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/20). In Georgia, Jon Gillooly reports the Cumberland Community Improvement District yesterday voted to commit $10M toward "transportation improvements" for the proposed ballpark (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/20).

BALLPARK BACKLASH: In Atlanta, Dave Williams reported government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia is "asking the Cobb County Commission to schedule a referendum on the county's proposal" to commit $300M toward the ballpark. CCG Exec Dir William Perry said, "Cobb voters have a right to have their voices heard on a project that would profoundly change the county." The group also "called for a referendum in Atlanta" on the Falcons' stadium, but was "unable to gather enough petition signatures to force a public vote" (, 11/19). Also in Atlanta, Franco & Teichner reported, "A series of robocalls sent from a local tea party leader has some people upset in Cobb County." The call "asked people to press 1 if they were against any tax dollars" for a new Braves ballpark. After the button was pressed, the call "was transferred to elected officials" (, 11/19).

A college football game at Daytona Int'l Speedway is "very likely going to happen" following the completion of the Daytona Rising project, according to George Diaz of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. DIS President Joie Chitwood III said, "We talked to a number of athletic directors and we've talked to some TV partners and I do believe we've got great potential to add a college football game in 2016. ... We've gotten great interest so far from a number of schools." Diaz notes Bristol Motor Speedway "will be a neutral site" for the "Battle of Bristol" between Tennessee and Virginia Tech on Sept. 10, 2016. But hosting a college football game at an "iconic site such as Daytona would certainly create more of a national buzz, and likely raise the bar for the attendance record if the right two teams are in the mix" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/20). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports the track has not "come up with a total seat number for its football game." However, Chitwood said, "With all of our camping options in the infield, there is no other venue that can offer this (amount of space)." Chitwood: "When you tell people that in Daytona you could have the world’s biggest tailgate party in the infield as part of the college football experience, it seems to catch their attention" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/18 issue). 

Triple-A PCL Nashville Sounds co-Owners Frank Ward and Masahiro Honzawa are not only "looking to secure new digs" for the team in the Sulphur Dell area, but also planning a $50M private development that "would play off the promise of a 10,000-seat stadium next door," according to a front-page piece by Joey Garrison of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. While the residential and retail component would "add to the partners' private real estate portfolio, it's also a major leg in Mayor Karl Dean's public stadium financing plan." The development's property-tax revenues would "pay off a chunk" of the $4.3M a year in new debt the city "would take on over 30 years." However, the team "isn't contractually obligated to follow through on it," and if it does not, an "expected $345,000 yearly city subsidy to pay for the stadium would increase by $750,000." The Nashville Metropolitan Council "backed the financing on the first of three votes Tuesday evening after a brief but heated discussion on what is normally a procedural vote." The Sounds' primary investment, "notwithstanding lease payments made years down the road ... is a project meant for profit." Ward said the stadium proposal and his group's mixed-use project are "two distinct issues." He added that he is "fully committed" to the effort, and that architectural designs are "in the works for a residential/retail project." Ward: "I'm pushing the architects as fast as they can go" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 11/20).

HIT BULL, WIN SCOREBOARD? In Raleigh, Jason deBruyn reported Durham Bulls Athletic Park, home to the Triple-A Int'l League Bulls, will undergo $19M worth of renovations, "including three new video displays." The largest of the HD boards "will be 25 feet by 63 feet, three times the size of the current board." A new LED display "will run the length of the outfield wall from center to right field." Dallas-based TS Sports "has been contracted to install the three video displays" (, 11/19).

In Minneapolis, Janet Moore notes the groundbreaking for the Vikings' new stadium "is now scheduled for Dec. 3, more than a month later than originally planned." But Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that the 65,000-seat stadium "will still be ready" for the '16 NFL season. The date of the groundbreaking "was released after the authority, the team and the project’s construction manager, Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, agreed on how to reach the $737.7 million 'guaranteed maximum price' (or GMP) for the stadium’s total construction costs" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/20).

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGHER: Denver-based noted the Broncos yesterday broke ground "on a major expansion and renovation" of team HQs at Dove Valley. The team said that the two-part project "will include the construction of an indoor practice facility, as well as upgrades to the existing Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre." A new 115,000-square-foot indoor practice facility, which "will be built to the west of the current practice fields, will include an 85,000-square-foot field house as well as a 30,000-square-foot support space." A larger public viewing area "will also be built" (, 11/19).

THE GOLDEN GATE: In S.F., John Cote writes game nights at the new Warriors arena "will create a transportation disaster." But some city officials said that a solution "may already be in hand." During the America's Cup, "augmented transit service moved more people roughly the same distance along the Embarcadero with few major problems." Paying for that "over the long term, however, will require an investment that the cash-strapped Municipal Transportation Agency doesn't have." So city officials are "looking at a string of development projects along the city's eastern shoreline, including the Giants' plan" for a $1.6B new neighborhood across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park and the Warriors' $1B arena-hotel-condominium project, to "help cover their expected toll on the transit system" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/20).

ROAD WORK AHEAD: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes the "paving of the infield road course was completed" yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Turns 1 and 2 of the course include "a slight elevation change that officials estimated to be 3 feet." Meanwhile, several corners "have been widened to 46 feet for a better flow, with the area behind the IMS Hall of Fame Museum opened up." The section of oval track used "is 50 feet wide" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 11/20).