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Volume 24 No. 159


A $400M deal to "reshape the east end of downtown Minneapolis is plowing ahead at City Hall, but controversial rooftop signs are proving to be a major last-minute hurdle," according to Eric Roper of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. City officials on Thursday unveiled more details about the plan "shaping up on Star Tribune land next to the new Vikings stadium, including office space, apartments, retail, a parking ramp and a park." Ryan Cos. is financing $350M of the proposal, which will "feature the largest Minneapolis office development in 22 years." But the expected owner of the new office buildings, Wells Fargo, is "demanding bright logos atop the buildings that would be visible during football game aerial shots." The signs would "require a change in the zoning code and are fiercely opposed by the Vikings, who say the signs could hurt their efforts to sell naming rights on the stadium." Ryan VP/Development Rick Collinssaid, "It’s an important issue for Wells Fargo that has to be resolved before they’ll make a final commitment to moving forward." Outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak, "supports Wells Fargo’s request." Wells Fargo spokesperson Peggy Gunn said, "We are making a $300 million investment, that’s what’s on the table here. And we think it’s reasonable that some signs reflecting this investment be allowed" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/6). The STAR TRIBUNE's Roper noted the plan "features 400 apartments and about 22,000 square feet of retail" (, 12/5).

MAY I HAVE A SEAT? In Minneapolis, Abby Simons reported about 70 schools, colleges, and nonprofits have asked about the folding plastic bleacher chairs from the Metrodome "in chunks of 200 to 300 at a time for their facilities." But Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen on Thursday said that while some seats will "take the auction block, taking them apart and handing them out to deserving organizations isn’t simple or cheap." She said, "It's become a stumbling block for us for us to figure out what the cost is going to be and what people can reasonably pay." She cited estimates by Mortenson Construction as showing that the cost associated with removing the seats is about "$48 per chair." When multiplied "by the 20,000 chairs requested by the nonprofits ... the total cost is $960,000" (, 12/5).

Talladega Superspeedway's backstretch, dubbed the Allison Grandstand, "has been eliminated as part of a facelift at the 44-year-old track," according to Mark McCarter of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Track Chair Grant Lynch said, "It's an opportunity for us to provide a new and better experience at Talladega." The grandstand, with a capacity of 18,000 seats, has "been one of the more economical options for race fans." But Lynch said that the "same price-points will be available as fans transition to the frontstretch grandstands for the spring race." Previous ticket holders in the grandstand "have been informed of the change and offered renewal of tickets elsewhere." Lynch said that seats in the frontstretch grandstands "provide the best view of pit road and the experience will be enhanced by new video boards that are much larger and in higher definition than the current SprintVision screens." Eliminating the grandstands named for the family of NASCAR HOFer Bobby Allison "could be controversial." However, Lynch said that he met with members of the family in October and "informed them of the move." Lynch: "We're going to have a good way in the coming years, maybe as early as next year, to get the Allisons in a more prominent place on a structure within the facility, and they're very comfortable with that" (, 12/5).

Churchill Downs' fall racing "was a bad meet" for the track, as there has almost never been a "fall meet met with less enthusiasm," according to Jennie Rees of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. For the first time in memory, purses at the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned Fair Grounds in New Orleans "were better than those at Churchill's fall meet." Churchill Downs "has run off fans through actions such as eliminating the Twin Spires Club that let members get in for a buck." Longtime Churchill Downs attendee Howard Lerner said, "I have never, ever, in all the years I’ve been following it had less interest in what is going on at Churchill Downs than I have right now. My views are that the management of Churchill Downs wants to run everybody off. For instance, how can you invite somebody to spend an entire day with you to bet simulcast racing and not provide a hamburger for them? The food is absolutely horrible. They offer you premade sandwiches. 'Take it or leave it. And if you don’t like it, go home and bet on'" Rees wrote Churchill and its corporate management "might think they do a lot for the average fan -- their consumers -- but those I hear from just don’t see it" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/4).

The Chicago City Council Zoning Committee on Thursday "recommended approval" of the Cubs' plan to push back the right field wall at Wrigley Field and build an arch with advertising on it over Clark Street, moving team Owner the Ricketts family's $500M renovation effort "a step closer to reality," according to John Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The Wrigley proposal "next heads back to the full City Council for consideration." Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney said, "This is going to be transformational for the city." Byrne notes along with the arch, the amended plan "allows the Cubs to push back the right field wall an additional 10 feet so a deck in the bleachers can be expanded." Aldermen on Thursday also approved an ordinance pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "clarifying that the team will be exempt from certain sections of the city code that otherwise could have prohibited them from putting up many advertisements in and around Wrigley" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/6). In Chicago, Fran Spielman reports the Cubs are offering "free parking in team lots on non-game days to residents whose street spaces will be lost" as a result of the wall being pushed back (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 12/6).

Forest City Ratner Cos. Chair & CEO Bruce Ratner on Thursday said that housing, offices, stores or technology companies "aren't suitable for the acres of asphalt surrounding his proposed" Nassau Coliseum entertainment complex, despite previous plans calling for at least seven restaurants, according to James Madore of NEWSDAY. He said of the hub, "You have more limited choices. I guess I would have to say it should be sports and entertainment ... that's what is there already." Ratner said that Long Island "doesn't need more stores." He called the area "over retailed." The developer "touted the economic benefits of sports and entertainment facilities, saying, unlike offices and retail, 'It's growing, it's one of the few areas that's stayed pretty consistent ... I think that's probably the right orientation'" for the Hub. He said of other industries, "The others are really difficult. You can talk about that stuff but I don't see how it's doable" (NEWSDAY, 12/6).

In Toronto, Tony Van Alphen notes the idea of constructing an NHL-sized arena in Markham with public money "absorbed a solid body check early Thursday." The city council voted "overwhelmingly in favour of resolutions" to rescind a public-private financial partnership for the C$325M project and "urge the arena’s proponents to seek funding from outside sources." Deputy Mayor Jack Heath said that the city "won’t be providing loans, guarantees or instituting special levies to help make the project more attractive to private investors" (TORONTO STAR, 12/6). Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said, "I think it will be tough to try to attract this type of investment to our community with the parameters that have been set by council" (TORONTO STAR, 12/6).

BOMBS AWAY: In Oakland, Jeff Faraudo notes Cal's field naming-rights deal with Kabam "provides one more revenue source." The school has "diversified its approach to paying down" the combined $474M debt on the stadium renovation and retrofit and on the "construction of the Simpson Center training facility." Cal AD Sandy Barbour said that at "no time did Cal consider selling naming rights to Memorial Stadium itself." Cal Vice Chancellor/Administration & Finance John Wilton said that the money "will be invested in the stadium endowment fund and should grow" by 6-7% per year (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 12/6).

OTHER OPTIONS: ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy said that Daytona Int'l Speedway "could host other events such as international soccer and college football games once the Daytona Rising project is completed" in '16. Kennedy said, "NASCAR is always going to be our primary revenue driver, but we're going to look at some other things. International soccer friendlies, for instance. Might want to host some of those, or concerts. It's going to be more flexible than the current speedway that we have, and it's going to offer a lot more options. We are also in discussions with several universities about NCAA football. That might be kind of exciting" (, 12/3).