Indiana Univ.'s Assembly Hall will be "named after philanthropist Cindy Simon Skjodt" following her $40M gift to "renovate the iconic 42-year-old basketball arena," according to a front-page piece by Kravitz & Osterman of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The building will "become Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall when renovations are complete" around '16. The $40M figure is the "largest gift in athletic department history and fourth-largest in school history," and will "pay for most or all of the work" on the arena. It is part of IU's $150M fundraising campaign to "improve athletic facilities." Simon Skjodt's father is late Pacers co-Owner Mel Simon. Changes at Assembly Hall include "luxury seating above the bleachers behind the south basket; escalators replacing some ramps; a modern 'jumbotron' scoreboard; turning the south lobby into a 'grand entryway' and remodeled restrooms and concession stands, plus additional restrooms." The seating bowl and balcony "will remain unchanged, and seating capacity will not decrease" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/20). IU AD David Glass said, "The best part about it is exactly who ended up naming Assembly Hall. ... Cindy Simon, notwithstanding have a bazillion dollars, is like us. She grew up in this state. She went to games as a kid. She went to the games as a student. She's gone to the games since then. She always is talking about Indiana basketball. She reads everything about Indiana basketball" (Bloomington HERALD-TIMES, 12/20). In Indianapolis, Anthony Schoettle noted Simon Skjodt will "make the donation through the Samerian Foundation, which she founded and leads." Thursday’s announcement marks a "reversal of what IU trustees said before Glass was hired in late 2008 -- that renovation was impractical" (IBJ.com, 12/19).
Facing a "possible ballot fight over the proposed NBA arena in downtown Sacramento, project backers served up an economic-impact study Thursday that said the new facility would generate" an $11.5B "economic bounty for restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses over its 35-year life," according to Dale Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The estimate was the "major finding of the study, commissioned by Mayor Kevin Johnson’s newly formed political action committee." The "Renaissance Report" includes the "estimated economic impact of the new arena as well as the planned redevelopment of 1.5 million square feet of surrounding space at Downtown Plaza." Many academic economists "dismiss such studies, arguing that sports stadiums simply move dollars from one part of town to another as consumers spend their money on arena tickets instead of bowling or movies or other forms of entertainment." Univ. of Maryland-Baltimore County economics professor Dennis Coates said, "Basically they are just PR documents." The study showed that the "arena and the surrounding development at Downtown Plaza would lead" to $230M in annual spending, "not counting arena ticket sales." Factoring in inflation, that would add up to $11.5B in 35 years. Taking out the dollars that would "be spent 'regardless of the existence of the new facilities,' the net impact is reduced" to an estimated $25M a year, "or about $1.25 billion over 35 years" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 12/20).
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other city officials learned the Braves' "shocking plans to leave for Cobb County in a Nov. 7 meeting with team leaders," but they "weren’t prepared for the ball club to go public with the explosive news four days later," according to e-mails cited by Katie Leslie of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The e-mails released by the Reed administration Thursday show that the "surprise announcement" sent the administration "into a tailspin as it grappled with how to handle the inevitable public relations nightmare." The e-mails also reveal that many within the administration "had not yet been informed of the team’s pending departure." Atlanta Deputy COO Hans Utz wrote, "They will still be the Atlanta Braves, and that is an indication of the value of the city." A review of more than 600 e-mails "makes clear that the team wanted more attention from Reed himself and were miffed by the level of attention the mayor paid" to Falcons Owner Arthur Blank throughout this year. The key sticking point between the Braves and city officials was over "how much control the Braves could have in developing about 60 acres of parking lots around Turner Field." The team "sought to create a better 'fan experience' around a stadium encircled by downtrodden neighborhoods." The Braves "wanted to outline terms of the development request for proposal, partner with a developer to make a bid for the project and also be on a committee to select the winner." City officials said that such an arrangement would be "a conflict of interest and against state law." Utz said that the city was "vetting a 16-point proposal from the Braves when the team announced" its $672M stadium deal with Cobb County, with taxpayer dollars "funding half the project" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 12/20).
WHY GEORGIA? In Atlanta, Jim Walls reported Braves execs "may seek millions more in tax credits from the state -- largesse that would be underwritten by all Georgians." Tax incentives "could tip the scales of the project toward majority-public financing." While Braves boosters have been "emphasizing that the ballclub would pay more than half" of the estimated $672M, if even $12M in state tax credits "comes through, the team’s share of the currently projected cost would fall to less than half." Though it is "too soon to know exactly how much the Braves might seek," Walls cited a document as showing that negotiators for Cobb County and the Braves "considered funding packages that included" up to $60M in state tax credits on top of the $300M in county funding. Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said that the team "doesn't know just yet which" tax incentives it "might go after." The team "had been looking at many of those same state incentives to help with renovations if they had chosen to remain at their current home in downtown Atlanta." Plant also "mentioned the possibility of another incentive, created especially for new tourism destinations, that can be granted only by the governor." If the team were approved for the program, it could "earn the Braves a 10-year rebate on all sales taxes it collected at the new stadium" -- perhaps $20M (ATLANTAMAGAZINE.com, 12/18).
SPIN DOCTORS: In Atlanta, Willoughby Mariano notes Revitalize Cobb, a group of backers for the Braves ballpark, wants county residents "to know that the new field of dreams will grow jobs and money." The paper previously "analyzed the claims that the stadium would require no tax increase for homeowners and provide" $3M for Cobb schools, and rated the assertions "Half True." Similarly, a "few problems with Revitalize Cobb’s portrayal" to residents in a mailer of the findings of a study commissioned by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce were found. Most of the 9,241 jobs it references "will not go to Cobb residents," and "by and large, these jobs aren't 'new.'" The study stated that only about 15% of construction-phase jobs "will go to Cobb residents." It also stated that about 27% of full-time jobs and 30% of part-time jobs in the ballpark's operation phase "are expected to go to county residents." Revitalize Cobb's claim that the Braves move will result in $295M in wages also is "based on a regional number." Georgia State Univ. professor Bruce Seaman said, "The overall amount of wages is absolutely not the Cobb County payroll. No way." Revitalize Cobb "did not hide this fact," as some of this "appears in smaller type on the other side of the mailer." For the "most part, jobs that already exist in downtown Atlanta are simply moving to Cobb." Another problem with the group's claim is its decision "to count 1,074 'nonprofit' jobs." These positions are part of a Braves program where "nonprofit volunteers work for free in stadium jobs," and the wages "they would have earned go to their nonprofit." This volunteer work "does have an economic impact," but by including these jobs, Revitalize Cobb "boosts its job numbers" by 13% (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 12/20).
The Astros' efforts to land a Spring Training complex in Palm Beach Gardens "appeared to have shifted Thursday after city officials urged the county to look for better sites elsewhere, amid intense opposition from homeowners near the proposed site," according to Tony Doris of the PALM BEACH POST. But city, county and team officials said that the initial site "remains on the table as a possible location." Palm Beach Gardens spokesperson Tom McNicholas said that "no site has been rejected, only that the city is asking the county to take the lead now in finding the best site." Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche on Thursday was asked to "lead the search and to consider at least three sites" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/20). Astros General Counsel Giles Kibbe on Thursday night said that he "did not consider the news a blow to the team's efforts to settle in its targeted location." He added, "We’re happy that they’re going through that process. I think it’s the right thing to do, with so many people interested in where the place will be built if it’s going to happen." In Houston, Evan Drellich noted the Astros have trained at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee since '85, and that lease expires in '16. The Astros and Blue Jays "are looking to build a shared complex." Kibbe said, "We need to drive attendance to make this work. A better site -- we’re always interested in what people are suggesting, and if they have a different opportunity or different locations then we’ll look at them. We need to be comfortable that the stadium will be built in a place that will draw the maximum attendance. That’s what we’re focused on. If they have a better location, then we’re interested in that. If not, then we’ll be looking to go back to the current location" (CHRON.com, 12/19).
Notre Dame confirmed Friday morning that the school will play Boston College in '15 at Fenway Park as part of its Shamrock Series games (Notre Dame). In Boston, Nick Cafardo reports the agreement for the schools to play at Fenway comes "after a few years of talks." Fenway has never hosted a "major college football game with local and national appeal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/20). It will be the first college game "played at the baseball stadium since 1956, and the first football game of any kind since 1968," when the Patriots had home games there (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/20).
OIL BOOM: GCO Canada on Wednesday announced that it has been awarded the rights to operate retail concessions at the Oilers and WHL Edmonton Oil Kings' Rexall Place, effective immediately. LIDS will be operating the Rexall Place retail concessions that include five locations within the arena. GCO Canada also will manage the official Oilers Store in Kingsway Mall (Lids).
POLITICKING IN DC: DC Mayor Vincent Gray said of possibly working with Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis to build the team's desired practice facility in the city, "We want to work with him to see if there’s something we can possibly have done. There are other cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, L.A., who all have done practice facilities. I’ve looked at some of the data around what they have done. They range anywhere from like $15 (million) to $25 million in cost. The question is, what is the relationship of the city to the teams that are involved?" He added, "The thing that would be important to me ... is to have it be a facility that isn’t just for the team, but really would have some important community purposes associated with it, too" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/17).