Betfair Hollywood Park held its final day of racing on Sunday, and a crowd "reminiscent of better times arrived for the final card," according to David Wharton of the L.A. TIMES. Paid attendance reached 13,000, but officials said that with lines stretching into the parking lot, they "let significantly more people through the gates" after 2:00pm PT. There was "a noticeable buzz among gamblers." When the video board on Sunday "showed photographs from past years and highlights from memorable races, a wistful sort of applause echoed across the grounds." Some fans "had seen the end coming for years as the increasing popularity of Internet betting and simulcast wagering whittled average attendance to less than 4,000 last summer." Big race days in the 80s "often drew crowds in excess of 50,000." The 75-year-old racetrack "will have its grandstand razed and its racing ovals dug up," with shops, offices and residential units "planned for the spot" (L.A. TIMES, 12/23).BLOODHORSE's Jack Shinar notes the first Breeders' Cup was run at Hollywood Park in '84, making it "the first Breeder's Cup track to shut down." Hollywood Park is "the second major California racetrack" to close since '08, when Bay Meadows near S.F. "was shuttered after 74 years." It was "closed to make way for a similar development by the same land company that is shuttering Hollywood." Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Santa Anita Park, which "will open its winter/spring meet Dec. 26," will pick up "most of Hollywood's dates." Los Alamitos Race Course also will "pick up some of Hollywood Park's calendar." Hollywood Park's future "had been in question" since Churchill Downs Inc. sold it to Bay Meadows Land Co. in '05 (BLOODHORSE.com, 12/23).
DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: DAILY RACING FORM's Steve Andersen wrote Sunday's program "had a big-day feel." The Turf Club at Hollywood Park was "at capacity and bustling with activity." The box-seat area by mid-afternoon "was full, and sections of the grandstand unused for years were occupied." Track President Jack Liebau said that the venue "ran out of programs by 2 p.m. and that concession items were sold out by mid-afternoon in some locations." Andersen notes lines for bets and concessions "were 10 to 15 deep in some places, much longer than on any other recent day." Liebau said that the track "finished the 27-day autumn meeting with a gain of '2 or 3' percent in average all-sources handle" (DRF.com, 12/23). But in California, Green & Mazza write, "The crumbling asphalt apron along the rail and cavernous grandstand capable of holding a record 80,000 ... were still two-thirds empty." Additionally, the track's gift shop was "all but devoid of mementos for souvenir seekers" (Torrance DAILY BREEZE, 12/23).
LESS IS MORE: ESPN.com's Bill Finley wrote, "One of racing's biggest problems is that there is too much of it, and that leads to the type of small fields and tedium that the customers detest and meets that go on longer than what is optimal." That is why the sport is "prospering at the boutique meets -- Keeneland, Del Mar, Saratoga -- and suffering from a malaise most everywhere else." The customer has "told the industry exactly what it wants: big fields, low takeouts, good betting opportunities and meets that have a beginning and an end." But the industry "doesn't listen or react" (ESPN.com, 12/20).
The Chargers' stadium situation is a "long-term issue that needs to be addressed," and the team seems "poised to take a mitigating step," according to Kevin Acee of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Sources said that the team during the offseason will "explore lowering ticket prices, reconfiguring Qualcomm Stadium's available seating and other options for the 2014 season." The Chargers "have to do something." Qualcomm Stadium is "too big, and included in the seats the Chargers must sell to avoid a blackout are some that you would have trouble giving away for most games." Ticket sales are of "paramount importance to the Chargers -- more important than for almost any other NFL team" because they are the "No.1 local revenue source." The team is dependent on them for "a large portion of its bottom line." The Chargers "realize less than 10 percent what the average NFL team makes from advertising on in-stadium signage." The question of why the Chargers "wouldn’t invest in scoreboard enhancements and LED signage to replace the archaic advertising boards is one of throwing good money after bad." A source said that a new scoreboard and video screen at Qualcomm "would run" about $35M. With enhanced revenue "generated from such an investment, the break-even point is at least five years after installation." Installing LED boards also is a "multi-million investment that will take time to pay off." The Chargers "maintain the hope of being in a new stadium -- either here or elsewhere -- before that" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 12/21).
The Nets have "signed a tentative deal" to build a new base of basketball operations atop a building on 39th Street in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, according to sources cited by Andrew Keh of the N.Y. TIMES. The landlord would "raise the roof about 15 feet, allowing the team to install practice courts and training rooms." The project, which "has yet to be officially announced by the Nets, is expected to be completed" by the fall of '15. The team has "maintained a dual presence" since moving to Brooklyn, "continuing to hold most practices at an office park in New Jersey, where most of the basketball staff works." The Nets have "spent months looking for a new site to practice." Sunset Park is "home to a large Latino population as well as Brooklyn’s Chinatown." The Nets with the impending move have "inserted themselves into a Brooklyn neighborhood that has reinvented itself several times in the past few decades, and seems poised for more change to come." Sources said that the team "wants to open a Nets store at street level." The Nets also are "expected to integrate the organization into the community through basketball clinics, public events and other means" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/21).
Notre Dame officials are "expecting to fetch a premium price" for all tickets to the school's '15 football game against Boston College at Fenway Park, because the venue seats "roughly half the capacity of Notre Dame Stadium," according to Michael Vega of the BOSTON GLOBE. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said, "To make the game work economically with that many seats, it will be a premium ticket price. ... We need the economics of the Shamrock Series games to approach the economics of a home game. When you’re reducing by half the amount of seat inventory you have, you do have to make an adjustment in price." Meanwhile, Fenway Park head groundskeeper Dave Mellor said that the conversion to football "would not pose any more issues than the conversion to a soccer pitch, which required the removal of the pitcher’s mound and the sodding of the clay infield." Vega notes the game will be televised by NBC, and "the last time a football game was at Fenway was the Patriots’ final home game of the 1968 AFL season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/23). ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna reported Notre Dame "already has measured the field at Fenway to make sure there wouldn't be a recurrence of what happened when Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley Field in 2010." Swarbrick said, "We spent a lot of time mapping it, staking it. The Yankees will tell you when we went there the first time, we drove them crazy. We had to outline the entire field. We had to walk in and see it" (ESPN.com, 12/20). ESPN’s Chris Cotter said, "Hopefully both teams won’t be forced to use just one half of the field, like Illinois and Northwestern had to do at Wrigley three years ago” (“College Football Live,” ESPN2, 12/20)
LET ME CHECK MY SCHEDULE: In South Bend, Eric Hansen writes some of the "most intriguing wrinkles" in Notre Dame's upcoming football schedules are Swarbrick's "sprinkling some Southeastern Conference teams into the formula" as soon as '17 and "adding an extra home night game every other year to the current commitment of one a year -- likely beginning" in '15. Swarbrick said that he will "likely use some Shamrock Series games to reintroduce the SEC back into ND's regular-season schedule." Notre Dame's "increasing prime time exposure on NBC bumps up by one every other year," and there will be two night games a year in South Bend in alternating seasons, "likely beginning" in '15. Swarbrick said, "In the four-year period of time, from '13 to '16, the focus of what we're talking about today, we will play in nine of the 12 largest cities in the United States. The only three we won't play in during that four year period of time, Chicago we were just in (2012) and will be in again. Miami just doesn't happen to fall in the four-year period of time, but we will visit. And that leaves only Houston as a top 12 market that this schedule doesn't get us to, so we'll be looking to get to Houston." Hansen writes playing in "unique venues, playing schools with similar academic missions and standing and playing teams with former Irish assistants heading them (UMass and Nevada) also were boxes Swarbrick wanted to check" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 12/23).
The Detroit City Council on Friday approved "two major aspects of a deal to make way" for a planned $650M entertainment district in an area of the city "that's been blighted and empty for decades," according to Nichols, Aguilar & Daniels of the DETROIT NEWS. The deal is expected to include $200M in "new projects -- retail, residential, hotel and parking facilities -- intended to be built" around the new $450M Red Wings arena. City officials are "facing an April 1 deadline to resolve all the outstanding issues," but the council is "fighting to strengthen benefits to the community that will ensure Detroit residents and businesses are included in the development process." About $367M (56%) of the entire project would be "paid by private investors," while the remaining $283M in public money would "come from existing economic development funds, requiring no new taxes" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/21). In Detroit, Joe Guillen noted the council "only partially approved a package of legislation needed," meaning the new council that takes office Jan. 1 "will take up the arena project next year." The proposed settlement that the city "revealed on Friday related to the team's lease of the Joe Louis Arena" includes a $5.2M payment to "resolve a dispute over cable TV revenues owed by Olympia Entertainment." The cable TV settlement would "resolve a longstanding disagreement over a debt some city officials have estimated" to be $50-80M (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/21).
The UNLV stadium BOD on Friday "unanimously selected" Texas-based CSL as a consultant for a possible new on-campus stadium, according to Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The Legends Hospitality-owned company "will be paid a maximum of $325,000 for its consulting work." CSL will "guide the stadium board on issues such as whether an on-campus stadium should be domed; how many seats it should have; cost options for various stadium designs; local market trends and funding alternatives." The stadium BOD has until Sept. 30 "to submit a report to state lawmakers on the venue’s feasibility, scope and cost." CSL was "chosen over one other finalist," San Diego-based JMI Sports. BOD member and UFC Exec VP & Chief Legal Officer Kirk Hendrick said that CSL's prior work in Las Vegas "gave them a leg-up to hit the ground running." BOD Vice Chair Paul Chapmak said that CSL was "involved with a previous ill-fated UNLV stadium project called the mega events center" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/21).