The Chicago Park District is "exploring the possibility of expanding Soldier Field by 5,000 seats to bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s long-shot bid to host the Super Bowl and, more importantly, to increase seating capacity for other revenue-generating events," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Emanuel said of Soldier Field's seating capacity of 61,500 for football and 63,500 for other events, "We are fighting below our weight class. That's the way I would look at it." He added, "I know everybody looks at the Super Bowl. But, look at this hockey event (between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins), which we started last year with college hockey. You look at two years ago when we had the Mexican soccer team here. We have Liverpool coming. These things not only sell out. They sell out fast. And it’s clear that you could do more, given these super events and they would be self-financing and self-sustaining.” Emanuel said that it is "too soon to say how much the expansion would cost or how it would be financed." Park District General Superintendent & CEO Michael Kelly said that the district and the Bears have had a "series of meetings" about a "jointly-financed expansion that would add 5,000 seats to the stadium’s top ring similar to the seamless expansion at Notre Dame." Spielman notes Soldier Field would need to add 8,500 seats "to reach the NFL’s 70,000-seat Super Bowl minimum." But Kelly said, "We're very limited with our capacity. ... We're gonna try to squeeze as many seats as we can in. But, we're still very preliminary in discussions with the Bears on both engineering and architectural studies" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/5). Emanuel's Dir of Communications Sarah Hamilton said, "It's an exploration to see what, if anything, is possible." In Chicago, John Byrne notes both sides are "simply looking into whether this is something they want to pursue" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/5).
The Warriors "say their waterfront arena plan is 'full speed ahead,' but supporters are subtly eyeing alternate sites in San Francisco as financial and political uncertainty chew at the team's current proposal," according to John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The Warriors said that they are "moving forward with their original proposal for an 18,000-seat arena at Piers 30-32." But officials "within Mayor Ed Lee's administration and others have been quietly discussing backup sites as the cost to rebuild the piers has doubled" to $180M. Among the options are the "main parking lot across from AT&T Park, city-owned land currently leased" to the MLB Giants, or "some of the 14 acres in Mission Bay that had once been planned as the corporate campus for Salesforce.com." Both sites had been "considered earlier and shelved because of various drawbacks, but they've re-emerged now as the Warriors and the Giants, both would-be developers, grapple with a ballot initiative headed to voters in June designed to limit high-rises along the waterfront." If passed, it could "kill or alter each team's separate plans, and without a viable backup, Lee risks seeing an arena that he once called 'my legacy project' evaporate before his eyes." The Warriors said that they have "already spent" $20M on developing the piers, where they would "also stand to recoup" up to $120M from the city in revenue linked to the development. Other "income from the site, though, is based on building a 175-foot condominium tower across the street, where the height limit is 105 feet." Analysts said that voters, "anxious about evictions and the city's cost of housing, are in no mood to approve luxury condos." Lee is "expected to meet within a week with top Warriors executives for an update on the team's plans" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/5).
Barrett Sports Group Founder Daniel Barrett, who is assisting Anaheim City Council members over lease talks with the Angels, yesterday said that it "could cost" $600-$700M to relocate the team to another Southern California city, according to Art Marroquin of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. This comes after Angels Owner Arte Moreno recently said that he "felt ongoing negotiations were 'going backward' in striking up a new stadium lease with Anaheim city officials." Moreno "has since met with Tustin city officials to discuss the possibility of moving the team." Barrett said, "There have been discussions about Tustin. I don’t know if that’s real or not, but there are potential relocation areas." Barrett speculated that the Angels "could also potentially move to Irvine or Industry," adding that L.A. officials "could change their mind about building a football stadium adjacent to Staples Center and opt instead" to build a ballpark. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, who opposed Moreno's negotiating terms, yesterday asked city staffers to "ensure that any potential lease agreement with the Angels undergo a 30-day public review prior to a vote by the City Council" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/5).
SOUTHERN PLAYALISTIC: In Atlanta, Douglas Sams reported the region's "largest contractors will soon make their pitch" to build the Braves' proposed $672M ballpark in Cobb County. The team "is expected to issue" RFPs by the end of April. No contractors currently "appear further along than American Builders," a group led by Kennesaw-based Brasfield & Gorrie LLC. The team also includes contractors Mortenson Construction, Barton Malow and New South Construction, which "is the current contractor for renovations at Turner Field." Other contractors also "are gearing up to make a run at the project," including Skanska USA, Turner Construction Co. and Holder Construction (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/28).
In Boise, Dave Southorn noted Boise State has "received estimates" for upgrades to Taco Bell Arena that include a "new video board, sound system and LED signage courtside and between the first and second levels of the arena." But the cost will be a "potential hurdle." Boise State AD Mark Coyle said that he "does not want to take on more debt," as the school is "trying to pay off" the $22M Bleymaier Football Center and the Stueckle Sky Center. But he added that fundraising efforts "are under way to help arena upgrades." Men's basketball coach Leon Rice: "We need to give the fans a better experience, and new screens would absolutely be a big part of that" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 3/3).
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: In Topeka, Eric Smith noted Kansas State and AD John Currie will "continue the master plan" of upgrading Bill Snyder Family Stadium and the Vanier Family Football Complex thanks to a recent $20M donation from the Jack Vanier family and other "record philanthropic giving" in the past three years. Planned improvements include "a new academic learning center, new football operations offices, a new sports medicine facility and new strength and conditioning spaces." The school also plans to "upgrade fan amenities in the north end zone seating area" (TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL, 3/2).
BIG BLUE SEA: Proposed renovation plans for Utah State's Romney Stadium have been formally approved by the school's Board of Trustees. Renovations will focus on improving the fan experience on both the east and west side of the stadium. On the west side, a new press box will be built that will include suites, club seats and loge boxes. In addition, new video boards will be installed on both the north and south ends of Romney Stadium (USU).
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': In L.A., Chris Foster noted UCLA's fundraising efforts to build a new football practice facility have "produced a little more than" $30M, up more than $3M since October. A school official declined to say "how much money was in hand and how much was in pledges." The facility is "expected to cost" around $50M (LATIMES.com, 3/4).