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Volume 24 No. 160


The Univ. of Kentucky "will sign a long-term lease" with the city of Lexington for use of Rupp Arena, marking "the first time the university has publicly said it will sign a long-term commitment" to stay at the venue, according to Beth Musgrave of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. UK officials have "expressed reservations" about the $310M renovation of Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center, fearing the project "could jeopardize funding for other capital projects." But UK Dir of PR & Marketing Jay Blanton said, "We continue to work on our financing plan to help support this initiative. The UK plan includes a long-term lease and new project revenues generated solely from premium seating and other revenue opportunities created by the new Rupp Arena." He added that UK will "not use university money" for the project. Blanton: "No university funds support Rupp today, and none will be used to support this new project." Musgrave notes a final agreement between the school and the city "has not been finalized." The city wants the Kentucky legislature to "give it authority to raise taxes on hotel and motel rooms by 2.5 percentage points to help pay" for the proposed renovation. In addition to "raising the transient room tax" from 6% to 8.5%, House Bill 544 would "set aside money toward retiring debt for the redesigned Rupp Arena and convention center." The remaining money would "promote tourism and economic development projects." Lexington Mayor Jim Gray last month unveiled the renovation plans, but said that a financing plan "would not be released for several months." Gray has stressed that Rupp "will always be part of the name" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 3/6).

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's suggestion that Soldier Field should be expanded was "met with questions Wednesday about how the city would pay for added seats and whether it's a prudent move given the city's shaky finances," according to Ruthart & Byrne of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Adding to the stadium's "lowest-in-the-NFL seating capacity could be a way to help Emanuel reach his goal of hosting a Super Bowl in Chicago." But Emanuel yesterday "sought to frame a potential Soldier Field expansion as a way to boost other events the Chicago Park District-owned stadium has hosted." Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, whose district includes Soldier Field, said that no taxpayer money "should be used." But Emanuel said that questions about funding for an expansion "were premature because the city and Chicago Park District first would have to determine if the plan was feasible." He added that his "original notion of adding 5,000 seats is just a starting point, and that after more research, it may be deemed 7,000 seats is better or the decision may to be add zero seats" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/6). Chicago Alderman John Arena pointed out that city taxpayers spent more than $400M to "rebuild Soldier Field for the Bears more than ten years ago." Arena: "The Bears are a profitable football team. They would be the ones to benefit from this. If they want to pay for it on their own dime, God bless `em. It’s about time they paid us back for all that they've received using a Park District facility for decades." Alderman Brendan Reilly said, "I don’t think this is the right time for the city of Chicago to consider big public subsidies for stadiums or take on more debt" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/6).

Levi's Stadium will open Aug. 2 with an MLS match between the Sounders and Earthquakes, with tickets costing "less than half as much" as 49ers games, according to Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Prices for the game "were set at $45 to $150 apiece for just the lower bowl," while tickets for the "same seats at 49ers games will be $100 to $375 each." The venue's soft opening is "meant to work out any problems before bigger crowds arrive for the 49ers first preseason game." Within "an hour of the first stadium tickets going on sale to a few thousand VIP fans" yesterday, a 49ers season-ticket holder who "bought a four-pack of tickets to the Earthquakes game put them on sale on StubHub for $3,980 total." The face value of the four tickets was $460 total. The 49ers are "only selling tickets" for the MLS game in "the lower two-thirds of the nearly 70,000-seat capacity stadium." But the team said that the upper deck "will likely open" if the lower two-thirds sell out (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/6).

Salt Lake City-based Smith's Food & Drug Stores yesterday announced a "new multiyear partnership with Miller Sports Properties for the exclusive naming rights" for the Triple-A PCL Salt Lake Bees' ballpark, according to Tom Smart of the DESERET NEWS. The ballpark's name under the six-year agreement "will be changed from Spring Mobile Ballpark to Smith's Ballpark." Smith's, a division of Kroger Co., will also receive "exclusive sponsorship and advertising rights and prominent signage on the stadium's exterior facade along 1300 South, the team's scoreboard in right center field and in numerous locations throughout the ballpark." Smith's VP/Public Affairs Marsha Gilford said that the company also will "continue to sponsor 'Family Night' where families can get a four-pack of tickets and four hot dogs for $20 on Monday nights" throughout the '14 season. This season "will mark the 20th anniversary of what is now Smith's Ballpark" (DESERET NEWS, 3/6). In Salt Lake City, Kyle Goon notes Smith's "sees the potential to offer ticketing rewards to employees and promotions to customers" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/6).

Long Island developer Ed Blumenfeld said that site plans for the redevelopment of Nassau Coliseum, led by Forest City Ratner Chair & CEO Bruce Ratner, "will be submitted to the Town of Hempstead within two months, and a building application will be filed by fall." On Long Island, Lisa Du notes work on the coliseum is "slated to begin next year," when the Islanders move from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center. Ratner said that the renovations "could take up to 18 months to complete" (NEWSDAY, 3/6).

EVERYTHING'S BIGGER...: In Dallas, Candice Carlisle reported American Airlines Center is "expanding its theater box suites in a final expansion of the Service King Lounge, having recently sold out of options." The arena is "expanding its 22-box suites by another 16 theater box suites." American Airlines Center CRO Andrew Silverman said that this will be the venue's "final expansion of the Service King Lounge to ensure the VIP area keeps an intimate and exclusive atmosphere" (, 3/5).

TALKIN' BOUT PRACTICE!? In Richmond, Tim Pearrell notes the Exec Committee of VCU’s BOD on Tuesday “approved an amended plan to build a basketball practice facility with a significantly increased price tag." The 60,000-square-foot facility "will house two gyms -- one each for men’s and women’s basketball -- and support facilities and will cost" $25M. The project "originally was approved" in the '11 capital plan as a privately funded, $14.5M single gym. VCU Senior Dir of Public Affairs Anne Buckley said that no state funds "will be used." Construction is "expected to start in the spring and take about 20 months" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/6).