The Lakers yesterday announced an agreement with El Segundo-based developer CDC Mar Campus for the purchase of an approximately five-acre parcel of land in the city, with the site intended to be used as the future home of a new training facility. The facility will be used by the Lakers as well as their NBA D-League affiliate the L.A. D-Fenders, and will house both teams' business operations offices (Lakers). In L.A., Mike Bresnahan writes Lakers execs want a "more modern training facility that they hope will also attract future free agents." The Lakers will stay in El Segundo "because they like the area and its proximity" to L.A. Int'l Airport, but "will no longer share a building" with the NHL Kings and a skating rink often open for public use. The Lakers since '00 have been at the Toyota Sports Center, "which was built for about" $24M by AEG. Instead of being a tenant in the new facility, the Lakers would "own it, paying for its construction but likely securing annual income via naming rights." There is only one basketball court at the Lakers' current facility and the team "long ago outgrew its office space." Several Lakers departments, "including marketing, ticketing, corporate sponsorships and community relations, are located at a building a block away." The Lakers will remain at Toyota Center next season, but it is "unclear if their new facility will be completed when they plan to target big-name free agents" in '15 and '16. The start time for construction "depends on a few factors, including approval by the City of El Segundo" (L.A. TIMES, 4/2). ESPN L.A.'s Dave McMenamin noted the "standard in the NBA as new practice facilities have been opened up across the league has become two full-sized courts," much like the Clippers' $60M practice facility which opened in ’08 (ESPNLA.com, 4/1).
New York State Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who co-chairs the Bills' New Stadium Working Group, said that gathering and analyzing data on whether the team "should play in a new stadium or remain in a greatly retrofitted" facility in Orchard Park "could take months, if not years," according to Matthew Spina of the BUFFALO NEWS. The group held its first meeting yesterday, with Duffy and co-chairs Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon and Erie County Exec Mark Polancarz acknowledging a "sense of urgency after the death" of Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. last week. But they "described only in general terms how the panel will go about its work over the coming months." The public "should not expect the panel to recommend a course of action anytime soon." Duffy, Brandon and Polancarz represent the three entities that are "parties to the lease agreement that now governs the Bills' use of the Erie County-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium" until '23. The lease, finalized in late '12, called for those entities to devote $130M to "stadium upgrades and to each appoint seven members to a group that will determine whether it makes the best long-term sense to keep using the stadium or build a new, modern arena somewhere in or near Buffalo." While the Bills will "be run for a time by a trust established by Wilson's estate, the team will eventually be sold, and the wishes of any new owner cannot be predicted." The lease "invokes a heavy" $400M penalty on any owner "attempting to move the team to another city." But in the lease's seventh year, the penalty "falls to a more manageable" $28.4M (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/2).
A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: In Buffalo, James Fink notes the New Stadium Working Group's meeting yesterday "was attended by 16 of the group's 20 members." Brandon said, "We had some very productive discussions. Basically, it was to educate everyone about past leases and stadium work and really set an agenda to move forward." He added, "All I can say at this point is that this [is] a process, a long process. To speculate beyond that is premature. We need a lot of facts and information to help us pave the road" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/2). Poloncarz said, "I don't want people to think we were sitting in here and made the determination, 'Yes, there's going to be a new stadium.' That's not the case" (AP, 4/1).
The Royals are the newest MLB team to announce a social media space at their ballpark. The new AOS Technology HotSpot debuts this season at Kauffman Stadium, behind the Kia Diamond Club on the first base side. During home games, fans can engage in social media conversations and interact with MLB apps through the use of 10 HP tablets set up at the multimedia display. Those discussions tied to tweets and Instagram photos will be shown on four 42-inch monitors within the enclosed space. In addition, fans can charge their mobile devices at multiple HotSpot outlets. Royals VP/Marketing & Business Development Mike Bucek said that driving the project was the Royals’ looking for new ways to further connect their patrons to social media platforms after the team ran some Social Media Night promotions in the past. Bucek noted AOS, a local software firm, signed a one-year deal with options to sponsor the new space. He said the sponsorship effectively covers the cost of the retrofit, which was just under $100,000. The Royals join the Reds, Twins, White Sox and Giants among MLB teams that have created social media destinations at their facilities.
FASHION FORWARD: The Royals also will open a new boutique retail store focusing on women’s fashion in the ballpark’s outfield plaza. The brands include Touch by Alyssa Milano, Fifth & Ocean, OPI and Cuce Boots and Heels, as well as merch produced by Nike, Under Armour, Majestic, Rawlings, '47 Brand and New Era. Bucek said the Royals Boutique replaces the old MLB 2K Lounge. Both newly developed spaces open Friday for the Royals’ home opener against the White Sox.
Some fans at the Marlins' opener against the Rockies on Monday said that they "waited in line for food for three to four innings," while others said that their food "was cold, and concessions ran out of ice," according to Manny Navarro of the MIAMI HERALD. But team President David Samson said that the Marlins did "not run out of food or ice, and that long lines were the result of a late-arriving crowd." Samson said that there were "only 12,000 people inside Marlins Park" for Pro Football HOFer Dan Marino's first pitch. So when the "largest crowd in stadium history showed up late, it naturally caused a few headaches." Samson said, "I really do not like long lines at concessions, but any time you have 30,000 people all trying to eat at once, there will be lines. ... My view is you want lines to be in the 14- to 18-minute range when the park is full. There were some lines in the 21- to 25-minute range (on Monday). The first three innings and the last three innings, the lines were well within range. The middle three, they were above range." Samson said that the Marlins had "double the usual staffing at all concession stands, as well as extra police to help direct traffic." He added that an accident near the stadium "slowed traffic down before the game." There were "complaints" on local radio yesterday morning, and Samson said that the Marlins "received 47 complaints about Opening Night." Samson: "My frustration is that I hate lines and I hate incompetence. When I'm at Disney, I wait 60 minutes to get on Space Mountain with my son. Am I happy about it? No. But I signed up for it" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/2). Levy Restaurants runs the concessions at Marlins Park (THE DAILY).
GROWING PAINS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote Marlins Park head groundskeeper Chad Mulholland "not only has to contend with the extremes of the subtropical climate," as the opening and closing of the retractable roof "provides a formidable obstacle to maintaining lush and healthy grass." In its third season, the ballpark "is on its third type of turfgrass." Two previous types of bermudagrass "didn't cut it," as brown patches were "pervasive, particularly in outer reaches of the outfield that are partially shaded even with the roof open." Mulholland said, "I don't know if there is ever going to be a solution. We can switch grass all we want, but we still have the same problem. It's shade." But Davis noted the "use of grow lights last season was helpful, and will continue" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/1).
New Hampshire Motor Speedway execs hope to "build lights around the track to allow for night racing, perhaps as soon as next year," according to Dan Seufert of the New Hampshire UNION-LEADER. NHMS Exec VP & GM Jerry Gappens said that he and other speedway officials have "spoken publicly several times about the hope of erecting lights for the track" -- a $3-5M investment -- because fans "have asked for it." Fans in surveys have "complained about watching races in July’s daytime temperatures." Town officials said that they have "not been approached by the track for night lights yet." Loudon Planning Board Administrative Assistant Donna White said that before NHMS would "make such a request, a judge would have to 'undo' a stipulation forbidding night racing in the speedway’s original operating agreement." Gappens said, "Obviously, it is something we are exploring, but I have no new updates to share at this time" (New Hampshire UNION-LEADER, 4/2).
Northern Illinois Univ. AD Sean Frazier "hopes to complete his 'Facilities Master Plan' over the summer," and in terms of Huskie Stadium, which opened in '65, there are "already some changes to the building and gameday atmosphere that will take place this upcoming season," according to Steve Nitz of the Dekalb DAILY CHRONICLE. There is the new Coaches Club -- which will be "located inside the grandstand on the west side of Huskie Stadium where the old coaches offices were." Fans will "not have a view of the action, but the club will feature flat-screen TVs with a live feed of the contest." One of the aspects about Huskie Stadium which "stood out to Frazier" when he came on last July was the "need for more restrooms and upgraded concession areas." Frazier said, "It’s a dated building, but it has great bones. It has great character. I like the way it sets itself up for college football. It’s got that small stadium, big college feel. ... But we’ve got to deal with premium seating issues, which we have very few of. And we have to deal with those amenities, the concessions and restrooms.” Meanwhile, another new feature at Huskie Stadium for the entire '14 home schedule will be “'The Yard' -- a large tailgate area on the west lawn ran by NIU which will feature live music, a beer garden, food vendors and a kid’s zone." Frazier: "I’m big with the gameday experience. I hear a lot with the alumni and the patrons about creating the game experience for tailgating" (Dekalb DAILY CHRONICLE, 4/2).
In DC, Steven Goff noted the "outcome of the Democratic mayoral primary was never going to have a direct bearing" on MLS DC United’s stadium prospects, but with council member Muriel Bowser’s victory over incumbent Vincent Gray, the club "will have to adjust its game plan." Team officials have been "working closely with the Gray administration on the Buzzard Point project for more than a year -- and with Gray’s term running through the end of 2014, they will remain engaged." There is "still hope of finalizing a financial package and introducing legislation to the city council for a vote soon." Bowser has "backed down from her initial vigorous opposition to the stadium plan," and stadium proponents "feel they can work with her" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/2).
SOME CALL ME TIM: In Buffalo, Andrew Galarneau notes the Tim Hortons chain and the Sabres yesterday announced that a statue of former NHLer Tim Horton "will anchor a destination-caliber edition" of the QSR at HarborCenter next to First Niagara Center. The store will "include limestone from the demolished" Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, as well as "wooden furniture that replicates the former arena's blue seats" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/2).
REMEMBER THE TITANS' FANS: In Nashville, Jim Wyatt reports the Titans have "finalized plans on two initiatives" that President & CEO Tommy Smith "believes will create a more fan-friendly experience this season: free Wi-Fi and a new food-and-beverage concessionaire." Aramark "replaces Centerplate as food-and-beverage concessionaire." Centerplate "had the contract" since LP Field opened in '99. Smith added that towers for Wi-Fi are "going up and should be operational in time for the preseason opener in August." Smith said that the franchise has "employed a service team that will reach out to all season-ticket holders for feedback on how accounts should be handled and on other potential game-day improvements" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/2).