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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

The U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort No. 2 over the next two weeks "may seem like everything is oversized with meaning and purpose," but the back-to-back men's and women's golf tournaments "are unique and will likely never be repeated," according to Ted Natt Jr. of the Southern Pines PILOT. Galleries "will be larger, and the television coverage nearly around-the-clock" for the events, which are being held ""in consecutive weeks for the first time." USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis: "The entire organization -- from those involved in course setup to our outside-the-ropes team -- has prepared to deliver an exceptional two-week celebration of golf." Pinehurst Resort President & COO Don Padgett II: "It's better than we could have hoped for. The golf course has been positively received by the players, media and everyone else. The early returns are in. The only thing left is the final exam." Of the 6,200 total volunteers, 75% are "working both weeks" (Southern Pines PILOT, 6/11).

TWO OF A KIND: GLOBAL GOLF POST's Steve Eubanks wrote Pinehurst "is one of the few U.S. Open venues where that kind of two-for-one package works." The infrastructure inside and outside the resort "accommodates the transition from one tournament to the next while a corps of golf-savvy volunteers stands ready to work the entire 14 days." USGA Senior Dir of U.S. Open Championships Reg Jones: "That was probably the biggest question we had during the vetting process. Could we get enough volunteers (for two weeks)? Nobody knew. But thankfully we have a very professional group in Pinehurst that has worked many events in the past." Eubanks noted the USGA "would have been happy" if 25% of the volunteers signed up for both weeks and "ecstatic" if they got 35% to commit. While the USGA "won’t issue exact numbers, galleries at the U.S. Open should peak at about 55,000 while a good U.S. Women’s Open will attract 25- to 30,000 on its best day." Jones’ job is to "make sure that the place doesn’t look empty when, in fact, a large number of fans have come out to watch the women." Jones: "The difference in the two weeks will be visible. We made our facilities and operations scalable (but) logistically, the site is as good as it gets when it comes to transportation and the overall fan experience" (, 6/7). Jones: "This is our biggest site. In 2005, we had over 325,000 people for the week. That’s still the record for the biggest crowd. And all of our tickets are bar-coded and scanned, so that’s a real number" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 6/8).

GOOD MOVE OR BAD? A GOLF magazine roundtable discussed back-to-back U.S. Opens being played at the same venue. SI's Gary Van Sickle: "No matter how the events turn out, it’s already a success. We’ve spent more time discussing the Women’s Open than ever. For sheer exposure, it’s brilliant." SI's Alan Shupnick: "If you ask LPGA players to name the best tournaments they’ve ever been part of, they’ll say the Open at Oakmont or the British Open at St. Andrews. When they get to play the iconic courses, it elevates the tournament. We feel it, they feel it, and the viewers at home feel it." An anonymous golfer said, "The only way it’ll be a disaster is if the men are playing Monday because of weather or a playoff. The USGA should’ve had the Women’s Open run from Friday through Monday just to build an extra day into the schedule. Let the women finish on Monday. That way they won’t be on TV against baseball or men’s golf" (GOLF magazine, 6/9 issue). Former USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian: "It's a bold move and a clever move by the USGA. ... You can't buy the kind of buildup that they'll have this year for the women's event" (GOLF magazine, 6/9 issue). Golf Channel's Frank Nobilo: "I hope it's a success. In some respects, what we'll learn is that golf should be able to be played by everybody. If, at the end of the two weeks, that's what comes out of it, we're all better for it" ("Live From the U.S. Open," Golf Channel, 6/9).

PERFECTION NOT NECESSARY: The AP's Doug Ferguson noted the USGA "has been preaching in recent years to get away from the idea that golf courses have to be perfectly manicured to be great." Pinehurst No. 2, which "went through a gutsy project to restore it to its natural look from yesteryear," and "perhaps Chambers Bay next year outside Seattle, allows a chance to show the golfing public what it means." The restoration project "involved removing some 35 acres of sod and keeping only 450 of the 1,150 sprinkler heads," which allowed water use to go down an estimated 40%. Pinehurst No. 2 "effectively presents the opposite perception of Augusta National." Course superintendents for years "have complained that too many courses wanted to be just like the home of the Masters in the quality -- near perfection -- of the conditions." Golfer Geoff Ogilvy: "Hopefully, this sets a precedent. If Augusta has been the model everyone followed, hopefully this shows that it doesn't have to be that way to be great" (AP, 6/9).

: In N.Y., George Willis wrote the golf season "has been pretty much a dud this year." Bubba Watson winning his second Masters and finishing third at The Memorial "isn’t exactly going to move the needle in a sports world that has been focused on Donald Sterling, the NBA playoffs, hockey and a potential Triple Crown winner." It is June, and it "really doesn’t feel like the golf season is being taken seriously." That is why the '14 U.S. Open at Pinehurst "needs the kind of dramatic finish like it had" in '99 and nearly had in '05. What golf "can’t afford at this year’s U.S. Open is another snoozer like the Masters." Meanwhile, the star of the U.S. Open "is not a player, but the golf course." Pinehurst No. 2 "has the mix of history ... and a freshness" after a $2.5M restoration "that removed the turf rough and replaced it with sand waste, wiry grass and pine straw" (N.Y. POST, 6/10).

The Red River Showdown football game between Texas and Oklahoma is "staying at the Cotton Bowl for at least another decade," according to Tom Benning of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Dallas civic leader Pete Schenkel, who led negotiations for the city and the State Fair of Texas, said that the game "will remain" at the Cotton Bowl through '25. The previous deal had gone through '20, "contingent on the city making since-completed upgrades to the stadium." Schenkel said that the schools' BOTs "must still approve the deal, but both athletic departments have signed off on the agreement." Each school "receives direct payments of $500,000 for playing in Dallas, along with a split of the ticket sales." OU and UT have played at Fair Park since 1929. The schools’ contract is "with the State Fair, which controls Fair Park during its annual celebration." The city "runs Fair Park the rest of the year, making it chiefly responsible for any boosts to the Cotton Bowl and its surrounding environs." The city spent $57M "on improvements that were completed" in '08. The upgrades "amounted to a major overhaul, with the addition of 16,000 more seats and the installation of new scoreboard." That was "enough to convince the Red River Showdown to stay put." When the universities re-negotiated in '12, they "demanded that the city make some more improvements to the 92,200-seat stadium." The city responded again by spending $25M "to polish up the amenities." Schenkel said that the latest contract extension with OU and UT "doesn’t include any changes to the deal or extra incentives" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/11).

The four-day attendance for the X Games' first visit to Austin was 160,000, and the "biggest complaints fans voiced ... on social media were the heat and being turned away at crowded general-admission areas, which were first-come, first-served," according to Dave Doolittle of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Last week's event marked the first of ESPN's contracted four-year run in Austin, which included competition downtown and at the Circuit of the Americas. ESPN Senior Dir of Events & Content Strategy for the X Games Tim Reed said that next year's iteration "will probably be held on the same weekend in June ... when temperatures usually climb into the mid-90s." He added that to "mitigate the heat, organizers will consider holding more events in the cooler evening hours." Medical staffers "treated an average of 100 people a day for heat-related issues." Reed said that the large demand at general-admission areas was "normal: 'It’s no different over the 20 years we’ve been doing this'" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 6/11).

Steelers Co-Owner and President Art Rooney II was candid and direct in the first featured one-on-one interview this morning at the '14 Sports Facilities & Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Rooney was named Steelers president in '03 when his father, Dan, passed the torch to him. He was principally responsible for the design, development and financing plan for Heinz Field, which opened in '01.

Here is Rooney on a number of topics from his discussion today with Executive Editor Abe Madkour:

The NFL in L.A.: “It’s all about a stadium. If they build it, [a team] will come. Maybe more than one. I believe we will have one, maybe two teams there in the next ten years. The league just wants to make sure it works this time. LA is a great market. It’s just making sure there’s a great venue there.”

The NFL in London: “We’re still a little ways away from deciding whether we can locate a team there, but so far so good. I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that we need to have a team there to be successful.” Rooney said travel will be a hurdle "unless someone brings back the Concorde.”

The Thursday-night TV package: “It will be successful. The partnership with CBS is key to it. Thursday night is a great night for NFL football.” Asked what the coaches think, Rooney said, “Coaches like to play at 1 o’clock on Sunday. Everything else is a distraction.”

Other possible TV broadcast windows: “You never know. I wouldn’t say we’re done, but there won’t be many significant changes in the regular season.”

Cold-weather Super Bowls: “Everyone was asking Roger Goodell (at Met Life Stadium) where he went to church that weekend. This winter was one of the coldest ever in New York, but not that day. We’ll see more cold-weather Super Bowls. I hope we see one in my lifetime in Pittsburgh.”

NFL-NFLPA relationship: “’Strained’ might be one way to say it.”

Lack of agreement on HGH testing: “It’s been a thorn in everyone’s side. We feel very strongly about it. It’s not something we can compromise on. The Players Association has made it a bone of contention that they will not let go. It’s taken much longer than any of us would have liked.”

Expansion of playoffs: “We’re interested in looking at it. From the Pittsburgh perspective, we have an open mind about it. One more playoff game in the opening round would allow more fans to be alive in the competing cities.”

An 18-game regular season: “Not in the near future. The truth is, we haven’t had any meaningful discussion about expanding the regular season since the early days of negotiating the recent CBA.”

What’s next for the NFL: “You don’t want to be complacent, that’s for darn sure. The broadcasting landscape is changing dramatically. There are a lot more ways to reach fans, and that’s a good thing. It’s up to the league and the clubs to provide the kind of content fans want.”

A typical gameday at Heinz Field for him: “I arrive about three hours before the game and meet with the staff. I walk the building with (Dir of Stadium Management) Jimmie Sacco. I enjoy those hours before the game, speaking with fans, with people who work in the stadium, with people from the visiting team. After kickoff, I’m not much of a socializer. I focus on the game.” Rooney added that he watches home games with his father, Dan, and GM Kevin Colbert.

Balancing tradition with new things: “We consider our history our foundation -- something we want to build on. But there’s a new generation of sports fan that expects different things. You’re constantly trying to improve your stadium, but not to the point where it’s a distraction from the game. We’re not trying to re-create someone’s living room at Heinz Field. We want a great in-stadium experience. The little things count -- the convenient things, like access to the stadium and parking.”

The Nets were faced with a dilemma when Barclays Center was built in Brooklyn, as it would become the seventh and final major sports facility to be constructed in the N.Y. area in recent years. Barclays Center and Nets Senior VP/Suite & Ticket Sales Brian Basloe said, “We were able to survey all those buildings and challenge ourselves with, ‘How can we enhance what they’ve done and create our own wrinkles.’” Even for established franchises in older venues, the challenge exists. That subject yesterday was the focus of a panel entitled, “The Next Generation of Premium Products: High-End Products that Yield High-End Results” at the '14 Veritix Ticketing Symposium in Pittsburgh.

Basloe dishes on the difficulty of selling and
managing 30-seat suites

SLUMPING SUITES: There was one area in which the four-person panel was in complete agreement: large, 30-seat suites are becoming more difficult to sell and manage in this era. Basloe: “People are concerned about the sense of waste. The other issue is the work to distribute 30 tickets for every game and event.” As a result, many organizations are moving to smaller models for premium-seating products. At Ford Field, where there are 132 suites (115 of them on the south side of the stadium), the Lions will re-purpose some suites so that there is a total of 90. That leaves room to develop theater boxes or mini-suites, 4- to 8-seat spaces with access to deluxe eating spaces and other fan-friendly opportunities. Lions VP/Ticketing Todd Lambert said, “Coming to a Lions game or one of the big events at Ford Field is more than a three-hour experience. A lot of teams have the concept of providing a club or bar for fans to get to early, then a lunch or dinner pre-game at a common dining space before going to your suite for the game. That’s where we’re hoping to go to now.” For the Jaguars, Legends is developing 20 poolside cabanas, with a lounge area, cushioned furniture and TVs. Legends Global Sales COO Mike Ondrejko said, “We took input from the marketplace. We’re confident the cabana concept is going to be an absolute home run.”

ON PIT ROAD: You can not get closer to the action than the premium experience that Speedway Motorsports Inc. is providing at its eight race tracks with “Pit Road” suites. SMI VP/National Sales & Marketing Mike Burch said, “You’re literally looking over the show of the pit crew manager.” Speedway Motorsports also sells passes to Victory Lane. It is a $99 add-on to the price of the ticket so fans can be near the celebration and award ceremony. Burch praised the accessibility of NASCAR drivers such as Kevin Harvick, who conducts Q&A sessions hours before some races and greets fans who have paid for the experience. Burch: “It’s not like LeBron James is going to be willing to sign autographs minutes before a big game.”


-- Lambert, on Ford Field: “The stadium is 12 years old, so it’s time for a refresh. Three key areas for us: expand the fan experience, diversify the product line and improve aesthetics.”

-- Basloe, on cooperation from team operations: “The buy-in from team ops is very important. Pat Riley spoke at an NBA TMBO event recently. When Pat Riley is heading panels on how team ops can help new business, we’ve entered a new frontier.”

-- Ondrejko, on a vital market for premium services: “There is a market for young, successful professionals to have a more social environment. Premium buyers love those opportunities.”

-- Burch, on venue evaluations: “One of the biggest challenges is, how do you look at your building in a new way? Especially if it’s a building that has been around for a while. I like bringing in people to have a new set of eyes and tell me what can be different.”