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Volume 24 No. 216

Facilities

The Hornets yesterday formally announced their intentions to bid on either the '17 or '18 NBA All-Star Game, and Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said that the city "aims to unveil a plan within a month" detailing renovations to Time Warner Cable Arena, according to a front-page piece by Jim Morrill of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has indicated that the team and the city of Charlotte "needs to upgrade" the nine-year-old arena in order to host an ASG. Charlotte is "competing with up to 10 cities" to land the event, and the NBA is "expected to narrow the list this fall and make its final decision" next year. Kimble said that upgrades to the arena "would not be paid for from a property tax increase but with revenues from rental car taxes and hotel/motel taxes." The Hornets and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority in March gave the city a $42M "list of requested improvements to the city-owned arena." The list included "suite improvements, restaurant renovations and moving the ticket office." But Kimble "suggested the final figure for the arena would be less than" $42M when he makes a recommendation to the Charlotte City Council. Morrill notes the city "paid for and owns the building." The CRVA "operates 'back of the house' functions such as HVAC, and is reimbursed for those services by the Hornets." Neither Kimble nor Hornets President & COO Fred Whitfield "would say whether the team plans to contribute to the renovations." Whitfield called it "an ongoing conversation" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/13).

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes, "If you build a big-time arena, like Charlotte has, you have to bid on things like the 2017 or 2018 NBA All-Star Game." There is "no way" an NBA ASG is worth $42M in upgrades "all by itself." But the arena "hosts more than 150 events a year," so it is "not just about one All-Star Game." Fowler: "Most of that money is going to be paid out anyway under those lease terms. If you are the city, you might as well smile while you are writing the check and get a showcase event out of it, too" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/13).

Erie County (N.Y.) Exec Mark Poloncarz "is pushing back hard against the NFL’s demand that a new stadium be built" for the Bills, claiming that paying for a new facility "would be a burden that county taxpayers cannot and should not bear," according to a front-page piece by Jerry Zremski of the BUFFALO NEWS. Poloncarz asked that the league "show him the financial records of the teams to prove whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is right when he says the Bills need a new home." He added, "They have to prove to me that the Bills can’t be viable in Ralph Wilson Stadium." He noted that any new facility "would likely cost" at least $750M, "with a third of that likely paid by the county." Poloncarz: "I’m not going to cut libraries, I’m not going to cut parks, I’m not going to cut Child Protective Services to give more money to the multibillionaires who run professional football." NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello addressed Poloncarz' desire for the league's financial information, saying, "The exchange of relevant information at the appropriate time is part of the process" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/13).

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: The Bills yesterday announced a five-year sponsorship renewal with M&T Bank that will create the new M&T Family Zone in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The 500-seat section will feature family-friendly elements, including the option of purchasing parking in a special 50-space parking lot. M&T retains its designation as the team's official bank and will continue to sponsor the M&T Club premium seating area. M&T has partnered with the team since '85 and is the only bank permitted to use team marks in debit cards (Bills).

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: In Buffalo, Jay Skurski reports the Bills have "sold more than 46,000 season tickets for the upcoming season, the most since the 2009 season." An exact number "will be released shortly after the cutoff of season-ticket sales Aug. 23, the date of the team's first preseason home game" against the Buccaneers. Bills CMO Marc Honan said that the team "will no longer announce games as sellouts prior to 72 hours before kickoff." He said that the Bills "were seeing 'wild fluctuations' in the ticket market after announcing games as sellouts" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 8/12).

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that the city "can 'be good partners' in the effort to construct what is expected to be" a $100M soccer facility for a potential MLS club, but added that the emerging ownership group behind the city’s MLS effort "should not expect a subsidy," according to a front-page piece by Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Johnson said, "I do not have an appetite to provide tax dollars to build a soccer stadium. Can it be built without it? It’s possible. Other cities have privately financed soccer stadiums." Lillis & Kasler report Johnson’s comments "were echoed by City Manager John Shirey and City Treasurer Russ Fehr, both of whom cautioned that the city’s capacity to take on significant new debt is extremely limited." The city is financing more than half the cost of the Kings' new $477M arena. Sacramento "appears to be a serious contender for a team, along with Minneapolis and Las Vegas." Top execs with USL Pro club Sacramento Republic FC "have not approached city leaders with a formal plan for a new stadium." But Republic FC President Warren Smith believes there "is a strong possibility we can privately finance" a stadium. He said that the team "is still in the early stages of exploring financing models, but key revenue streams for the project could include a naming rights deal." Lillis & Kasler note developing a stadium "is seen as the pivotal step in Sacramento’s quest" to join MLS. League execs "are scheduled to visit Sacramento next month to gauge the city’s viability as an expansion market." A focus of that visit "will be on assessing potential stadium sites in Sacramento, with the downtown railyard considered a front-runner for a facility" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/13).

HOLD YOUR HORSES: A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial stated no one is "talking much about how" the new $100M stadium "would be paid for, exactly." While it is "very early in the process, this is a conversation that should happen before we get too carried away." It is "thrilling to think about another professional sport in the region," but the city "can’t rush into an ill-advised financing scheme." Taxpayers are "putting up at least $255 million toward the new downtown arena for the Kings," and there also "are other civic projects that are, if not on the drawing board, at least under discussion -- such as a new performing arts center and an expansion of the Convention Center" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/13).

Mississippi State yesterday "unveiled the Dudy Noble Field Master Plan," a $40M renovation project for the university's ballpark that would be overseen by K.C.-based Populous and Jackson-based design team Wier Boerner Allin Architecture, according to Michael Bonner of the Jackson CLARION-LEDGER. A timetable for the project is "based on the Bulldog Club reaching" its $20M private fundraising goal. The plan "calls for a new double-tiered grandstand with chairback seating, an elevated concourse that encircles the playing field and allows a constant view of the game action, entry plazas, spacious restrooms, concessions, a kids' play area, berm seating, upgraded field lighting, HD video board, digital ribbon signage, team areas (clubhouse, training room, equipment room, coaches' offices, etc.) and dramatically improved aesthetics." The ballpark will "feature approximately 50 skyboxes (25 in the main grandstand, 25 in the outfield) and club and loge seating." The outfield suites will "feature two bedrooms, a bath, kitchen and living space and will be available for use year-round." The park's Left Field Lounge will "continue but with a change," as spots will be "built permanently into place." MSU said that the idea is for "current passholders to be given an opportunity to help customize their location" (Jackson CLARION-LEDGER, 8/13). In Mississippi, John Galatas notes although the capacity of the ballpark has "not been set," the plan allows MSU to "continue to host some of the largest crowds in college baseball." MSU "holds all top 10 records for on-campus crowds in NCAA history." MSU AD Scott Stricklin said that the expansion will "provide the opportunity to set higher records" (Biloxi SUN HERALD, 8/13).

TOP NOTCH: Oklahoma State baseball coach Josh Holliday said the school has designed a new ballpark to replace the 33-year-old Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, and the new venue is "beautiful." Holliday: "We continue to work to raise the money necessary to get a shovel in the ground. That’s been an ongoing process for the last couple years … The more support we get, it happens faster." He added, "It’s a pretty substantial facility, so it’s obviously something that’s going to be when it’s all said and done pretty grand in terms of encompassing luxury seating, the seating bowl itself, the design itself. ... We think it will put us at the top of college baseball" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/12).