Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 156


Levi's Stadium's new grass surface that was installed on Friday "was dotted with divots" after yesterday's preseason game against the Chargers, but footing "didn't appear to be a significant issue," according to Eric Branch of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The surface was replaced because the team had issues with it during practice last Wednesday, and 49ers RB LaMichael James "appeared to be the only player to have serious problems with footing." 49ers K Phil Dawson said he was "just amazed it was that playable given that it was put in" on Friday. Branch reports the 49ers "probably will remove Sunday's sod and install a new surface that will have time to take root before the next event at Levi's Stadium, a Mexico vs. Chile soccer match Sept. 6." The 49ers next play at Levi's Stadium on Sept. 14 (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/25). James said of the field conditions, "You want me to be honest? It was bad." But he added, "I should have had better cleats, to be honest. I should have known the situation coming in here. I’ll take the blame on that." In Sacramento, Matt Barrows noted most 49ers "gave milder reviews" than James. During yesterday's game, seams "between the rows of sod were visible and the footing wasn’t great" (, 8/24). Fox' Erin Andrews said she talked to players on both teams during warm-ups yesterday, "and they said, 'It looks fine. You can see some seams and it feels thick.'" Andrews: "But they all admitted they’ve played on much worse. San Francisco players did tell me they’d much rather play on a field like this than what they had Wednesday at practice and Sunday against the Broncos because huge chunks were coming up” ("Chargers-49ers," Fox, 8/24). 

PRIORITY CHECK-IN: The S.F. CHRONICLE's Branch noted the 49ers "postponed a high-school football doubleheader scheduled for Friday." The four teams "originally involved will play at the stadium in October" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). THE MMQB's Peter King writes the 49ers "have to stop worrying about being such good corporate neighbors -- and about scheduling so many non-NFL events in their new stadium during the football season -- and worry about getting their field right." Instead of two high-school games this week, there will now "be four in two days in midseason." King: "I get it. ... But with an international friendly soccer match and four high school football games in the place over a five-week period, if I’m Jim Harbaugh, I’m wondering: What’s the priority here? It should be to have the best field for the 49ers. The rest of the stuff can happen in the offseason" (, 8/25). 

SAN FRANCISCO TREATS: In Sacramento, Quinn Western reported Levi’s Stadium’s food program "was more than three years in the making, put together by professional chefs who toured other NFL stadiums, focus-grouped Niner fans and area foodies and test drove their many custom creations before they made the menu." Centerplate "is running the show at Levi’s." But the stadium also is "working with Michelin star-winning chef Michael Mina," whose restaurant "is open to the public during away games and on non-game days." But when the 49ers "are playing at Levi’s, the place temporarily becomes home to Michael Mina’s Tailgate, a members-only club that offers a multicourse menu, bottomless booze and a $5,000-a-season membership fee." Close to 80% of all food products at Levi's "will be sourced from within 150 miles" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/24). Meanwhile, in S.F., John Diaz wrote something "was conspicuously lacking in the crowd" at the Broncos-49ers game two weeks ago, as children "were few and far between" at Levi's Stadium. But there is an "understandable reason: season tickets at even the extremities of the sun-seared top eastern deck require seat licenses starting at $2,000, not counting the $131 cost of a seat for prime games, or parking and concessions" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23).

Oakland city officials "released planning studies Friday for the grand development scheme they envision around the outmoded and isolated" Coliseum, according to Michael Cabanatuan of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The draft environmental impact report and specific plan for Coliseum City "call for construction of a new neighborhood that would feature three sports venues, 5,750 housing units and 8 million square feet of retail development." In addition to a new ballpark for the A's and a new football stadium for the Raiders, the plan "includes an arena" for the Warriors, who have "announced their plans to abandon the Oracle Arena and move to a new facility they want to build" in S.F.'s Mission Bay. The new Oakland arena "would also serve as an events center." A transit hub "would be built next to the Coliseum BART Station, and an elevated pedestrian concourse would run from the transportation center to the sports and entertainment facilities, shops, restaurants and hotels and residential areas." But the Raiders "have been noncommittal on the development plan," and the A's "have expressed interest in a stadium on the Coliseum site but don't want to be part of Coliseum City" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23).

CALIFORNIA DREAMING? In L.A., Bill Shaikin wrote the ballpark situations in both Oakland and Anaheim "might well go unresolved" before MLB Commissioner Bud Selig leaves office in January. The A's could use the time before Selig's departure "to prepare shiny feasibility studies for Oakland and San Jose, then ask the owners to decide whether all 30 teams would make so much more money with the A's in San Jose that the Giants' territorial rights should be overturned" (L.A. TIMES, 8/24).

SMG will operate the Vikings' new stadium after beating AEG and Global Spectrum in an intense competition for the contract, said team Exec VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley. As part of a 10-year deal with a five-year option, SMG will pay a $6.75M annual guarantee to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the Vikings’ landlord. SMG’s extensive experience running four NFL stadiums in Chicago, Houston, Jacksonville and New Orleans was the deciding factor, Bagley said, as well as the nine Super Bowls it has been involved in over the years at its buildings. Minnesota will play host to the '18 Super Bowl one year after the '17 event at NRG Stadium, an SMG account. SMG Exec VP/Stadiums & Arenas Doug Thornton said his company also leveraged its experience running Final Fours in New Orleans and Houston and neutral-site college football games in Chicago to help win the Vikings’ contract. In Minneapolis, team and city officials are bidding for the Final Four in years '17 through '20. In addition, SMG officials feel the Vikings’ facility can become a major player for summer concerts. The firm has created multi-day concerts such as the 20-year-old Essence Music Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Florida Country Superfest at EverBank Field, a first-time event held this past June. Thornton believes the Twin Cities can support a similar concert franchise in a market without a large outdoor amphitheater. Outside, next to the stadium in downtown Minneapolis, a proposed eight-acre city park could be positioned for pregame hospitality similar to Champions Square in New Orleans, developed by SMG in conjunction with the Saints and Centerplate, the Superdome’s concessionaire. NRG Park in Houston has similar tailgating spaces, Thornton said. "This (Vikings) building is a cutting-edge design with a lot of technology," Thornton said. "It’s the prototype for the stadium of the future" (Don Muret, Staff Writer).

THE NEW DEAL: The Vikings are kicking in an additional $49M in private money to meet overruns for the stadium project, which has total costs now officially over $1B. The MSFA on Friday also approved an agreement with the Vikings to include a potential MLS team as a tenant. The Vikings have committed to paying $340,000 in yearly rent plus game day expenses in return for collecting all revenues connected to the soccer team. Minnesota has yet to be awarded an MLS franchise (Muret). In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson noted the Vikings' additional $49M includes a $20M cash infusion that "covers a funding gap in construction" of the $1B stadium project. The MSFA approved the budget changes "after lavishly praising the Vikings for upping their portion of the tab." The additional money brings "the project’s total budget" to $1.023B and the team’s share to $526M. After SMG pays the MSFA its guaranteed $6.75M, the company "takes the next $500,000." The next $1M "is evenly split." MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said that above that, the authority receives 75% of the revenue to 25% for SMG (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/24).

JOBS REPORT: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said of the stadium investment, "The Vikings were either going to get a new stadium here or they were going to get a new stadium in Los Angeles. We would then be left with an empty Metrodome, no real big tenant, and dilapidated and there’s never been any economic development going on around it. That’s versus what we have now, which is their investment is $525 million now and over $800 million of private investments and construction projects right near that are happening. ... The economic benefit is going to be enormous. I said first and foremost -- and I’m a Vikings fan, went to their first game in 1961 -- but first and foremost, it’s a jobs project" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/25).

A crowd gathered outside the College Football HOF and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience in Atlanta "long before the doors opened" Saturday morning, and fans "of more than 150 different colleges" had entered the building by the end of the day, according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The number is known because fans "are asked to specify their favorite team when they register their tickets at kiosks in the lobby, triggering that team’s helmet to light up on a three-story wall that displays the headgear of every college football team in the country." HOF President & CEO John Stephenson said that officials "limited ticket sales to less than 1,000 per hour for the opening rush to guard against over-crowding that would diminish the experience." Tucker noted visitors seemed "enamored with the interactive multimedia technology" at the HOF. Stephenson said, "The building is performing excellent. No major technology hiccups or anything." Rather than a traditional ribbon-cutting, dignitaries on stage "blew whistles to signal the opening." HOF mascot Fumbles then "ran through a banner in front of the entrance" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/24). Stephenson, National Football Foundation President & CEO Steve Hatchell, Atlanta Hall Management Chair of the Board Steve Robinson and a host of HOFers welcomed the first ticketholders to the facility. The 94,256-square-foot facility was designed by tvsdesign, developed by Cousins Properties and constructed by Brasfield & Gorrie. Exhibit designers include Gallagher & Associates, Pacific Studio, Tomorrow Pictures and Obscura Digital (THE DAILY).

MODERN MARVELS: The JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Tucker wrote in the part of the building where visitors "might expect to find plaques or busts -- a circular room on the top floor with rich wood walls and a reverential feel -- they instead will find 10 swiveling, five-foot-tall, flat-screen digital displays that can access far more content on each Hall of Famer than would ever fit on a plaque." In addition, the name, position and school of each inductee is "etched in lighted glass panels along the sides of the room, providing a permanent presence to complement the searchable displays." The departure from plaques and busts "underscores the philosophy that drove the business model of Atlanta’s new attraction: To be sustainable and self-supporting, it would have to be more than a museum." It would "have to be an interactive experience, too." The strategy "is intended to buck a trend among sports halls of fame around the country, many of which have suffered attendance declines amid complaints that they aren’t interactive enough" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/24).

BUSINESS PLANS: Stephenson in a Q&A said the HOF's break-even point "floats around 380,000 visitors a year." He said the projected annual attendance of 500,000 was targeted "in Year 4 because we’re pretty sure we won’t have as many people come to our building ever as we do in the first two years." He added, "When we did our business model, we looked at our level-off attendance. That’s the 500,000." Asked why he believes the attraction could outdraw all of the other sports HOFs in the U.S., Stephenson said, "We already know tourists and business travelers go to attractions around Centennial Olympic Park. … The model of a municipality building an attraction in an effort to draw tourism to their city is the total opposite of what we’re doing. We’re using a private enterprise -- a non-profit private enterprise with private money largely -- to build this attraction smack in the middle of an already very active tourism and business travel district." Stephenson said of the HOF's operating budget, "I’d use $11.5 million in revenue and $10 million in expenses. ... Before that spread, we have a 5 percent reserve off of gross revenue for major improvements." He said of revenue sources other than tickets, "It includes the retail store -- we outsource the retail and get a percentage off of their gross sales -- and concessions, events and catering. We have a revenue share with the Omni (hotel) for catering events. … We modeled about 50 events a year, and we’re going to beat that" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/23).

LONG & WINDING ROAD: The JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Tucker noted the HOF project "changed sites, leadership and timetables" prior to it reaching completion. The project "ran into the Great Recession and significant fundraising trouble." The state of Georgia spent $15M in taxpayer money on the HOF project "for an adjacent parking deck, road work and a connector into the adjoining Georgia World Congress Center." Stephenson said that the building cost $68M, which was privately funded except for $1M from the city’s economic development authority, "not including those expenses" covered by the state (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/23). Meanwhile, College Football HOF Curator & Historian Kent Stephens offers his list of "11 things a fan should not miss on a first visit to the attraction's new home in downtown Atlanta" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/23).

Univ. of Houston AD Mack Rhoades said that some "minor finishes won't be completed before Friday's opening game" at TDECU Stadium, but a "majority of the 40,000-seat stadium is complete and the finishing touches will be mostly unnoticeable," according to Joseph Duarte of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Among the items that "won't be in place until after the Sept. 6 game against Grambling State: an auxiliary scoreboard/video board that will hang from the southeast corner and ribbon boards that will cover between the 20-yard lines on the north and south sides." Three of the naming-rights signs "will be installed on the stadium's exterior by Friday, with two others to come later." Rhoades said all concession stands "will be up and running 100 percent" (, 8/24). Duarte noted TDECU Stadium "features 26 suites, a club level that's only 25 feet from the playing surface, a 2,584-square foot HD-video board and [a] breathtaking view of the downtown skyline from the northwest corner," as well as a "5,000-square foot locker room" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8 /24).

Raptors President of Basketball Operations & GM Masai Ujiri and outgoing MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke on Friday unveiled plans for a $30M, 65,000-square-foot practice facility that "will be built on the grounds of Exhibition Place, pending a city council vote on Wednesday," according to Lori Ewing of the CP. Ujiri and his staff "took a peek in top facilities across North America to gather ideas." He said, "We took ideas from everybody." The two-story facility will "be available for groups such as the Ontario Basketball Association and Canada Basketball." While the announcement came one day after Leiweke confirmed his pending exit from MLSE, he said that he "didn't regret the timing of the announcement." Leiweke: "I think the reason we're doing this today is to prove that this is business as usual, we plow straight ahead" (CP, 8/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Elizabeth Church reported the Raptors will be "kicking in extra money for new parking and parkland at the city-owned site." Leiweke called the facility's waterfront location one of the "great urban points of destination in North America." He added that it will "be a key part of the Raptors’ plans for playing host" to the '16 NBA All-Star Game (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/21). In Toronto, Doug Smith noted the team's current practice gym "is functional -- it’s stuck on the third floor of the Air Canada Centre -- but little things like having to wade through concert-goers and hockey fans some nights to get a workout in are inconvenient." The team’s exec offices "are also in a separate building, creating something of a disconnect" (TORONTO STAR, 8/23).

MAN ON A MISSION: SPORTSNET's Michael Grange wrote getting a practice facility done "was nearly an obsession for Leiweke, because it was a 'must-have' for Ujiri and essential to being a model NBA franchise." It was "one of the first things they talked about" when they met at Leiweke’s Vail, Colo. home "in the early stages of the wooing" that ended with Ujiri leaving the Nuggets to become Raptors GM (, 8/22). Meanwhile, the CP's Ewing noted Toronto FC F Jermain Defoe "was surprised by the news" of Leiweke leaving MLSE. Defoe: "He was a massive part of bringing me here." TFC coach Ryan Nelsen said that the organization "is much better off for having Leiweke -- even if for a short time." Nelsen: "Tim came in with an idea of what he wanted to do, and in that time, he’s put his fingerprint on this organization, hasn’t he, in such a fantastic way." Asked if he was disappointed in Leiweke's brief stint with MLSE, Nelsen said, "Not at all. He’s no disappointment at all" (CP, 8/22).

NWSL Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley said FC Kansas City's home venue, Durwood Stadium on the Univ. of Missouri-K.C.'s campus, presents "terrible conditions for the players," according to Graham Hays of Durwood is the second home for the FC Kansas City in as many seasons, and the team "sacrificed a significant amount of capacity" as the venue only holds 3,000 fans. The Thorns played FC Kansas City in the NWSL semfinals on Saturday, and Riley said, "To bring in, I think, 14 national team players and have them play in conditions like this for a semifinal doesn't make sense. I think at some point the league's got to step in and say 'You need requirements, and these are the requirements if you want to host a game.'" Riley added, "The requirements should be an attendance level, whether it be 8,000, whether it be 10,000. It should be proper seating. It should be proper stadium facilities. ... It's a semifinal, and it looks like nobody is here, I'm sure, from the TV perspective. How are you selling the league when it looks like nobody is at the game? How do you sell a league when it doesn't look like there's any sponsors? How do you sell a league when, you know, people look at it and say 'Oh, it's not that good.' When you see Portland is 18,000, you want to get involved in this league. The fans are behind us. ... It's just something we have to do as a league" (, 8/23). In Portland, Jamie Goldberg noted Riley "was most critical about the lack of attendance at the nationally televised game," as the playoff game drew only 2,997 fans. The Thorns "regularly draw over 13,000 fans" to Providence Park (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/24).