The city of Charlotte is prepared to spend $27.5M in "capital improvements for Time Warner Cable Arena, as well as 10 years’ worth of annual payments of $600,000 for ongoing maintenance," according to a front-page piece by Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. City staff told the City Council last night that the money would "come from two hospitality taxes: a hotel/motel tax and a car rental tax that are already in place." Council members are "scheduled to vote on the deal Sept. 8." The Hornets would "receive money for restaurant renovations, bathroom improvements, new lighting, visitor locker room upgrades, moving the ticket office and scoreboard improvements." The team also would "replace a number of 'tabletop' seats in its lower bowl with traditional seats, which would increase capacity by about 600." The Hornets in March asked the city to also spend roughly $6M to "renovate suites and $600,000 to refurbish the Hornets’ locker room." The Hornets "agreed to pay for part of the home team locker-room improvements and suite renovations." Just as the city "agreed to spend an extra $600,000 a year for 10 years in annual maintenance costs, the Hornets are also going to pay $600,000 into that maintenance account." The team will dedicate $2.4M of that money "for the suite and locker-room improvements" from '14-18. When the $600,000 payments start next year, the city and team will "both be spending" nearly $1M on annual maintenance. Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said that the additional $600,000 will "come with strings." He said that the team "won’t be able to use that money for suite improvements, unless the city gives its approval." The city's decision "not to use public dollars on suites is meant, in part, to increase support among the public for the renovations." The city will "oversee all arena construction, except for the Hornets’ work on the team’s locker room" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/26). The chart below outlines Time Warner Cable Arena funding recommendations to be voted on by the city council:
Scoring and video digital equipment
Founders level restaurant
HD broadcast infrastructure
Ticket office move
Additional lower level seats
*Hornets locker room
Event level restaurant
Visitors locker room
Main bowl lighting
Secondary tenant/event locker room
Event production rooms
*Paid for by the Hornets
TAKE A STEP BACK? In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reported council members "posed few questions about an issue that typically involves intense debate: investing taxpayer money into stadiums and arenas used by privately owned major-league sports teams" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/25). A CHARLOTTE OBSERVER editorial states the City Council "needs to flyspeck those spreadsheets to excise the 'wants.'" Council members also "need to verify that at least half of other NBA arenas have indeed made the precise upgrade that the Hornets say is required for them." The editorial: "We cringe at the thought of spending millions on an arena when our city has so many needs." Even so, "some sizable chunk" of this $27.5M is "required by contract." For "everything else, put the ball" in the hands of Hornets Owner Michael Jordan (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/26).
Univ. of Phoenix Stadium "has been upgraded" with more than $18M in renovations ahead of Super Bowl XLIX and the '15 Pro Bowl, according to Peter Corbett of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Fans will "notice two new video boards at each end of the stadium that are three times larger than the ones they replace, with the largest in the south end zone that measures 54 feet high by 164 feet wide." In the north end zone, the board is 27 feet by 97 feet, and the resolution for both will be 75% "better than the old boards." The Cardinals "paid up front" for the $10.8M video boards, but the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority "will repay" $8.1M to the team over seven years. The Cardinals also are paying $8M to "upgrade the stadium telecommunications system to improve wireless coverage" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/26).
The 49ers yesterday "ripped out the turf" at Levi's Stadium for the "second time in less than a week," according to Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The 49ers "expect to start installing a brand-new field this weekend, and it may include a different type of grass more commonly used at other NFL stadiums." The field "should be ready" for the Sept. 6 Chile-Mexico soccer friendly, as well as the 49ers' regular-season opener against the Bears on Sept. 14. The "thicker-cut field installed two days before Sunday's preseason game" against the Chargers was "meant as a temporary solution because the sod cannot generate the deep roots needed for long-term use." It is "unclear how much the new field will cost, though the original playing surface" had a $1.4M budget. The 49ers yesterday said for the first time that they "will pay for the turf replacement, taking pressure off the public Santa Clara Stadium Authority, which funded the bulk of construction" of the venue. Team officials and consultants will "spend the next few days deciding whether to stick with the Bandera Bermuda sod, a relatively new strain used only in California, or switch to a Tifway grass variety used by more NFL teams" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/26). In Sacramento, Matt Barrows reported backhoes "have been brought in, presumably to dig up and remove some of the sand that had served as a layer below the grass." It was the "composition of soil and sand that was suspected to have been the problem with the original field." After conferring with experts, the 49ers "concluded that there was too much sand in the mix, which didn’t allow the grass to take root like it should have" (SACBEE.com, 8/25).
ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES: 49ers LB Patrick Willis said of the turf issues at Levi's Stadium, "As anything when it's new, you're going to have some problems here and there, and right now it just happened to be the field. But for the most part, the new turf they laid down wasn't too bad. It was actually a lot better than I thought it would be, so you've just got to give it some time and there's always going to be circumstances and you just have to deal with it and fight through it" ("NFL Live," ESPN2, 8/25).
In San Jose, Jeff Faraudo notes Cal's Haas Pavilion will receive $10M in improvements, "including a center-hung scoreboard, to be completed" by the fall of '15. The renovation of the school's basketball facility, "made possible through a gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, will also provide upgraded sound and lighting systems and modernized video production facilities." Construction is "expected to begin in May" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/26).
SPARTY TIME: In Michigan, Joe Rexrode notes Michigan State showed off its "sparkling athletics facility," a $24.5M, 50,000-square-foot renovation to the north end zone of Spartan Stadium "anchored by a plush, spacious home locker room." MSU Deputy AD Greg Ianni said that the upgrade "eliminates the last glaring weak spot in MSU's facilities roster -- a decades-old locker room that was 'an embarrassment.'" MSU Senior Assocate AD Chuck Sleeper said that more than $24M was raised, "with 30 of the 100 lockers still open for sponsorships -- at $50,000 a pop" (LANSING STATE JOURNAL, 8/26).
SWEET AS VANDY: In Nashville, Nick Cole notes Vanderbilt fans "should notice some changes at Vanderbilt Stadium" as part of the SEC's "initiative to improve fan experience at all 14 stadiums." Restrooms "were updated and painted and attendants will be added." New menu items "have been added, including five different themed dogs." The amount of items sold in the stands "will be doubled, and specialty carts will be relocated to ease congestion." There also were "enhancements made to the video control room" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/24).
ROCK CHALK AND A HARD PLACE: In KC, Rustin Dodd reports the Kansas women's soccer team "can’t play at its new facility in the multi-million-dollar Rock Chalk Park because of poor conditions on the grass field." KU Associate AD Jim Marchiony said that the team "could be out of its new home until mid-September." The field during KU's season opener against Wyoming last Friday "had noticeable areas of sand and more divots as the night went on" (K.C. STAR, 8/26).