United Airlines is buying the naming rights to venerable L.A. Memorial Coliseum for just more than $70M over 15 years, according to sources, making it the richest naming-rights deal among college football stadiums. At $4.7M per year, United’s deal will surpass the 10-year, $41M deal Alaska Airlines signed with the Univ. of Washington for Husky Stadium naming rights in ‘15. Fox Sports, through its partnership with USC, has been attempting to sell naming rights to one of the nation’s most recognizable venues since ‘15. The revenue from a naming-rights deal is expected to help offset costs of the $270M renovation to the Coliseum, school officials have said. The renovation, which is in the early stages and includes reducing capacity to 77,500 among added luxury boxes, is supposed to be completed in time for the ‘19 football season. How United’s brand name will be attached is not clear, but school and Fox officials in the past have said “Memorial Coliseum” would be retained in the name. Sources indicated that the contract has not yet been signed, but an agreement is in place. While Fox takes the lead on the sale, USC and Fox have been working in tandem to identify corporate candidates for a naming-rights deal. One of the reasons United emerged is because the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, is a graduate of the USC business school. L.A. Int’l Airport is one of United’s U.S. hubs (Smith & Ourand, Staff Writers). In L.A., Joey Kaufman noted Washington's deal with Alaska Airlines and the deal Cal signed in '13 with Kabam were for naming rights to the playing field and neither stadium name "was overhauled." USC COO of Athletics Steve Lopes earlier this month indicated that the focus was on "naming the field at the Coliseum, suggesting a step similar to their conference counterparts." USC has "managed the Coliseum" since '13 after it "obtained day-to-day control through an amended lease with the Coliseum Commission" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).
JUST PLANE WRONG? In L.A., Zach Helfand notes the United deal "could rankle some traditionalists." The airline recently "took a public-relations hit, after a video emerged showing a passenger being forcefully dragged off a United flight" (L.A. TIMES, 5/19). USA TODAY's Andrew Joseph noted the deal is a "ton of money to pay for a stadium that everyone will call 'The Coliseum' regardless." The past couple months have "not been the best for United Airlines considering the PR fiasco that ensued" with the passenger who was removed from the plane. With that in mind, Twitter "had itself a field day with jokes about the new stadium name" (USATODAY.com, 5/18).
The $2.6B stadium for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, originally scheduled to open in '19, will be "delayed almost a year" and is now scheduled to be ready for the start of the '20 NFL season, according to a front-page piece by Farmer & Fenno of the L.A. TIMES. Developers, who "broke ground on the project in November, blamed the postponement on record rainfall during the 'mass excavation phase' of construction." Hunt Construction Group Exec VP Bob Aylesworth, who is principal in charge for the Turner/AECOM Hunt joint venture that is building the stadium, said, "The continuing rains really knocked us for a loop." Farmer & Fenno report the weather "brought work on the project to a standstill for two months earlier this year." The rain fell at a "crucial stage of construction when work centered on digging the enormous hole ... in which the stadium will sit." Plans for the project "anticipated that about 30 days would be lost to rain during the three-year construction period." Instead, it "lost twice that in two months." Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff: "There’s [a] chance you could make up the time, but we felt it was better to make the decision now rather than approaching it in late 2018 or 2019, when we are well into the process of building the stadium." Farmer & Fenno note the Rams will stay in the L.A. Coliseum, which United Airlines on Thursday bought the naming rights to, for the '19 season. Their "original deal to lease the stadium from USC included an option" to extend their stay for a year The Chargers will play another year at StubHub Center. The delay will "afford extra time to avoid rushing work on the stadium’s interior finishes" (LATIMES.com, 5/18).
WHAT HAPPENS TO SUPER BOWL? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes aside from delaying the teams’ arrival in Inglewood, the setback "throws a wrench" into the NFL's plans to hold the Super Bowl LV at the stadium. An NFL spokesperson said that current rules "require a stadium to be open for two whole regular seasons before it plays host to a Super Bowl." For the '21 game to remain in Inglewood, NFL owners "will have to grant a waiver." It has "been done before" -- when the league allowed Super Bowl XLVIII to played at MetLife Stadium (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/19).
TAKE YOUR TIME: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes the Rams and Chargers "could have forged ahead" trying to reach the '19 target date, and "maybe even met it." Instead, they "opted for prudence over pride." The delay not only "eliminates any risk resulting in ramping up the pace to meet the original deadline, it also creates built-in accommodations for any potential future delays." By deciding to "apply the brakes now, they’ve set a realistic finish line they should easily cross rather than sprinting to a target they might ultimately fall short of." Bonsignore notes there actually is "some potential upside" to the delay. The Chargers get one more year "acclimating and marketing" themselves in L.A. before "making the move to the much larger stadium in Inglewood." That means one more year to "entice local fans onto your bandwagon and season-ticket customer list for the new stadium" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).
Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena collectively need $477M in "improvements over the next 20 years to extend the life of both Metro-owned facilities," according to a front-page piece by Joey Garrison of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Tennessee-based Venue Solutions Group reported the projected costs to "cover everything from architectural improvements to better technology and plumbing." The reports come as the Titans' lease agreement with Nissan Stadium and the Predators' deal with Bridgestone Arena expire in '28. Nissan Stadium is in need of $293.2M in "capital improvements," while Bridgestone Arena faces capital needs totaling $183.4M. The Metro Sports Authority tapped Venue Solutions Group in September to "conduct a review of the facilities amid a rising number of repairs and upgrades" at the facilities as they have gotten older. Both venues were built in the '90s. Officials "aren't ready to say" how the city, the Titans and the Predators "might pay for the upgrades, which would range" between $8-12M per year for each facility. Under the lease agreements with the Titans and Predators, Metro is "obligated to pay for the upkeep of the venues." Much of the infrastructure in both venues "has a 20-year lifespan, meaning needs are poised to pile up." Metro COO Rich Riebling said that Nashville has "not started negotiations with either the Titans or Predators about extending their stadium leases" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/19).
Developers of the proposed $4B SoccerCity development in San Diego on Thursday "released revisions to their plan to redevelop the Qualcomm Stadium site, but the proposal again was swiftly rejected" by San Diego State Univ., according to a front-page piece by Roger Showley of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. A campus leader said that the changes "didn’t do much to improve the offer the university turned down months ago." SDSU on Tuesday had said that it was "ending all negotiations over the plan" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/19). In San Diego, Kevin Acee reported new terms of FS Investors' agreement with Mayor Kevin Faulconer show the development group "won’t be paying a mere $10,000 for the Qualcomm Stadium land." The group, which is seeking an MLS club for the development, also would be "building a stadium that holds 33,500 spectators right away," something SDSU had wanted. The terms would be "built into the lease and be legally binding should SoccerCity be approved by voters in a November special election." With the concessions from FS Investors in hand, Faulconer is "expected to endorse the project." The terms stipulate the lease would be "voided and the property would remain with the city if FS Investors did not secure an MLS expansion franchise." If SDSU agrees to a "binding stadium joint venture by Dec. 1, FS Investors will contribute half the cost to build a stadium that holds 33,500 for football (32,500 seated, 1,000 standing) and 'will be designed to accommodate expansion to 40,000 seats in a manner that balances cost and revenue for those new seats'" (SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.com, 5/18).
FUTURE IS UNKNOWN: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler wrote SDSU cutting off all negotiations over the plan is a "bold, brash, move ... fraught with risk." However, the alternative is to take a "flawed deal that, in their estimation, could ensure the program’s demise." Play in a "tiny stadium where expansion to 40,000-plus is cost prohibitive, remain on a land-locked campus with little hope to become the kind of Top 50 research institution that attracts interest from power conferences and their television riches," and SDSU football will "die a slow death as the gulf between Div. I’s haves and have-nots inexorably grows wider" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/18).
David Beckham's MLS group next month is "likely to win" Miami-Dade County approval to buy a $9M parcel in the city's Overtown neighborhood for a stadium site, but the group can pay "less than $500,000 this year to secure the land, then walk away if there’s yet another problem," according to Douglas Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. The contract also "gives Miami Beckham United 11 months after the County Commission approves the land deal before the team has to pay" more than $1M toward the $9M purchase. Those contingencies "lower the financial risk for Beckham and his investors as they pursue zoning approval from Miami for a stadium that faces opposition from some neighbors." While team reps "insist they’re more optimistic than ever about Beckham’s chances, Oak View Group CEO and Miami Beckham United investor Tim Leiweke this week "emphasized the frustrations involved in finding a stadium site in Miami." MLS Commissioner Don Garber earlier this year said that Beckham "had until the end" of this year to "close a Miami deal." With the contractual exit now "in place, Beckham’s team remains confident MLS will approve the franchise agreement after Miami-Dade agrees to sell its land" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/19).
The Las Vegas Stadium Authority on Thursday unanimously approved a stadium lease agreement with the Raiders, giving NFL owners "enough detail to win approval and move toward starting stadium construction by the end of the year" when they meet next week in Chicago, according to Richard Velotta of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The agreement is an "outline for additional pacts that must be approved over the next three months." The goal is to "complete the stadium in time" for the '20 NFL season (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/19). Raiders President Marc Badain had "recently warned that appearing at next week's NFL owners meetings without a lease in hand could delay the Raiders' Southern Nevada debut by a year, since the next opportunity to present a lease would not be until October." ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes while the approval was "not necessarily in doubt, the approval paves the way for NFL owners to vote on ratifying the lease at their spring meetings, which begin Monday" (ESPN.com, 5/19). The AP's Regina Garcia Cano noted the lease agreement is "conditional upon other agreements being reached" between the team, the LVSA board and other entities. The team would "not pay rent under the 30-year agreement, but it would have to contribute to a fund that would cover capital expenses that come up as the facility ages." The agreement also "gives the team the right to name the stadium and prohibits any type of gambling in the premises" (AP, 5/18).
BREAKING IT DOWN: The REVIEW-JOURNAL's Velotta highlights some "key points that emerged" from the agreement. StadCo, the name designated as the Raiders’ stadium company, will be required to put $2.5M a year "into a capital projects fund to finance major improvements over time." The NFL also "insisted that Raiders and NFL logos be protected intellectual property and not available for use" by the LVSA. Meanwhile, the Raiders are "locked into staying in Las Vegas for at least 30 seasons." Language was "changed from '30 years'" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/19).
The NFL Panthers are "required to provide five rent-free days a year" at Bank of America Stadium to the city of Charlotte, but three years into the deal, the city has "only used up seven days total," according to Katherine Peralta of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The city this year "might only use two -- for the college football kickoff game in September and the Belk Bowl in December." Charlotte can use the dates to "book non-NFL events during the offseason." The city has "tallied eight unused dates so far" and they will expire in '23 if they go unused. Officials said that there a "number of reasons the city hasn't used those rent-free dates: Stadium renovation work limits the window of available summer booking time, and it's tough to find profitable events even when rent is free." Concerns are an option to fill thsoe dates, but many performers "aren't taking their acts to big stadiums any more." Charlotte is "still looking for a soccer event this year," and the Panthers "haven't turned down any proposed ideas from the city yet." The five rent-free days are a "perk the city arranged as part of an agreement it made with the Panthers" in '13. In exchange for $87.5M to "help renovate the stadium, the team agreed to be 'tethered' to Charlotte for at least six years, with further penalties for leaving in years seven through 10." The Panthers themselves committed to put $37.5M "toward renovations, but have since exceeded that amount" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19).