The Packers are working with Microsoft to create an accelerator and innovation lab by next year in the new 45-acre Titletown Development district across the street from Lambeau Field. The team will spend $8-10M for the new building and contribute $5M to a venture capital fund. Microsoft also will contribute $5M to the fund. "The concept of Titletown has always been a lot larger than just leveraging the Packers brand into a successful real estate brand," Packers General Counsel Ed Policy said. "It was always meant to build a magnet to bring world class people and brands to our community." Microsoft will house three to four employees at what is being called Titletown Tech. The accelerator will seed startups, and the innovation lab will offer management expertise. Microsoft President Brad Smith said sports teams are already digitally advanced. The technology giant had been looking at taking its knowhow to smaller markets, and the Packers brand and Titletown offered that opportunity. The decision to invest in Titletown is not connected to Microsoft’s larger sponsorship of the NFL, he said. The Dodgers also have an accelerator, though that one focuses on companies at the nexus of sports and technology. The Packers one will not focus on sports, Smith said, but a variety of sectors (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).
PERFECT MATCH: Policy said that additional investors "will be recruited, but the Packers and Microsoft will remain the largest." In Green Bay, Richard Ryman in a front-page piece notes the Packers will "pay for the building and receive rent from tenants, including their own separate Titletown District entity." The team "declined to say how much the building will cost." The Titletown Tech building is "expected to open" in fall '18. Smith said that a partnership between an NFL franchise and Microsoft is "not as strange as it would seem." NFL teams are "very much digital companies and the Packers' culture matches well with that of Microsoft." The company also was "attracted by the Packers' level of community engagement and philanthropy" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 10/20).
DC United will play their "final match at RFK Stadium" on Sunday against the Red Bulls after 22 seasons at the facility, according to Thomas Floyd of the WASHINGTON TIMES. United MF Nick DeLeon said, "We've got to go out with a bang. ... We have to close down this legendary stadium in the right way." As United "established a dynasty" in the late '90s, winning three of the first four MLS Cups, RFK "earned the reputation of a fortress." Images of the "rickety east-side stands bouncing in tune with the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava defined the passion that propped up a fledgling league." Then the stadium "started showing its age." Floyd: "Rust spread. Concrete crumbled. Feral cats, wasps and, most famously, raccoons took up residence." Yet even as RFK "fell into disrepair," a "ragged charm persisted." The stadium's soccer history "knows no rivals stateside" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/20). The AP's Anne Peterson wrote RFK is "well-known in the soccer world as the site of men’s and women’s World Cup matches and was one of the venues used" for soccer during the '96 Atlanta Games. It has also "hosted three MLS Cup finals and a league All-Star game" (AP, 10/18).
HOME SWEET HOME: In DC, Steven Goff writes RFK has been the "unofficial home" of American soccer "for decades." The stadium "gained a mystique." It came from "not only longevity and quantity but the fact that, despite physical flaws acquired late in life, RFK had a heartbeat, a soul." The enclosed design "retained sound, turning the volume of 20,000 into the fury of 80,000." Navigating the concrete ramps, "walking through the claustrophobic concourse and crossing the catwalks into the upper reaches was a journey into yesteryear." United coach Ben Olsen said, "The soul is real." Next summer, United is "scheduled to christen Audi Field." However, United "isn't completely done with RFK." Until the club "builds a training facility, it will continue practicing on the outer fields and leasing the locker rooms and basement space." Only the front office will "permanently move into the new digs next spring." Non-MLS activities will "continue popping up in the old stadium, as well, until the 180-acre campus is redeveloped." FS1's Alexi Lalas, who was on USMNT teams that competed at RFK, said, "We know it’s dirty and disgusting and ugly, but it’s ours. It never compared to stadiums with all of the luxuries, but it was something authentic and organic" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/20).
The ballot initiative to build a west campus for San Diego State Univ. in Mission Valley -- which includes a new football stadium -- "will kick off Saturday with signature gathering" at the Fresno State-SDSU game, according to Roger Showley of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The SDSU West Steering Committee "hopes to collect about 110,000 signatures by December and submit them to the county registrar of voters for certification." If at least 71,646 signatures from San Diego city registered voters are "deemed valid, the proposal would go before the City Council next spring to be approved or placed on an upcoming ballot, either the June 5 primary or the Nov. 6, 2018, general election." The same process was "followed earlier this year by La Jolla-based FS Investors to qualify its SoccerCity development plan for the stadium site." Both proposals "include a new stadium that would replace" the 50-year-old San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. Political consultant Tom Shepard, who is overseeing the campaign, said that four tented booths "will be erected in the SDCCU Stadium parking lot Saturday afternoon, where voters can sign petitions" before the game. Nearly 75 gatherers will "fan out at grocery stores, shopping centers and other locations to gather signatures during the day and then continue the drive over the next 10 weeks." Shepard said that about $700,000 "has been collected so far for the campaign." SDSU, which has "terminated joint-use discussions with FS Investors, is seeking a 35,000-seat stadium that could be shared with professional soccer and other sports." Its $150M tentative cost "would be covered by state bonds, donations and other sources." It would be open by '22, "barring any unforeseen delays" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/20).