The Vikings on Friday opened their new TCO Performance Center for public tours, and team GM Rick Spielman said there is not "another building like this" in the NFL, according to Adam Krammer of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. In addition to a 174-seat auditorium, the new facility "features a nearly 7,000-square-foot trainer's room that includes a 'concussion room' where brain injuries are treated." Spielman: "I'd match it up against anyone in the country for what this building offers to players." The Vikings also hope a "roughly 1,400-square-foot draft room, modernized with computer programming instead of magnets, will help boost accuracy." Spielman said that the draft room will be "used year-round" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/10). ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted the Vikings moved into the new 227,000-square-foot HQ "after the NFL combine" on Friday. Players, coaches and support staff will have "access to amenities not available at every NFL facility." Among the highlights of the HQ:
A 6,500-square-foot outdoor stadium
Four outdoor grass fields
An indoor practice facility
All-new equipment in the 6,100-square-foot weight room
A virtual-reality simulator
Movie theater-style auditorium
Gatorade Fuel Bar
Memorabilia, art and photos displaying HOFers and former Vikings players
A digital draft board comprising 40 55-inch television monitors (ESPN.com, 3/10).
TOP OF THE LINE: Vikings VP/Operations & Facilities Chad Lundeen said that two of the four new outdoor practice fields at the facility are "heated with 65 miles of underground tubing." In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson noted the HQ is "part of a 200-acre development" that Vikings co-Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf "plan to phase in over the next decade." They "expect to add office space, retail and housing to the 'Vikings Lakes' parcel that was once the world headquarters of Northwest Airlines." Vikings Exec VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that "immediate goals" for the team is hosting events at the new under-construction outdoor stadium, which has "seating for 6,500 -- expandable to 10,000." Vikings training camp will be held there this summer, and Bagley said that the team "wants to bring in high school football, soccer and lacrosse games as well as concerts." Meanwhile, Olson noted the Vikings' partner in the project, Twin Cities Orthopedics, has an 88,000-square-foot "treatment and sports medicine center" at the new HQ. Vikings execs said that the project was built with "no public subsidy; the Wilfs paid for it" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/10). In St. Paul, Nick Ferraro noted the Vikings have "not specified the cost" the Wilfs paid. (TWINCITIES.com, 3/10). ESPN.com's Cronin writes the new team HQ "puts the Vikings in an elite group of NFL franchises" (ESPN.com, 3/9).
The A’s have signed a five-year agreement with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, making the company the club’s official soft drink partner and giving it exclusive pouring rights at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for A’s games. The deal will focus heavily on the 7-Up and Squirt brands, with the green and gold branding of those two matching up with the A’s color scheme. A wide array of other brands will also be available at the Coliseum, including Dr Pepper, Diet Dr Pepper, Snapple, Sunkist, Bai, Body Armor, RC Cola, Diet RC Cola, Hawaiian Punch Lemonade and Deja Blue. Financial terms were not disclosed, and the agreement did not involve an outside agency. The deal follows a two-year, league-level pact Dr Pepper Snapple recently signed with MLB, as well as other team-level deals it has held with the Giants, Orioles, Rangers and Royals. In addition to the sales and pouring rights, Dr Pepper will gain marketing rights with the A’s covering the carbonated soft drink, tea, water, red juice, energy drink, isotonic beverage and packaged coffee categories. The company also was a new stadium founding partner for the Earthquakes, which shares common ownership with the A’s. “The level of activation contemplated makes this one of the most significant partnerships we have embarked on to date,” said A's COO Chris Giles.
Rays President Brian Auld last week "provided several new insights" into the team's plans for a new ballpark in Ybor City, including that "there will be a roof," according to Steve Contorno of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Auld said that the heat, summer afternoon rains and lightning "make it a necessity." The Rays are now "making the case" that it "might be in the best interest of the Tampa community for the roof to be retractable, and its application for baseball is secondary." Meanwhile, the Rays "aren't interested in building a massive ballpark." Auld said that it is "unlikely" that the team will "need an upper deck." That portion of the ballpark is the "most expensive part" to build that "yields the least profitable returns." Auld: "There will not be a what I would call a traditional upper deck that wraps around the field. Behind home plate, that's the best place to watch a game so some amount of verticality there is something we're looking into pretty deeply." Additionally, the team has "toyed with selling tickets that get you into different parts" of the ballpark at different points of the game, which is being seen as its "most controversial" of ideas to MLB. The team also "wants to reinvent" ballpark seating, which has "had virtually the same layout for most of the 20th and 21st century." Auld said that the team "shared these ideas with the league." Auld: "They're skeptical." Auld added, "The seating one in particular is a challenge for physics to be able to get the amount of seats you need in a reasonable amount of space. But I'm in love with it" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/9).
There are upgrades coming to Wrigley Field that "likely will be highly pleasing" to Cubs players, including the "widening and relocation of the dugouts, the addition of two batting cages and the installation of a trainer’s room adjacent to their third base dugout," according to Mark Gonzales of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Much of the excavation on the first and third base sides is "designed for the Makers Mark Barrel Room and the W Club, and is scheduled to open" in '19. Construction on the Catalina Club in the upper level behind home plate "also is targeted" for '19. The American Airlines 1914 Club "remains on schedule for the April 9 home opener against the Pirates." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that offseason work also "includes expansion of concession areas, although those won't be completed" until '19. Among the other upgrades scheduled for completion by the home opener are "two elevators behind the home plate area and faster cell service." The expanding of netting 20 feet further down the first- and third-base lines also "are projected for completion before the opener." Eight new concession stands "are to open by July" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/10).
Arizona State President Michael Crow said he wants a "simple" renovation of Wells Fargo Arena that in his estimation should cost less than $75M, according to Jeff Metcalfe of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Crow said, "What I'm after something not fancy, really nice. Like Pauley Pavilion. We're not going to have any suites. We're going to have great amenities. I don't know what that costs, but it's going to be less than $75 million." He added, "I happen to like Wells Fargo. I think it's a cool basketball arena, but it needs to be modernized and brought up to better ADA standards and air handling and graphics and sound. We won't change the shape or the size, we might change the number of seats. I think it's going to be great." Meanwhile, Crow continues to be "bullish on the future of the Pac-12 Network even though per-school revenue is substantially less" than what Big Ten and SEC schools receive from their TV networks. Crow: "What I feel good about our network is that we own it, all of it" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/9).
A PARTICULAR METHOD: In Phoenix, Doug Haller noted Crow's vision for ASU "is simple" in that he "wants each program to be its own West Point military academy." From the way they are "structured, to the leaders they produce." Crow: "I am a huge believer in contrarian approaches. I’m not a believer in just follow the same model. If you follow the same model, you’re just going to end up in the same place." Haller noted Sun Devil Stadium is "nearing the final stages" of a $330M makeover, and ASU's football training facility "is complete." What the program "needed was the right leader." Like fans, Crow had "become frustrated with ASU's inconsistency." Crow said, "What I want is for coaches, to every extent possible, be the role model of what we’re attempting to produce. They graduated from college, they were fantastic athletes, they have the character and life story that we’re interested in portraying. When you have officers at West Point standing in front of the crew, training them, they’re wearing all this stuff that they got along the way. That's what we're after" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/11).