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Volume 25 No. 26

Facilities

Mariners will contribute $120M to a new Capital Expenditure Fund for ballpark upgrades
Photo: getty images

The Washington State MLB Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD) formally adopted lease terms for a new 25-year lease for Safeco Field. Yesterday's agreement, reached jointly with the Mariners, also includes options for two three-year extensions. The new lease and potential extensions will continue PFD's partnership with the Mariners until '49. The lease terms also require the Mariners to pay 100% of the costs of maintenance and operations and contribute to the ongoing capital improvements that will be needed in the decades to come (PFD). In Seattle, Ryan Divish reports the new lease "will take effect" in '19. Mariners Chair & Managing Partner John Stanton recently said that once the lease was agreed upon the "process to announce a new naming-rights partner, replacing Safeco Insurance, would follow." He "hoped to announce that during this season." The lease agreement "includes a long-term plan for capital investment in the publicly-owned facility." The PFD and Mariners "commissioned a study" by Populous, whose findings identified $385M in "capital improvements to basic ballpark infrastructure that will be necessary over the next 25 years." Over the life of the lease, the Mariners "will contribute" some $650M to the PFD and the ballpark. That will come in the form of rent -- $55M over 25 years ($1.5M per year with CPI escalation), at least $10M of which will be "applied to ballpark capital improvements." The Mariners will also contribute $120M to a "new Capital Expenditure Fund for ballpark upgrades and improvements necessary to keep Safeco Field in first-class condition." Additionally, the Mariners will "continue to pay for all ballpark operation and routine maintenance costs," estimated at $250M over the life of the lease (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/24).

Pegula said that she knows fans in Buffalo don't want higher ticket prices and they don't want PSLs
Photo: getty images

Bills co-Owner & President Kim Pegula sees the team "facing a difficult road toward a new stadium, because all entities involved will balk at contributing to a price tag likely to exceed the team's purchase price" of $1.4B, according to a front-page piece by Vic Carucci of the BUFFALO NEWS. Pegula said, "I don't even know if we can get there. I know fans in Buffalo don't want higher ticket prices, they don't want PSLs (personal seat licenses). The state doesn't want to give you any money, the city doesn't ... We don't have a billion-and-a-half dollars sitting around. We used it to buy the team." Pegula said that she and Pegula Sports & Entertainment COO Bruce Popko have "taken the lead on the Bills' long-term stadium planning" since former PS&E President Russ Brandon's May 1 resignation. Pegula said that her organization was "'still fact-finding." The Bills' current lease at New Era Field "expires in the summer" of '23, although the team "can opt out" in '20. The team has said that it "has no plans to opt out." Pegula: "If we don't start the work and get the information, we can't even get there to make a decision. I'm guessing it's going to take a couple of years." Pegula added, "We're having internal discussions and we're setting up a strategy and a timeline, taking into account all the things that need to go on" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/24). 

PUTTING THE TEAMS FIRST: Carucci in a front-page piece notes before Pegula assumed the role of Bills President, she and her husband, Bills co-Owner & CEO Terry Pegula "considered their options" in replacing Brandon. One option was to "hire someone" to replace Brandon, and another was for Kim Pegula to "carry the title on an interim basis until a full-time replacement was found." But the Pegulas decided their flagship sports properties, the Bills and Sabres, "had already experienced enough upheaval and they didn't want to create more by bringing in a new person to head their business operations." Kim Pegula: "I said, 'Honestly, I don't think we need anyone.' We've had a lot of turmoil. Between both hockey and football, with new GMs, new coaches, even presidents. We've changed a lot in the years (since) we bought the hockey team [in '11]. ... I just felt like we needed stability." Carucci notes the thought of "wearing an interim tag on her presidency was a nonstarter." She said that she "saw it as a bad look for the organization and felt it would indicate that her taking on the role was merely a knee-jerk response to Brandon's sudden departure." Kim Pegula said, "I don't want people to think that this is just something temporary, I'm just going to jump in and say I'm going to do it just for optics." Meanwhile, Kim Pegula said that her husband is "in the background" of the PS&E operation. However, she added that he is "still involved" and that communication within the PS&E's hierarchy is "far more efficient" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/24). 

Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board members "unanimously approved amendments" to the authority's PSL agreement with the Raiders and a "modification to the stadium construction budget clarifying that an additional $40 million is being dedicated to the team's premium seating and marketing plan," according to Richard Velotta of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. LVSA Chair Steve Hill and the board approved a $546.3M budget for FY '18-19 and a "collection of amended agreements designed to better account for funding" of the Raiders' $1.8B, 65,000-seat indoor stadium under construction. Of the total budget, only about $2M is "devoted to authority operations." The rest "would be used to pay debt service, handle potential tax revenue declines, fund future capital projects and offset lost revenue to UNLV from Sam Boyd Stadium." The cost of the stadium "won't change -- just the accounting." So far, the Raiders have spent $172.4M, 19% of the team's commitment, "on the stadium project." An exec with the Raiders' stadium construction subsidiary said that the stadium project is "on schedule and on budget.". More than 11% of the project's "concrete has been poured." An estimated $40M was "spent on the stadium in April." When the level of construction "hits its peak," $90M a month "will be spent" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/24). 

Univ. of Phoenix Stadium is getting $100M in upgrades as Glendale gets ready to host Super Bowl LVII in '23, according to Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. That includes a $28M facelift for the club level at the venue, which will begin this summer. Bidwill said the stadium, which opened in '06, also is seeing improvements to parking and pedestrian areas and will get new fan tailgating areas. The field tray that rolls the playing field in and out of the stadium is also getting some repairs and improvements this offseason. Bidwill expects more renovations before the game is played in five years. Bidwill contends the Glendale stadium is still “one of the best stadiums in the NFL,” but expects more competition from Super Bowls and other events from new buildings in L.A. and Las Vegas. He said, “There’s competition from everyone." Super Bowl LVII will be the third for Univ. of Phoenix Stadium and the fourth for the Phoenix region. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who was part of the regional pitch for the game this week at the NFL owners meetings in Atlanta, said, “This is another validation that Arizona is a premier destination for mega events. ... We know what this can do for the state economically.” He said the Super Bowl brought 121,000 visitors to the state in '15. Bidwill said last time the region hosted the game, there was a $30M regional fundraising goal and expects that to be higher in five years.

Super Bowl LVII will be the third for Univ. of Phoenix Stadium and the fourth for the Phoenix region
Photo: getty images

New Panthers Owner David Tepper said this week that he wants to have a presence in both Carolinas, and that "could mean shifting part of the team's operations across the state line," according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. A source said that Tepper could "consider building a new practice complex that includes mixed-use development." Tepper is said to be "open to considering sites on either side of the state line." The Panthers' current practice facility -- "located behind Bank of America Stadium on the opposite side of a rail line -- includes two grass fields and another with an artificial surface." The team "does not have an indoor facility." While Tepper "weighs putting a practice site in South Carolina," Hornets investor and NASCAR team co-Owner Felix Sabates does not get the impression Tepper is "considering moving the stadium there." Sabates said, "I don't think he would do that. David loves Charlotte. He's got huge plans for Charlotte" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/24). 

FIRST IMPRESSION: In Charlotte, Katherine Peralta notes Tepper is "getting used to being in the spotlight" as an NFL team owner. His demeanor over the last week "provided a glimpse into the kind of leader he'll be at Bank of America Stadium." Tepper is "outspoken but also self-deprecating" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/24). Also in Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes Tepper is "genuine," a quality that "will serve him well." Sorensen: "Every city has a personality, and we've had owners that chose not to learn ours." Those included Bobcats Founder Bob Johnson, and former Hornets co-Owner Ray Wooldridge, who both "expected Charlotte to adjust to them." Sorensen: "I have no idea how much time Tepper will spend here. But I hope he digs in, and I hope he likes it, too" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 5/24).