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Volume 25 No. 175

Facilities

Spectrum Center had the highest percentage of food outlets that incurred one or more high-level violations
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

An analysis of more than 16,000 food-safety inspections from North America's 111 NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL venues was published Thursday, and "violations run the gamut," according to Lavigne & Fish of ESPN.com. At about 28% of the venues, "half or more of their food service outlets incurred one or more high-level violations, the type of unsanitary conditions or omissions that can pose a risk for a foodborne illness." The venues with the highest percentage of food outlets that "incurred one or more high-level violations in the two-year period" include Spectrum Center in Charlotte (92%); the Palace of Auburn Hills, which has since closed, (86.1%); American Airlines Center in Dallas, (83.1%); and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (82.6%). Being "slapped with a high-level violation" does not "necessarily mean a venue is unsafe or unsanitary." But Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention Exec Dir Patricia Buck said that stadium environments "carry unique risks because of the large number of people being served in a short period of time." In '10, "OTL" performed a "similar analysis of food safety at sports venues," and in August '17, SI "published a story about violations at professional baseball stadiums, although SI used a different metric." One venue that "ranked at the bottom for food-safety compliance in both reports" was Tropicana Field, which, until this year, "had a contract with Centerplate." In the latest "OTL" report, 79.1% of the outlets at Yankee Stadium had "one or more high-level violations" over '16 and '17, with "only five other sports venues having a higher percentage." Yankee Stadium, however, "performed better overall than New York City's average of high-level violations per inspection at all food establishments" (ESPN.com, 12/13). 

REACTIONS POUR IN: In New Orleans, Amie Just noted the "three cleanest venues were Oakland’s Oracle Arena, Atlanta’s State Farm Arena and Houston’s NRG Stadium" (NOLA.com, 12/13). Levy Restaurants Communications Dir Matt Dicker, whose firm handles food at the Hornets' Spectrum Center, said that "all the food inspections there had gotten A rankings, or scores above 90." Dicker: “Any concern that was identified was corrected immediately, and in no instance was a re-inspection deemed necessary.” The Panthers in a statement said they were "disappointed in this report." The team also "identified Delaware North Sportservice as responsible for food management and concessions at the stadium since" '10. The team will now "conduct a full review." Dicker: "There is a great deal of subjectivity in reporting food-safety inspections across jurisdictions, which makes it incredibly difficult to normalize scores across many counties and states" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/14).

BITE OUT OF THE BIG APPLE: In N.Y., Scott Chiusano notes the "serious gross misconduct at Yankee Stadium food vendors" also was found to be the "worst MLB ballpark in terms of 'high-level violations per inspection.'” Of 43 total outlets at the ballpark, 34 "came up with high-level health code violations" for a 79.06%, the "worst in baseball and almost eight percentage points above the next worst stadium, which was Coors Field in Colorado." The Legends Club, a "swanky, exclusive and high-priced suite that provides 'first-class accommodations' with all-inclusive food and beverages and a private entrance, was at the center of the investigation and is apparently not as high-brow as it purports to be." However, the Yankees "disputed the ESPN investigation, calling its methodology 'unexplainable.'” Legends President of Hospitality Dan Smith said, "If any violation is pointed out, it is addressed and corrected immediately. As a result, in 2018, all of our food stands received an A-level grade, which is the highest level in New York City" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/14).

BEHIND THE COUNTER: ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, who co-authored the report, said stadium concessions "actually score better than eateries in the surrounding community when you look at the average number of high-level violations per inspection … but food safety experts still say that the risk is greater because at a stadium, if something goes wrong, the number of people that can be affected are in the thousands compared to at a restaurant." She added, "Most of these big concession companies have third-party consultants that come in and tell them how to improve your facility, how to improve your food handling and they do actually have quite a bit of training for employees, which is really necessary when you have a lot of temporary and volunteer workers" (“OTL,” ESPN, 12/13).

Plans for Pimlico Race Course include a new track and infield positioned to open the site further to the public
Photo: MARYLAND STADIUM AUTHORITY

A Maryland Stadium Authority study calling for the demolition and rebuilding of Pimlico Race Course has been endorsed by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and would "achieve city officials’ objectives of keeping" the Preakness Stakes in town, while also "making the 110-acre campus accessible during non-racing days," according to Jeff Barker of the BALTIMORE SUN. The plan "proposed replacing the faded Pimlico Race Course with a stylish -- and costly -- track designed to open its amenities to the surrounding community year-round and encourage development in a distressed area of Baltimore." The plan "includes a four-level clubhouse and plaza area called the Palio ... and a new track and infield positioned to open the site further to the public." The plan would be under a "three-year proposal" that would cost $424M, but "no one was prepared to commit to paying such a sizable tab." The study "doesn’t recommend who should pay for Pimlico’s demolition and rebuild, but suggests city and state officials and The Stronach Group ... enter into formal negotiations about the next steps." The Stronach Group "declined to address Thursday whether it would consider a public-private partnership to rebuild Pimlico." Vast sections of Pimlico "now have a patched-together, industrial look." The clubhouse -- where "high-end guests dine -- has not undergone significant renovation since it was constructed decades ago" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes the project, if "ever completed, would not only dramatically transform Pimlico and the area around it but also change the face of racing in Maryland" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14).

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: Park Heights Renaissance Exec Dir Marcus Pollock, whose nonprofit group formed about five years ago to help guide the redevelopment of the community, said that a "commitment of public funding for the infrastructure work at Pimlico would be a strong first step to moving the wide-ranging plan forward for participation by private developers." He said, "Once that is done, any investors would see that the opportunity is authentic and they would line up to make some offers to get the work done" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/13). A BALTIMORE SUN editorial is written under the header, "The Pimlico Plan Can Be Done." The report "does leave two major and inter-related questions: Who is going to pay the $424 million it would cost to make this vision a reality, and does the track’s owner have the slightest interest in expending this kind of effort -- any effort, really -- in keeping the Preakness in Baltimore?" Baltimore has a "compelling reason to invest in the redevelopment of the property, but absent the historical, cultural and economic significance of the Preakness, it’s going to be a much harder sell in the General Assembly, and it’s going to be much less attractive for private developers" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14). In Lexington, John Clay writes Pimlico has been a "crumbling mess for some time," as the "charm of the place and the history of the race pales in comparison to the peeling paint, creaky stairs, malfunctioning elevators and holes in the drywall." Clay writes he is not sure spending $424M to "first demolish and then rebuild the place is worth the price tag" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 12/14).

Sources speculated that the Dignity Health deal could be worth more than $6M annually
Photo: GALAXY

California-based hospital operator Dignity Health has signed a 10-year deal with AEG to become the naming-rights partner of the Galaxy’s stadium. The multi-use complex currently known as StubHub Center will be called Dignity Health Sports Park as of Jan. 1. The stadium is the temporary home for the Chargers, while the XFL announced its L.A. team will play at the venue when the league launches in '20. The previous six-year naming-rights agreement with StubHub expired following the MLS season. AEG earlier this year ended its relationship with StubHub as the official ticket reseller for its venues, naming its ticket subsidiary AXS in its place. Financial terms of the deal were not available, but sources speculated that the Dignity Health deal could be worth more than $6M annually. MLS naming-rights deals typically average $4-4.5M annually. Dignity Health also will become the official health care partner of the Galaxy, It will support various team initiatives, from providing in-stadium first aid stations and a mobile wellness clinic onsite at games to working with the Galaxy’s foundation and hosting viewing parties with patients at Dignity Health hospitals (Ian Thomas, THE DAILY).

COULD USE A BOOST: In L.A., James Rufus Koren notes the new deal "comes at a turbulent time for the Galaxy," who have seen their "star diminish in recent years." The franchise’s signing of David Beckham in '07 "sharply raised the profile" of MLS, but the team is in the middle of a "front-office reshuffle after a disappointing two-year stretch." The club also "missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons." In addition, the Galaxy "got a new crosstown rival" in LAFC this year. But the Galaxy "still draw big crowds and interest in MLS continues to grow." With help from signing F Zlatan Ibrahimovic, average attendance at Galaxy home games this year was 24,444, "up 10% from the previous year, but down about 3%" from '16 (L.A. TIMES, 12/14).

Opposition is "mounting in the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature to Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal for a new Redskins stadium" in Prince George’s County, according to a front-page piece by Luke Broadwater of the BALTIMORE SUN. House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch said Thursday that he is "opposed to spending taxpayer money on infrastructure for a new stadium when the state has more pressing needs." His opposition "isn’t the only hurdle for Hogan’s plan," as state lawmakers are submitting legislation to block the move; the Redskins are "exploring other sites; a federal environmental study is needed, and both the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress would have to approve various aspects of the deal." Busch said of Hogan's plan, "I don’t know who’s going to vote for that. He can’t pay for the infrastructure he’s already promised people." Hogan and new Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks have been "working to try to keep the team in the county, even as the Redskins consider sites in Washington and Virginia, as well." But Busch said that he "sees no reason" for the Redskins to leave their location 15 miles to the northeast at FedExField in Landover. Hogan pledged this week "not to use taxpayer money to construct a stadium for Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder, but said taxpayers might pay for infrastructure." State Del. David Moon of Montgomery County said that he will "introduce legislation in the session that begins Jan. 9 that would block the state from assisting the team with a new stadium" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14).

HOUSE OF CARDS: In DC, Thom Loverro writes trying to get the deal done "before the Democrats take control of the House next month was a long shot, but likely the only shot the project had." Still, "without the change ... it’s difficult to see how the city pulls off landing the Redskins." Without that provision, what does DC "have to offer Snyder?" This "isn’t a Nationals Park situation, where the city paid the full price" for a new ballpark, or "even an Audi Field situation ... where the city agreed to pay for half of the stadium." Without commercial development "in and around" the old RFK Stadium site, all they will have is a "football stadium -- an outdoor football stadium that sits empty for much of the year and, as an economic driver, helps no one" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/14). A WASHINGTON POST editorial states, "There is, to be sure, a serious conversation to be had over whether the District should welcome Washington’s football team back to its old home." Local residents "should welcome the possibility of House Republicans’ extending the lease and removing use restrictions without requiring any specific use in a year-end legislative package." What is at stake now is whether DC will have the "ability to make decisions about RFK and invest in its future" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).

Honda Center encourages fans to use the LiveSafe app to report security, maintenance and other problems
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Honda Center is rolling out LiveSafe’s security app for fans and arena workers to report problems via their smart phones. Arena Dir of Events Quinn Mackin said the Anaheim venue also will use data from the app to dig into the analytics of security incidents, logistics and maintenance issues. LiveSafe’s smart phone technology is also used at Levi’s Stadium, State Farm Arena and by scores of colleges and universities. Mackin said the approximately 1,000 arena employees and Ducks staff will download LiveSafe’s app to their phones. Efforts are underway to encourage Ducks fans to also download and use the app to report security, maintenance and other problems. LiveSafe President & CEO Carolyn Parent said venues can send real-time alerts and messages to fans, security and other staff. Mackin also added fans can also use the LiveSafe app to set up a GPS feature that allows family and friends to make sure they get safely to their car or home.

The Univ. of Louisville BOT has voted to "rename the Yum! Center practice facility," which opened in '07. According to the recommendation to the board, Yum! Brands "requested to exit its naming-rights agreement for the practice facility at the end of the year." It is also "gifting $625,000 to end the commitment" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/14).

GOING AS PLANNED: Syracuse AD John Wildhack said the Carrier Dome renovation is "right on schedule" for its fall '20 completion. Wildhack: "A lot of nuts and bolts are being done. We're right on track." United Technologies has plans to break up and make Carrier Corp. an independent company. Asked if the news changes anything with the naming-rights agreement, Wildhack said, "I don't know. At this point we're so focused on the project, making sure we're ready to go on time, the permitting process, we're not spending a lot of time on that" (SYRACUSE.com, 12/11). 

ON THE JOB: Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and DLR Group have been picked to design a new $75M Triple-A ballpark in Wichita. JE Dunn Construction and Eby Construction were tapped to build the venue. The Triple-A PCL New Orleans Baby Cakes will relocate to Wichita in '20. The new 10,000-seat, city-owned ballpark will replace the existing Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. It will also be next to a new National Baseball Congress HOF. Construction will start in early '19. It is being funded via state of Kansas bonds and a local tax increment financing district. The city of Wichita also hopes to see a mixed-use entertainment district development grow next to the ballpark, which sits on the Arkansas River. SJCF and Eby are both based in Wichita (Mike Sunnucks, THE DAILY).