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Volume 26 No. 28

Facilities

About $120M of the renovations will go toward technology upgrades at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Photo: getty images

The Pacers and Indianapolis have agreed to a $295M deal that keeps the team in the city "for the next 25 years," according to Chris Sikich of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The Marion County Capital Improvement Board Friday morning "voted unanimously in favor of the deal" that is "contingent on the Indiana General Assembly finding money to pay for the majority" of the agreement. The CIB, "funded through that legislation, would provide" $270M toward upgrades of Bankers Life Fieldhouse "over the course of the 25-year extension." The city "would contribute" the remaining $25M, "contingent on the City-County Council's approval." CIB President Melina Kennedy said that there are "several clauses in the contract to protect the CIB to ensure the Pacers won't try to break the lease." The upgrades, which will be "fast-tracked over the next three years, will include a public plaza to host year-round events" like "concerts, ice skating and even basketball games." Inside the arena, there will be "more public areas where people can congregate." The top eight rows of seats will be "removed on the east and west ends to create horseshoe-shaped gathering places." The Pacers also will "add observation decks and enhance the suite areas." The Pacers had previously agreed to contribute about $65M for improvements to the arena and "related facilities, such as the parking garage" (INDYSTAR.com, 4/12).

IN THE DETAILS: In Indianapolis, Lindsey Erdody noted the "unprecedented agreement" commits the CIB to spending up to $120M on technology upgrades, an average of $14.5M per year on operating expenses, $17.6M on maintenance and repairs and $4.6M to license the video and sound system. The agreement is the "longest -- and most expensive -- deal between the city and the Pacers yet." It replaces the current Pacers lease, which ran through the '23-24 season. Pacers Owner Herb Simon has said that he "wants to keep the Pacers in Indiana, even after he is no longer the owner." Simon plans to "pass his sole ownership on to his son, Steve Simon." Construction is "expected to begin next year after the Pacers season ends, but the project will be on hiatus" between October '20 and the NBA All-Star Game in February '21. The final phase of the project, which will "include the outdoor plaza, is expected to be completed in the fall" of '22 (IBJ.com, 4/12).

Allianz Field is set to debut Saturday for NYCFC-Minnesota United, and it displays "painstaking attention to detail" at every turn, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The stadium "provides spectators an intimacy and primo sightlines" that large football stadiums "don't allow." Allianz Field's farthest seat is 125 feet from the near sideline, which is "closer than the farthest lower-bowl seat at TCF Bank Stadium," where Minnesota United has been playing. A "sophisticated field-heating system keeps the pitch playable in cold weather, including presumably through unexpected April snowstorms." The stadium is also "symbolic of a league that is growing more relevant by the season," as 17 of MLS' 24 teams now "have soccer-specific stadiums, and three more are planned" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/12). Minnesota United coach Manny Lagos said that the stadium is "surreal," but that the team's ownership "sees this act as the start of the next phase." Lagos said, "To take the community and this new vision of Minnesota soccer ... to use it as a way to be more relevant from a global standpoint in Minnesota" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/12).

FAN FARE: THE ATHLETIC's Jeff Rueter noted Minnesota United has a "wide range of festivities planned" for this weekend. On Friday night, Adrian Heath, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and others will "share the Ordway Theater's stage with the Men in Blazers." The club will also "launch some specialty merchandise" at Allianz Field in collaboration with Ebbets Field Flannels. The NYCFC-Minnesota United gameday show "kicks off at noon on Saturday, with a fanzone hosting seven local food trucks and music." Team CEO Chris Wright said that the team "already has an action plan in case of a greater snow emergency," despite there being a less than 10% chance of precipitation on Saturday (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/10).

CUSTOM BUILD: MPRNEWS' Euan Kerr noted the team will "take to a custom built" grass pitch for the home opener Saturday. Minnesota United/Allianz Field Head Groundskeeper Ryan Moy said that conversations about "how to build the pitch began years ago." Allianz Field has a "roof over the seats that casts a shadow depending on the sun's position," which can affect the field's grass. Moy said that an array of grow lights mounted on a mobile gantry help "even out the growth in the darker areas." He added that Allianz Field was "built with snow in mind." The stadium has "undersoil heating and drainage systems" that will "melt a lot of snow." Moy said that the team has "already been doing that for a couple of months during the winter" (MPRNEWS.org, 4/11).

TODAY IS GONNA BE THE DAY: The STAR TRIBUNE's Zgoda wrote the new stadium's "signature feature" is the Wonderwall, a 2,920-capacity, "safe-standing supporters' section rising behind the south-end goal." The section has "assumed the name" of Oasis' hit single, which fans "have sung together after victory since at least" '12. The section, which encompasses nearly 15% of the stadium's total capacity, has "no seats, with only rails to grasp." The section ascends at a 34.9% incline "seemingly right on top" of the the goal below (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/12). The STAR TRIBUNE offers an in-depth look at the new stadium.

The NFL Panthers "launched a charm offensive" Thursday in Columbia, S.C., in an attempt to "jump-start a stalled incentives bill" that would provide $108M to the team for a new practice and business HQ in South Carolina, according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Panthers coach Ron Rivera, current and former players and mascot Sir Purr "sat in the galleries of the House and Senate, posed for photos after a brief meeting with S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and roamed the halls during a half-day visit" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/11). In Columbia, Jeffrey Collins notes the incentives bill is "currently stalled in the Senate" after state Sen. Dick Harpootlian "hired a private economist who disagreed with the state Commerce Department’s analysis of the impact of creating a new facility for the Panthers." The economist suggests that the "real impact" would be closer to $1.1B rather than the $3.8B impact the Commerce Department suggested. Collins notes McMaster is an "enthusiastic backer" of building a facility for the Panthers, and team Owner David Tepper "wants an indoor facility built as soon as possible" (Columbia STATE, 4/12).

Michigan Int'l Speedway is getting an "enormous new infield scoreboard" that will stand 150-feet high and include "screens on all four sides," according to Bill Shea of CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS. The scoreboard will have video screens, which will be 12 feet high and 19 feet wide, at the bottom to "show replays and other action." Those "will be 44 feet above the ground." The new digital leaderboard "stretches 72 feet above the video screen and will totally encase all four sides." It will "show the top 15 positions" and at the bottom, the "final two positions will scroll through everybody in the race." MIS "declined to disclose the cost of the new scoreboards." The board's video system comes from Daktronics. Construction has already begun and "will be finished" before the track's first NASCAR races in June (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 4/11).