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Volume 21 No. 2


Don Muret
The Minnesota Vikings are no closer to getting a new stadium deal done in the Twin Cities after Gov. Mark Dayton threw cold water on their plan to build an NFL facility in suburban St. Paul late last month, criticizing the project as “incomplete and unsatisfactory.”

With the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome set to expire after this season, their landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, is crafting a series of one-year extensions that would allow the club to continue playing there until the new stadium issue is resolved, according to Bill Lester, the commission’s executive director.

The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome is set to expire after the current season ends.
The Vikings have not yet signed an extension, which brings up an interesting sidelight: After getting their deal done to build Target Field, the Minnesota Twins played their final three seasons at the Metrodome without a signed contract.

The Twins “simply could not agree on terms” with the commission on those short-team deals at the dome, said team President Dave St. Peter. Instead, the Twins played under the terms of their old Metrodome deal.

“As soon as we published a schedule and commenced our marketing program, that triggered the lease extension for that specific season, and we played there from 2007 through 2009 without a signed use agreement,” St. Peter said.

During their lengthy campaign to get a new stadium built in Minnesota, the Vikings have said publicly they are not interested in signing a lease extension until they get an agreement done to build a new facility.

The club’s position has not changed, said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. Bagley is aware of how the Twins dealt with the commission during their last hurrah at the dome.

“We haven’t really looked at that,” Bagley said. “We have been 100 percent focused on the new stadium issue.”

Technically, the Vikings could do the same thing, Lester said. But, he added, “We would rather have a signed contract.”

The Minnesota Legislature could schedule a special session later this year to revisit the Vikings’ stadium plan, Dayton said.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Sports architect Jonathan Cole recently spent a night working as an unpaid intern for the Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs at O’Brien Field, a minor league ballpark he designed 10 years ago at HNTB.

Cole, now a principal at Pendulum Studio, a Kansas City firm he co-founded in 2008, contacted Chiefs owner Rocky Vonachen for the opportunity to work for the team for one game and get a better sense of operational challenges tied to facility development. Over the course of the July 16 game, Cole passed out balls for the ceremonial first pitches, pulled fans from the stands for on-field promotions, stood on the dugout leading cheers for the Chiefs and cleaned debris from the postgame fireworks display.

The architect said he saw a few things he could improve on for planning future minor league parks, such as providing storage space in dugouts for promotional props and upgrading railings as a fan safety enhancement. After the tragic accident last month at Rangers Ballpark, where a fan died from a fall after reaching for a ball tossed by Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Chiefs no longer launch T-shirts to the suite level at O’Brien Field, 16 feet above the concourse.

“All things we need to keep in mind,” Cole said.

PANIC BUTTON: The Charlotte Bobcats got some good news during the ongoing NBA lockout when Widespread Panic booked Time Warner Cable Arena for its annual New Year’s Eve bash.

It all went according to plan, said Bobcats President Fred Whitfield. After initial talks with band management, the team knew it had a good chance to get Panic and reserved Dec. 31 for a concert when submitting available dates for NBA games to the league office, Whitfield said.

The Bobcats operate their arena and expect a full house of about 16,000 for the Dec. 31 show, said Pete Guelli, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. AEG FacilitiesGlenn Grabski is the Bobcats’ talent buyer.

The Athens, Ga., act has a record 19 sellouts at Philips Arena, a number that covers nine New Year’s Eve shows in Atlanta.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

The Phoenix Suns are splitting eight suites into 16 theater boxes at US Airways Center, becoming the fourth NBA team to carve traditional skyboxes into a smaller, more affordable premium product.

Theater boxes contain four to eight seats inside the bowl with a bar, a dining table and lounge space in the back. The boxes are generally tied to an all-inclusive package that covers tickets to most events and the cost to buy food and drink.

United Center introduced 32 theater boxes in 2009 on the arena’s penthouse suite level. The idea was to reposition unsold suites and reduce their capacity so that they could meet a need for companies that want a suite experience without being forced to buy 12 to 14 seats, according to Steve Schanwald, United Center’s senior vice president of marketing.

Bradley Center in Milwaukee followed suit and built 10 theater boxes prior to last season that sell for about $60,000 a year.

Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., designed the boxes shown in the rendering above. Now the Phoenix Suns are joining the trend of offering smaller, more affordable premium products.
And Verizon Center has developed eight theater boxes in Washington, D.C., for the coming season. Five are sold, ranging in price from $125,000 to $150,000 annually with one- and three-year terms, according to Sheila Francis, spokeswoman for Monument Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Capitals and Wizards.

In Phoenix, the Suns went ahead with their project after seeing the success of theater boxes at United Center and Bradley Center, said team President Rick Welts. The Suns will charge $65,000 annually for theater boxes with one- and three-year terms, a little less than half the price of a regular suite at US Airways Center. The cost covers tickets to all arena events, plus all food, beer and wine. Hard liquor is a separate cost.

The new theater boxes are located on the lower of two suite levels, directly opposite the stage, so the Suns could market those units for concerts, Welts said. Some of the eight suites that are being turned into theater boxes were sold, and those premium patrons were relocated. Some of those suites had been reserved for single-game rentals.

The midpriced boxes should help the Suns generate incremental revenue in a market saturated with “way too much suite inventory,” between US Airways Center and Chase Field across the street, University of Phoenix Stadium and Arena in Glendale, and Arizona State University’s football and basketball facilities in Tempe, Welts said. “On the NBA ticket side, we have a very high average ticket price, yet it’s a below-average market for suite revenue,” he said. “The reason for that is just the number of venues that we have here.”

The project cost is about $750,000. Flatline Architects, a local firm, is designing the theater boxes. The Suns have not begun selling the boxes but have seen strong interest from customers, Welts said.

“We just finished the engineering portion of it, and funding, so we’re full speed ahead in having that ready for the beginning of our season,” he said.

In the NHL, the Florida Panthers plan to build several four-seat theater boxes over the next few years at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

GOOD QUESTION: Phoenix Coyotes executive Jim Foss provided unique insight into the daily operations of the financially troubled NHL team during an IAVM session on the future of the sports venue business. When asked how corporate advertising is going, Foss, the club’s senior vice president and the general manager of Arena, did not flinch.

“It’s a challenge,” Foss said. “Right now, with our corporate sponsors, when we enter a room, the first question out of their mouth is, ‘Are you guys going to be here next year? Are you going to Winnipeg?’ That was last year. This year, it’s Quebec City.”

The team’s success on the ice during the last two seasons, with consecutive playoff appearances, leads Foss to believe the Coyotes will find a long-term solution, one he thinks will keep the team in Phoenix.

“When a city invests $180 million in an arena and you have a league that’s motivated to keep the team here and you have an NBC contract … as part of the deal to believe in this town, when this all flushes out from our standpoint, our sponsorship opportunities are going to be great,” he said. “It may be a little rough right now, but it’s nothing more than filling in a pothole, because long term, this [market] is going to work for us.”

The Staples Center is installing a new sound system valued at $3.4 million.
SOUND OFF: AEG is installing a new state-of-the-art JBL sound system at Staples Center. The upgrade, valued at $3.4 million, will improve acoustics in an arena with almost 1 million square feet, especially in the upper deck, where the sound was often muddled for concerts, said Lee Zeidman, the venue’s senior vice president and general manager.

Staples Center officials worked directly with JBL to design the system and select the components, Zeidman said. Touring acts that bring their own sound equipment will be able to “plug and play” into the arena’s system to enhance their productions.

“For sports, it is going to be a tremendous asset to our game presentation,” he said. “The Kings alone have really dialed up their presentation, and this new system will increase the intelligence of the video and music. It will get everybody more into the game.”

The installation is tied to JBL’s founding partnership with AEG, which covers Staples Center, as well as Nokia Plaza and Nokia Theatre across the street at L.A. Live. The deal, struck by AEG Global Partnerships, will extend to future sound system upgrades at other AEG-managed properties, Zeidman said.

The Staples Center project should be completed by late August and ready to go live for a WNBA Sparks game.

The Red Sky Music Festival attracted big crowds to Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park.
TIDBITS: Despite rumors to the contrary, one UFL coach has told his stadium manager that there will be football played this fall at TD Ameritrade Park. Mounting debt forced UFL officials to push the start of training camp back 30 days to mid-August and to move the start of the regular season to mid-September. Joe Moglia, head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks, is also chairman of TD Ameritrade, the company that holds naming rights to the 24,000-seat facility and the new home of the College World Series. “He thinks we’re going to play, even though he sent the players home,” said Roger Dixon, president and CEO of the stadium operator, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority. The Nighthawks’ first scheduled home game is Sept. 30, according to Dixon. As of last week, the UFL website had not posted an updated game schedule for its five teams. … Separately in Omaha, the first Red Sky Music Festival drew more than 80,000 people for four days of live music inside and outside the new ballpark. Headliners Jason Aldean (20,000 fans), Zac Brown (19,300) and Kid Rock (18,000) drew the biggest crowds. The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority partnered with concert promoter Live Nation. The intent is to make the festival an annual event, Dixon said. … Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA guard now spearheading the city’s effort to build a new arena for the Kings, is part of the opening night panel at the inaugural Green Sports Alliance Summit, which will be held today through Wednesday at the Portland World Trade Center. Officials with the Seattle Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Vancouver Canucks formed the grassroots group and organized the event to share best practices for sustainability at arenas and stadiums. … SMG, operator of five NFL stadiums, is developing a new smartphone application to meet customer service needs. The new app will provide game-day traffic updates, stadium diagrams, ticket-buying and concession stand information, and details of upcoming events, said Doug Thornton, SMG’s senior vice president of arenas and stadiums. It should be ready within the first quarter of the NFL season, Thornton said. … In Oakland, FanOne Marketing has signed a database marketing deal with the Raiders to increase season-ticket sales and boost single-game ticket and suite sales. The deal extends to social media, where the Raiders will serve as a beta client for FanOne’s new technology tied to Facebook and Twitter connectors. … Aecom will design an estimated $60 million renovation of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan. … Ovations Food Services, the retail provider at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new spring training facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, is working with building management to develop additional lines of apparel branded after the complex. The T-shirts, polos and caps sporting the Salt River logo, a combination of the Diamondbacks’ snake and the Rockies’ mountain peaks, proved to be a hot commodity during the facility’s first year of operation, said David Dunne, manager of spring training operations. … In Barclays Center news, Levy Restaurants selected Julie Margolin to be the general manager of food service at the Brooklyn facility.