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Volume 23 No. 29
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Alabama St. sees new $50M stadium as first step to FBS status

Don Muret
Alabama State University is building a new football stadium on campus, a key piece of the school’s long-range plan to become the first historically black college to compete at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Athletic department officials view the $50 million project opening next fall in Montgomery as the school’s “front porch” and the first step toward advancing to college football’s highest level.

“One of the ways to do that is to provide state-of-the-art facilities,”said Stacy Danley, Alabama State’s athletic director and a former Auburn running back.

Alabama State hired GSP Consulting of Pittsburgh to sell the stadium’s 18 suites, 750 club seats and 25 eight-seat loge boxes. In turn, GSP partnered with Bruno Event Team of Birmingham to help market premium seat inventory for the 30,000-seat facility.

Together, they have compiled a list of season-ticket holders, donors, alumni, vendors and businesses as potential customers, said John Swiatek, director of GSP Consulting’s sports group. They will start making sales calls in mid-October.

Selling every premium seat in the building would generate $1.1 million in annual revenue, Swiatek said.

GSP and Bruno are also teaming up to sell stadium sponsorships. Collectively, they are pitching a 10-year, $5 million naming-rights deal and four founding partnerships tied to naming rights for the field, suite level, loge level and the east gate facing campus.

All told, that inventory would generate a total of $14.8 million to help pay construction debt. The stadium site is on Interstate 85, where thousands drive by every day, Swiatek said.

Alabama State, a member of the Southwest Athletic Conference, plays home games at the Cramton Bowl, a city-owned stadium with 20,000 seats that recently completed an $8.5 million renovation. Last season, the Hornets averaged about 14,000 fans, Danley said.

The new stadium, plus other new venues for baseball and softball and the football team’s new $7 million training facility and academic center, are part of $250 million in campus construction. Over the next 30 years, Alabama State is targeting $600 million in new projects.

All that growth supports Danley’s belief that an FBS conference will extend a “bona fide” offer to Alabama State, an NCAA requirement.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The stadium will open Thanksgiving Day 2012 for the State Farm Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola, the annual rivalry game between ASU and Tuskegee University.

Wine was sold by the bottle or glass at a new store in Petco Park.
Brown Chambless Architects of Montgomery is the architect with consultant David Greusel of Convergence, formerly with Populous.

CALIFORNIA WINE: The San Diego Padres, in conjunction with their concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice, opened a new wine store at Petco Park for the final homestand of the season.

Wines at the Park opened Sept. 23 in what was once a small retail space behind home plate on the main concourse.
It was the first time in MLB a fan could buy a bottle from a wine list and have it poured through an aerator into a plastic carafe that fits into a seat cupholder, according to Sportservice research.

In the first weekend of operation, the wine store averaged $3,500 in sales a game, double the initial projections, said Tom Garfinkel, Padres president and chief operating officer.

Prices ranged from $9 for a glass of 2009 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay to $275 for a bottle of 2002 Dom Perignon. The highest-priced red is $199 for a bottle of 2009 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay and Cabernet are from Sonoma and Napa, respectively.

After noticing wine lovers socializing inside the store on opening night, officials set up tables outside the store.
Donovan’s steak house, a Padres partner, is presenting sponsor of the wine program. Wine selections are priced the same as they are in Donovan’s restaurants.

In New York, Aramark, in a deal with local liquor distributor Zachys, sells specialty wines at Citi Field, home of the Mets.

In San Diego, Wines at the Park resumes operation next season with the possibility of opening a large wine bar elsewhere in the stadium, Garfinkel said.

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