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Volume 21 No. 1


Don Muret
Ohio State officials plan to issue a proposal this fall for one of college sports’ most lucrative food contracts.

Sodexo, the Big Ten school’s concessionaire, has been feeding thousands of Buckeye football fans at Ohio Stadium since 1985, when Marriott Management Services, the company’s predecessor, held the contract.

Marriott and Sodexo merged in 1998, the same year Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena opened as the new home of Ohio State’s basketball and hockey teams. Sodexo has run food service at the arena since it opened in November of that year.

Renovations tripled the size of the Endowment Lounge at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Sodexo’s deal expires next summer, and the school wants to see what other food vendors have to offer for the stadium, the arena, the Jack Nicklaus Museum and other sports venues on campus, said Xen Riggs, OSU’s associate vice president for student life.

Officials made that decision after food consultant Chris Bigelow completed an assessment of Ohio State’s sports food business.

Ohio Stadium alone, a 102,329-seat facility with 81 suites and 2,227 club seats, generated more than $22 million in food and drink revenue over the past five seasons, Riggs said.

At the arena, which at 19,500 seats for basketball is the Big Ten’s largest, men’s basketball produced $1.6 million in concessions revenue for the 2010-11 school year, the most recent figures available. The numbers were $337,000 for men’s hockey and $227,000 for women’s basketball.

Over that same period, concerts at Value City Arena generated $1.3 million in concessions income, Riggs said.
Whether Sodexo retains the contract or a competitor wins the deal, the concessionaire will run the arena’s newly expanded Endowment Lounge, an event-level club reserved for the facility’s 150 courtside seat holders. The renovated club, tripling in size to 3,500 square feet, reopens this fall with 18 high-definition televisions and a full-service bar.

Ohio State expects to award the new food contract by next spring, Riggs said.

GRANDDADDY’S 100: Officials in Pasadena, Calif., are in the early stages of negotiating a deal with The Colonnade Group to produce a fan festival tied to the 100th Rose Bowl Game in 2014.

That year will also mark the 125th anniversary of the Tournament of Roses Parade as well as the 100th birthday of the Wrigley Mansion, headquarters of the parade organization.

The Colonnade Group, based in Birmingham, Ala., has run similar fan fests for the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten Conference football championships in Atlanta and Indianapolis, respectively.

In Pasadena, most of the festival’s activities, including an interactive museum revolving around the rich history of the game and the parade, will be housed at the Pasadena Convention Center, said Michael Ross, the facility’s CEO.

A meeting is scheduled for early September for the principals to develop a final plan for the festival and sign a contract for event operations, said Robbie Robertson, president and CEO of The Colonnade Group.

WATERS ON WRIGLEY: Roger Waters ranks his performance of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at Wrigley Field as one of the most amazing things he’s ever done over the course of his 40-plus-year career, according to Chicago Cubs President Crane Kenney.

Mark Campana, co-president of North America concerts for Live Nation, told Kenney about the conversation he had with Waters after the show. With Wrigley’s small footprint, Waters told Campana, the ballpark felt more like the “world’s largest opera house” than a stadium. Waters was so moved by his own experience on the field that he asked Campana to contact a local radio station so he could share his thoughts with late-night listeners.

Campana was “stunned,” Kenney said. “He had never heard of a performer that wanted to thank the venue and the city in that way.” The promoter told Kenney that it took a while to convince the overnight disc jockey that it was Waters.

Wrigley Field’s back-to-back, sold-out shows of “The Wall” and Brad Paisley in early June grossed a combined $7.4 million in ticket sales.

The Cubs rent the park for concerts and generate most of their revenue from concessions. Food and drink sold at concerts “far outpace” baseball per caps that run “north of $500,000” depending on the game and the day, Kenney said.

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

Sports architect Dan Meis, a chief designer of Staples Center, Safeco Field and Lincoln Financial Field with more than 25 years of experience, has joined Woods Bagot as its global director of sports.

Woods Bagot is a 143-year-old company founded in Australia with 14 worldwide offices, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The firm has designed some small arenas in Australia and the Middle East but none to the level of sophistication of big league facilities in North America, said Woods Bagot CEO Ross Donaldson.

Meis, in his new position, is responsible for expanding the firm’s presence in sports overall with a focus on design work for arenas and stadiums in the U.S., Donaldson said.

Among the projects Meis is bringing with him is an indoor football stadium for UNLV.
As part of the move, Meis brings a handful of projects to his new employer that he has been working on over the past several years. Those projects cover two deals tied to developer Majestic Realty, an $800 million NFL stadium proposed for suburban Los Angeles and an indoor college football facility for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Earlier this year, Meis was hired by Boston-based financier Raptor Group to design a new stadium in Rome for Italian soccer club AS Roma.

Meis’ portfolio extends to stadium designs for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where about 100 design teams have submitted proposals.

It was during Meis’ work in Qatar in May that he first crossed paths with Woods Bagot. Company officials contacted Meis to join their design team, which he did, and the alliance ultimately led him down a path toward full-time employment with Woods Bagot. He was officially hired in July.

With Woods Bagot, Meis will retain his office in Venice, a beachfront Los Angeles neighborhood. His staff of three designers — Xan Young, Scott Ferebee and Frank Sharpe — plus Joshua Boren, director of business development, remains intact.

Over the years, Meis has worked for the old Ellerbe Becket, NBBJ and most recently, Populous, in addition to running his own practice.

The Northlands has signed a deal with Legends Sales and Marketing to study how officials can generate more sponsorship dollars at the Edmonton sports complex.

The deal is part of a comprehensive look at how the nonprofit that runs the property, known as Northlands, can improve all aspects of operations at the 600-acre complex, which takes in Rexall Place, home of the Oilers; a horse racing facility; and other venues, said Richard Andersen, the group’s president and CEO.

Rexall Place is home to the Edmonton Oilers, whose lease expires in 2014.
On the sponsorship end, Bill Rhoda, a principal with Legends, has been hired to evaluate current deals and assets and develop a strategic plan for how to expand corporate partnerships across the board, Andersen said.

Last year, Northlands produced $2.8 million in net sponsorship revenue, according to the group’s 2011 annual report. The number increased from $2.6 million in 2010, but was down from $3.2 million in 2009, the document said.

Andersen, a veteran sports executive who took over at Northlands two years ago after spending many years in Major League Baseball, thinks the study will prove there is “nothing to provide but upside” for the Northlands to greatly increase its sponsorship revenue.

The Edmonton market is a hub for energy companies and is strong in the agriculture and forestry industries, leading Andersen to believe the complex could more than double its current revenue for sponsorships.

“It’s not the number we’re after, but the value,” he said. “With energy and agriculture, we have the best economy in the world.”

In addition, Northlands plans to issue a proposal next month for concessionaires to bid on food service at the complex. The nonprofit manages food in-house except at Rexall Place, where Delaware North Sportservice holds the contract. That contract expires with the Oilers’ lease in April 2014. The Oilers are developing a new downtown arena, but the project remains more than $100 million short of financing on its current estimated cost of $485 million.

Most likely, Northlands’ food proposal will cover Rexall Place. With the potential of a new vendor coming on board before the end of the year, however, that portion of the contract would not kick in until Sportservice’s current deal ends about 18 months from now, Andersen said.

Concessions and premium dining generate $40 million annually at the Northlands, which draws 4 million visitors a year, he said. It’s been a long time since the nonprofit took a look at improving that end of the operation, he said.

Venue Solutions Group of Nashville, headed by Russ Simons, is preparing the food proposal.

As for Rexall Place itself, officials have a $40 million plan “on the shelf” to renovate the 38-year-old arena for when the Oilers do leave for a new building, Andersen said. Last year, Populous designed a retrofit to eliminate many of the 67 suites for an arena losing its NHL tenant.

The arena also has the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, a junior league club. It is unknown whether that team would follow the Oilers to a new venue.

Andersen remains confident the market can handle two arenas. “There is huge discretionary income,” he said.