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Volume 21 No. 1


Don Muret
The University of Arizona has tentatively selected AECOM to design a proposed $80 million renovation of McKale Center, the Pac-12 school’s 40-year-old basketball arena, officials with the architect confirmed.

AECOM officials declined further comment until they have a signed contract. The university cannot make a public announcement regarding the selection until it has completed negotiations and has a signed contract with the highest-ranked firm from the interview process, said Stephen Smith, Arizona’s senior architect in charge of planning, design and construction.

The Arizona job extends a nice run of college arena victories for AECOM, whose director of sports is Jon Niemuth, a principal in Kansas City.

Last month, AECOM was given the go-ahead to start designing a new arena for the University of Mississippi after the school’s board of trustees approved a $6 million fee for architects to begin their work. Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, a local firm, is AECOM’s design partner for the project. The initial concepts for the arena design have 9,000 to 10,000 seats, six to 12 suites, and club and loge box seating. The dimensions are similar to Auburn Arena, a 2-year-old venue Ole Miss officials have visited four times to get ideas for their project, Niemuth said.

In addition to Auburn Arena, designed by 360 Architecture, AECOM plans to use one of its own projects, Missouri State’s JQH Arena, as a model for cost and finishes, he said. The Missouri Valley Conference facility, built for about $70 million, opened in 2008 with 9,600 fixed seats.

Project officials estimate it will cost $100 million to build the new Mississippi arena and a parking garage with 500 to 700 spaces, Niemuth said. The arena site, to the west of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, is now a parking lot.

The arena project is part of Ole Miss’ “Forward Together” fundraising campaign, the SEC school’s effort to raise $150 million to pay for the new basketball facility, stadium renovations and a new $12 million indoor football practice facility. To date, it has raised about $78 million.

AECOM, originally hired to help the school develop the fundraising plan, is also designing the practice facility, which is now under construction, Niemuth said.

AECOM completed a study for the Vaught-Hemingway upgrades, but the renovation project has not officially been awarded to an architect.

Elsewhere, AECOM received contract approval last month to design improvements to Illinois’ Assembly Hall. The architect’s $2 million contract is part of a meticulous process in Illinois where every stage of design must be approved at the state level before construction starts, Niemuth said. The UI board of trustees meets in May to approve final construction documents and the project cost.

The $160 million renovation of the 50-year-old Big Ten arena includes $115 million in hard construction costs. The work will be done over five phases, running through the year 2017, Niemuth said.

Bull’s BBQ has been a hit in Philly; now it will be served at the White Sox’s park.
> CHICAGO BULL’S: Former major league slugger Greg “The Bull” Luzinski has expanded his line of pulled pork sandwiches to a second MLB park after signing a deal with Delaware North Sportservice, general concessions provider at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.

Luzinski, a Chicago native, will supply his product to Sportservice but without referring to it as part of his Bull’s BBQ brand, Sportservice officials said. Hatfield Meats, Luzinksi’s partner in Philadelphia, will prepare the pork and share revenue with Bull 19, the family-owned firm.

The deal is tied to the 30-year anniversary of the 1983 White Sox’s “Winning Ugly” team. Luzinski was that club’s designated hitter.

Luzinski also played on the 1980 world champion Phillies, and it’s in Philadelphia where he opened the popular Bull’s BBQ stand in the right-field corner of Citizens Bank Park. The two-man grill, run by Aramark, the Phillies’ food vendor, sells 60,000 pounds of pork every season, plus barbecue chicken, ribs, kielbasa, and beef and turkey sandwiches, said Ryan Luzinski, who is involved in his father’s operation.

As part of his marketing deal with the Phillies, Greg Luzinski signs autographs at Bull’s BBQ at each home game. Luzinski is expected to make a few trips to Chicago to celebrate the 1983 team, which won the AL West title.

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

Circuit of the Americas has signed two adult beverage companies and a grocery as founding partners for an amphitheater tied to the Formula One racetrack in Austin.

Anheuser-Busch and two regional brands, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and H-E-B supermarkets, have all signed multiyear deals with naming rights to destinations at the Austin360 Amphitheater, an outdoor music venue opening Friday with a Kenny Chesney concert.

The amphitheater was used for shows during last year’s F1 race while it was still being built.
Financial terms were not disclosed.

The three sponsorships center on the amphitheater itself, but also extend to the track with signs set along the road course in addition to print advertising and website inventory, among other assets, said Ben Cahalane, chief sales officer for Circuit of the Americas.

The amphitheater has 6,700 fixed seats and a general admission lawn area with total seating for 14,000 people. The venue sits inside Turns 16 through 18, behind the grand plaza near the front entrance.

Tito’s agreement with the track is a three-year deal, confirmed Nicole Portwood, brand manager for the 18-year-old Austin hard liquor distillery. The vodka maker will set up portable branded bars to the left of the amphitheater stage, in an area to be called Tito’s Handmade Vodka Porch, that can be taken apart and moved to other track locations.

For Tito’s, the amphitheater deal marks its most extensive partnership at a sports and entertainment facility, Portwood said.

Driving the deal was the importance for Tito’s to invest in things that improve quality of life in Austin, she said. The deal also exposes the Tito’s brand to a new audience of international patrons attending the annual F1 race in the fall and other motorsports at Circuit of the Americas.

In February, Tito’s signed a deal with AEG to supply its products at Staples Center, Citizens Business Bank Arena and Valley View Casino Center, three arenas in Southern California. Tito’s vodka is available in all 50 states, with Texas, New York and California its top three markets.

“Our blueprint is to partner with festivals and major venues to reach as many people as possible,” Portwood said. “We will be spending additional dollars with COTA for ticket giveaways for the [April 19-21] MotoGP event.”

H-E-B, based in San Antonio, receives naming rights for the H-E-B Lawn, the general admission area on a grass berm behind the fixed seats.

As part of its activation, the grocery will brand a VIP section with reserved seats installed on an elevated platform, Cahalane said. The seats will be distributed through seasonlong ticket promotions at H-E-B stores, he said.

Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light brand will be showcased on a beer bar set up in the lawn space.

As of last week, track officials were still working on a fourth founding partner tied to a VIP club at the amphitheater. The deal was not signed yet. The amphitheater is managed in a partnership with Live Nation and local promoter C3 Presents. To date, the venue has booked 12 concerts.

In line with earlier news that the Miami Dolphins will repay Miami-Dade County for its contribution to a desired $389 million upgrade of Sun Life Stadium, the team last Wednesday said it plans to repay $47 million the state would contribute to the targeted project, as well.

The Florida Legislature is considering a bill to provide $3 million a year to help fund the modernization of the stadium by providing a sales tax rebate on goods and services sold at the venue.

Team officials also are asking the county to increase the bed tax on mainland hotels by a penny, a request that the legislature also has to vet.

Dolphins ownership now would pay back a total of $167 million in public money: $120 million to the county and $47 million to the state. The state and county money would be repaid at the end of the tax deal’s life, in 2043.

The team has agreed to sign a 30-year, non-relocation agreement to keep the team in Miami-Dade.

County residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the bed tax increase and the money being used for the stadium upgrade through a referendum, tentatively set for May.

“We are not only committed to bringing Super Bowls, BCS Championships and international soccer to Miami by modernizing Sun Life Stadium, but we are also committed to crafting a fair and advantageous agreement for taxpayers,” said Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, in a statement.

“Today, we have taken a huge step towards those goals by agreeing to pay the state of Florida back the money used to finance the construction project.”

Late last month, Dee said he had received indications during the NFL’s annual meeting in Phoenix that Miami was in the running for Super Bowl L or LI — if it were to make the upgrades to Sun Life Stadium, which opened in 1987. The winning host cities for those games, in 2016 and 2017, are set to be announced May 22.

Dee also said the Dolphins have agreed to make the county’s funding contingent on Miami becoming a Super Bowl host city, a requirement Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had already voiced. He said the team is willing to cover the cost of the referendum, as well.

The county is exploring whether that is possible.

Oscar Pedro Musibay writes for the South Florida Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

Charlotte City Council members last week signed off on an advertising plan that allows for more murals, graphic panels and sponsor logos on the outside of the planned new ballpark for the Class AAA Charlotte Knights.

The Knights and lead architect Odell Associates needed a zoning change to allow for larger signs and more logos on the exterior of the $54 million facility than otherwise would have been allowed. The ballpark, scheduled to open next year, is being built on an 8-acre county-owned site in downtown Charlotte.

BB&T Ballpark, scheduled to open next year, has a sign plan that council members have called “cluttered” and “very busy.”
Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey was the sole vote against the request, which had previously received criticism from some other members. Kinsey said she felt the plan still looked “cluttered” and “a little messy.”

The team proposes LED moving-message signs and a motion display panel on the venue, BB&T Ballpark. Last Wednesday, Knights representatives and executives from naming-rights sponsor BB&T Co. revealed several variations of the future design of the ballpark’s logo.

The council-approved plan was a revised proposal that the Knights presented to the council earlier in the month. It reduced the square footage of an initially proposed 1,776-square-foot sign on one section of the stadium to 75 percent of the wall area, according to documents submitted to the city staff. Another initially proposed 1,711-square-foot sign on the rear of the scoreboard was reduced by half. The Knights also plan to relocate a pair of trees to the front of a 490-square-foot LED sign.

Councilman Michael Barnes had said several times that he wanted the ballpark to look uniform in comparison with Bank of America Stadium and Time Warner Cable Arena, other sports venues in downtown Charlotte. He had described the Knights’ sign plan as “very busy.”

Councilwoman Claire Fallon also expressed concerns. However, both Barnes and Fallon were absent from last week’s council meeting, when the revised plan was approved.

Susan Stabley writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.