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Volume 20 No. 42


Have stadium, will travel.

That pitch won over two U.S. ATP tournaments, which starting next week will deploy a modular, made-to-order stadium, shipped in parts from Europe.

The first stop is the BB&T Open in Atlanta. When that event ends, the stadium will be taken down piece by piece, slid into specifically designed storage spaces on a flatbed truck, and driven to Winston-Salem, N.C., for that city’s late-August ATP tourney.

Nussli provided the stadium for Davis Cup matches in Gijon, Spain, in 2012.
Photo by: NUSSLI
The BB&T Open signed a five-year deal with the stadium’s owner, Nussli, for the setup. The Winston-Salem Open signed what it termed as a multiyear deal.

While temporary venues and temporary seating are not new — both events have used them in the past — they commonly entail mainly bleacher-style seats, folding chairs and few real-stadium amenities. What is different with Nussli’s offering is that its portable venue is akin to a real stadium, with plush-back seats and luxury front-row reclining chairs, all while being portable.

“It is like a big erector set,” said Chris Kersey, U.S. project manager for Nussli, a Swiss company that has leased similar stadiums overseas for events like the Davis Cup. “It is all pieces, and each one is put in a different transportation rack [on the truck for delivery].”

Nussli shipped over most of the stadium in 16 sea containers from Europe, though some parts came from the company’s seating used at last month’s Dew Tour stop in Maryland. At the completion of the Winston-Salem Open, the parts will remain in the United States as Nussli looks to further market its product.

Kersey approached the two ATP events last fall. In January, Bill Oakes, the director for the Winston-Salem tournament, flew to Nussli’s headquarters in Switzerland on behalf of both events, which know each other well through membership in the summer U.S. Open Series.

“I landed at 8 in the morning and spent 24 hours,” Oakes recalled. “They built a portion of the stands in one of their shops. I sat in the seats, did everything.”

The Winston-Salem event is looking to build a permanent tennis stadium but wanted to change things up from last year’s event presentation right away, Oakes said. The new stadium will offer fans more leg and shoulder room, he said.

Rob Bryant, the Atlanta director, said the difference in cost between the temporary stands that were used for that event last year and what Nussli is providing this year is minimal. In addition, the event tied in its new sponsorship with UPS, which handled the logistics of shipping the parts from Europe.

The setup and deconstruction is also quicker, Bryant said. Last year, the BB&T Open’s first at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, stadium installation consumed six weeks. This year, it will take three weeks.

Nussli is using the events as a platform to showcase its product. U.S. business represents about one-quarter of its global operations. Clients include the International Olympic Committee and A1 Beach Volleyball.

The stadium product can be configured to an event’s tastes, as well. The Atlanta tournament, for example, will have 400 premium seats courtside. Those seats recline, similar to ones in movie theaters. Winston-Salem has opted for 1,000 of these seats by contrast, and 500 more seats in total in its stadium. Overall, there will be seating for 3,900 in Atlanta versus 4,400 in Winston-Salem.

“The U.S. needs to upgrade its [temporary] seating,” Kersey said. “A lot of companies typically have bleachers, scaffolding. The reason we brought this into the market is, it is a gamble, but we think it is the right time.”

Don Muret
The Cleveland Browns have selected Gensler to design a major renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium, according to industry sources.

In addition, sources said Turner Construction has been named general contractor for the two-year project, expected to cost more than $100 million.

For both firms, the common thread is Browns CEO Joe Banner. Before getting the job in Cleveland, Banner was president of the Philadelphia Eagles. Last summer, the Eagles hired Gensler to design $160 million in upgrades to Lincoln Financial Field.

The Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium renovation is expected to cost more than $100M.
Turner Construction, the Eagles’ general contractor, originally built the team’s stadium, which opened in 2003. At that time, Ron Turner, no relation to the builder, was employed by NBBJ, the firm that designed the Linc. Turner is now Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment.

The Browns are expected to announce the renovation later this month.

Gensler, based in Los Angeles, was selected in March 2011 to design Farmers Field in Los Angeles. Without an NFL tenant, the $1 billion project remains on hold.

> L.A. LIVE: Three weeks before the University of Southern California takes over management of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Pac-12 school has hired Mike Garcia to handle day-to-day operations of both facilities.

Garcia was most recently general manager of the Greek Theatre, a 5,800-seat outdoor concert venue in Los Angeles. At USC, his official title is executive director of strategic planning. He reports to Dan Stimmler, associate senior vice president for auxiliary services.

The hiring of Garcia comes as a surprise to some USC insiders who thought NFL veteran Jim Steeg would be named general manager of the stadium and arena. Since January, Steeg had been consulting with USC in the transition as the school takes over those venues.

Instead, USC took a step in a different direction and hired Garcia, whose job is to help the school get through the college football season. “We want to operate the coliseum and sports arena for some time and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the total operation and determine the direction we are going with it before hiring a new GM,” he said.

One factor weighing against Steeg’s chances was the departure of Kristina Raspe, USC’s former vice president for real estate and asset management, sources said. Raspe hired Steeg, and her department led the transition. She left the school in May to work for Apple.

Steeg did not respond to an email seeking comment.

USC expects to hire a concessionaire by early August, Stimmler said. The school is talking to all the national vendors after issuing an RFP. Stadium and arena food have been run in-house.

USC is projected to take over both facilities July 29, Stimmler said.

The school last week was preparing an RFP to renovate the coliseum after committing $70 million to $100 million in upgrades to the 90-year-old stadium. Those costs could increase to $300 million, said architects who have discussed the project with university officials.

In late June, the board of directors of Exposition Park and the California Science Center, the landlords of the two facilities, approved a 98-year lease agreement with USC. The deal gives the school the ability to sell naming rights to the coliseum to help cover the cost of the renovation.

> APP BAT: The Atlanta Braves are doing brisk business at Turner Field selling traditional merchandise and game-used items such as bats, balls and bases through MLB’s At the Ballpark mobile application.

To buy merchandise, fans must download the application before pressing the tab labeled In-Seat Merchandise Ordering. A credit card is required to complete the purchase, and fans can have the items delivered to their seats.
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes — the average length of an inning — to order merchandise and have it delivered, said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Twenty games after activating the in-seat service, the Braves are averaging sales of $1,000 to $2,000 a game, Schiller said. Sales spiked at $5,000 on June 28, the night the Braves retired the No. 10 jersey worn by the team’s former third baseman Chipper Jones.

Through the application, game-used items are outselling traditional merchandise by more than 2-to-1. “By the end of the season, my guess is we will have generated a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue,” Schiller said.

The Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies are the only two MLB teams providing the option to buy merchandise through the At the Ballpark application, said MLB spokesman Matt Bourne.

Overall, according to data kept by MLB Advanced Media, the Braves lead MLB in the number of fans using the At the Ballpark application, he said.

> UNDER THE BRIDGE: The departure of veteran sports designer Bill Crockett, AECOM’s principal-in-charge of the Golden State Warriors’ San Francisco arena project, will have no effect on the team’s plans to develop its new home, Warriors President Rick Welts said.

AECOM has been a consultant to lead architect Snohetta, an Oslo, Norway-based firm, since the two were announced in August as the design team for the $500 million waterfront project.

“While AECOM has completed its current scope of work on the project, the firm remains on the team as a strategic advisor working with Snohetta,” Welts wrote in an email. “We expect with [both firms’] expertise, the project will continue to move along in strong fashion.”

AECOM and Crockett parted ways earlier this month. Crockett worked for AECOM and its predecessor, Ellerbe Becket, for 25 years and was one of its first hires after Ellerbe launched its Kansas City-based sports practice in 1988.

Crockett designed several major league facilities, including NBA arenas Barclays Center and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Crockett will remain in San Francisco and said he is fielding opportunities to join other firms.

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

Legends officials expect Shervin Mirhashemi to take the lead on expanding the company’s international business and to strengthen its position in the naming-rights space.

Last week, Legends announced Mirhashemi would become the firm’s president and chief operating officer, a new position reporting directly to Dave Checketts, Legends’ chairman and CEO. Mirhashemi will join Legends in the near future, officials said.

As president, Mirhashemi will oversee all departments within Legends, covering food and merchandise, sales and marketing, facility research and development and attractions.

“It takes a unique opportunity to leave AEG,” Mirhashemi said. “Two things drove me: ownership’s commitment to this company, and the people, especially the management team, that has the same competitive fire and passion that I do.”

In addition to overseeing all Legends divisions, Mirhashemi will be counted on to carve a bigger piece of the pie overseas and build on the firm’s deals to sell naming rights for DePaul’s proposed arena in Chicago and minor league facilities in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

“One of my priorities early on was to find somebody to jump in this role,” Checketts said. “The world is a big place and our business is growing rapidly, especially in Europe. Shervin is qualified because he has spent a lot of time over there. He will do a lot on the West Coast as well.”

Mirhashemi will open a new West Coast office for Legends in Los Angeles, where he spent 12 years with AEG. He first started with AEG as part of its legal team and has spent the last six years as president of AEG Global Partnerships.

At AEG, Mirhashemi was principally involved in brokering the $700 million naming-rights deal for Farmers Field, AEG’s proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles. He also sold the StubHub Center naming-rights deal for the Carson, Calif., complex that’s home to MLS, track and field and other sports.

Mirhashemi, along with Todd Goldstein, CEO of AEG Global Partnerships, formed a sales structure with a core of founding partners such as O2, Barclays, Nissan, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Panasonic and Anheuser-Busch with deals at AEG-managed facilities worldwide.

“It was a key component of our growth, and that is going to be one of the things we will do at Legends,” Mirhashemi said.

Mirhashemi’s strong communication and leadership skills will serve Legends well, said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Mirhashemi’s former boss at AEG.

“Shervin and Todd forged a global partnerships division that redefined the industry,” Leiweke said. “Shervin is a trendsetter and one of the smartest guys I know.”

The relationship between Legends and Mirhashemi began about two years ago when Legends Sales and Marketing President Chad Estis consulted with AEG on premium-seat sales for Farmers Field.

Checketts first met Mirhashemi through Estis six to eight months ago. About two months ago, Checketts “turned up the heat” to see whether Mirhashemi had interest in taking a lead role at Legends.

The U.S. Tennis Association has established a potential timeline that calls for building an operable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium by August 2016, one year earlier than past estimates.

The schedule is part of a request for qualification for owner representative services issued by the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and obtained by SportsBusiness Journal.

The timeline, all of which is “subject to change,” according to the RFQ, covers multiple projects tied to a five-year plan covering the replacement of Grandstand Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium by 2018, as well as the roof project and other infrastructure improvements.

Last year, the National Tennis Center released details on a $500 million renovation that did not include a roof, with the caveat that the group would study the roof option. Earlier this year, reports had the USTA setting its sights on having a roof in place by 2017.

The RFQ, issued June 12, provides concrete evidence for how serious the National Tennis Center is about expediting the roof project, an improvement that would resolve weather issues that have plagued the U.S. Open over the past five years.

To date, the projects must be approved by both New York city and state officials with financing in hand before construction can begin. At this time, the renovations are not funded, said Danny Zausner, the National Tennis Center’s chief operating officer.

Rossetti, the USTA’s architect, has been studying multiple options for how to build a roof structure without putting too much pressure on the foundation of the 22,547-seat stadium, which opened in 1997.

The roof project is moving through the initial phase of design, as stated in the RFQ. There are no dollar figures listed in the document for how much the roof would cost.

“Could it be done by 2016?” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. “We don’t have a [final] design as of this moment. But we are going to push as hard as we can. We want to have a roof.”

There are two schemes under consideration, according to an addendum to the RFQ responding to a vendor’s question about the roof. The roof material would be composed of a fabric called PTFE, short for polytetrafluoroethylene, the addendum said. It is similar to the translucent roof planned for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

Unlike the Vikings’ fixed roof design, though, the USTA’s proposed roof would be a movable structure covering the playing area with a fixed portion over some seating, the addendum said.

It has been a complicated process to come up with a sensible roof solution, sources familiar with the situation said.
“They’re having trouble making the numbers work,” one source said. “It gets very expensive, and steel is heavy. It’s like an amoeba — you push in one thing and something goes out the other side.”

Getting an owner’s representative on board will assist the USTA in making those difficult decisions, Zausner said.
The owner’s representative will report to Zausner and Chuck Jettmar, the National Tennis Center’s director of capital projects and engineering. It will serve as the program manager for all projects, including daily, on-site management and the facilitation of communications between the tennis center and project vendors, the RFQ said. Among other responsibilities, the owner’s representative will assess the validity of cost estimates, analyze delivery methods with the NTC and make recommendations based on project goals and objectives.

Eight companies responded to the RFQ for an owner’s representative. A formal proposal will be issued Wednesday, and a selection is expected to be made in mid-August.