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Archives: April 7-13, 2008

The Arena Digest News Archives for April 7-13, 2008.
NJ Supreme Court tosses out case involving woman injured by puck
It is standard practice before games for the public announcer to remind fans  to watch out for flying pucks. Many arenas have followed the NHL lead by putting screen up at the ends of the building. Still, there is always the chance you can get hit by a puck.
    Denise Sciarotta got hit by a puck prior to a game at Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton in 2003. She sued the Titans, Johnstown (the visiting team that night), the East Coast Hockey League and Mercer County Improvement Authority, which runs the rink.
    On Thursday, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the arena had fulfilled a  "limited duty" by putting up nets behind the nets. It was the second time the suit had been tossed out. The first suit was thrown out by a judge but an appeals court had reinstated it. breaks down the story further.


If it was just building a basketball arena in Brooklyn, the thing would probably be started by now. But Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner was following the trend in arena building these days — add office complexes nearby and make it a large project. Great idea … when you can fill the offices. But Ratner has had a hard time doing just that. In 2003, he hired a firm to find a tenant for the development’s signature tower, dubbed "Miss Brooklyn." Five years later, they are still looking. Atlantic Yards officials are still saying optimistically it will be ready in time for the 2010-11 season (when the New Jersey Nets are supposed to move in). But more and more people in town are growing skeptical. Ratner was able to win the battle with neighbors over how much space he can take up with his project. Now he needs to start construction or things could turn ugly in a New York minute.

When Tom Osborne speaks, folks in Nebraska listen. So, when he told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Lincoln that a new hoops home would serve the community well, heads began to nod quickly in agreement. Unfortunately, wanting a new arena and getting one are separate issues. Osborne recently came back to his old school as the athletic director. While well aware of the fact his school is the only one in the Big 12 that doesn’t have a practice basketball facility, he knows the cost for building a new one may be more than his school can handle at this time. In this article in the Lincoln Journal Star, Osborne acknowledges a new arena may be on the horizon but he has some other goals that also need to be hit. Mixing and matching them may not be that easy. "If Boone Pickens swings up this way and drops $15 million on us, we’d be happy to take it," Osborne said. Until then….

Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena has long been considered to be one of the more low-key places in the NHL during the regular season. Throwing an octopus on the ice for the team’s first goal at home (a Detroit tradition that dates back 50 years) is about as daring as things have been in the past.
    The Red Wings, a team that could have a long run in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, have decided to jazz up their image. The Detroit News reports things may be different this year. Whether this has any effect on the team’s attempt to win the Cup remains to be seen. But it looks like showbiz has finally come to the Joe.

Okay, it’s not the same as, say, lighting up Times Square in New York City. Occasionally, however, we need a reminder that a hot team in the playoffs playing in front of a full arena can mean a lot to a town. Such is the case in Elmira, N.Y., where the ECHL Jackals are the playoffs this week. As the Star-Gazette notes, this means First Arena in downtown Elmira will be hopping. In turn, the downtown area — which has suffered as has many in towns that size — gets a boost as well.

Pittsburgh arena design too boring?
Everybody’s a critic these days. Pittsburgh has gone through a lot already to get the proposed new arena for the NHL’s Penguins off the ground. Now, before the first brick is laid, comes a new problem: members of the city’s Planning Commission think the design for the new arena is rather bland. One member said it looked like a "monolithic mall." So, HOK Sport has been assigned the task of jazzing up the joint from the outside and presenting the alterations at an April 22 meeting. Don’t take our word for this, though. Judge for yourself by looking at the various Pittsburgh arena renderings below and near the bottom of this page.
    There are some other problems, too. One of the biggest bones of contention: the current plan now calls for two pedestrian walkways that were not part of the development plan agreed to in January. The walkways are nice (and probably necessary) but who is going to pay for them? Not us, says, Pens’ lawyer William Sittig, Jr., contending that wasn’t part of the deal.

<Sacre bleu! Quebec town wins Hockeyville competition
Maybe this is our northern friends’ version of "American Idol." Three years ago, Kraft Canada came up with a nifty idea — hold a cross-country competition to find a small town that could be called "Hockeyville" for a year. The winner would get money to upgrade their local arena and would host an NHL preseason game. This year’s winner is Roberval, Que, a town of 11,000 in the far northwestern part of the province. Roberval defeated four other finalists — Pilot Mound, Man., Kingsville, Ont., Port aux Basques, N.L. and Wilcox, Sask. — in voting conducted by the Kraft and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Over five million people voted.) The grand prize is a Sept. 23 preseason game between the Canadiens and the Sabres. Fortunately, Roberval has an airport. Good thing, too. Montreal is 271 miles away and Buffalo is 664 miles away. One more thing. According to the city website, the city has a hotel and a local newspaper. (Mais ous, it is French only)

Dave Bean, who is trying to organize a $1-billion arena project in Seattle, has a novel problem. It’s not raising the money that is bothering him. Bean says he is having no problems finding investors. No, the problem is finding a place big enough for their vision. Bean and former Sonic Freddie Brown stepped up last week with their idea for an Emerald Civic Center that would include a new arena and several other businesses. It is probably too late to save the Seattle Sonics (NBA) from moving to Oklahoma City, but Bean and Brown say they are thinking ahead for a possible NHL or NBA expansion or relocation project. Bean is surprised by how little support he is getting from local politicians and businesses. His first proposed venue was the Pier 46 area. But Port of Seattle officials refuse to meet with him, and local union officials are concerned about loss of jobs. Bean says he has other places in mind as well. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports today, the process is a lot more complicated than first anticipated. On another front, it appears Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer is giving up on his effort for a $300-million makeover to KeyArena. Ballmer and others came up with $150 million but the city of Seattle’s attempt to get $75 million fizzled and the state legislature closed shop with no action on the issue. A self-imposed April 10 deadline is expected with no action occurring.

The Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) made it official: the team’s home will be known as Time Warner Cable Arena, but interestingly enough the team’s broadcasts are moving from Time Warner Cable to Fox Sports Net South beginning with the 2008-2009 season. Fox Sports Net South reaches triple the number of households as the team’s former broadcast home. Besides the exposure for the naming rights, Time Warner Cable will receive concourse space where it can promote new products. Terms of the deal were not released. Time Warner is getting more aggressive about sports sponsorships: yesterday the firm announced it was spending $10 million to sponsor the front gate of Quicken Loans Arena as well as becoming the official and exclusive cable, Internet and home phone-service provider for the arena, the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL).

April 15 is a dreaded date in many households because it is Tax Deadline Day. It may be a worse day than usual for Rich Singer, director of the Tucson Convention Center and Janet Barr, the city’s manager assistant. You see, they have the unpleasant duty of going before the Tucson City Council and explaining why the proposed costs for the city’s new downtown arena have jumped from an original estimate of $130 million (in October 2006) to $166 million. That’s a 22 percent jump in just 18 months. Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, for one, isn’t happy about this and would like come concrete numbers. Singer answered that by saying the numbers are conceptual until they have a financial plan. And when will the plan be ready? Singer wouldn’t — or couldn’t say. Barr is the point person overseeing the project, which also includes hotels. All in all, this could be an interesting (and potentially cranky) City Council meeting.

The Portland (Maine) City Council approves a lease for a group seeking to being an NBA D-League team to the Portland Exposition Building. The high-powered group, which includes Bill Ryan (owner of Oxford Plains Speedway), Bill Ryan (board chairman of TD Banknorth), Jon Jennings (a former assistant coach with the Boston Celtics) and state Sen. Barry Hobbins, will pay between $2,100 and $2,400 per event while also contributing $250,000 to the building’s maintenance. The group wants to obtain a D-League team and an affiliation with the Boston Celtics.

It has been a terrific year already for Notre Dame’s men’s hockey team. They are advancing to their first Frozen Four appearance ever this weekend. So, it would be hard to imagine anything upstaging that feat. However, at the team’s annual banquet the other day, this piece of news qualifies. The rink at the team’s new arena will be named after Charles "Lefty" Smith, who started the program in 1968 and stayed for the next 19 years. Smith’s all-time record as a coach was 307 320-30. But here’s a number no coach can beat: every player than finished his college eligibility (several left early to sign pro contracts) graduated with a degree. This release from Notre Dame gives more details. There is no set date on when this rink will be built. An anonymous donor kicked in $15 million to get the puck dropped but there has been no more news since then.

Charley Walters is reporting the sale of the Minnesota Wild (NHL) is expected to be approved by the NHL before the end of the week, transferring control from Bob Naegele to Craig Leipold and Phil Falcone. Charley, bless his heart, thinks the sale of the team will help the franchise sign Marian Gaborik to a new, hefty contract. Honestly, we’re not entirely sure why the Minnesota media assumes Leipold will come in and start throwing money around: despite being one of the most subsidized teams in the NHL, his Nashville Predators struggled to meet the minimum payroll requirements; it wasn’t until Aug. 1, 2007 that the Preds met the minimum for the 2007-2008 season when they signed Martin Gelinas, and the team’s payroll for this past season (a payroll largely put together by Leipold before he sold the team) was $18,650,000 — near the bottom of the NHL.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a man of his word. As he promised, the Republican governor fired back at the Democratic-controlled Legislature by wiping out some $200 million of a proposed $925-million state bonding bill. One area that was left alone totally: money for hockey arenas in Duluth, Bemidji, St. Cloud and Crookston. In Duluth, the money will go to replace the 42-year-old Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, upgrading capacity to over 7,000 seats for the school’s D-I hockey teams. The Duluth News Tribune offers up happy city reactions.
    They had been sweating it out in Bemidji, where the new arena costs will be combined with a 30-year extension of the city’s half-cent sales tax. The school is a recent convert to Division I hockey. Glas Fieldhouse, its current home, was built in the school’s NAIA days and is nowhere near what a D-I arena needs to be. If Pawlenty had said no, there was a very good possibility the school would have dropped hockey altogether.
    In Crookston, it was a matter of necessity. The current arena needed to be moved to make way for a flood wall. While Pawlenty, who occasionally still dons skates, was nice to hockey folks, he said no to a proposed volleyball facility in Rochester.

A few days after Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Sean Sutton resigned under pressure, his father is considering cutting more ties with the school. Eddie Sutton, who played and later coached at Oklahoma State for 16 season (including two Final Four appearances), had the court at Gallagher-Iba Arena named after him in 2005. However, he is having second thoughts after his son was let go despite recording 39 wins in two years as head coach. At the NCAA Final Four last weekend, he told a Texas newspaper he will "think" about asking to have his name removed from the court. Sean Sutton, by the way, didn’t walk away empty-handed. It has been reported the school settled with Sutton, who was an assistant to his dad for 13 years before taking over as head coach, for $2.7 million.

Maybe they are hoping for good playoff tickets. The One Hill Neighborhood Group, which has been engaged in a series of lengthy negotiations with the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) over the new arena that will go in their area, abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled the other day. It was thought the One Hill folks, frustrated by the slow pace of the talks, were going to announce some sort of action against the Pens’ owners. All they would say is they wanted to continue to talk "in good faith" with the team’s owners. Puzzled? So are we. But this has already been a lengthy soap opera. So why stop now?

Ever wanted to own your own arena? Oh, there’s a performing arts center nearby available in the deal as well. Such is the case in Orlando, where Amway Arena, the current home of the NBA Magic and Arena Football League Predators, is available. The city of Orlando is building a new events center later this year and will get to work on a new arts center next year. As a result, the city is offering up the current 26-acre Centroplex site that houses Amway and the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre for a mere $90 million. This won’t come closer to handling the tab for the new arena, arts center and some renovations being done on the Citrus Bowl football stadium (the tab for that work is expected to surpass $1 billion) but every $90 million a city can get comes in handy. By the way, the prices listed for the Centroplex site works out to $80 per square foot. The nearby police headquarters and Centroplex parking lot are priced at a dollar a square foot more. Priorities.

In Oklahoma City, the hope is the planned renovations for Ford Center will have an immediate effect. But that depends on how quick Seattle Sonics (NBA) owner Clay Bennett can figure out a way to leave Seattle and take up permanent residence in his hometown. Bennett hopes to be in OKC this fall but he still has to make a deal to get out of what is left in his arena lease in Seattle. Meanwhile, work will start in June to upgrade Ford to NBA standards. The $100-million project is a three-pronged affair, with the first segment scheduled to start in June. At that time, they will start building suites and upgrading bathroom facilities. The Oklahoman notes that one major project — a practice facility — isn’t even on the drawing board yet.