Venue News: NFL Nears Approval for Proposed Santa Clara Stadium Financing

Within three weeks, the NFL could approve the financing for the San Francisco 49ers’ planned stadium in Santa Clara, CA — including providing up to $200 million in funding grants from the league — marking the strongest sign yet that California’s first new football stadium in almost half a century is as near to reality as it has ever been. The banks leading the lending for the 49ers project sent preliminary information last week to other financial institutions describing the targeted $850 million loan as a bridge to a more complete financing that would occur during construction, which is expected to start this year. According to financial sources, the guarantees promised by the team in the event of a default provide for the league to step in to sell the team and stadium. The league has tentatively called a brief owners meeting for Feb. 2 in Indianapolis, three days before the Super Bowl, largely to address the 49ers stadium issue. The team’s bankers — Goldman Sachs, US Bank and Bank of America — are expected to attend…

…Lambeau Field has long been known as the “frozen tundra,” but in reality, the ground at the Green Bay Packers’ legendary home is heated. And despite the freezing temperatures, the grass is kept green thanks to a new system of artificial lighting employed to counter the meek late-autumn sunshine in Wisconsin. The ground below Lambeau Field has been heated since 1967, when Coach Vince Lombardi oversaw the installation of electric coils that zig-zagged under the turf like wires in an electric blanket. The electric coils were replaced in 1997 by a system of pipes filled with a solution including antifreeze.  While heating the soil at Lambeau Field is a concept about as old as the Super Bowl, the artificial lighting system used there is a burgeoning technology, designed by the Dutch firm Stadium Grow Lighting (SGL). In essence, the system is a complex grid of retractable arms lined with hundreds of greenhouse-type light bulbs. After a trial run in 2010, the Packers bought nine MU360 units, as they are called, enough to cover half the field. The lights are used 24 hours a day from October to early December, and are moved every other day between games. Because the lights hang about six feet above the grass, other groundskeeping duties — mowing and watering, mostly — can continue…

… Minneapolis and Ramsey County touted the advantages of their competing plans to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium amid signs that key legislators want to slow down the rush to quickly approve the project. By 5 p.m. last Thursday — the deadline set by Gov. Mark Dayton — at least four stadium plans had landed on his desk. The day’s feverish stadium drama was capped by a Vikings spokesman saying the team preferred building in Arden Hills, believed a new Metrodome stadium was “workable,” and declined to guarantee whether it would play in Minnesota next season. Dayton said he would review the proposals and may offer his opinion this week. Meanwhile, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief Senate stadium author, and others indicated Thursday that legislators may now throttle back the stadium’s frenzied pace. She said choosing a stadium site and introducing a stadium bill may not happen before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 24. The two front-running proposals from Ramsey County and Minneapolis featured the same advantages and flaws displayed by the plans for months. Last-minute proposals also were submitted by Shakopee and for a site in Bloomington…

…The University of Tulsa recently installed a new high-definition video display system in the Donald W. Reynolds Center, home of the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. This system is one of just a few indoor systems in college athletics to feature high definition LED video. University of Tulsa’s new four-sided high definition video and scoring system replaced its old center-hung display. Two of the video displays measure more than 15 feet high by 30 feet wide. The other two video displays measure more than 15 feet high by 12 feet wide and slowly taper towards the bottom. These video displays will provide instant replays and statistical information. The entire cube-shaped system measures almost 19 feet high by 30 feet wide. Two auxiliary displays accompany the centerhung configuration, each measuring 3 feet high by 12 feet wide. These displays offer additional opportunities to showcase sponsors and provide statistics and animations…

…This week’s edition of the SportsBusiness Journal offered an in-depth look at the sports facilities industry, including a look back at 2011 and a forecast of 2012.  The publication asked industry executives to identify trends they’re seeing in the sports-facility space, listed active projects in the professional and college markets, and highlighted bids won by major sports design firms.