Venue News: 2013 Winter Classic Awarded to Michigan; Seattle Makes Play for NBA, NHL Teams

It’s official: The 2013 Winter Classic will pit Original Six rivals Detroit and Toronto at Michigan Stadium in a chance to break the hockey attendance record. The record hockey crowd is 104,173 at Michigan Stadium for a college game in Ann Arbor, MI, between Michigan and Michigan State on Dec. 11, 2010. The first five Winter Classics were contained in one venue, but next season, the NHL will construct a second ice sheet at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park. In the week leading up to the Winter Classic, the alumni game will be played in Comerica, along with the Great Lakes Invitational college hockey tournament that usually takes place at Joe Louis Arena. An American Hockey League game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs’ affiliates is scheduled, as well as two Ontario Hockey League games, youth hockey games, and public skates. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman estimates that more than 150,000 tickets will be sold for the downtown events…

…A wealthy San Francisco hedge-fund manager and officials in the Seattle mayor’s office have been working behind the scenes for eight months to bring an NBA team back to Seattle as early as next fall and build a new arena, according to emails and documents that reveal a far more concerted effort than previously known. The documents also provide the first glimpse of how the largely unknown hedge-fund manager, 44-year-old Seattle native Christopher Hansen, approached the city about his desire to buy an NBA team and build an arena south of Safeco Field. In an initial email laying out his vision, Hansen told city officials an arena could be built with minimal impact on taxpayers. Although the documents don’t mention how Seattle would obtain a team, they show the city has been following developments in Sacramento, which is under a March 1 deadline to come up with a viable proposal to build an arena for the Sacramento Kings. In addition, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed a strong interest in placing a team in Seattle, leading to widespread speculation that the financially struggling Phoenix Coyotes could be moved there…

…A new 21 million-pound ($33.2 million) gym at the University of East London is just about complete and will host the U.S. Olympic team during the 2012 Olympic Games. In a few weeks, it will be ready to accommodate everyone from stars like swimming’s Michael Phelps and basketball’s Kobe Bryant to U.S. athletes who are still relatively unknown, offering them privacy to lift, stretch, and practice. Some 570 U.S. athletes and hundreds of support staff will use the university’s campus, gym and sports facilities before and during the July 27-Aug. 12 games. While U.S. athletes will sleep in the Olympic Village near Olympic Park, two train stops away, U.S. Olympic staff can bunk in the university’s dorms and set up their own sports science, medicine, and media centers…

… The Michigan State University Board of Trustees recently approved a $10 million plan to upgrade Spartan Stadium’s scoreboard and sound system technology.  The biggest feature of the project is the stadium’s new south end zone scoreboard, which will be significantly larger than its present model. The new board offers a sleeker, more modern look with a sizable video screen. In the opposite end zone, two smaller scoreboards will be installed. A fascia will span beneath the two south end zone scoreboards along the upper wall. Funding for the project comes exclusively from MSU Athletics. Construction is set to begin in March, with a substantial portion completed in August, in time for the upcoming football season. The project is planned to be completed by July 2013…

…The NFL has approved $200 million in league financing for the 49ers’ planned new stadium in Santa Clara, clearing one of the last hurdles for the first new football stadium in California since the 1960s. The league financing, which is separate from the bank debt, is the first under a new version of the NFL’s stadium-funding program. Unlike the old system, in which all the money essentially was grants, part of the new program involves loans. York said he expected initial construction to begin soon. The team hopes to have the stadium open by 2014, though it could be 2015.