Venue News: Santa Clara Stadium Ahead of Schedule; NHL Considers Winnipeg for Next Heritage Classic

Santa Clara officials are expected to approve a construction contract for the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium that calls on the facility to open in 2014, a year earlier than originally projected. City officials are scheduled to vote on the $878 million building contract this week. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the contract requires construction to begin by July 1 and the stadium to be completed in time to open at the end of August 2014. The contractor, Turner-Devcon, would be fined $6 million for each 49ers game missed after that deadline, plus daily fines that could hit $20 million. The penalties could cause the contractor to lose money on the project. If Turner-Devcon completes the stadium in time for the 2014 preseason, it would earn a $5 million bonus. The 49ers and Santa Clara had previously aimed to start construction in January 2013 and open the field for the 2015 season, but the NFL awarded $200 million for the project last week. That was the last piece of funding needed for construction to begin after the team and city officials secured $850 million in bank loans in December. Under the contract being considered, Turner-Devcon would earn 4% of the total contract award, or about $35 million…

… The National Hockey League is examining the viability of hosting the next Heritage Classic outdoor game at Winnipeg’s new Investors Field. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the league has taken the next step in their study by contacting Environment Canada seeking data on weather patterns in Winnipeg for January and February, which indicates how seriously the NHL is considering the Manitoba capital as a future site for a Heritage Classic outdoor game, perhaps in 2014. There have been two previous Heritage Classic games held in Canada (not to be confused with the Winter Classics staged on New Year’s Day): the first was in Edmonton in 2003, when the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens played in front of 57,167 at Commonwealth Stadium, and the second was held last year in front of 41,022 fans at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium between the Flames and Canadiens. The NHL said last fall Winnipeg would be a good candidate to host a Heritage Classic because of its weather and the new facility at the University of Manitoba…

…Three months before the Houston Dynamo hold their first event at the venue on May 10 and officially open it on May 12, BBVA Compass Stadium is almost complete. Workers began installing the pitch’s sod Wednesday, and completed the job over the weekend. The orange seats have been installed through most of the southwest corner of the upper bowl. After playing their first six seasons at UH’s Robertson Stadium, the Dynamo are eager to have their own soccer-specific stadium. The 22,000-seat stadium has lower and upper bowls, and the upper bowl is the equivalent of the concourse at Minute Maid Park. Season-ticket sales are at an all-time high for the franchise. Current season-ticket holders have been offered an exclusive window to purchase up to 20 extra tickets for the opener until next Wednesday. The Dynamo could top 10,000 season tickets for the first time…

…The latest plan for a new home for the Minnesota Vikings would keep them in a familiar neighborhood, but there are still fears the team could leave the state. The current site on the table is adjacent to the Vikings current home at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and the plan would allow the Vikings to continue playing at the Metrodome for the majority of the construction process. The team would need to play for one season at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while the last 25% of construction is completed, and, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley has been meeting with University officials to discuss those arrangements. The plan, which would include the construction of a retractable-roof facility similar to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, is backed by Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, but it will need to be approved by both the Minneapolis City Council and the state legislature before it can become a reality.