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VENUE NEWS (Click on More to view all articles): St. Petersburg Times Naming Rights Valued at $30 Million-Plus

UPDATE: Officials of Palace Sports & Entertainment, operators of the newly named Saint Pete Times Forum (formerly Ice Palace) and owner of the Lightning hockey team, revealed September 6 that the venue's 12-year naming rights deal for the arena is valued at more than $30 million.

Under terms of the naming-rights deal, the Times reports it will pay Palace Sports & Entertainment $2.1 million annually for 12 years, with the amount climbing 3 percent annually. This includes $600,000 that the Times was already paying for marketing rights at the venue; give Palace Sports a one-time "equalization fee" of $129,897 to make up for the fact that the original marketing agreement had a 5-percent annual adjustment; provide up to $500,000 toward the cost of erecting signs with the new name at the Times Forum; provide Palace Sports with $250,000 worth of free advertising in the Times annually. In return, the new name will also be featured on the arena ice, on all tickets sold to events there and on more than 40 interstate and street signs. Ice Palace Drive will also be renamed St. Pete Times Forum Drive.

Palace Sports officials said the contract will help the organization. The team lost $18.1 million last year, and the arena lost $2.8-million.

The $144 million arena was built in 1996 with public and private dollars, including $84 million in bonds backed by tourist taxes, sales taxes and ticket surcharges. The paper reports that ticket surcharges, however, aren't keeping up with their share of the debt payments and are automatically slated to increase $3 on Oct. 1. But Palace Sports officials hope to avoid the increase, fearing it would scare off ticket buyers and event promoters.

AEG, House of Blues To Operate NextStage

Anschutz Entertainment Group and House of Blues have teamed up to take over NextStage at Grand Prairie, the $65 million 6,350-seat city-owned theater that filed Chapter 11 after six months of operation on August 1 (CelebrityAccess, August 2).

On September 6, AEG submitted the only bid, which was turned down. At a second U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction on September 11 in Dallas, AEG disclosed House of Blues as being part of the deal. Anschutz's $200,000 bid must get approval by the Grand Prairie City Council and bankruptcy judge Harold Abramson. A special meeting is scheduled for September 16.

Tom Hicks' Southwest Sports Group of Dallas, manager of the new American Airlines Center and The Ballpark in Arlington and owner of the Rangers, did not file a bid but said at the September 6 auction that it is interested in bidding for the contract. At the September 16 meeting, if the judge decides more than one bidder is needed, Hicks might get a chance to put his bid in.

Under the agreement Anschutz will form a joint venture with House of Blues, which will operate and book shows into the venue. He will retain at least 50 percent interest in the venture. Anschutz will take over lease payments which will jump to about $1 million annually next year. About 19 years remain on the lease. The city of Grand Prairie will waive $150,000 in additional rent that the venue operator would have to pay on top of the $1 million. The city would also waive $130,000 in annual payments to the Grand Prairie school district in exchange for four additional dates for the district's use of NextStage.

Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England called the agreement "a good deal for us," reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I think we're bringing someone in that will be able to book a lot more shows and a lot more quality shows than the original operator," he said.

"We achieved our objective," Grand Prairie City Manager Tom Hart said Wednesday. "We wanted a world-class operator."

This will mark House of Blues' second venture into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex; it already owns Smirnoff Music Center in Dallas. AEG owns or operates a number of facilities including the Forum and Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"We hit a home run," said Mike Monaco, interim chief executive of NextStage Entertainment, who was in charge of finding a new operator. "We will have two of the three biggest content providers running this facility. This is the home run we were looking for."

NYC's CBGB May Become A NYU Dorm

CBGB, the granddaddy of New York punk clubs, might lose its lease, and the club might be demolished and become another New York University dorm, reports New York Magazine. Hilly Kristol opened the Bowery club nearly 29 years ago, and the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and others got their start there.

NYU is currently building a 13-story dorm on the site adjacent to CBGB. NYU also built a 16-story dorm in 1999 on the site of the former Academy of Music, later renamed the Palladium, on 14th Street off of Third Avenue.

"They could triple my rent when my lease expires in three years,” Kristol said about his landlord, “so I'm going to start exploring my options.”

Broadway Theaters Consider 7:00 P.M. Curtain

Some Broadway theaters are looking to move the curtain up an hour to 7:00 PM from 8:00 PM on Tuesdays, the slowest night of the week on the Great White Way, starting the second week in January. In a way to help attract new theatergoers, Disney, Dodger Theatricals and Cameron Macintosh are responding to market research that indicated families liked the idea of getting home earlier. The promotional campaign will be called "Tuesdays at Seven."

The New York Philharmonic will start its new season with a 7:30 p.m. curtain this week.

RodeoHouston Moves To Reliant Stadium

RodeoHouston, a division of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, will make its Reliant Stadium premiere on February 25, and the 20-day run will end with the RodeoHouston finals on March 16. With 10,000 more seats in Reliant Stadium than in Reliant Astrodome, more RodeoHouston season tickets than ever before are available, allowing the event to sell season tickets through a general campaign for the first time in more than 30 years. The price of a two-seat season box starts as low as $680 for the Loge Level and goes up to $3,000 for two Action Seats for 20 performances. The new Action Seats are the closest seats to the thrills and spills of the rodeo, and the front row is only 87 feet from the rotating concert stage. In addition to the rodeo and concert performances, season tickets include admission to the other Show activities.

The 2003 confirmed bookings:

— George Strait, February 25

— Tim McGraw, March 3

— ZZ Top, March 4

— Alabama, March 16

SBC Center Adds Booking, Operations Executives

Stephen Grossman has been named director booking and marketing at the SBC Center in San Antonio, TX. Other new hirings include Paul Waugh, director of operations; Michael Flores, director of finance; Jaqueline Rogers, booking assistant; and Nicole Jones; coordinator of booking and marketing.

National Car Rental Center Renamed Home Depot Center

National Car Rental Center, home of the Florida Panthers National Hockey Leage team, has been renamed Office Depot Center, after the office supplier company signed a 10-year naming rights agreement. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

National Car Rental paid $2.5 million a year for the arena's naming rights until parent company, ANC Rental Corp., filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last November.