Sports Venues today …

The Preakness Stakes run last Saturday had lost much of its allure when the on-track and disqualified winner of the Kentucky Derby skipped the Preakness AND the tote-board longshot winner of the Kentucky Derby also shunned the race to prepare for some as yet unidentified stakes race later this summer.  Nevertheless, there were two interesting things to emerge from this race that deserve attention – – and neither have to do with the winner of the race.

  1. Longshot, Bodexpress, unseated its rider, John Velasquez in the first few steps out of the gate in the 1 3/16-mile race.  What happened then is a tribute to the training that the horse has had.  He continued to run with the pack for the entirety of the race without causing any chaos or dangerous incidents.
  2. Fans at Pimlico faced new evidence of the track’s decrepit state of repair.  On Thursday before the race, a water main broke in front of the track; hasty repairs were made – – but obviously there was more to the problem.  During the day, the water pressure in the top floor of the grandstand was so low that officials had to close all the rest rooms on that level making the waits to use the other rest rooms “abnormally lengthy”.

I have argued for years that Pimlico should be closed because it is an inadequate facility as it stands and because estimates of what it might take to bring it up to acceptable standards all go north of $400M.  This “bathroom inconvenience incident” is not the only problem that Pimlico officials had to deal with this year.  In the Spring, it was necessary to close off the Old Grandstand area of the track.  The reason for the closure is probative for razing the facility and using the land for something else:

  • Engineers determined that if indeed the Old Grandstand would be filled to capacity as used to be normal on Preakness Day, the structure itself could not bear the weight of those 6500 patrons.

Let me change the subject here and talk about an athletic facility that is nowhere near needing to be shut down or be subject to renovations that might cost $400M.  In fact, this venerable facility is in sufficiently good repair that its uses are being expanded significantly.  I am talking about Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN.

This stadium opened in 1930 and until very recently, it served as the home field for Notre Dame football and nothing else.  Please note that there are no corporate naming rights sold for this facility; it is plainly and simply Notre Dame Stadium.  Tony Kornheiser has referred to Notre Dame’s football history by saying that Notre Dame is actually, “The University of Football in North America.”  That is only a slight exaggeration.  For several decades many people thought of this as a holy land of football – – which come to think of it is not such a stretch of the imagination given that “Touchdown Jesus” stands at one end of the field.

But time marches on and things must adapt – – or risk obsolescence.  In the case of Notre Dame Stadium, the adaptation has to do with increasing the facilities revenues.

  • Last year, Notre Dame Stadium was the site for a concert for the first time in its life.  Garth Brooks performed there; Google tells me that about 85,000 folks showed up for that event.  That is all I can possibly say about it because I don’t know Garth Brooks from Our Miss Brooks – – Google that one if you are under 65 years old.
  • On New Year’s Day this year, Notre Dame Stadium was the venue for the NHL’s annual outdoor hockey game on New Year’s Day.  The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks participated in this event.  Presumably, the Blackhawks were the home team because South Bend is a whole lot closer to Chicago than it is to Boston.
  • Come July of this year, Liverpool FC of the English Premier League and Borussia-Dortmund BVB of the German Bundesliga will turn the football field at Notre dame stadium into a futbol pitch.

The reality of 2019 is that organizations are always on the lookout for ways to increase revenue streams and to monetize every possible asset within their organization.  What was a “College Football Mecca” is still a football stadium primarily – – but it is used in other ways so as to bring added monies into the university and the city of South Bend IN.  In addition to its reputation for football excellence, Notre Dame also enjoys an excellent reputation for its business school.  Finding ways to blend those two aspects of Notre Dame’s image probably sits well with alums and the administration – – but I wonder if somewhere in the cosmos folks like Knute Rockne and/or Frank Leahy are shedding a tear.

Let’s just hope that the “revenue maximizers” exercise a modicum of restraint here.  Hockey games and soccer games are athletic events; no problem hosting those sorts of things in Notre Dame Stadium.  Many, many stadiums around the country are used as concert venues for singers and bands and whatevers; no problem there either.  However, where is “the line” that should not be crossed:

  1. A monster truck rally?  Or a motocross event?
  2. Wrestlemania?
  3. A Formula 1 race through the streets of South Bend with laps around the field in the stadium?
  4. An “International Dog Show” put on by the Indiana Kennel Club.  [Think of the clean-up activities after that one…]

There is a line somewhere; the good folks in charge of Notre Dame need to find that line and then – to invoke a tried and true football phrase – – hold that line.

Finally, in the spirit of sporting events that may not belong in certain venues, consider this remark from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“The Olympic hopes of a top Russian skateboarder were dashed when Maxim Kruglov, known as ‘Mad Maxim,’ was slapped with a four-year doping ban. Whoever heard of such a thing? And by that, I mean, who knew skateboarding was an event at the 2020 Tokyo Games?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



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