LINK to the article Contract battle begins over Soldier Field operations
Lovie Smith may not be the only departure at Soldier Field.
A major contract battle has broken out over renewal of lucrative pacts to manage and provide food services at the Chicago Bears' stadium, and with bragging rights — and a lot of money — on the table, the contenders reportedly are loading up with some heavy political clout.
Among those who reportedly are involved are veteran media consultants Guy Chipparoni, whose firm represents Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, and Dennis Culloton, whose clients include Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Among others are a former top aide to ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley, Terry Teele; Mayor Rahm Emanuel's election lawyer, Mike Kasper, and Metropolitan Sanitary District Commissioner Mike Alvarez.
There even has been talk that Mr. Emanuel's brother, Ari Emanuel, a top Hollywood agent, is involved, given that some of those in the competition work regularly with top entertainers. But I'm assured that's not accurate.
The contracts come in two pieces.
Already issued and on the street is a request for bids to manage not only Soldier Field but two other facilities also owned by the Chicago Park District: the McFetridge Sports Center on the North Side, and the baseball stadium at Devon and Kedzie formerly known as Thillens Stadium. The district is seeking a minimum 10-year deal, with up to five one-year extensions, for a maximum term for 15 years.
Soldier Field clearly is the biggest prize on the table, with the winner responsible not only for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the complex but negotiating sponsorships and preferred vendors and recommending capital changes. Among the winner's tasks will be maintaining the field's natural grass playing surface, something that's been a real challenge in recent years.
The pact now is held by Pennsylvania-based SMG, which operates arenas and convention centers around the country, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and the Reliant Astrodome in Houston.
Challenging with its own bid is a division of Los Angeles-based AEG, which owns or helps operate facilities including the Staples Center in LA and the American Airlines Arena in Miami. Its spokesman, Mr. Culloton, says the firm is presenting specific ideas to “enhance the field conditions” — perhaps with artificial turf — and to attract additional concerts and other big-dollar events.
The district says it hopes to award a new contact in February or March.
About to go out is a request for bidders for the food service contract, also likely to be a minimum of 10 years.
That contract now is held by the Sportservice Corp. division of Buffalo-based Delaware North Cos. But source says industry giant Aramark Corp., based in Philadelphia, also is expected to bid, with rumors of a possible third contender.
Though the park district will make the decision, it will have to act in consultation with its main tenant, the Chicago Bears. Team management obviously has big matters on its plate now — namely, finding a coach who regularly can take the Bears to the playoffs — but creature comforts for fans and smooth stadium operations are worth something, too.
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