SoFi Stadium

National Football League (NFL) owners have voted unanimously to provide Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke with an additional $500m (£408.1m/€456.7m) in financing to help complete SoFi Stadium.

First reported last week, the Los Angeles Times newspaper said the funding was approved yesterday (Tuesday). The Rams, which will share the 70,000-seat venue with the Los Angeles Chargers, were said to have made several requests to the NFL to further tap into its G-4 stadium lending programme.

The SoFi Stadium project has already received $400m, but the Rams were said to be seeking up to another $500m, while also doubling the term in which this money will need to be repaid. The Times said approval from the NFL owners reflects their acknowledgement of the risk Kroenke took in moving the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, along with privately financing a stadium that is set to become a hub for the League on the west coast.

Under the original deal for the Rams and Chargers to share SoFi Stadium, the Chargers are liable for a nominal $1 in annual rent, while bringing their 10 home games per season to the venue, a $200m league loan, plus revenue from seat-license sales. The Chargers are said to have fallen short in the latter, reportedly only raising $100m of a projected $400m.

Kroenke has borne responsibility for construction costs, but the Rams will receive all revenue generated by the stadium site, barring Chargers gameday revenue and the franchise’s share of sponsorship and suite sales.

SoFi Stadium’s budget is now said to have risen from an initially projected $2.2bn to between $5bn and $6bn, with the Rams currently grappling with how COVID-19 will affect revenues for the new Inglewood venue, which is scheduled to open later this year.

SoFi Stadium had been due to open on July 25-26 with two Taylor Swift concerts but these have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Rams’ first regular-season game at the stadium will be against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13, with three pre-season encounters scheduled before this.

Ashton Gate

Bristol Bears have put forward their case for Ashton Gate to be used as the neutral stadium for the restart of the Premiership, the top division of English rugby union.

The league still needs to complete nine more rounds and hold its end-of-season play-offs, with Premiership Rugby believed to be targeting early July as a restart date. Clubs have been asked to put forward their grounds as candidates to become a central hub to host the remaining 57 matches.

Bristol Bears share the 27,000-capacity Ashton Gate with Championship football club Bristol City. “We are pushing Ashton Gate because it is a tremendous stadium with easy access,” Bristol Bears chief executive, Mark Tainton, told The Guardian.

“Premiership Rugby has asked clubs if they are prepared to volunteer their stadium and I think we meet the criteria. We are not there yet and there are a couple of other clubs involved.”

Premiership Rugby is due to meet tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss season resumption and other issues. Tainton added: “There could be one or two venues, that has to be confirmed. (Broadcast partner) BT will be looking to film as many games as they can and two venues would mean they would have to double-up. Our facilities are excellent.”

Wankhede Stadium

Indian authorities have backtracked on plans to utilise Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium as a COVID-19 quarantine facility amid reported concerns from local residents and question marks over how it could be used effectively during monsoon season.

The Hindustan Times newspaper said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had last week requested that Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) hand over the stadium for use during the pandemic.

However, Municipal Commissioner IS Chahal has now said: “I am surprised by reading news about a quarantine facility centre at the stadium. We are not taking over the cricket stadium or any other open space because, in Mumbai, it sometimes rains continuously for a week. It will not be useful at all for the administration to take care of people there.”

First opened in 1974, Wankhede Stadium has a current capacity of around 33,000 and is one of the leading cricket venues in India.

Arena Corinthians

Corinthians has become the first Campeonato Brasileiro Série A football club to offer its fans the opportunity to be present for games held behind closed doors through personalised figures placed in the seats of its stadium.

The 2020 Série A season was due to start on May 3, but the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has yet to make a decision over when, or if, the campaign can take place, suspending national competitions under its watch for an indefinite period on March 16. In the meantime, the Sao Paulo club has continued efforts to engage with its fans.

Corinthians have launched ‘O Timão é Sua Casa’ through which fans are asked to submit photos of themselves which will be placed in the stands of Arena Corinthians through to the end of 2020, or until supporters are allowed back into the stadium.

Three different packages have been made available, priced at R$49.90 (£7/€8/$9), R$199.90 and R$299.90, all of which come with different perks. As the stadium remains closed, fans will be able to view their photos online and mark their position on social media through a 360-degree photo of Arena Corinthians.

Sleep Train Arena

NBA basketball franchise the Sacramento Kings has announced that its lease deal with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for Sleep Train Arena and its practice facility to house alternate care facilities during COVID-19 has been amended by reducing the rental rate from $500,000 per month to no cost.

The Kings’ former home arena, which the state opened in April for medical surge capacity in the region, will remain under state control through October 31. With this agreement now in place and local hospitals no longer facing an immediate threat of being overwhelmed by COVID-19, the arena will be placed in a “warm shutdown status” effective the end of May.

The arena site will then remain available through the autumn to support hospital surge capacity should there be a need. The practice facility will continue to remain operational to support COVID-19 patients through at least June 30.

The Sleep Train Arena alternate care facility was developed in record time in April to provide up to 400 beds and medical care as part of a statewide effort to expand hospital capacity and relieve projected pressure on the health care delivery system.

The Kings said in a statement: “Governor Newsom’s leadership has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives in Sacramento and across California. This announcement represents the progress we have all made together to flatten the curve. We remain committed to continuing to use our platform for good and to help support the needs of our community.”

However, local broadcaster CBS13 notes that the announcement is misleading as the Kings are not returning the $1m in rent paid for April and May. It added that the agreement merely extends the contract from three months to seven, should it be needed, with no additional rent.

The Kings have been criticised for charging the state to use Sleep Train Arena. The Kings moved from the Sleep Train Arena to Golden 1 Center in 2016 and its former home has remained mostly unused since then.

Image: Los Angeles Rams