Preparation is “well underway” for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, according to the Indianapolis Star

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has partnered with Indianapolis community organizations to “help reignite some of the city’s favorite initiatives from previous years.” Among the “new initiatives” this year is a signature program for May, #500FashionFridays. Fans who “incorporate the 500 into their Friday outfits” will “receive lunch discounts at select local restaurants, and if fans post photos of themselves on social media, they become eligible to win prizes.” Also new are free admission for kids 15 and younger (as opposed to the past 12 and younger), “the spectator mound at the exit of Turn 4,” fans being “able to camp along the IMS road course for the Indianapolis Grand Prix,” and an AJ Foyt Racing entry, driven by Zach Veach, representing the inaugural Indy Women in Tech LPGA tournament in September. The Indy500 is a great platform for IMS to deepen its ties to the community, and for locally-based companies like Guggenheim Insurance, title sponsor of the LPGA event, to deepen its ties to the Memorial Day race heritage.

Even though North America’s request for a fast-track approval for its bid to host the 2026 World Cup was delayed last week, the U.S.-led bid “looks to be well on track for success,” according to ESPN FC.

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event headed to Qatar, FIFA’s current rules “prohibit European or Asian countries from bidding” on the 2026 tournament. South America is expected to bid for the 2030 Cup, which leaves Africa as the only possible challenger. Morocco is “said to be entertaining a challenge but has yet to declare anything publicly.” Given the restrictions on possible competitors, the North American bid has proposed that FIFA’s Congress draw up a spec list that the bid must meet within a certain time frame, and, “if the specifications are met, have the bid simply awarded to North America then and there.” Bid plans call for the U.S. to stage 60 games, while Canada and Mexico would have 10 games eachOngoing FIFA corruption investigations could also further delay the approval process, especially after the dismissal of top ethics officials Joachim Eckert of Germany and Swiss prosecutor Cornel Borbely.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has been named FIFA’s official airline partner through 2022. 

The deal term covers the 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar World Cups, as well as the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. The brand will also see visibility at competitions such as the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the FIFA Futsal World Cup, and the FIFA Interactive World Cup, the world’s largest online gaming tournament. The airline joins Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Wanda Group, adidas, VISA, and Hyundai as official FIFA partners. “Known for introducing industry firsts, Qatar Airways is an ideal partner for FIFA as we prepare for the first-ever World Cup in the Gulf region,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. FIFA has targeted a $100 million surplus for the end of the four-year cycle encompassing the 2018 World Cup, and anticipates a $1.07 billion profit that year after a loss of $391 million in 2016 and a projected $489 million loss in 2017. As the IOC spends the week inspecting Paris after a successful LA visit, it is likely that by the end of September, all the world’s mega events will be sewn up through 2028. Sports stability continues.

The Las Vegas Raiders expect to begin construction of their new stadium in January with the hope of having it completed by June 2020

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the new stadium will be domed with a capacity of up to 65,000. If completed by the expected date, the Raiders would then have “three months to move in before their first NFL regular-season game.” The proposed 30-month construction period is considered “ambitious when compared with other recent stadium projects” of the same scale. Of the last four NFL venues built that have a roof, “none have been completed within 30 months.” The Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium is about to “hit its 36th month of construction and is due to open in August,” while the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium “took 32 months to complete.” The tight deadline would hopefully force the construction crew to finish on time, but unexpected delays always arise. They say the only constant in Las Vegas is change. Construction workers constantly flock to the city for that reason, and thanks to that robust workforce it’s a safe bet that the new stadium has a good chance of being completed in that 30-month window.

The NHL’s Winter Classic is officially coming to New York City next year

According to NBCSN, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman formally announced the New York Rangers-Buffalo Sabres matchup at Citi Field on New Year’s Day 2018. The Rangers-Sabres contest marks the second time both teams have played in the Winter Classic – the Sabres played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first Winter Classic in 2008, while the Rangers played the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in 2012. The upstate Sabres will be considered the home team because “the Rangers are required to play all their home games at MSG.” The NHL and NBCSN hope the intrastate matchup will deliver stronger media numbers than this year’s Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium, “which delivered the smallest audience for a Winter Classic on the network.” Despite the NYC address, this coming year’s Winter Classic will face tough TV competition, as both CFP Semifinals games at the Rose and Sugar Bowls revert back to their traditional New Year’s Day slots.

Despite the team’s surprising early season success, the Cincinnati Reds have been unable to attract fans to home games

 According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Reds have been sitting near the top of the table in the ever-competitive NL Central for weeks now, but the team still ranks “26th out of MLB’s 30 clubs in attendance, averaging 20,881 fans per game.” Even when the team manages to fill the seats at Great American Ball Park, many of those are away team fans in town for the day. The Reds’ attendance decline “ranks 19th in MLB for change in attendance,” though the Reds are “doing better than last year’s steep drop” of 22% representing 6,500 fans per game. Xavier associate professor Linda Schoenstedt said the Reds are “facing a few obstacles,” such as being stuck in a rebuilding process that “involved dropping stars such as Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.” Give it time. Star players are the marquee draw in most sports, but winning is also a great recipe for butts-in-seats. Look for this trend to improve as the weather warms and familiarity grows.

EPL side Chelsea FC has begun searching for a naming rights partner for its soon-to-be-built stadium in London

According to the London Evening Standard, the team’s new stadium will retain “Stamford Bridge” in its title – the name of its current stadium. The club expects its new stadium to cost at least $644.4 million to build, “although it is believed selling the naming rights is not a factor in raising funds for it to go ahead.” There have been no guarantees from the club or Owner Roman Abramovich as to how all of the costs will be covered. Chelsea faces “competition in the capital from Tottenham and West Ham for a sponsor.” Tottenham wants a $26 million-a-year record deal for 20 years at the new White Hart Lane and, unlike Chelsea, is “willing to abandon” the traditional name to attract investment. Branding experts have acknowledged that selling stadium naming rights is a buyers’ market, which may make this venture tough for Chelsea despite the club’s success. Another speedbump might be economic caution brought on by the U.K.’s pending Brexit move and associated uncertainty.

With the Raiders making their move to Las Vegas official, the A’s are now finding a site to build a baseball-specific stadium.

According to Oakland Magazine, the club is primarily “focusing on two sites: Laney College near Lake Merritt and Howard Terminal on the waterfront next to Jack London Square.” A distant third location remains the Coliseum site, where they currently play. The A’s have been “surveying local residents” on ballpark sites, and in one recent poll, a team rep “made it clear that Laney College is the No. 1 location.” The poll “focused heavily on Laney” while only asking “one question about Howard Terminal.” A’s President Dave Kaval made it clear that the Coliseum site is still in play, though the MLB prefers new stadiums to be built close to downtown areas, which may end up giving the edge to Howard Terminal. With property valuations at an all-time high in the Bay Area and ever-growing, one thing is for certain: whatever happens to the site now housing the Coliseum and adjacent Oracle Arena, it will never end up an empty weed and debris filled lot.

When you think of hockey, your mind might race to the frozen ponds of Minnesota and Canada, but not this NHL playoff season

With the Nashville Predators reaching their first-ever Western Conference Finals, hockey fever has spread all across the South. According to the AP, Predators gear sales have significantly increased throughout the team’s playoff run and Bridgestone Arena has become the hub for the team’s “loyal legion of fans.” The Predators’ success thus far in the playoffs has made them late favorites to capture the Stanley Cup, proving that while “college football remains king in the South and NASCAR remains popular,” hockey certainly has a foothold. Adding to all of the craze around the team, fellow Nashville professional sports teams have been extremely supportive as have popular country music artists and Nashville icons. With Stanley Cup victories already notched in Carolina, Dallas, and Tampa Bay, the NHL’s “longshot” southern expansion has paid off. A Nashville victory would be more BBQ sauce on the southern feast.

The quest to bring at least one professional sports team back to Seattle remains alive despite Seattle Mayor Ed Murray deciding not to run for re-election.

According to the Seattle Times, leaders of the two KeyArena renovation proposals made it clear that this decision will have “zero impact on proceedings” to renovate the facility and bring an NBA and/or NHL team to Washington. Both groups have already met with a city advisory committee and top officials regarding the matter. City of Seattle Office of Economic Development Director Brian Surratt has said that he “plans to forward a recommendation to Murray’s office in June as expected and that a final decision should be made late in the month.” A new mayor coming into office could potentially slow this process – “it might not be as smooth as some had hoped,” though would-be renovators remain hopeful. Seattle has long been a prominent sports city, and after Oklahoma City “stole” their basketball team, it’s only right that hoops and hockey fans in the city eventually have teams to cheer alongside the Seahawks and Mariners.