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BET CEO Robert Johnson vowed to try to build a 23,000-seat sports arena in Washington, DC, regardless of whether Bullets owner Abe Pollin agrees to move his teams to it. Johnson said Riggs National Bank is willing to lend him up to $172M to build a new facility downtown. If the Bullets and Capitals don't move, Johnson said he will "seek to attract" an NBA team from outside the area before building the arena. Johnson's comments, made at a lunch with WASHINGTON POST reporters and editors, "are part of an effort to increase pressure on District officials to accept his offer to privately finance the arena rather than use taxpayer funds." Pollin is now negotiating with business leaders and a DC task force to move his teams from the USAir Arena to a downtown facility. Under a preliminary proposal struck before Johnson made his offer, "construction of the arena would be financed by a special city tax." City officials are reluctant to go along with Johnson's proposal because he cannot ensure the Caps and Bullets would move to the arena. Johnson would prefer to have Pollin's teams move there, "but Pollin is unlikely to accept Johnson's terms: that if Pollin later decided to sell the teams, the prospective new owner would have to renegotiate the arena lease with Johnson" (Farhi & Mills, WASHINGTON POST, 10/1). TWO- TEAM CITY? Two DC City Council members said the deal between Pollin and the Nation Capital Development Corp. (NCDC) is better for the city, because Pollin has teams to put in the arena. But Johnson claims he could lure another NBA team if Pollin does not play in his arena. Johnson suggested the following teams: Pacers, Timberwolves, Supersonics & Clippers (WASHINGTON POST, 10/1).
Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson and the city's executive policy committee met privately Friday morning with Manitoba Entertainment Complex (MEC) members. Thompson said in an interview later that MEC will control the design and marketing of any new arena in Winnipeg, despite a public meeting scheduled at city hall this Friday to hear all proposals. Thompson: "It's the [MEC] who have the option (to buy the private held shares of the Winnipeg Jets). They have stuck their neck out. They have put their money out. They can do the marketing." The city council ordered the public meeting after MEC supporters on the council failed to "muster a majority to support a motion to guarantee" C$3.7M in funding for the group of 44 business people to design and market a new arena. Thompson said the private meeting with MEC was to debate the process for the hearings and to discuss MEC's "increasingly tight marketing schedule." Dissident councillors say next week's meeting is a "stalling tactic while MEC supporters look for more votes on council" (Stevens Wild, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/1).
The Nuggets and PepsiCo are talking about a deal worth $15- 20M that would give Pepsi naming rights to a new Denver basketball arena and the Nuggets money to help build that arena. A PepsiCo spokesperson confirmed that the two are in "preliminary stages of a deal." The Nuggets threw an "elaborate private party" at McNichols Sports Arena for PepsiCo execs last Thursday. Nuggets officials also met with Denver city officials and then "culminated their day by meeting" with Mayor Wellington Webb's sports advisory task force. The meeting produced an understanding the Nuggets would commit up to $100,000 to pay for consultants the city wants to hire to examine the team's arena proposal. Work by the consultants begins this week and will be completed in about 14 weeks. The fact the Nuggets are "courting Pepsi as a major sponsor for a new arena indicates how confident the team is that it can work out an agreement with the city." A new deal with the city would release the Nuggets from their contract to play at McNichols through the 2007-2008 season. Pepsi currently has beverage concessions at McNichols and also is involved with four other teams: Magic, Canucks, Cubs and Indians (Christopher Lopez, DENVER POST, 9/30).