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The city of Denver has paid $1.5M in legal, financing and engineering consultants to handle issues concerning replacing Mile High Stadium and McNichols Arena since '91, according to Alan Snel of the DENVER POST. Snel: "Hiring sports consultants poses an age-old dilemma for cities. Faced with local professional teams seeking new taxpayer- subsidized stadiums, municipalities nationwide have to decide whether it's more cost-effective to create in-house positions to handle complicated stadium negotiations or hire private-sector consultants for those jobs." Denver has "gone the consultant route" and its top money-makers have been local development lawyer Tom Ragonetti and MN sports finance consultant Craig Skiem (DENVER POST, 11/23). IS IT WORTH IT? Snel listed all sports facility-related expenditures, which included $255,866 to Coopers & Lybrand from '91-95 for financing advice on "sports trends" and the arena issue. The city has also paid Skiem's MN-based CSL Entertainment $215,605 over six years. City Council President Cathy Reynolds: "Yeah, the city spent a lot of money on consultants. But it's worth it." Mayoral staffer Liz Orr said having people work in-house on sports "is a waste of taxpayer money." Skiem added that he "doesn't know one city that has a full-time staff person that performs" his type of consulting duties (DENVER POST, 11/23).
The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority "acquired the final piece of land needed" to build the Astros new downtown ballpark when it completed the last of five eminent domain proceedings Monday, according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. In all five hearings, property owners received "substantially less than what they had sought" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/25)....Abe Pollin, NFL facility consultant Rick Horrow and economist Roger Noll were participants at a stadium and arena financing forum at DC's Brookings Institute. Noll, on proposed legislation by U.S. Senator Pat Moynihan (D-NY) that would take away the tax- exempt status of municipal bonds used to finance facilities: "If Congress eliminated the tax exemption on state and municipal bonds used to finance sports arenas and stadiums, the interest rates would go up and cause the public to think twice about each project" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/24).
In Toronto, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place approved the Maple Leafs' "proposal for an arena and related development with record speed, but many questions surround the matter," according to David Shoalts of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. The board passed the team's plans for a $200-250M investment in a 19,200-seat arena and a 1,400-space parking garage. In addition, the team has "been granted" a five- year option to develop another 12.5 acres of property around the site. If the plan is approved by Toronto's Metro Council on December 10, an 80-day period of due diligence will follow, with "neither side being bound to the deal financially or contractually." Shoalts writes that the latter part of the deal "raises ... questions," since it allows the Leafs to "walk away" from Exhibition Place "at any time up to" the end of February. Shoalts writes that speculation persists that the proposal is being used by the Leafs to force a "favourable partnership" with the Raptors at Air Canada Centre (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25). REAX: In Toronto, Damien Cox: "Don't read too much into the latest Maple Leaf arena scheme ... [T]he probability that all these bits and pieces can come together over the next 80 days ... seems somewhat far-fetched" (TORONTO STAR, 11/25). Also in Toronto, Craig Daniels reports that Leafs Minority Owner Larry Tanenbaum sat "four seats to the right" of Raptors Owner Allan Slaight at courtside during last night's Raptors game. Although "neither side is admitting so," a "new dialogue" between the two teams "appears to be under way." One source said that the Leafs are "using their interest" in the site at Exhibition Place as "leverage to ... negotiate a buy-in at Air Canada Centre, which naturally they would want to control" (TORONTO SUN, 11/25).
The Penguins "apologized Monday for shutting public officials out of negotiations" to sell the Civic Arena naming rights to MD-based Allegheny Energy, but team officials "said that doesn't mean the deal is off," according to Michael Coleman of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE- REVIEW. Penguins President Donn Patton said "he hopes to convince public officials" that the team's six-year, $5M deal to rename the Civic Arena the Allegheny Energy Dome "is good for the public." Coleman: "Patton faces a tough sell. The city-county Public Auditorium Authority, which owns the arena, unanimously approved a resolution yesterday authorizing its attorney to 'take all action necessary' to halt the agreement. The resolution also said the public must be included in any future discussions about renaming the arena." Councilmember Dan Cohen "questioned the relatively short term and low price of the deal," and said that the naming rights "could have been sold to the highest bidder." An Allegheny Energy spokesperson said that the company "is still interested in a naming rights deal" at the Civic Arena, "regardless of how the current controversy plays out" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/25).