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In MA, PR execs, lobbyists and "assorted other experts on the art of the deal are lining up at the door" of the Red Sox, offering the club help in building a new ballpark, according to Anthony Flint of the BOSTON GLOBE. But the team has not "enlisted anyone's aid, despite the need to lay groundwork for such a massive project -- raising further speculation that the club may be happy for the moment with the status quo, or is preparing to sell the team before beginning any stadium construction." While the team has "prepared plans" that show what their ballpark needs would be, it hasn't "taken what many regard as the critical step; marshalling political support in City Hall and on Beacon Hill, doing community outreach and shaping an image for the team for the next century. And that's where Boston's dealmakers are clamoring to help" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/2). KEEP YOUR SOX ON: One source close to the team said the Red Sox "need to step back and say yes, this is a wonderful asset that we have, and there's incredible attachment in this community for this team, but that this issue doesn't get resolved at the emotional level. This is a financial, land-use and political issue. And they really do need help." Among those mentioned as possible advisors include Larry Moulter, former FleetCenter Chair now at Woolf Assoc. Regarding a possible sale, sources close to the Red Sox say "there is no plan whatsoever to sell the team," but that they are "merely moving slowly" after seeing the stadium troubles of the Patriots (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/2).
MA-based Staples has agreed to pay $100M over 20 years for the naming rights to L.A.'s downtown arena complex scheduled to open in fall '99. The facility will be named the Staples Center, and the company will also be awarded marketing, promotional and signage rights, community-based programs -- including the Staples Center Foundation which will raise $1M for inner-city kids -- and various amenities in Staples Center over the next 20 years (Staples). DC- based ProServ, which was retained by the NHL Kings, negotiated the rights deal (ProServ). The facility will seat 20,000 for basketball, 19,000 for hockey; includes 162 suites and 2,500 club seats (L.A. TIMES, 12/2). REAX: In L.A., Randy Harvey notes the visibility of the arena, and writes that "one reason Staples paid so dearly for the naming rights is that the arena will be at the interchange of the 10 and 110 freeways" (L.A. TIMES, 12/2). In N.Y., Stefan Fatsis writes that at $5M per year, the Staples Center naming rights deal "raises the bar even higher." ISI President Frank Vuono: "It's a dynamic market and a dual-purpose facility" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/2). Developers are also looking for "an additional 10-12 smaller founding sponsors that will result in arena signage" (Marc Pollack, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 12/2).
Maple Leafs Majority Owner Steve Stavro said that he is "firmly committed" to building a new arena at Exhibition Place on Toronto's waterfront, according to Gail Swainson of the TORONTO STAR. Stavro, speaking to Metro Toronto's financial priorities committee, said the team is "focusing exclusively" on the site. Swainson writes that "[w]ith his unequivocal statements, Stavro ... seemed to finally put to bed" the rumors that his club could still join the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Stavro told the Metro committee, "I give you my word" that the Leafs "are not engaged in talks" with the Raptors. He added he will only join with the Raptors if the Leafs control the site. Stavro: "Hockey can't be second, it's the number one sport." The committee approved the team's Exhibition Place proposal, which now goes to Metro Council December 10. The committee asked the Leafs for a luxury box to be used by city officials and asked for traffic and public transit studies to determine whether upgrades are required (TORONTO STAR, 12/2).
The MCI Center will open tonight with the Sonics- Wizards game, to be seen live on TNT. The game sold out "late yesterday" and will be televised locally on WUSA-TV. President Clinton will attend (WASHINGTON POST, 12/2). An editorial in today's WASHINGTON POST states that Washington Sports Chair Abe Pollin, "an old Washingtonian who no doubt remembers downtown when it was the place to be, has made a good investment in the city's future based on respect for and understanding of its past." In addition, DC columnist Thomas Boswell: "As everyone will soon see, MCI Center is an unpretentious jewel that maximizes everything about its fabulously energized location. ... As a sports facility, MCI Center is clean, simple, pretty and, perhaps, the coziest 20,000-seat building in the country" (WASHINGTON POST 12/2).