SBD/Issue 128/Franchises

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  • OKC Presents Case To NBA Officials, Moves Major Step Closer

    Bennett Willing To Leave Sonics' 
    Colors, Logo With City Of Seattle
    Oklahoma City yesterday moved a "major step closer" to luring an NBA team after a "who's who of the state's business, civic and government leaders wowed league owners and executives" during a visit to the city, according to Darnell Mayberry of the DAILY OKLAHOMAN. NBA Commissioner David Stern, after a daylong visit which included a tour of the Ford Center, business meetings and presentations, said that an NBA subcommittee now will "make a recommendation to the league's seven-member relocation committee to relocate the [Sonics] to Oklahoma City." The relocation committee then will make "its own recommendation" to the NBA BOG during the league's April 17-18 meeting in N.Y., and the BOG will have "up to 30 days to vote on the Sonics' application request with a simple majority of the 30 owners needed for approval." Nets part-Owner and relocation committee member Lewis Katz: "There's no question in my mind that they're coming. It's just a question of when" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 3/26). In Tacoma, Eric Williams reports subcommittee members Katz, Pacers co-Owner Herb Simon and Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss were "wooed by Oklahoma's top officials and sports figures, including Gov. Brad Henry and [Univ. of] Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett also led a presentation "outlining the revenue potential for an NBA team" in the city. Stern: "It was a pretty full presentation and pretty much a tour de force on behalf of Oklahoma that I'd say impressed the members of the committee greatly." Oklahoma City Council members earlier yesterday approved terms of a 15-year lease with the Sonics that would "require it to pay the city $1.6[M] annually to use the Ford Center, and another $409,000 per year to resell the arena's naming rights." Williams notes Sonics Owner Clay Bennett recently reiterated his February offer to buy out the team's KeyArena lease that would "leave the Sonics' colors, logo and history in Seattle, taking with him only the players, coaches and management."  Stern said of the team's lease with Seattle, "If the lease can be satisfied by the payment of money, that's one thing. If it can't, then it's got two more years to run after this" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/26). 

    BUYOUT BLUES: Seattle city officials said that Stern is "orchestrating a campaign to push the city toward a buyout, but insisted nothing has changed." Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis: "I think [Stern] is trying to turn up the pressure by making everything appear inevitable. It's a great publicity campaign, but they'll still need to come into court and settle this." Bennett reiterated that he is "willing to spend two more years owning the team in Seattle if the Sonics lose their upcoming lawsuit with the city, which has sued the team in an effort to require the Sonics to play through the 2009-10 season at KeyArena instead of being allowed to buy out the remainder of the lease." Ceis, when asked if Seattle is "burning its bridges with the NBA by fighting with the league instead of" reaching a settlement, said, "It seems to me [Stern] is the one who has been planting dynamite with every step he takes" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26). 

    Save Our Sonics Struggles To Draw
    Supporters To Protest On Monday
    CAN SONICS BE SAVED? In Seattle, Greg Johns reports Seattle officials had "no news on their effort to come up with a funding solution" for the final $75M of the $300M KeyArena renovation proposal "designed to keep the Sonics in Seattle" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26). The AP's Jeff Latzke reported Stern yesterday "shot down" the proposal to renovate KeyArena in order to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Stern said that the NBA "does not view a renovation as a solution because the site could not undergo a proper expansion." Stern: "I would say that as far as we know, the footprint of Key is at present time not viewed as adequate to support what's necessary going forward" (AP, 3/25). In Seattle, Seth Kolloen reports a Save Our Sonics protest Monday against the team moving "barely drew a hundred" people. If the Sonics won the NBA championship, the team would "probably draw a million people to the victory parade." Kolloen: "It's a lot easier to get people psyched to support something than to oppose it" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 3/26).

    MAKING A CASE: In an interview with the DAILY OKLAHOMAN's Mayberry, Cornett said he thinks the Oklahoma City market is the "envy of most." When asked if there is "enough disposable income in Oklahoma City to successfully support" a permanent NBA franchise, Cornett said, "I think discretionary income is one of our strengths, because the cost of living is low and our wages are higher than the national average." Cornett added of Oklahoma City, "If you look at the other cities that we would be competing against for a relocated franchise, who has a better story than us? Can [K.C.] show support for an NBA franchise? Can San Diego? Can Las Vegas? None of these cities have our story to tell. Can you question ours? Sure, but there are bigger questions around all other cities who don't have NBA franchises" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 3/25).

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  • Garber Threatens To Pull United Out Of DC If Stadium Not Built

    Garber Threatens To Pull United
    Out Of DC If Stadium Not Built
    MLS Commissioner Don Garber yesterday said that he is "prepared to tell DC United to move outside of [DC] if a deal for a new stadium isn't finalized in the next few months," according to Tim Lemke of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Garber said he finds the fact that the city and team "have not agreed on a plan to move out'' of RFK into a new soccer-only stadium in the city "frustrating and continually surprising." Garber, who said he would like to resolve the issue "in a matter of months," added, "RFK has served this team well. ... But it would be inconceivable for baseball to be played long-term in RFK, and it's inconceivable that MLS would continue to play in that stadium. So either we resolve it here, or we're going to push this ownership group to move out of [DC]." DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has presented DC council members with a "plan to pay for a portion of the stadium,'' but discussions with the council, "which would have to approve such a plan, are in their early stages" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/26). United co-Owner Victor MacFarlane said that the club "continues to explore the possibility of building a stadium in Prince George's County" (MD). Garber said that he has "toured both proposed sites" in New Carrollton and Greenbelt (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26).

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  • Welcome Back: CFL Awards Franchise To Ottawa Ownership Group

     
    The CFL yesterday awarded a conditional franchise to Ottawa. The partners in the ownership group are The Minto Group Chair & CEO Roger Greenberg, OHL Ottawa 67's Owner Jeff Hunt, Trinity Development Group President John Ruddy and Shenkman Group of Companies Chair William Shenkman (CFL). In Toronto, David Naylor reports the deal "hinges on the city rebuilding Frank Clair Stadium," the previous home of former CFL teams Rough Riders and Renegades, which last fall had its south side stands condemned. Though a "slew of owners have tried and failed over the past 25 years in Ottawa," CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon believes that this ownership group "offers a unique combination of local connections, business savvy and a proved history of sports operation." Cohon: "My job as commissioner is to find the right group and I think we've done that." The $7M paid franchise fee "represents one of the largest price tags yet for a CFL team." But with the league in the first year of a five-year, $80M TV deal with TSN, owners of the eight existing CFL teams "weren't willing to part with a share of league revenue without a financial commitment from Ottawa" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/26).

    QUESTIONS REMAIN: Cohon: "Ottawa needs an adequate stadium. We hope it will bring a renaissance to Frank Clair Stadium." The ownership group said that Frank Clair Stadium was the "only place to have a professional football team play ball and wants to restore the stadium to its glory days" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/26). Shenkman said of the franchise, "We recognize the team will lose money for some time. We think it will be up to about [$1M] per year in the early stage. We don't expect to make money, but if we run it very well and it enhances life in Ottawa, then we will be happy" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/26). CFL B.C. Lions Owner David Braley: "I don't believe this team will be on the field until probably 2012. Maybe 2010 is an outside possibility, but it's very unlikely" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/26).

    BRIGHT FUTURE? In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes for Cohon, the announcement is a "chance to put a more progressive spin on his administration, which so far has been dominated by talk of the [Bills] incursion into Toronto, and the CFL's defensive posture." There is an "argument to be made [that] the league doesn't really need to go back into Ottawa at all," but the "uplifting aspect of the announcement itself, and especially the fact interested buyers came forward in the face of all the NFL rumblings, suggests some faith in Canadian football's future no matter what else transpires" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/26).

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  • Bills, CFL Tiger-Cats Set To Team For Joint Marketing Effort

    Bill Close To Completing Joint Marketing
    Effort With CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats
    The Bills and the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats are "close to a joint marketing partnership to strengthen each other's grasp in their respective markets," according to Ken Peters of the HAMILTON SPECTATOR. Tiger-Cats Owner Bob Young: "The conversations have started and we're both optimistic we can do some interesting things together." Young also "raised the possibility that Tiger-Cats games might be aired on Buffalo television for the first time." Peters noted the announcement is a "bit of an eyebrow-raiser, given that the Tiger-Cats pulled their support from a Bills plan announced in January that will see the NFL club play eight games over the next five seasons'' at Rogers Centre. Young:  "My interest isn't in helping them be successful in Toronto. My interest is seeing them be successful in Buffalo." Young indicated that the marketing effort would be to "encourage fans in each market to attend the other's games." More Young: "We have finally got off our duff, and instead of sitting back and waiting for the Bills to encroach on our league, we have actually opened a dialogue with the NFL and the [Bills]" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 3/25).

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  • Giants, Jets Ponder Selling Of PSLs In Light Of NFL "Credit Crisis"

    Giants, Jets Considering PSLs As
    Possibility At New Meadowlands Stadium
    For the first time, the selling of personal seat licenses (PSLs) is a "real possibility" in N.Y. as Jets and Giants execs are "considering using them at the $1.6[B] stadium they are building in New Jersey," set to open in 2010, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The initial cost of the PSLs "has yet to be determined," but "other teams have charged from $150 for an average seat license to $150,000 for a premium spot" in the Cowboys' new stadium. The prospect of selling PSLs is "made more likely by the NFL's requirement that teams repay their debt much faster than their bankers demanded." Sandomir noted this "credit crisis" also could affect the teams if any of their debt has floating rates, which "would make their financing more expensive -- and make revenue from [PSLs] more important." Jets President Jay Cross said pressure from the league "doesn't make [PSLs] inevitable." Cross: "What it does make inevitable is, we have to raise more equity." If they sell PSLs, the two teams will "probably use them on all 9,200 club seats," and would then "have to decide how many other seats would require" PSLs. Giants President & co-Owner John Mara: "We're looking at all possibilities for the financing of the stadium." Sandomir noted 12 NFL teams have combined to generate "nearly $900[M] in seat license fees" since the mid-90s. These PSLs have "become a marketable commodity," as they are sold privately and listed on Web sites such as eBay, Craigslist and seasonticketrights.com, where fans "attempt to flip their licenses at a profit" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).

    GIANT PRICING: Meanwhile, the Giants raised the price of their tickets by an average of $7.01. The average seat at Giants Stadium last season cost $83.29, which ranked No. 12 out of the 32 NFL teams (Giants).

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  • Franchise Notes

    New Pirates GM Neal Huntington said he was "assured" by team ownership that they would spend money on player development and scouting. Huntington: "I got the assurance before I took the job. I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe we had the opportunity to be successful." Huntington, on the fans: "We're asking not for patience, but we're asking for them to evaluate our actions" ("In My Own Words," FSN, 3/21).

    NOTES: The Blues have selected Ticketmaster's TicketExchange as their authorized ticket resale service, and the service is available for all remaining home games this season" (Ticketmaster)....SI's Peter King wrote "it does not hurt [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell at all" that he found the 49ers guilty of tampering with Bears LB Lance Briggs. King: "In the past year the league has sent out two strongly worded memos reminding teams of the anti-tampering policy, yet stories of teams and agents talking about looming free agents" at last month's NFL Scouting Combine -- "a week before free agency began -- were everywhere" (SI.com, 3/25).

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