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The Sacramento City Council last night "set aside a recommendation from a mayoral task force that it join forces with one of four development teams that recently answered the panel's request for concepts for a new arena for the NBA's Kings," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Instead, the council by unanimous vote "instructed city staff to ask the development teams to resubmit their qualifications -- this time to the city -- and describe more precisely how they would approach the troubling task of financing a new sports and entertainment complex in Sacramento." Mayor Kevin Johnson said that he "expects the council to make a threshold decision in two weeks, choosing one of the four teams as a partner going forward." Sacramento Assistant City Manager John Dangberg told the council that a "key element would be determining what financial investment the Kings owners would be willing to make in a new facility." Proponents of "all four plans said they plan to submit more information to the city in the next two weeks." Bizjak & Lillis note the Kings have been "silent in recent weeks about the arena efforts, including whether they might file an application with the NBA this year for permission to move to another city." NBA execs noted that the league deadline for such a request is March 1 (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/26).
THE MISSING LINK: In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes it has become "glaringly clear why Sacramento has been unable to nail down a secure future for the Kings: Sacramento has no key man or woman to make it happen." It remains to be seen whether Kings Owners the Maloofs "will be financially viable going forward." There is "wealth in Sacramento," but community leaders have been "on the periphery of the Kings saga for years." The city is "exploring an arena at the worst possible time and, no matter what anyone says, no one locally knows if it can be done here" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/26). A SACRAMENTO BUSINESS JOURNAL editorial notes the city is "looking at options for a new sports arena," but the "bigger -- and more critical -- question is does the community want an NBA team?" If both sides are "not willing -- or simply unable -- to develop a forward-thinking plan, or even a little promise, it's time to end the quarter-century relationship." The Kings' naming-rights agreement with Power Balance to rename the existing arena is a "hard-to-grasp deal" that is "about something plain and simple -- money" (SACRAMENTO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/21 issue).
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday said he has had "casual conversations" with NBA Commissioner David Stern about the possibility of Newark getting another NBA team once the Nets leave for Brooklyn in '12, according to John Brennan of the Bergen RECORD. Christie said, "I think there is a future for NBA basketball here in Newark. I think that New Jersey having a state-of-the-art facility like Newark has here, you have the possibility of doing that. We support three (National Hockey League) teams in the region, so I don’t see why we can’t support three basketball teams." Prudential Center "beat out a bid by the 30-year-old Izod Center, among others, to host" the NCAA men's basketball tournament East Regional in March. The Newark arena also last year "surpassed Izod Center in ticket sales for concerts and family shows." But Christie said that Prudential Center's success "does not have any relevance to the future of Izod Center, which Christie hopes to see privatized." Triple Five, which operates Mall of America, has signed a letter of intent to take over management of the Xanadu complex in the Meadowlands. Christie would not address whether Triple Five might also operate Izod Center, saying only he will have "major announcements in the coming weeks about Mall of America’s involvement" at the Meadowlands Sports complex (Bergen RECORD, 1/26). Christie joined Newark Mayor Cory Booker yesterday in unveiling plans for this year's NCAA East Regional, including a logo and the motto, "Go Newark Hoop Fest." Booker said, "It's nothing short of stunning that the city of Newark is being associated with the NCAA Tournament. ... This is a way that we can distinguish ourselves as a major sports city and continue to establish New Jersey as a great sports state" (AP, 1/25).
More details about the transformation of Melbourne Park have been released, "confirming that the Australian Open will remain in the city's sporting precinct for decades to come," according to Will Brodie of the Melbourne AGE. The Eastern Plaza development is the "second stage of the multi-million dollar facelift, intended to embed Australia's grand slam tournament in Melbourne, and help develop local tennis talent." Victoria Minister for Major Projects Denis Napthine announced the project yesterday, with Napthine "emphasising the Plaza's sporting campus with indoor and outdoor tennis training facilities." A new "piazza-style public space will cater for fans and visitors at events including the Open." The project will include "eight new indoor courts and 13 new outdoor courts, new entries for Hisense Arena, and a new pedestrian bridge over Olympic Boulevard, which will complete a direct pedestrian link between" the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne Park and AAMI Park. Work on the Eastern Plaza "should commence in early 2011," and stage one of the Melbourne Park redevelopment is "expected to be completed in time for the 2015 Australian Open" (Melbourne AGE, 1/26). In Melbourne, Kelly Ryan notes the Eastern Plaza is the "second component" of the US$362M first stage of the Melbourne Park redevelopment project. Napthine said the Eastern Plaza will be a year-round venue for "weddings, parties, anything." Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood: "The Melbourne Park redevelopment will provide a major boost for the tournament and the continual growth of tennis in Australia" (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 1/26).
In London, Paul Kelso reports EPL clubs West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur have been “set a new deadline for their Olympic Stadium bids, with the Olympic Park Legacy Company asking for clarification of their offers by Feb. 3.” The OPLC on Monday announced that it was “delaying selection of a preferred bidder to get more information from the two clubs.” Both clubs are “understood to have been asked to clarify the financial agreements and guarantees that underpin their offers” (London TELEGRAPH, 1/26). Meanwhile, also in London, Graham Ruddick reports the OPLC is “inviting formal expressions of interest in taking control" of the Aquatics Centre and the Multi-Use Arena, which "holds 7,500 spectators and will be used for handball" during the ’12 London Games. It is “envisaged that the Multi-Use Arena and Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre, which includes two 50m pools and a diving pool, will be used for community and elite sporting use” (London TELEGRAPH, 1/26).
HOLD THE PHONE: In Houston, Jose De Jesus Ortiz reports the MLS Dynamo “postponed the groundbreaking ceremonies that were scheduled for Saturday afternoon at their new stadium's site” because the Houston City Council has “not yet voted on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that is part of the inter-local agreement between the county and city.” Dynamo President Chris Canetti said, "We'll set another date in the next few days. This does not have any impact on our construction timeline and planned opening of April 2012." City officials said that although there is “still work to be done by City Council, the Dynamo were given a green light by city leaders to proceed with their plans if they wanted to hold the two-hour groundbreaking celebration Saturday.” But the team “opted to pass on this weekend” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/26).
LEAVING THE TARP ON: In Tacoma, Don Ruiz noted for the “second straight off-season Sounders FC has weighted the pros and cons of opening" the north end Hawks Nest at Qwest Field for seating, and for the "second straight season they have decided against it.” Season ticket projections show the MLS club “roughly on par with last season, and the organization doesn’t want to increase capacity until demand for the new tickets is overwhelming.” The Hawks Nest is “currently valuable advertising space for jersey sponsor Xbox, so the Sounders will not toy with that casually” (THENEWSTRIBUNE.com, 1/24).