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The Sacramento-sponsored development team "looking at the financial feasibility of building a new arena in town has not stopped working amid the Kings' uncertain future," despite reports to the contrary, according to Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Adam Mendelsohn, spokesperson for developer David Taylor, said that the study "may take 'a little longer' than the original 90-day timeframe because of the Kings' relocation negotiations." But Taylor and ICON Venue Group "have not stopped their work." Mendelsohn said the Kings' cloudy future "doesn't dramatically affect our ability to get this done." Mendelsohn added, "If the Kings decide to relocate, we will present an arena without the Kings. If they decide to stay, we will present a plan that includes the Kings as tenants." Lillis wrote, "It seems that the push to get a new arena built without the Kings has gained momentum in the last few days, with business interests joining that campaign last week" (SACBEE.com, 3/7).
BIG ENOUGH FOR THE THREE OF US? With the Kings contemplating moving to Anaheim, the L.A. TIMES' David Wharton wondered, "Is the Los Angeles metropolitan area -- with its population of 12 million-plus -- big enough for three NBA teams? The answer, according to various sports industry executives and experts, is a resounding 'probably.'" Neither the Lakers nor the Clippers "have officially commented, and it remains unclear if they would seek to block the establishment of a competitor just 30 miles south of Staples Center." But with NHL and NBA franchises "under the same roof" at Honda Center, Ducks Owner Henry Samueli "could create his own regional TV network." The arena "would profit by way of an escalator that boosts the value of the naming rights deal if an NBA team moves in" (L.A. TIMES, 3/5). In California, Jeff Miller wrote Lakers fans "should be in full support of the relocation because it only helps their beloved bunch." Lakers Owner Jerry Buss "being against the Kings moving into his market, and he is very much against it -- is smart business." Another NBA option locally "could take money directly from his giant hip pocket." But it "wouldn't cost Lakers fans in Orange County anything and would give them something -- the opportunity to watch their Lakers in person twice a year without venturing to L.A." (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/6).
CITY LIMITS: In California, Eric Carpenter reports if the Kings do move to Anaheim, the city "must be first in the team name and the only geographical identifier, according to a city contract." While it is "not clear if the team would remain the Kings, go back to the original moniker, the Royals, or come up with a new name, the contract makes one thing clear: The team won't be the Los Angeles Kings of Anaheim." City officials "apparently learned their lesson after the bitterness that erupted when the Angels changed the team name in 2005 from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." The city's contract with Honda Center "spells out that any NBA team in the facility must be known" as the "Anaheim (followed by the team name)." That language was "written into the contract when the arena ... became known as the Honda Center" before the '06-07 season (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/8).
OLD FACE, NEW PLACE: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote the NBA is "far more open to the Maloofs moving the Kings to OC than to San Jose, not out of deference to the Warriors, but largely to keep the SJ site open" for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Ellison "almost bought" the Hornets "before the league itself stepped in to buy the Hornets temporarily." But "after there's a new CBA, if Ellison still wants to buy the Hornets, and if the San Jose market is still open, why wouldn't he plan to plant his NBA flag at HP Pavilion?" Kawakami: "Nothing involving Ellison, San Jose or another move will begin to take place until after a new CBA this summer. Basically: The NBA wasn't and isn't too interested in Ellison pouring $300M or more into their coffers right before they go to the union crying poor and threatening to shut down the season" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 3/4).
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's blue-ribbon panel on the proposed Farmers Field NFL stadium Friday "opened public meetings on the $1 billion project," and AEG officials "received a mostly congenial reception from ... business and community leaders who came to hear details of the plan," according to Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. AEG officials during a 90-minute presentation "repeated earlier promises that the stadium would be built and the Convention Center renovated at no cost" to L.A. taxpayers. They vowed $350M worth of bonds they want the city to issue to raise money to renovate the Convention Center "would be repaid through taxes on ticket sales and parking for stadium events." AEG also "again pledged to personally make up the difference on any bond shortfall, essentially guaranteeing the city will never reach into its own pocket to fund the project" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/5). In L.A., Patrick McDonnell reported AEG said that it "would pay the city a 'fair market rent,' though the fee has yet to be determined." AEG Chief Legal & Development Officer Ted Fikre estimated that the stadium "would generate millions of dollars in sales taxes and other revenue from the city's beleaguered general fund." AEG "has pledged to make up the $6 million to $8 million annual projected shortfall -- the developer's estimate of the difference between the city's new receipts from the stadium project and L.A.'s annual debt service bills on the bonds" (LATIMES.com, 3/4).
STEP FORWARD: In L.A., Sam Farmer reports AEG is "beginning its environmental impact report" for the stadium. Yesterday the company "submitted a notice of preparation to the city, which will in turn make a formal public announcement that the process is underway." L.A. "will hold a so-called EIR scoping meeting on March 30 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the L.A. Convention Center, giving the public the chance to give input on what issues should be analyzed in the document" (L.A. TIMES, 3/8). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Andy Fixmer noted AEG in the notice set a goal of "having a full environmental report ready by year-end" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/7).
MAKING A NAME FOR THEMSELVES: In a cover story for the L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL, David Nusbaum writes while Farmers Insurance "surprised the sports world recently by agreeing to pay" $700M for naming rights to the proposed stadium, that the Farmers name "might one day grace a 65,000-seat football stadium in the heart of Los Angeles ... is not really surprising for those who have followed the company." Faced by competitors such as Geico that are "shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars in an unprecedented advertising spree, the L.A.-based property and casualty insurer needed to score some marketing points." Farmers CEO Bob Woudstra said of the stadium deal, "I never would have believed that an insurer would spend more annually than Budweiser, but it's come to a reality." Nusbaum notes Farmers "first got into sports marketing in 2007, starting on the local level when it decided to sponsor high school teams," which "fit in with a company that primarily sells through a network of 15,000 exclusive independent agents in 30 states." The company then "got into professional sports sponsorships to broaden its marketing." Farmers has its logo on the WNBA Sparks' jersey, a deal that was renewed last month. The company also sponsors the ATP World Tour Farmers Classic "after the insurer upgraded a three-year deal to title sponsor in 2010," and it "decided last year to sponsor the PGA's annual golf tournament at Torrey Pines" (L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/7 issue).
PASSION PLAY: WMG Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman, who is working on the stadium with AEG, discussed it in a Q&A with the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Daniel Miller. The following are excerpts from that interview:
Q: Why does Los Angeles need the NFL?
Wasserman: My first answer would be that L.A. does not need the NFL, and the NFL does not need L.A. That's one of those fundamental things that has made it challenging to bring it back because no one is operating from a position of need.
Q: So why take on that challenge?
Wasserman: This is one of the last unique things to do in the business of sports, to return the National Football League to the city of Los Angeles. I happen to love the city of Los Angeles; I happen to love the NFL -- and to somehow be a part of that, a helper in that process, is something I've always been interested in.
Q: Staples Center and L.A. Live were quickly embraced by Hollywood. Is the downtown NFL effort getting similar support from the industry?
Wasserman: No question. People don't question going to downtown L.A. to experience the biggest and best events in the world. So that changes the paradigm. To me, the NFL stadium there is the last piece to the puzzle (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/7).
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Chargers President & CEO Dean Spanos "explored alternatives Monday to financing a new football stadium if funds from the NFL and downtown redevelopment evaporate," according to Roger Showley of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. In their first meeting since October, Sanders and Spanos "reviewed the status of state efforts to eliminate redevelopment agencies and, with that, automatic access to downtown property taxes to cover what might be a $950 million project." They also noted the possibility that the NFL, given labor uncertainty, "will not have funds available to help finance new stadiums, including one in San Diego." A spokesperson for Sanders said that "no further meetings have been scheduled but staff will stay in close contact in coming weeks." Former Centre City Development Corp. Chair Fred Maas also was in attendance at yesterday's meeting. Maas "has talked of developing a sports and entertainment district along with the stadium that could extend from Petco Park to the waterfront," and he is "modeling his idea on Los Angeles' LA Live complex." Maas said that he "has no specific role in the ongoing discussions about the stadium but has agreed to attend meetings and lend his thoughts when requested." He "called the meeting 'informative' but deferred to the mayor's office to release any details." Showley notes the Chargers "have been counting on covering most of the $800 million cost of the stadium with the use of redevelopment funding and NFL support." Another $150M "already has been budgeted to clean up the proposed site at 14th and K streets, current location of the city bus yard." Lately, Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani "has spoken of backup sources, such as city real estate assets" that might "serve as collateral for a city bond to cover costs." But the source of debt repayment "has not been pinpointed" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/8).
LATEST DESIGN: The UNION-TRIBUNE's Showley reports two Australian architects are "coming up with their own idea" for a Chargers stadium that is "just going public." Paul De Bartolo and Ivan Rimanic "have designed a circular-shaped stadium inspired by the Chargers bolt logo and located on the same site as the team's proposal." Fabiani said, "Of course we'd be excited to take a look at any and all new ideas" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/8).
Cubs Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Wally Hayward yesterday said that the team wants to "stage weekend festivals on Sheffield Avenue during three popular series this summer," according to Hal Dardick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Hayward noted that the idea is to "close Sheffield from Addison Street to Waveland Avenue on the east side of Wrigley Field for most of the day from Friday through Sunday on three weekends in June, July and August when the Cubs face" the Yankees, White Sox and Cardinals, respectively. Hayward said that tickets "would not be needed to get into the area, where family entertainment, food and drink would be offered." Dardick noted baseball-themed entertainment "could include meeting players, a radar booth to measure the speed of pitches thrown by festival-goers or seventh inning stretch participation via an iPod app." Hayward said that the organization is "discussing the idea with local community groups, businesses and city officials and has yet to apply for a permit." He added that the festivals "would be similar to the turning" of Sheffield into "Wildcat Way" for last November's Illinois-Northwestern college football game at Wrigley, an event that "proved very successful for local merchants." However, Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, whose district is home to Wrigley Field, said that when he "approved the Wildcat Way event last year, it was for a onetime, one-day festival in November, not a three-day festival in the summer." Tunney suggested that the "longer festival in better weather might not go as smoothly" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/7). In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Tunney and Wrigleyville merchants are "reacting coolly" to the festival idea. Tunney: "We did a one-day special event around the football game. But, it was meant to be a one-day event. It wasn't meant to show that we want to do this on a regular basis. And the idea of three days (at a time) is something I don't want to set a precedent for." Hayward said "Wildcat Way" was the "biggest day for local businesses," as the "bars and restaurants around Wrigley had better numbers than opening day." Hayward: "We believe this is good for local businesses" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/8).
In St. Paul, Charley Walters reported the Twins "will sell standing room-only tickets for Opening Day that will increase attendance" at Target Field from 38,500 to the 40,000 range. Single-game tickets go on sale March 19. Meanwhile, starting with the Twins' April 8 home opener, Target Field "will begin a daily countdown" to Bert Blyleven's Baseball HOF induction date. There also "will be a 'countup' to 600 home runs for DH Jim Thome," who enters the season with 589 career homers (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/6).
PUBLIC OPINION: In Las Vegas, Alan Choate reports city voters are "lukewarm about the idea of a sports arena downtown, except for senior citizens, who strongly oppose the idea," according to a phone survey of 600 likely municipal election voters conducted last week. Overall, 44% of respondents said that the city "should pursue construction of a downtown arena," while nearly 48% "opposed the plan." Nearly 8% "were unsure or had no opinion." Almost 57% said that "no tax or other public incentives should be offered," compared to 37% "who said they should be." The survey "had a margin of error of plus or minus" 4% (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/8).
DOME DESIGN: Harris County (Texas) Judge Ed Emmett Friday said that the county "should move this year to renovate the Reliant Astrodome into a special events arena." Emmett said that he "favors a 'minimalist' approach that would see the Dome's roof replaced, its seats removed, its shell intact, and grass laid down." He "did not have a cost estimate for the idea." Emmett: "I think we owe it to future generations to preserve the Dome as a gathering place for special events." In Houston, Mike Morris noted an estimate last year "put the cost of razing the structure at" $128M (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/5).
DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP: In Seattle, Chris Grygiel reported a measure approved by the Washington state House late Friday "would allow the extension of a raft of taxes now being used to pay off the late Kingdome, Qwest Field and Safeco Field, with the money going to fund an expansion of the convention center in Seattle and to support arts and culture." But sports fans "hoping for a new place for an NBA team to play would be out of luck." House Bill 1997 specifically prohibits any of the tax money from being used "for acquiring or constructing a stadium used by a professional sports franchise" (SEATTLEPI.com, 3/5).
RESTRICTED ACCESS: The CP reported the Canadian government "has blacked out documents detailing discussions over whether to fund an NHL-calibre arena in Quebec City." Nearly "half of the roughly 60 pages handed over" to the CP "are blacked out" (CP, 3/6).