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Patriots Owner Bob Kraft and Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn Saturday "pitched some cautious Foxboro officials on their plans for a hotel, a convention center, music hall, five-star restaurants and shopping," according to Cassidy & Sherman of the BOSTON HERALD. Foxboro Selectmen Chair Larry Harrington said, "They both acknowledged it’s going to be a tough battle to get it through, because there’s a lot of emotion around it." According to those present at the closed-doors meetings, Kraft and Wynn "projected $15 million in revenue a year for the town, and said as many as 10,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs with an average salary of about $40,000" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/5). In Boston, Shanahn & Goldstein note Wynn was "spotted on the sidelines at Gillette Stadium before yesterday's" Colts-Patriots game (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/5). Also in Boston, Brian MacQuarrie noted the "anticasino drumbeat escalated" Saturday in Foxborough and "neighboring communities, as organizers staged a protest on the town common, promoted two new websites to marshal their forces, and collected signatures to oppose a Las Vegas-style resort being considered for the town" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4). The BOSTON HERALD's Richard Weir noted Foxborough residents are "dead-set against a proposed billion-dollar gaming palace." Scores of "vocal Foxboro homeowners said they want no part of a gambling resort." Patriots Exec Dir of Media Relations Stacey James said that Kraft and Wynn "plan to meet with groups of five or six people at a time." James: "It's just an introduction, giving people the opportunity to ask some questions and have some answers directly from the principal of the project" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/4). In Boston, Peter Schworm noted the reaction "among many residents was decidedly negative." They "feared a casino would turn their town, already strained by the Patriots' presence, into an overrun spectacle" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).
QUESTIONS YET TO BE ANSWERED: In Boston, Bierman & Ross noted the partnership between Kraft and Wynn has "shaken up the competition for a coveted casino license." However, there remain "many unanswered questions, including whether a business relationship between Kraft and a casino operator could run afoul of NFL rules and whether the already congested area around Gillette Stadium can accommodate another high-traffic business." A proposal for a $1B Foxborough casino "would compete head-to-head against the similar-scale proposal at Suffolk Downs for one of three resort casino licenses authorized by the new state gambling law." Boston Mayor Thomas Menino "strongly defended Suffolk as the location of choice." He said, "We are the capital city. We generate the economy of Massachusetts. I’ve always said my position is (that) I’m in favor of a full casino at Suffolk Downs." Bierman & Ross noted Kraft's "biggest obstacle may be the National Football League, which has taken a fairly strong stance against allowing its owners to have financial relationships with gambling facilities." Kraft's relationship "could be allowed, however, because while he would own the land, he would lease it to Wynn, who would own and run the casino." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello Friday said that Kraft "had not given the league a formal proposal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).
NOT A DONE DEAL: In Boston, Wedge & Zaremba noted Menino is digging "in his heels in support of a gambling palace at Suffolk Downs." Menino: "Everyone's assuming there's going to be a casino in Foxboro. The media is assuming that it's a done deal. It's not a done deal. There's a long process to go. The traffic issue is a serious issue out there. You go to a game it takes you two-and-a-half hours to get out. There's a real history of issues with Gillette Stadium." Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's camp "declined to take sides." Patrick spokesperson Kim Haberlin said, "We do not have a position on any individual proposal. The independent gaming commission will conduct an open, transparent and competitive bidding process to determine which projects move forward" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/3). Also in Boston, Greg Bedard noted the NFL is "probably a little uneasy with a proposed casino directly across the street from Gillette Stadium ... but the Krafts wouldn’t move forward with this idea unless they knew they could do it." Bedard: "After what Robert Kraft sacrificed for the new collective bargaining agreement, we have a hard time seeing anyone standing in the way of the Foxboro casino -- besides the residents of Walpole, Wrentham, and Norfolk" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4).
SALVATION FOR STRUGGLING BUSINESSES? In Boston, Jenn Abelson noted Kraft's Patriot Place "adjacent to Gillette Stadium has not lived up to expectations." Retail analysts said that a casino across the street on Route 1 would "guarantee a flood of new visitors and help kick-start Kraft’s vision to make the property an entertainment destination." The mall has "struggled to find its identity with specialty merchants as competition increased from new centers like Legacy Place." The recession "only made matters worse: A number of Patriot Place tenants closed, and industry analysts estimated the vacancy rate pushed close to 20 percent at one point." According to Key Point Partners, it is now at "roughly 11 to 12 percent, still significantly higher than the 8.8 percent average at shopping centers in eastern Massachusetts." A casino across the street would "bring more shoppers to existing stores and entice new retailers to move into the property" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).
OTHERS PLACING THEIR BETS: In Miami, Douglas Hanks reported the Dolphins confirmed that the organization was "considering the possibility of leasing land near its stadium in Miami Gardens to a casino developer if Florida changes its gambling laws." Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Friday that the team "continues to view Florida’s gambling debate with a 'watchful eye'" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/2). Meanwhile, in New Jersey, John Brennan wrote under the header, "Meadowlands Casino -- Could It Happen?" There has been "political talk for years about the idea of installing thousands of slot machines at the Meadowlands Racetrack, turning the track into a racino." Brennan wrote, "It's difficult to picture Giants co-owner John Mara allowing a casino even if the team got a piece of the action." It "seems like Jets owner Woody Johnson might be more, well, pragmatic about the idea" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 12/4).
The SEC has "opened a wide-ranging investigation into the Miami Marlins’ controversial ballpark deal with Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami, demanding financial information underpinning nearly $500 million in bond sales as well as records of campaign contributions from the Marlins to local and state elected leaders," according to Rabin, Brannigan & Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. The SEC "gave the city and county until Jan. 6 to deliver everything from minutes of meetings between government leaders," Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, to records of Marlins finances dating back to '07. The financing agreement to build the ballpark "left the county and city on the hook for almost 80 percent of the overall $634 million tab, which critics considered a giveaway to the Marlins." The subpoenas "focus heavily on the Marlins, requesting communications to and from team executives, documentation that might show the team’s ability to pay for or contribute to the financing of the stadium, and information on any meetings involving not only Loria and Selig," but also team President David Samson and former MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy, who "was instrumental at the latter end of the hard-fought deal" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/3). The Marlins in a statement said that they are "aware of the investigation." The statement read in part, "Of course we will fully cooperate with the SEC's investigation as needed and assist in whatever way possible." It is "not clear whether MLB has received subpoenas" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/4).
WHAT TOOK SO LONG? YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote, "For two decades now, Major League Baseball has funded its rise from corporate slacker to gilded cash cow on the backs of taxpayers bullied into building new stadiums. It's a marvel the government took so long to sniff out the rot that emanates from these deals, though not much of a surprise that the Miami Marlins were the target when they did." Cities "kowtowing to those that want them to pay for stadiums is as commonplace as it is abhorrent," and the Marlins "pushed the limits on exactly how much a team can hold its city hostage" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/3). Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez worries that if the investigation finds wrongdoing "it could cost the city in different ways." Suarez: "Our ability to borrow money could be affected, our credit rating could change, and it could hurt financially if [we're] required to pay back-penalties or fees" (NBCMIAMI.com, 12/4).
FREE AGENT IMPACT: In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez noted the SEC probe "may not have a bearing from the club's standpoint, but whether it gives some free agents pause can't be discounted." They may now "have concerns about signing a long-term deal to play in Miami only to find themselves on the trading block after a couple of seasons if the result of the investigation [impacts] the franchise financially" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/4). Marlins Senior VP/Communications & Broadcasting P.J. Loyello said in a text message, "It will have no affect whatsoever on our roster plans" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 12/3).
IMAGE MAKEOVER: The Marlins this weekend signed free agents SS Jose Reyes and P Heath Bell, and in N.Y., Ken Belson on Saturday wrote under the header, "By Raising Roof, Marlins Hope Interest Will Follow." The Marlins will move into a new ballpark next season, but what is "truly getting everyone’s attention is that a team long associated with low payrolls and little inclination to pursue top-tier free agents suddenly seems inclined to spend money." It is "possible that the Marlins are talking to every prominent free agent just to drum up headlines and sell season tickets," and "plenty of teams have increased their payroll before moving into a new stadium only to reverse course a few seasons later." But the Marlins "may be serious about their change of image" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/3).
The 49ers' "turbulent drive for a new home in Silicon Valley is reaching the end zone," according to a front-page piece by Mike Rosenberg of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The team and the city of Santa Clara "announced Friday that they have captured all the money needed to build a proposed $1 billion football stadium next to the Great America theme park -- the largest and final obstacle needed before construction can start." The funding deal was "spelled out in a development contract that caps two-and-a-half years of closed-door negotiations between city and team leaders." Goldman Sachs, U.S. Bank and Bank of America have "agreed to loan the city and team a combined $850 million to pay for the lion's share of the construction, which could start as soon as next year." But critics are "alarmed by a major shift in the funding plan that emerged Friday: The city will take on more than twice as much debt as was promised to voters, even though the 49ers vow they won't leave the city holding the bag." Revenues from the stadium, "such as ticket sales, stadium naming rights and the team's rent, are supposed to pay back most of the loans." The rest will "come from the NFL, which is expected to chip in $150 million; the city's redevelopment agency, which will contribute $40 million; and a local hotel tax expected to generate $35 million."
RISING PRICE TAG: The price of the 68,500-seat stadium "has jumped from $987 million to $1.02 billion, largely because of tweaks to stadium design, more refined construction estimates and inflation." But city and team leaders are "betting the stadium will create so much profit that they will be able to pay off the loans in about 25 years using only money generated" by the facility. If their estimates "don't pan out, the 49ers would be on the hook to pay the difference through higher rent payments to the city." The team would "also fork over any extra construction costs that may come up." According to the deal, the city's "general budget can't be touched." In addition to loans, the 49ers will "contribute $150 million to building the stadium, largely through luxury suites they have already sold." The final $20M is "expected to come from various revenues expected before construction starts, such as season ticket sales." The two sides are "now so confident in their funding prospects that they are 'motivated' to start building the stadium as soon as mid-2012, with a chance it could be completed in 2014." The deal "calls for the 49ers to pay the city about $30 million per year to lease the city-owned land, a large increase from the previous estimate of $5 million." The financing deal is a "far cry from the one voters approved, when they were told the team and NFL would pay about half the cost and the city's stadium arm would pay about one-third" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/3). Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said, "Not a dime of general fund money" will go toward the stadium. In S.F., Nanette Asimov in a front-page piece noted final approval "of a finance plan, development budget, stadium lease, ground lease and public safety agreement isn't expected until spring" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/3).SOURCES FOR FINANCING ON 49ERS' NEW SANTA CLARA STADIUMAMOUNT
SOURCE$450M Bank loan to the city's stadium authority$400M Bank loan to the 49ers, who in turn pass on to the city's stadium authority$150M 49ers' payments, mostly from luxury suite sales$20M City's stadium authority payments, made from existing stadium revenues
In Chicago, Mary Houlihan notes fans at "several gates faced a longer than usual wait Sunday" at Soldier Field for the Chiefs-Bears game as fans at Gates 0 and 38 were "scanned by handheld metal detectors." But Soldier Field GM Tim LeFevour said that at about 11:40am CT, with the crowd "backing up nearly to the tunnel at Gate 0 where about 23,000 fans enter, the wands were set aside." Security personnel "returned to patting down fans and the crowd quickly began moving." Smart fans "got in line early to avoid the crunch." LeFevour said that the handheld detectors "will be added to another gate" when the Bears play the Seahawks on Dec. 18 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 12/5).
OPPOSING RELOCATION: In S.F., Marisa Lagos reported a group calling itself Stand for San Jose that "opposes the potential relocation of the A's to downtown San Jose filed suit Friday, challenging a recent vote by the San Jose City Council that gave the baseball team the right to buy 5 acres of land." The council "voted Nov. 8 to approve a two-year, $50,000 option for the A's to buy the land near HP Pavilion for $6.98 million." Stand for San Jose is "claiming the city's action violated state and San Jose law and would result in taxpayers losing millions of dollars." The group "contends the land is worth at least $14 million." The complaint "names the city, the City Council, the city Redevelopment Agency and the Diridon Development Authority" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/3).
IN NEED OF MONEY: In California, Robert Rector noted the Rose Bowl, "as it has for years, needs money." Rector wrote, "They need it for maintenance of a nearly 90-year-old facility, they need it to modernize and stay competitive, they need it because the stadium actually operates at a loss." They "need money because the stadium by ordinance is limited to 12 events a year that would attract more than 20,000 attendees." And that "impacts the stadium's revenue stream." Now, the NFL is "being wooed by Los Angeles city officials and if the NFL decides to locate a team here, it would need a place to play while a new stadium is being built to house the pro team." The Rose Bowl is "one of the most recognizable sports facilities in the world." Its "very existence has elevated Pasadena from just another Los Angeles suburb to the special status it enjoys now" (SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE, 12/3).