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Officials with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders' office and the Chargers "moved closer to an agreement on building a downtown football stadium Monday even as the team suggested that a public vote on how to pay for it may slip several months to spring 2013," according to a front-page piece by Matthew Hall of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Sanders and Chargers Chair & President Dean Spanos yesterday "announced the team would not pay the city nearly $24 million to break its lease and move to another city this year." Each year until '20, from Feb. 1 through May 1, the Chargers are "able to relocate by paying San Diego a fee that decreases about $2 million to $3 million a year." Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani "did suggest something new: That both sides are on the same page again after months of brinksmanship." He said yesterday that the team would "table its plan for a stadium that doubles as convention center space in hopes of finding common ground." Fabiani added that the team's proposal "could be revived if Sanders' convention center expansion falters." Sanders has "long maintained that a convention center expansion should proceed separately from stadium construction six blocks away on an East Village bus yard." Fabiani said that it "remains unclear how to pay for a possible $1 billion stadium but both sides still agree the East Village site is the best option." Sanders "reiterated his resistance to include a tax increase in a stadium plan," and he has told N.Y.-based consultant Lazard "to find other funding sources." Sanders said yesterday, "This is not about a tax increase. We made it very clear to Lazard we are not going on the ballot for a tax increase because that’s simply not going to happen." Sanders "leaves office this year because of term limits." A plan, which "could involve hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, could be ready for public review by March." Fabiani's suggestion yesterday that a referendum on the plan "might slide to a special election in the spring of 2013 marked the first time either he or the mayor has publicly proposed leaving the project in the hands of a new San Diego mayor" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/10).
Dozens of fans arrived at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last night for the Allstate BCS National Championship game between LSU and Alabama “to find their seats were taken for auxiliary press seating,” according to Brett Martel of the AP. The top two rows of the upper deck “were turned into an overflow area for the media, with one of the rows covered by tables.” Fans complained that “they paid for those seats but wouldn’t be allowed to use them.” Sugar Bowl officials, who “were in charge of hosting the championship this season, quickly found new seats for affected fans closer to the field.” Sugar Bowl Dir of Media Relations & Communications John Sudsbury said, “In making adjustments to accommodate the overwhelming media demand for this game, it was necessary to void seating in the upper (rows) of the stadium. Apparently, some of that seating was not removed from the saleable manifest.” Sudsbury added that the bowl had “an emergency relocation plan in place that accommodated all involved ticket holders.” The mix-up is “similar to a situation that occurred at last year’s Super Bowl” at Cowboys Stadium (AP, 1/9). In Boston, Mark Blaudschun notes the fans who purchased tickets for the top two rows “paid $300 for the seats” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/10).
TICKETS WERE IN DEMAND: StubHub Head of Communications Glenn Lehrman indicated that the demand for a ticket to last night's game was "more than any other college football regular-season game or bowl game." ESPN's Erin Andrews reported the average price people paid for tickets was $1,800, but "we’ve heard some big prices -- $3,000, $5,000.” Andrews reported from the stands and noted she spoke with a fan in the section that “sold a ticket for about $3,000.” Andrews said sarcastically, “No one wants to see a rematch, nobody’s going to watch this game. Yeah, right.” ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said, "I don’t know if we’ve ever had a scene like this with two SEC teams in New Orleans at the Superdome. It’s unprecedented, the hype and buzz around this dome right now.” ESPN’s Desmond Howard attended the Lions-Saints game Saturday night and said, “I think this may actually rival that atmosphere. This is going to be special here tonight” (“College GameDay,” ESPN, 1/9).
St. Louis civic and political leaders are "trying to craft a plan for revamping the Edward Jones Dome, with just three weeks left before they must send" the Rams a proposal, according to Matthew Hathaway of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The Rams' lease "gives the team an escape clause if the Dome isn't a 'first tier' football stadium by 2015." Negotiations are "supposed to unfold this year, with a series of upcoming deadlines that start next month." If the two sides "can't reach a deal, the lease eventually could be declared void." According to the lease, "after the 2014 season, the Rams would be free to leave, or could rent the Dome on a season-to-season basis." The "'first tier' clause -- along with the effort to bring pro football back to Los Angeles -- has created a climate of uncertainty about the Rams' future." By Feb. 1, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, which "owns the Dome, must give the Rams a proposal for improving the stadium, including a financing plan." The proposal is "supposed to be one that the CVC 'reasonably believes' would put the Dome in the top quarter of all stadiums" in the NFL. CVC execs have been "meeting behind closed doors with officials from St. Louis and St. Louis County to hammer out the proposal." The team's lease "calls for the Rams to stay in town through 2025 but only if the Dome is judged to be 'first tier' at two points: in the 10th year of the lease, in 2005, and again by its 20th year, 2015" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/10).
Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, when asked recently about the status of the team's "stadium issue," said, "We continue to work closely with the Georgia World Congress Center. We’ve got a great relationship with them. This is a long process that we are going through. ... We want to position the franchise to be competitive for the next 35 to 40 years." Asked if the "open-air concept will harm Atlanta's ability to attract events to the Georgia Dome," Blank said, "I think that the new stadium would work well (in conjunction with the Georgia Dome) for certain events, most obviously basketball, which needs to be played inside. There are a number of other events that need to be played inside. I think having both stadiums will work well together" (AJC.com, 1/7).
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: In Buffalo, Donn Esmonde wrote to "truly protect taxpayer backs" during negotiations on an extension of the Bill's Ralph Wilson Stadium lease, Erie County "needs to bring in a sports economist who knows the lay of the NFL land." The Bills "likely want upwards of $100 million in taxpayer-funded stadium enhancements." The Bills' lease expires in '13, giving "the county a chance to tie stadium improvements to the terms of a new lease." That includes "everything from length of the deal to -- most importantly, given the fragile health of the 93-year-old owner -- provisions that make it as financially painful as possible for the next owner to abandon Buffalo." The relatively "modest investment in a consultant could save millions in lease terms." With the Bills "hanging in the balance and more than $100 million to ante up, the stakes are high." Esmonde: "Let’s not get played for suckers" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/8).
ON THE DOCKET: In New Jersey, Deon Hampton notes the city of East Rutherford is claiming that the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, the landlord of NFL Giants' practice facility Timex Performance Center, owes the municipality "$2.5 million plus interest." At issue is "whether the municipality can tax a place that has been exempt from local levies because the state owns the land and buildings." Neither the Giants nor the NJSEA "have paid taxes since the practice center opened in 2009." Municipal court judge Joseph Andresini "isn't expected to render an opinion on the matter until later this year" (Bergen RECORD, 1/10).
In N.Y., Marc Berman cited NBA sources as saying that the Knicks are “attempting to fix a problem that arose among opposing-team scouts regarding their dissatisfaction with the new nosebleed seating at transformed" MSG. The Knicks are “responding to complaints from other club’s advance scouts who feel they can’t do their job properly in the current seating in the brand-new 300-level press box.” Advance scouts in the past “were placed on the floor.” But in the new Garden, the scouts “were put upstairs.” Sources said that “as a consequence, the Knicks advance scout, Matt Harding, has received similar treatment in other arenas,” and has been placed upstairs often. Berman noted it is “unclear if the advance scouts eventually will be put back on the floor or in a lower section as logistics still are being worked out” (N.Y. POST, 1/9).
WHAT'S THE END GOAL? In Tampa Bay, John Romano notes St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster will meet with Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg this week about the team’s stadium situation, and Foster “needs to ask: What's the endgame?” Romano: “Do you want to keep waving the lease until the day the Rays leave town, or do you want to parlay that lease into something beneficial for everyone involved?” Foster should tell Sternberg if his "business partner wants to look at sites in Hillsborough, the mayor will not stand in the way as long as the Rays make some concessions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/10).
OFFICE SPACE: In Cincinnati, Tom Demeroplis reports the regional office of FS Ohio “is moving downtown to get closer to the action.” The broadcast group “will relocate to Center at 600 Vine from its space on Cornell Park Drive in Blue Ash.” The Cincinnati office, which has “nine full-time employees and several freelancers, will move in February into space on the 22nd floor of the downtown office tower” (Cincinnati BUSINESS COURIER, 1/6 issue).