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A wealthy S.F. hedge-fund manager and officials in the Seattle mayor's office “have been working behind the scenes for eight months to bring an NBA team back to the city as early as next fall and build a new arena,” according to e-mails and documents cited by Miletich & Thompson in a front-page piece for the SEATTLE TIMES. Documents from a Dec. 13 meeting agenda “provide the first glimpse of how the largely unknown hedge-fund manager, 44-year-old Seattle native Christopher Hansen, approached the city about his desire to buy an NBA team and build an arena south of Safeco Field.” In an initial e-mail “laying out his vision, Hansen told city officials an arena could be built with minimal impact on taxpayers.” Hansen in a June 16 e-mail to Mayor Mike McGinn’s Chief of Staff Julie McCoy and the mayor’s Dir of Policy & Operations Ethan Raup said, “I really appreciate it and look forward to making this happen in Seattle. I genuinely mean that and am confident that with a little effort and creativity we can find a solution that meets our needs and the City's/State's desire to get a team back to Seattle without a large public outlay." The agenda also included “discussion of KeyArena, where the Seattle Sonics played before owner Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City in 2008 after failing to secure a new arena.” No details were listed on the agenda, but KeyArena “could be used as a temporary home for a new team with the permission of the NBA, which considered it an unsuitable permanent venue even before the Sonics departed.” Although the documents “don't mention how Seattle would obtain a team, they show the city has been following developments in Sacramento, which is under a March 1 deadline to come up with a viable proposal to build an arena” for the Kings. No final offer from Hansen's group “has been presented to the city.” McGinn Saturday said he is taking the proposal "very seriously," but does not want the city to be left "holding the bag" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/5).
MAKING PROGRESS: In Seattle, Steve Kelley wrote four seasons after the Sonics left Seattle and became the Thunder, the “possibility of the NBA returning feels more real than ever.” Kelley: “What if the group that includes former Sonics president Wally Walker can accumulate enough property south of Safeco Field and gain a few concessions from the Seattle City Council (an increase in the hotel-motel tax, a surcharge on tickets) to build an arena that will be predominantly privately funded?” Rapid progress “has been made,” and McGinn has been “among those championing the idea” (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/5).
Negotiators are "hurriedly finishing a plan that would have a new Minnesota Vikings stadium alongside the Metrodome substantially complete by 2016, requiring the team to play only a handful of games at the" Univ. of Minnesota, according to Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale said Friday that the "fast-moving plan should be completed this week and could dramatically accelerate a decision to select a location for the long-debated project." The latest proposal would have the Vikings "play at the Metrodome through 2015." By that time, a new stadium next-door "would be 75 percent complete." Mondale and a Vikings spokesperson said that the Metrodome would be "torn down and turned into a large plaza for pregame activities." The space would be "large enough to accommodate a $19 million parking ramp for the team." Mondale said, "I would think 2016 would be the 'go live' year." Both Mondale and the Vikings acknowledge that the "scramble to find yet another way -- and site -- for the stadium is being driven by the team's estimate that it would cost nearly $50 million for the Vikings to play at TCF Bank stadium for three years while a new stadium was built at the Metrodome" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/5).
OPEN-AIR DEBATE: In Atlanta, Tucker & Stafford noted the Falcons' "desired open-air stadium might wind up with a retractable roof if ongoing negotiations get bogged down." While both the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority said that the "focus remains on trying to reach a deal that would put the team in an outdoor stadium and preserve the nearby Georgia Dome for indoor events, neither side shuts the door on the option of an indoor/outdoor, retractable-roof facility." That option would be "much more expensive, could make the Dome unneeded and would represent a change in stance for the Falcons, who have expressed a preference for an open-air stadium without the added cost of a retractable roof." Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay: "As we've said before, a variety of options have been on the table for quite some time, and none of them have been eliminated to date" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/4). When asked what would bring a Super Bowl back to Atlanta, Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said, "One of the ways is to have an open-air stadium, to be honest. The owners are very sensitive and typically very supportive of communities where there's financial public support for a new stadium" (11alive.com, 2/6).
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team's “focus now is revamping” 25-year-old Sun Life Stadium to “make it more attractive to his team's fans,” according to Ben Volin of the PALM BEACH POST. Dee's plan is “to get fans closer to the action.” The opening of Marlins Park means the Dolphins no longer share the stadium with the MLB club and can “reconfigure the field and potentially add 3,500 lower-bowl seats between the 20-yard lines.” The team also could “put fans just 18 feet from the team benches instead of the current 80 feet.” Dee: "We have the fewest number of seats of any of the facilities that compete for Super Bowls between the 20-yard lines, and we can fix that now." Dee said that the team “will work this year to fund renovations that could enliven the stadium and help South Florida land its 11th Super Bowl.” To meet Super Bowl standards, the league “wants a canopy to protect fans from rain … better lighting for high-definition TV and other improvements.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday also said the Dolphins have to "raise their game" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/4). Goodell said South Florida is “right at the top” for hosting the most Super Bowls and “there’s a reason for that.” Goodell: “It’s a great place to have a Super Bowl.” Still, Goodell indicated the league wants stadium upgrades. Goodell: “Clearly, they’re competing against better and better stadiums across the country.” He added the competition the market faces is “greater and greater and that’s a good thing for the NFL, but I do believe that Miami will have future Super Bowls” (NFL Network, 2/3).
BIGGER IS BETTER? In Dallas, David Moore noted Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones “has informed the NFL that his stadium is available and willing to host from 2016-19.” No venue “can accommodate as many fans as Cowboys Stadium.” Arlington, Texas is “centrally located and has more hotel rooms than Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and other second-tier cities that have hosted the game.” The stadium is also “state of the art, a claim a Super Bowl fixture in South Florida called Sun Life Stadium can no longer make.” The negatives that “stained last year’s event were frigid, icy conditions and a seating fiasco,” but the NFL and host committee “can eliminate one of those issues.” Geographic considerations “go into awarding bids,” as does the weather. But “don’t overlook the bottom line: how much money can be generated.” Moore: “That keeps Cowboys Stadium in the rotation” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/5).