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A disagreement over who controls a pair of billboards near Gillette Stadium is "part of a bitter dispute that has damaged the 27-year relationship between the town’s government and its largest taxpayer, The Kraft Group," according to Mark Arsenault of the BOSTON GLOBE. The breakdown in relations comes as Patriots Owner Bob Kraft is "asking Foxborough to consider the most controversial and far-reaching economic development proposal in its history," a $1B resort casino. The Kraft Group "insists the billboards are on its land," while Foxborough officials "say an easement gives the town control." The town is "threatening to settle the dispute by taking the billboards by eminent domain, which the company warns would be 'a dangerous position' for the town." Foxborough Board of Selectmen Chair Larry Harrington said, "Unfortunately, what I see is the relationship with the Krafts getting worse and worse. It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys right now." The dispute has "spilled into town politics, setting town officials against each other at a moment when Foxborough is most in need of leadership." Town Manager Kevin Paicos said, "That casino is the elephant in the room, without a doubt." The Krafts "presented their side of the billboard dispute over the weekend in a mailing sent to thousands of households." It "accused 'some town leaders' of damaging the relationship with the threat of land takings." More than 25 years after Kraft secured an option on land surrounding the old Foxborough Stadium, the relationship between Kraft and local government is "seen two ways by local officials." Some focus on what they view as Kraft’s "hard-nosed negotiating tactics over development and other issues, revealed in recently released minutes from closed meetings of the Board of Selectmen." Paicos said, "If you allow yourself to be supplicant, this is how they will treat you." Others "choose to focus on the roughly" $5M a year The Kraft Group pays in "local taxes, fees, and other mitigation, after replacing what was the NFL’s worst stadium with one of the best, and then adding a hotel, movie theater, and mall" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/26).
Quebec City "will have its new arena," and the city can now "justifiably tell the NHL that a new building is definitely on the way," according to Sean Gordon of the GLOBE & MAIL. The new arena "will have 18,000 seats, it will be situated on the site of a harness racing track near downtown, and construction will begin in mid-September." A contract was signed yesterday that "formalizes a tentative deal reached just over a year ago" that will see media conglomerate Quebecor "take over the management" of a C$400M multi-use arena in '15. Gordon writes there were "few if any doubts that a contract would be signed before" the March 31 deadline that both parties had agreed to. Quebecor President & CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said, "As of today there are no more obstacles, no more exit doors, no more uncertainty. What was, up until today, an idea, now officially takes form." Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said that the building will have "a smaller footprint than originally planned, but that it will be more or less identical in size" to Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. Under the terms of the 25-year contract, Quebecor will "manage the arena and be its exclusive tenant." The company will pay C$63.5M for the naming rights. Quebecor's rent will "depend on whether it succeeds in attracting an NHL team, in which case it would average" C$5M per year (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/26). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "I am informed of what is going on in my world. I also know that the economic power of Quebec City is much bigger than it was." However, Bettman added that "the NHL is not talking about moving any teams at the moment." Peladeau referred to the new building as a "multifunctional amphitheatre." The arena will also "include a television studio specifically for Quebecor Media" (TORONTO SUN, 3/26).
Marlins Park, with its "rain-beating retractable roof and air conditioning, has given the Marlins a chance, that’s all," according to Greg Cote of the MIAMI HERALD. Cote: "And that’s everything." It has given the team "no guarantee but a fair, fighting chance to be a flourishing, permanent thing." It has "taken away every excuse" of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria’s for why his player payrolls "were embarrassingly low shoestring budgets all those years, why the club could not consistently produce winning, contending teams." Cote wrote, "I think it is time for the new stadium’s old critics and doubters and fault-finders to find a mute button now and let a full, cheering stadium be the sound that takes over" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/25). In Miami, Clark Spencer noted that when fans file into the 37,000-seat retractable-roof Marlins Park for the season opener April 4, Loria is "hoping they’ll find not just a traditional field of grass and dirt for baseball, but also a playground for the imagination." Loria said, "It’s part of what I wanted to see happen in the ballpark, where people get to use their eyes, see things they might not ordinarily see, and to have an experience that goes along with baseball." Marlins LF Logan Morrison said, "I like the colors, the brightness. The other stadiums have bright colors, but not as bright as this one. I don’t think there’s another city like Miami, so I think it’s pretty fitting." Spencer noted while bright, "dynamic colors run rampant throughout the ballpark, the one place where none is found is the training room for players." It was painted white "for a reason -- to make it as dull as possible." Marlins President David Samson said, “We don’t want players hanging out in there. There are some training rooms that have lounge chairs and huge televisions. We want players coming in here, getting their work done, and getting out” (MIAMI HERALD, 3/25).
TRAFFIC REPORT: Also, in Miami, Manny Navarro noted for weeknight games, fans who do not purchase one of the 5,700 on-site parking spaces around Marlins Park will be "searching for a spot nearby while fighting through rush-hour traffic." Miami Parking Authority CEO Art Noriega expects "the learning curve" to last only a couple weeks. He said that fans eventually will "figure out their 'own system' for getting to and from Marlins Park faster." Noriega added, "The same growing pains we experienced when the old arena opened up downtown and then AmericanAirlines Arena, that’s what we’re going to experience here. ... You can’t just plop a facility that size, bring that many cars in and not appreciate the fact the customers are going to experience a little bit of a learning curve, and the operators and police are going to learn through the experience. I think a few weeks into the season things will really, really settle down" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/25).
NEWFOUND FUNDS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez noted the Marlins' "projected Opening Day payroll is $93,213,000, about $31.3 million more" than their final '11 payroll of $61,940,280. Since the Orioles moved from Memorial Stadium to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in '92, 18 baseball teams "have built new facilities." None increased payroll "more than the Marlins as they began play at those high revenue-generating homes." Samson said that the Marlins "expect to have at least 15,000 season tickets" sold by the start of the season, which would "put them in the top third of baseball." Asked if the Marlins sold the fewest season tickets of any team last season, Samson said, "We weren't last. Last was so far ahead of us. We don't even count enough. We were three standard deviations from last." Samson added, "We project we're going to be selling season tickets through May, which is something we've never been able to do. We would probably cap it at 18,000 and start a waiting list" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/25).
MIAMI SOUND MACHINE: The Marlins on Friday "announced four of the season's six headliners" for the team's new Jiffy Lube Friday Night Live concert series coming to Marlins Park each month. Reggae singer Daddy Yankee will perform April 13 after the Astros-Marlins to kick off the concert series. On May 11, rapper LL Cool J will perform after the Mets-Marlins game, and following the Rays-Marlins June 8 matchup, reggae duo Chino y Nacho will take the stage. Rapper Flo Rida will perform July 13 following the Nationals-Marlins game (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/23).
The Grizzlies' lease with the city of Memphis and Shelby County to operate FedExForum is a "difficult contract to break," according to a review of the team's agreement and a subsequent '05 bond issue cited by Kyle Veazey in a front-page piece for the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Veazey noted though the terms of the deal give "the team autonomy in running an expensive public building, it prohibits a move" out of the facility before '21, and "continues to prohibit it after that date if the team is successful at the box office, and gives the local governments options to save the team from a hypothetical move if it isn't." Until '21, the lease also "threatens court intervention should the owner want to break it." The lease contract, which runs through '29, contains a clause stating "it can't be broken in the first 17 years of its existence." Additionally, after '21, the contract "remains intact unless attendance falls below some prescribed marks." Three figures are at play, and they are an "average paid attendance" of 14,900; sales of the largest 64 suites; and club seat season-ticket sales of 2,500. If "any of those are not met" in the '19-20 season, a window would "open by which the owner could -- but not necessarily would -- break the contract." Veazey also noted departure would "come at a cost." In '21, it would be $63.2M, and it "step-ladders its way through" the '27-28 season, at which point it would only cost $8.4M to leave. If a potential owner intended to relocate the team, the person "has to let the city and county know -- both when there are 'meaningful negotiations' and when he's 'prepared to accept an offer.'" At that point, the city and county would be given as many as 3 1/2 months, "depending on when the notifications came, to buy the team on those terms." The "right of first refusal" clause could mean that the "city and county could arrange a purchase by another owner" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/25). In Memphis, David Williams wrote the lease agreement for the local government is "seriously good, considering no more leverage than the city and county had when negotiating it." Williams: "Does all this mean the Grizzlies definitely won't move before 2021? No, of course not." Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison, who has expressed interest in buying the team, could "just start writing crazy checks." But the cost to "wrest away the Grizzlies" before '21 seems, if "not outright crazy, then at least well beyond the fiscally prudent" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/25).