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AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke Thursday presented the company's "long-awaited environmental impact report to City Hall on Thursday" for its $1.4B proposed Farmers Field football stadium in downtown L.A., according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. The 10,000-page report took 18 months to complete and cost $27M. The EIR will be subject to public comment for 45 days "after it is released and if city officials approve the EIR and the project, there will then be a 30-day window for legal challenges, which will be resolved within" 175 days. Farmers Field "would be in position to begin construction" by next March if everything goes according to plan, "similar to a competing stadium proposed" by Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski in the City of Industry. Leiweke said, "In the best-case scenario, no matter which site you look at, if you move a team next March and you go to design drawings and pushing dirt, figure that it's probably about a four-year process to build the stadium. So I think the earliest any of us could be in a new stadium is 2017. Maybe there is a way financially to get that going a little quicker but I doubt it" (ESPNLA.com, 4/5). In San Diego, Matthew Hall notes if city officials approve the EIR and the project, the subsequent timeline "means it's likely the process wouldn't play out until next year." NFL teams "wouldn't have to notify the league of a potential move until mid-February" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/6). Leiweke said, "It's safe to assume if we're sitting here in 2014 and chasing a team, that our interest not only wanes but probably disappears at some point during that year." Leiweke added that he "is 'very' concerned about the imposition by the other 31 owners of a relocation fee that would disrupt the economics of the plan." Though he "didn’t identify the specific amount that would kill the deal," Leiweke said that a $1B "relocation fee will not be paid" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/4).
NEW WAY OF LIFE: In L.A., Zahniser & Bloomekatz report AEG is "counting on a dramatic change in the behavior of L.A. sports fans," as the EIR "bets 1 in 4 ticket buyers would come to the 72,000-seat venue without a car on weekdays." Leiweke said, "We have to change people's habits from the day they buy their first ticket to Farmers Field." Zahniser & Bloomekatz note the "push to limit the number of cars arriving" at the proposed stadium is "tied to legislation passed last year to speed the project's environmental review process." Company officials said that the law "requires that AEG operate a stadium with fewer car trips than any other NFL facility in the nation." The EIR assumes that more than 18% of ticket buyers "would show up at weekend events without using cars." For weekday games, that figure would reach 27%. Leiweke said that AEG "plans to give ticket buyers discounts and even bump them up in line for available tickets if they take public transit" (L.A. TIMES, 4/6). In California, Dakota Smith notes to "help ease traffic" for the stadium, AEG is "proposing to widen freeway ramps, direct fans to public transit and use smartphone technology to point out available parking spots." But the company's "most ambitious proposal would involve widening the notoriously bottlenecked northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway, where traffic leaving downtown is consistently jammed." AEG has committed $2.5M to "study adding a lane to a roughly one-mile stretch" (SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE, 4/6).
S.F. hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, who wants to build an NBA arena in Seattle, is paying for a $50,000 traffic and parking study to "help answer critics who say the arena threatens blue-collar jobs in Seattle's industrial area," according to a front-page piece by Emily Heffter of the SEATTLE TIMES. Hansen Thursday appeared with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Exec Dow Constantine in Hansen's "first news conference since details of his proposal were released in February." Hansen said that he "already has several yet-unnamed local investors interested in joining him to bring an NBA franchise to Seattle" and help build a $490M, 18,000-seat arena. Hansen: "There's a certain amount of capital investment we're willing to put in this area." Heffter reports as details of his investment and proposal "continued to trickle out this week, the first organized opposition to the arena surfaced." The Mariners "expressed concern about scheduling and traffic, and the Port of Seattle and others in the local maritime industry said adding another sports venue to Seattle's industrial core threatens thousands of blue-collar jobs." Hansen said that he is "committed to the site he selected in Sodo." McGinn also "believes Sodo is a good fit for the new arena." It is "already zoned for a stadium, and transit access and nearby parking make it accessible." Hansen said Thursday, "One hundred percent, there's issues with our site. Yes. There's issues with every site. I can't manufacture a site out of thin air with no issues on it." Hansen also asserted that it is "an investment he could afford without partners." He said, "I could probably do the whole thing myself, but I wouldn't." Hansen added that the deal "could go forward without a hockey team, and that it was 'highly likely' the arena could be built with only a basketball team signed and hopes for a hockey team later" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/6).
OBJECTION OVERRULED: In Seattle, Steve Kelley writes the Mariners' "orchestrated objections ... are contentious and obstructionist." The Mariners are "worried about the competition that a new arena will bring to the area, not the congestion." Kelley notes apparently the Mariners "finally figured out the magnitude of their public-relations blunder Thursday." In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the team "sounded downright neighborly." Hansen "agrees there would be traffic congestion on those rare times the Mariners would have conflicting home dates with an NBA or NHL team." But he said, "People will tolerate a little bit of traffic for the ability to go to concerts and see professional basketball and see professional hockey." He added, "People are excited, but they probably expect it to happen sooner than it might. But I think something will happen in the next five years" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/6). Mariners President & COO Chuck Armstrong cited traffic concerns with the arena and said, "Our view is that Hansen, if he built it in that location, he would rue the day he did it." In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote while the Mariners did "raise valid concerns, it comes across as silly, maybe even petty, to listen to a sports franchise with a publicly funded stadium complain this much about another project." The Mariners "say they are all for the NBA and NHL coming to Seattle, but not in their 'hood." They "don't want the congested Sodo area to become unbearable." Brewer: "They have a point. Problem is, it's a molehill issue that isn't worth it for them." The Mariners "sound like stingy, grumpy old men yelling for Hansen to get off their lawn." Brewer wrote, "Even worse, they risk alienating far more fans than they already have during this decadelong dry spell" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/5).
The Triple-A PCL Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Chickasaw Nation on Thursday revised a previously-announced naming-rights deal for ballpark. The venue will now be called Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (RedHawks). In Oklahoma City, Michael Kimball in a front-page piece notes that under the original deal, the venue would have been called Newcastle Field at Bricktown, and some signage at the ballpark would have "prominently featured the logo of Newcastle Casino." The move was "met with strong and near-unanimous criticism from city leaders who voiced an opinion on the name." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and other city leaders had "expressed dismay that the name of a casino and Oklahoma City suburb would be displayed on a city-owned building." But the city "sold naming rights to the team" in '98 and has "no control over what the stadium is called." Cornett said that the fact that the team's opening day was Thursday "played a role in the change coming so quickly." RedHawks President & GM Michael Byrnes said that Newcastle Casino will "continue to be featured in the Chickasaws' sponsorship of the team, which predated the naming rights deal." A Chickasaw spokesperson said that there is "no timetable on when signs at the stadium will reflect the new name" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/6). Also in Oklahoma City, Barry Tramel writes, "Everyone came out a winner with the change. The RedHawks still get their Chickasaw money. The city outmuscled a little burg in McClain County for metro supremacy. Newcastle Casino got its message to the masses that the black jack tables are open just across the river" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/6).
AROUND THE HORN: Charlotte-based box office and ticketing services company TicketReturn.com reached a one-year naming rights deal with the Single-A Carolina League Myrtle Beach Pelicans to name the team's stadium TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark (Pelicans). The ballpark was BB&T Coastal Field until the bank's naming rights contract "expired at the end of December" (MYRTLEBACHONLINE.com, 4/3)....The Single-A South Atlantic League Kannapolis Intimidators and Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast reached a naming-rights deal for the '12 season to name the team's ballpark CMC-NorthEast Stadium (Intimidators). The park had been "named Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium since it was built" in '94. The now-defunct textile company originally paid $300,000 for the naming rights. It was "supposed to be for the life of the stadium, but Pillowtex Inc., which later bought the company, was liquidated" (INDEPENDENTTRIBUNE.com, 4/2).
USC's new $70M campus athletic facility is "due to be completed by the start of football training camp in August," and Senior Associate AD Mark Jackson Thursday "provided a tour of the facility to media members," according to Michael Lev of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Among the main floor highlights of the 110,000-square foot John McKay Center is "a two-story-high, customized video wall that's the equivalent of 278 15-inch flat-screen TVs" that will have "a dedicated team producing content." Live content "also will be shown on the wall, and recruits can play video games on it." Lev writes "the primary thrust of the main floor is academics." It includes a room "with 25 tutorial computer stations, an additional computer lab and library-like study area." The main floor will also "feature an outdoor atrium honoring McKay," the late USC coach and college football HOFer. The facility's upper floor "is mostly devoted to football" and includes "coaches' offices, team meeting rooms, a team auditorium and an outdoor dining area." The lower level "is devoted to sports performance, including a weight room, nutrition center, sports-medicine area and 40-yard-long AstroTurf field." Jackson described the McKay Center as "phase one of a major overhaul of our athletic facilities." USC also plans a $30-35M renovation of 41-year-old Heritage Hall, "which will become a 'cutting-edge museum-like space' for the public." The two buildings "will be connected underground" and the school "will revamp the courtyard between them." The school also "will renovate its swim stadium and put in a new field and track at the track stadium" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/6). In California, Miguel Melendez notes "there are no plans to tear down the 70,000 square foot Heritage Hall with the new addition." Jackson said that USC "plans on keeping the integrity of the tradition-rich building by also giving it a considerable renovation." The McKay Center "will allow for re-allocation of space in Heritage Hall for athletic department staff as well as an expansion of the athletic equipment room, new lounge area for student-athletes and a new TV studio" (SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE, 4/6).