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The NBA Kings will "stay put in Sacramento for next season -- and the team's owners, the Maloofs, insist they're committed to finding a way to remain in town long-term," according to a front-page piece by Dale Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said yesterday that he "isn't sure he believes the Maloofs want to stay." Johnson: "I can't tell you whether they want to be in Sacramento or not." But the arena idea itself "might not be completely dead." One of the groups "planning to bid on the city's parking garages -- a deal that could have raised" $230M for the arena -- said yesterday that it is "interested in reviving the project." Sacramento Forward spokesperson Roger Salazar said, "We're willing and open to play a larger role in helping to complete the (arena) project." His group "includes Antarctica Capital, which was poised to spend" $2.3B on state office buildings before the deal was "canceled by Gov. Jerry Brown." Sports consultant Andy Dolich said, "I don't think the Kings are going anyplace but back to the bargaining table if they're intelligent" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17). Johnson said yesterday that the "effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento 'is not over,' although he offered few clues as to how the city will deal with the collapse of the arena project." Johnson "reiterated that the city wouldn't put up any money to renovate outdated Power Balance Pavilion" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17). Kings co-Owner George Maloof said yesterday that the family "wants to continue arena negotiations directly with the city of Sacramento, cutting out the NBA as the middle man." Maloof said, "I know that the NBA is very busy and they have a lot going on. I think they would prefer if we just work directly with the city and we would prefer that too." He added, "I'm under the impression that maybe downtown's not the right place. There's a lot of pressure from outside interests that want it downtown for money reasons, and maybe that's not the best place for it." He also "disputed the notion fellow owners are infuriated by the Maloofs' refusal to consummate the arena deal." T'Wolves Owner and NBA BOG Chair Glen Taylor said Friday he wished the Maloofs "had stayed and worked with the city," but an arena deal in Sacramento "may be impossible" due to a "gap in trust." Maloof said, "I have all the respect in the world for Glen; he's a very good friend of mine and I respect the man. But at the same time, we were intimately involved in this deal. We know the numbers" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/16).
ONE AND DONE? SI.com's Sam Amick wrote Johnson's "premise -- that the Maloofs will sell or be forced to sell -- is the part where it gets puzzling." No matter how "badly he and perhaps the NBA want the Maloofs to hand the team over, the family continues to say it won't give in to the pressure and that relocation isn't an option this time around even with the latest setback." Given NBA Commissioner David Stern's history as the "kind of commissioner who can't be crossed, the notion that there would be no recourse for the egg on his face seems unfathomable." Meanwhile, the Maloofs, who "initially claimed" that a $3.25M "redevelopment fee was the main holdup of the deal, have likely lost more than that in team sponsorships and future attendance by way of this public relations disaster." Sources said that because "so many businesses agreed to one-year deals last season as a result of the one-year reprieve," there are more than 50 partners "up for renewal for next season and there's simply not much incentive to invest in the future." It is "hard to imagine the support continuing without the return of hope here" (SI.com, 4/16). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states while the prospects "may appear bleak right now, it is premature to completely give up on a new entertainment and sports facility -- with or without the city's NBA team as the primary tenant." Officials "should keep talking to Anschutz Entertainment Group about being the city's partner, even if the Maloof family won't be." The deal with the Maloofs "is dead," but a new arena "doesn't have to be" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/17).
ROOM FOR ANOTHER TEAM? In California, Mark Whicker wrote the city of Anaheim would "take an NBA team even if it were owned by the Amish." Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said, "We are NBA-ready. There are 25 million people in Southern California, and yet there is only one venue to watch pro basketball. When people talk about two teams in Los Angeles being enough, we disagree with that. These are two different markets, and people from San Diego, for example, could get on a train and arrive within walking distance of the arena." However, Whicker notes even with the Lakers telecasts going to Time Warner Cable, it is "difficult to squeeze one's games" onto the FSN stations in L.A. To "dominate the winter sports market in Sacramento, Seattle or Kansas City would seem far more desirable than to wallow on the inside pages here, or to share one's building with the proprietary Ducks" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/17).
The proposed public subsidy package for a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis was "decisively rejected by a House panel late Monday night, leaving the team and stadium supporters visibly stunned," according to Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The Minnesota legislature is scheduled "to adjourn in two weeks," and the nearly $1B stadium plan was "left needing an extraordinary injection of support to stay alive at the Capitol this spring." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said, "It's a mistake to think the Vikings and the [NFL] will continue with the status quo." Kaszuba notes Bagley "stopped just short of saying that the vote could lead the team to leave Minnesota." For the stadium plan "to get new life, it likely would need to be resurrected by a Senate panel that considered the proposal last month but did not take action because there weren't enough votes to approve the project" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/17). Minnesota Rep. Morrie Lanning, who sponsored the bill, called the vote "very disappointing" and said that for the bill to have any chance now to pass this session, "Somebody's going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat." Bagley added that the team "will continue to push the proposal in the remaining two weeks of the session" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/17). In Minneapolis, Kevin Duchschere noted Hennepin County Board Chair Mike Opat is "telling legislative leaders that the county board opposes using excess revenues from the county's ballpark tax to backstop state funding for a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis." Most of the revenue from the sales tax "goes to pay down the debt on Target Field." An additional $4M per year is "used to make grants for youth sports programs and to extend library hours; any additional revenue goes to the ballpark" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 4/16).
ARE YOU THREATENING ME? ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert writes, "It's time for the Minnesota Vikings to recognize that their admirable but toothless stadium strategy has failed." It is time to "end the exclusivity they have given the state of Minnesota on this issue." There is "no more reason to tiptoe around skittish state leaders who root for the Vikings but won't commit public money to maintain their long-term presence." Bagley and Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf have "tried to work within the system," but it is "now time for Wilf to acknowledge in a public way that Minnesota state leaders might not be willing to support any part of the financing" of the $975M stadium. Seifert: "I truly don't think the Vikings, the Wilf family or the NFL want to move the franchise. But state leaders felt little urgency after the Vikings allowed the NFL's Feb. 15 deadline for relocation applications to pass." Seifert adds the team has "avoided the threat of relocation ... but I'll be fascinated to see if the Vikings find a way to avoid it now" (ESPN.com, 4/17). ESPN’s John Clayton said, “As much as the Wilf’s want to stay in the state of Minnesota -- that’s their main goal -- they’re running out of options. They’re not making a lot of money in the stadium … and if they keep on getting no’s, then at some point here reasonably soon -- maybe not this year, but in the next couple of years -- they’re going to say yes to L.A.” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 4/17).
SMG, which has operated O.Co Coliseum and Oracle Arena for 13 years, "stands to lose its contract" to AEG, as a Coliseum Joint Powers Authority selection subcommittee plans to "recommend AEG for the five-year contract at Friday's regular JPA meeting before the full board," according to Angela Woodall of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. The choice "shocked" SMG GM Ron Little. However, he said, "We expected a full-blown attack from AEG, and we got it." AEG Exec VP & CAO Kevin McDowell said, "The city can make a lot of money if we were here -- bottom line." Woodall notes AEG "already promotes shows at the Coliseum." AEG Facilities Manager Chris Wright said that Oakland is "'prime real estate' in a good market that presents an opportunity -- one that has not been fully exploited." Two years ago Oracle Arena was ranked No. 21 by concert trade publication Pollstar, but now it is "no longer on Pollstar's" top 50 list. Wright said that he "knew sales were down at the Oracle Arena." Wright: "But I never expected (the arena) to drop off the top 50." The JPA board could also "opt for the other competitor in the race, Global Spectrum" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/17).
DONE WAITING? In S.F., Susan Slusser notes after more than three years of "waiting to get a decision on their quest for a new stadium, the A's are making noises about trying to get the issue onto the agenda for the owners' meetings next month" in N.Y. in order to "hasten the proceedings." MLB sources said that the team "plans to file paperwork to get onto the agenda before the end of the month, within the prescribed time frame for such proposals." But the A's "desire to move to San Jose is not expected to be addressed during" the May 16-17 owners' meetings. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "determines the agenda, and at the last owners' meeting, in February, he said that the A's stadium issue is 'on the front burner.'" Selig "typically wants a consensus before any owners' vote, and it is possible that he does not have such a consensus -- or that he prefers to have the A's and Giants continue negotiations about the rights to San Jose, currently held by the Giants." The A's would need a 75% vote of the owners to "overturn the Giants' territorial rights, or Selig could use the 'best interests of baseball' powers to do so." Should the A's "fail to get permission to move to San Jose, it is possible the city of San Jose would pursue a lawsuit challenging MLB's antitrust exemption" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/17). Sources yesterday said that the A's were "willing to risk rejection by the owners in order to get a resolution on their ballpark issue." But FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal notes such a strategy would "carry considerable risk, which is why the A's might not want to pursue it" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/17).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "Fenway Plan" to generate as much as $150M for a Wrigley Field renovation "could be a tough sell for residents in the surrounding neighborhood," according to Stefano Esposito of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Sources said that among the ideas being considered is a Jumbotron "in right field, more concerts and football games at Wrigley as well as surrounding street closings on game days to make way for money-making street fairs." Joe Spagnoli, who owns Yak-Zies Bar & Grill near Wrigley Field said that the Cubs "should be able to do whatever they want 'inside their four walls.'" However, he is concerned that "street fairs would cut into his business and be a nightmare for area residents." But Esposito notes some local business owners indicated that the Cubs "should be free to do whatever they need to do to make money and stay competitive" with other MLB teams (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/17). The Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh said, “When you generate revenue from signage, advertising, whatever it is, you impose on the tradition, but you also create sources of money that the city benefits from as well. I think that always the opposition has been on what you cannot do in Wrigleyville. I think what this administration seems to be doing more of, maybe at the Cubs' behest, but seem to be looking at the opposite way: What can you do, rather than what you can't do.” The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc: “Do whatever you have to, but keep it tasteful. … If you have to shutdown Waveland and Sheffield, making it an area that you can bring fans down, have a good time before and after the game. Get more restaurants, more revenue there and maybe put some of the money back into the ballclub into the payroll” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/16).
Almost six months before the Barclays Center opens its doors, the "reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living," according to Joseph Berger of the N.Y. TIMES. Shops along the "workaday stretch of Flatbush Avenue south of the arena that for generations sold unglamorous products like hardware, paint, plumbing supplies, prescription drugs, even artificial limbs, are seeing new businesses pop up that sell high-heel shoes for $3,500 a pair, revealing party dresses, exotic cheeses and, of course, high-priced martinis." Dozens of restaurants and bars "have sprouted on major thoroughfares and serene side streets." In addition to the "many changes that are already visible, opponents are even more concerned about those still to come after the arena opens" on Sept. 28. The 14 "promised residential towers, with 6,430 apartments, and two commercial buildings are so far in the future that they are not much on residents' lips." Forest City Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco, whose company is the developer of the Atlantic Yards project, said that work "would start this year on the first of the apartment buildings, and that others could be built two decades from now" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17). On Long Island, Kathleen Lucadamo noted the new businesses in Atlantic Yards are "hoping to attract not just sports fans but also some of the 24,000 Long Island Rail Road riders who pass through nearby Atlantic Terminal daily." For the owners of Italian restaurant Va beh', which opened four months ago, the LIRR hub "was part of the attraction, along with anticipated foot traffic when Barclays Center opens in September." Va beh' co-Owner Qiana DiBari and other business owners said that retaining a "neighborhood vibe is key to making the area a premiere destination." Nets spokesperson Brian Moriarty said that retail space "at the base of the arena is still available." So far, an adidas team store and Brooklyn Water Bagels "have signed up" (NEWSDAY, 4/16).
BROOKLYN BOUND: In Miami, George Richards writes for the Nets, a franchise that has "struggled on the court the past few years, the move couldn’t come soon enough." Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said, "This is a transformative move, something we’ve waited seven years for. Newark has been great to us, and the Prudential Center has been terrific. But there’s no comparing this to Brooklyn." The Nets soon will go from being a "renter at an arena that is most definitely not theirs" to planting roots in a "spectacular building in a thriving, hip neighborhood." Yormark said, "We have a built-in fan base. People have been waiting since 1957 for this. There’s a nostalgia factor. We’re excited. It’s going to be a destination in the region, and we can’t wait to call it home" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/17).
The Louisville Arena Authority Inc. yesterday voted “to form a special committee to study the management of the KFC Yum! Center and perhaps suggest a change in how the arena is operated,” according to John Karman III of Louisville BUSINESS FIRST. The move comes as a consultant “recommends the authority move away from staffing the downtown facility with state workers whose ‘high’ salaries are contributing to higher-than-projected expenses at the Yum Center.” Louisville Arena Authority Chair Dan Ulmer “will lead the special committee.” The group “is expected to choose between three scenarios: extending the current management agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board, replacing the fair board with a third-party management firm or having the arena managed by arena authority personnel.” Ulmer said that among the topics the committee will consider “is whether to appoint a new general manager for the arena,” as former GM Ted Nicholson “was unexpectedly fired in February" by Kentucky State Fair Board President & CEO Harold Workman (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/16). Ulmer after the meeting said that “resolving the arena’s long-term management is a first step toward addressing the findings in consultant Venue Solutions Group’s report.” Kentucky State Fair Board Interim CFO Gary Stewart said that the arena “is expected to have an operating profit of $353,000 for 2011 when final numbers are released -- less than the $1.2 million originally budgeted.” In Louisville, Marcus Green reports Venue Solutions Group found that the building “generated higher revenues from its operations than all but one other arena studied, but its expenses were higher than its peers and ‘primarily driven by high staffing costs.’” The review also showed the venue's “64 full-time employees were the most among peer arenas, where the average staff was 37.” In its first year, KFC Yum! Center “held 253 events -- compared with an average of 126 in similar arenas.” But it held “fewer concerts and other money-making events, while it was the site of far more community events, such as meetings, banquets and open houses” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 4/17).
The Angels are "offering prime seating at a deeply discounted price for fans who rely on a wheelchair for mobility and have expanded in-seat service to existing wheelchair seating areas at Angel Stadium this season," according to Eric Carpenter of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. The team is doing so in accordance with "the terms of a settlement in a federal lawsuit against the Angels and the city of Anaheim." The Angels will "sell tickets in the Diamond Club, the luxury seating area at the field level behind home plate, for $50 each to fans who verify they rely on the use of a wheelchair and a companion." Those tickets typically sell for $150. The settlement indicates that the $50 price "is the average of the weighted cost of [a] wheelchair seat and could go up along with other price increases in the future." The Angels also will "offer in-seat food-and-beverage service to the 32 wheelchair seats on the Terrace level -- behind Field level seats." The lawsuit was filed in '09 by J. Paul Charlebois of L.A., who "didn't seek monetary damages beyond attorney fees, only change at the stadium" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/17).
Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan said that he "doesn't believe a contract between the city of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays prevents other governments from talking with the team about its future in the region." But in Tampa, Bill Varian notes Hagan will "ask permission from his fellow board members to have their attorney research the issue and report back." He said that during a meeting yesterday, he "informed St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster of his intentions to seek a legal opinion." Hagan would "say only that the discussion was 'cordial,' as per an agreement between the two to keep the substance of their conversation between them" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/17).
DEMOLITION DERBY: In Houston, Mike Morris noted Harris County Sports & Convention Corp. officials are "preparing to release a study next month comparing the cost of knocking down" the Reliant Astrodome with "the price of renovating it in several forms." Sports Corp. Exec Dir Willie Loston said that the "estimated cost of demolition is lower than that produced by a similar study two years ago," but he "declined to say the new number before members of Commissioners Court are informed." The '10 study "estimated the cost of demolition" at $78M, including $10M for asbestos removal and $10M to "put a ‘plaza’ on the site after demolition." Morris noted the "priciest stadium demolition" was $22M for Yankee Stadium, which was completed in '10 (CHRON.com, 4/16).
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: The home run sculpture in center field at Marlins Park was activated for the first time Sunday when Marlins 2B Omar Infante went deep, and ESPN’s Michael Smith said the sculpture is “awfully awesome.” Smith: "Looks like a Mardi Gras float. This is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, and if you stare at it long enough, you’ll start to like it.” ESPN’s Rob Parker said, “It’s awful. It looks like one of the hats the Golden Girls would wear to Easter” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 4/16). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the sculpture was an “awful wonderful thing.” Le Batard: “It’s so very Miami” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 4/16).