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L.A. officials yesterday promised to “take new steps to protect the city's interests in pending agreements for a new downtown NFL stadium now that the company looking to develop the project has been put up for sale,” according to Zahniser & Linthicum of the L.A. TIMES. With a final vote on the $1.5B stadium and convention center upgrade “set for Friday, Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller told a City Council panel that he was drafting language to make sure whoever gains control” of AEG has “experience running major sports venues.” The council's stadium committee “endorsed the deal” yesterday after AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "apologized for allowing the AEG sale announcement to create a 'disruption of the process.'" Friday's council vote “involves the project's development agreement, environmental impact report and leases of city-owned land.” L.A. Council member Jose Huizar said that he “wanted to assure the public that AEG's top executives, including Leiweke, who has cultivated close ties with City Hall over the last decade, would remain in place.” Leiweke stressed that he “has a new contract with AEG that would last at least five years” (L.A. TIMES, 9/25). ESPN L.A.’s Arash Markazi noted if “everything goes according to plan, Farmers Field could be in position to break ground by March 2013, similar to a competing stadium proposed by” Majestic Realty Chair & CEO Ed Roski in the City of Industry. But both stadiums “need a long-term commitment from an NFL team before construction can begin.” Leiweke said that it will be “about four years until the stadium and convention center is finished” after construction begins. Leiweke said AEG Chair Phil Anschutz has “made it very clear that our dedication to Farmers Field is going to have to be their dedication to Farmers Field." Leiweke said that he “anticipates that AEG will have a new owner in place by March before the NFL owners' annual meeting” (ESPNLA.com, 9/24).
SUMMERTIME THOUGHTS: Leiweke said that Anschutz “began entertaining the idea of selling AEG over the summer, after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup.” He said that the company’s senior execs “learned at a recent retreat" that Anschutz "would indeed go that route.” Leiweke said company execs have already been approached by “dozens” of interested entities. He said that the process “will involve looking at the bidders, cutting them down to a small number, and having one or two finalists by the end of the year” (LADOWNTOWNNEWS.com, 9/24).
On the same day Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel "set an Oct. 17 'drop-dead date' for the Katz Group to explain what it wants in an arena agreement," Oilers Owner Daryl Katz was in Seattle, and received approval for "a new $480-million-US arena project," according to Kent & MacKinnon of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Mandel said of talks between the Edmonton City Council and the Katz Group, “I think we’re a long way apart. Right now, I don’t know how far apart we are.” Mandel “wouldn’t give details about what might happen" at the Council's Oct. 17 meeting, "aside from predicting the day will be ‘interesting.’” Mandel: “What is it? What do you want? We have been dealing with this for four years. You should know by now … It’s not a complicated issue of what you want. We just don’t know what it is.” Katz Group execs were “joined in Seattle by former Oilers great Wayne Gretzky” and "toured the old Key Arena before attending” the Packers-Seahawks game. Katz last week said that he “hopes a final deal can be reached in the next couple of months,” and that “the longer it takes the more construction costs will rise.” But Mandel said that “people in Edmonton are becoming frustrated” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/25). Edmonton Council member Kerry Diotte said that Katz’ Seattle visit is “not helping get an intelligent deal done.” Diotte: “The people I’m talking to are just getting really fed up with what they deem as pressure tactics by the Katz Group” (EDMONTON SUN, 9/25).
OPTIONS OPEN: The CP’s Dean Bennett noted this is “not the first time Katz and the Oilers have had talks with other potential suitors.” Team officials have “been in Hamilton before and there were even talks at one time to relocate the arena to First Nations territory outside Edmonton” (CP, 9/24). In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes the idea of Katz moving the Oilers to Seattle is “ludicrous.” Jones: “He's not a stupid man. He'd be paying rent there. He wouldn't have concession rights, pouring rights, building naming rights. Hockey would be the No. 4 or No. 5 entity on the local sports scene” (EDMONTON SUN, 9/25).
Although Univ. of Louisville AD Tom Jurich said that while he is “open to sharing the KFC Yum! Center with an NBA team, he is irked by efforts that have excluded the building’s primary tenant from that pursuit,” according to Tim Sullivan of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Jurich characterized Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Sept. 14 meeting “with local NBA enthusiasts as a possible precursor of, ‘the ultimate bait-and-switch.’” Jurich yesterday said, “Nobody’s communicating with us. They had a meeting behind our back (and) we get people who were invited to the meeting sending us copies of the letter saying, ‘Hey, this is going on behind your back.’ That’s how we found out.” Fischer yesterday said that he “expressed his interest in professional basketball during a face-to-face meeting with Jurich in April.” With the Yum! Center “struggling to service its construction bonds and U of L holding a lease any prospective NBA tenant would want renegotiated, common ground could be scarce.” Jurich: “We’ve always been very flexible, always tried to help any way we could. Everybody asked us to be a team player six or seven years ago. We had zero goals to go downtown. That was not even in our strategic plan.” Fischer "emphasized that the city’s interest in the NBA was still exploratory and intimated that including university representatives in the Sept. 14 meeting might have inhibited the dialogue” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 9/25).
Fenway Sports Group will end EPL club Liverpool's "10-year stadium saga by committing to develop Anfield as a refurbished 60,000-capacity venue, including 7,000 'corporate' seats," according to Harris & Miller of the London DAILY MAIL. The club has said publicly that "no final decision" has been made between refurbishment and a new stadium, but "detailed plans are in place for a phased expansion" of the Main Stand and Anfield Road stand. The work is expected to cost about $244M (all figures U.S.), a "huge saving" on the estimated $649M for a new stadium in Stanley Park. The club has already spent an estimated $81M "on designs and planning for a new stadium." Naming rights "might have helped to subsidize a new venue, but no suitable deal has been found." The Liverpool City Council believes that "official confirmation on the refurbishment is imminent." FSG Owner John Henry has "long been supportive of the idea that Liverpool's long-time home should remain their home." Council regeneration plans for the area around Stanley Park "have provided a solution to the long-running problem of freeing up land for Anfield's expansion" (London DAILY MAIL, 9/23).