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Barclays Center officials declared the arena's opening over the weekend a “success, contending most took mass transit” to the concerts by rapper and Nets minority Owner Jay-Z, according to Athavaley & Fox of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Predictions of a “traffic nightmare in Park Slope proved unfounded” as traffic “flowed freely on the side streets surrounding the area.” However, the events did “little to change the minds of those who opposed the arena from the beginning.” Area residents said that they “received the expected dose of noise and crowds.” Nearby businesses “drew more customers than usual.” If nothing else, the opening was a “New York spectacle” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/1). In N.Y., Burke, Morales, Mirchandani & Brown noted in the first hours of the opening, Brooklyn “kept the peace -- chaos was nowhere to be seen.” City Council member Steve Levin said, “It’s not as bad as I feared. It looks like a regular Friday night. Maybe just a little worse” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/30).
BROOKLYN BRIDGE: In N.Y., Howard Beck wrote Friday was “not about the Nets, not officially, yet in so many ways it felt like their coming-out party.” The Jay-Z concert was a “hip-hop show, a self-tribute, a Brooklyn pride rally and a Nets pep rally all in one.” The team’s black-and-white logo was “everywhere, stamped on hats and T-shirts worn by fans in every section.” Jay-Z “stepped on stage, wearing a white Nets cap and a black jersey with ‘Brooklyn’ spelled out across the chest.” It was “surely the first time in NBA history, and perhaps the history of any major sport, that a team’s uniform was unveiled by a global entertainment icon during a rap show.” The plan to have Jay-Z introduce the new uniforms was a "poorly kept secret, yet expectation was still high." And while Nets officials "never confirmed the rumors, it quickly became clear just how much they had planned for the moment.” By the time the concert ended, the adjoining Nets team shop was “fully stocked with white (home) and black (road) jerseys,” as was the nearby Modell’s, which “held a midnight sale to capitalize on the droves of Nets fans.” NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver “watched from a luxury suite.” About a “dozen Nets players,” including Gs Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, were in attendance, along with coach Avery Johnson and GM Billy King. NBA President of League Operations Joel Litvin was “also there, though not on official business.” Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson, Univ. of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari and CAA agent William Wesley were “in the building” (NYTIMES.com, 9/30). The N.Y. TIMES’ N.R. Kleinfield wrote arena developer Bruce Ratner “watched from one luxury suite,” while Nets Owner Mikhail Prokohorov “occupied his own suite” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/29).
CAN I GET AN ENCORE? In N.Y., Jon Caramanica wrote “no musician has reframed the potential for bucket list completion and brand extension like Jay-Z,” who is the team’s “unofficial ambassador.” Jay-Z said during Friday’s concert, “I’ve been on bigger stages. I’ve been all around the world. Nothing feels like tonight. … I’m really overwhelmed by the moment” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30).
The L.A. City Council on Friday by a vote of 12-0 “approved the environmental impact report” for AEG’s proposed 72,000-seat Farmers Field NFL stadium and adjoining city convention center hall, according to Dakota Smith of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The move “paves the way for construction of the stadium -- if a professional football team agrees to relocate” to L.A. City officials by backing the stadium and convention plan “showed their strong political support and deep trust of AEG -- a company with an uncertain future since it was put up for sale.” Lakers investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is “one of the potential bidders for AEG,” sat in the front row near AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke. The pair were “drawing much attention.” Hollywood film producer and real estate developer Steve Bing “also attended the hearing.” Both Soon-Shiong and Bing “quietly left after the vote, but their presence sent the message that deep-pocketed potential buyers are watching the stadium deal” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/29). In L.A., Zahniser & Linthicum noted Friday’s action “could prove to be a fruitless exercise” if AEG “fails to fulfill its most crucial obligation: persuading the NFL to move a team to Los Angeles.” Majestic Realty’s competing stadium plan in the City of Industry “could strengthen the NFL's negotiating position.” AEG’s stadium plan had “strong backing from labor unions and the business community, who see it as a way to create thousands of jobs.” But the project “still faces opposition -- and a lawsuit -- from anti-poverty activists who want AEG to contribute $60 million for affordable housing.” Leiweke “apologized again to council members for the ‘dysfunction’ created by the sale announcement.” But he promised that any ownership change “would make it easier to secure a football team” (L.A. TIMES, 9/29).
RACE IS ON: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, "The race is now on to see which NFL team dives into the city.” NFL rules state that any teams interested in relocating "have to submit an application by the first six weeks of 2013.” That would “put relocation on the docket for the March league meetings.” The date “seems a bit rushed, so 2014 is a better target.” Bedard wrote, “The likely candidates: Raiders, Chargers, Rams, Jaguars, and Bills” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30).
WHO ARE THE SUITORS? In L.A., Sam Farmer asked Leiweke if AEG Chair Philip Anschutz was “ever really interested in the NFL,” and if so, "why did he walk away from this deal?” Leiweke said, “No question that the NFL has been a management push. But you don't spend $40 million, use that kind of time and energy, put yourself in these kinds of public negotiations without him being fully on board. He was always on board with it. He'll be the first to acknowledge the next investor that steps into this role will be far more passionate probably about football, owning a team, and being a part of the NFL. And Phil's OK with that.” When asked if Soon-Shiong will be that next investor, Leiweke said, “I think Patrick is going to be one. There's a half-dozen people that Mr. Anschutz has heard from already. There are going to be many people that look at it with a view to do it.” Farmer asked if a new AEG owner would “still require a piece of a team at a discount.” Leiweke: “My guess is a new owner will be flexible in their thinking as to the kind of deal they will make.” Meanwhile, Leiweke said that the “idea for the location for Farmers Field” was that of Wasserman Media Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman. Leiweke: “He's always been a partner. When a team comes here, Casey's going to be a partner in it, if he so chooses, and I think he will” (L.A. TIMES, 9/30).
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said that Oilers Owner Daryl Katz and team officials “must now come to city hall and talk publicly about the new arena deal they want,” according to Sarah O’Donnell of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Mandel’s comments came Saturday after Katz bought full-page ads in the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun “apologizing to citizens and Oilers fans for botched negotiations over the proposed downtown arena.” The letter came five days after Katz “sparked a powerful backlash among Edmonton residents by making a trip to Seattle, a city that hopes to secure an NHL franchise.” The letter begins with Katz “telling fans that he owes them an explanation for his methods.” Katz wrote, “I took for granted your support and your love of the Oilers. … That was wrong, and I apologize.” O’Donnell noted Mandel set an Oct. 17 deadline for a Katz Group rep to “detail at an open council meeting what the Oilers’ franchise needs to reach a final agreement on building, financing and operating the arena” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/30). The CP’s Dean Bennett wrote, “Nevertheless, the letter still does not say if the team will -- as the mayor asked -- make its case in public or at city council as to why it needs millions of dollars more in public funds.” The letter “doesn't clear up whether the Oilers will still pursue other cities for relocation talks while negotiations continue with Edmonton” or if Katz “plans to apologize to Seattle officials for using the city as a catspaw in negotiations with Edmonton” (CP, 9/29).
SMART MONEY: In Edmonton, Terry Jones noted Katz spent more than C$15,000 buying the full-page ads, and it “might be the best $15,000 Katz ever spends.” One letter "isn’t going to endear himself to a city." However, if it is followed by a "swift and decisive ‘win-win’ deal he mentioned in the letter to take the arena from the already-agreed-on framework" for C$450M to cover the increased costs now pegged at C$475M "without further dragging the image of this town through the mud, that’ll be the second of two steps toward that end.” The letter itself “could go a long way to be an image-changer for the man who believes an iconic downtown arena and entertainment district will be an image-changer for the city” (EDMONTON SUN, 9/30). Also in Edmonton, Jonathan Willis noted if Katz “threatens to leave again, there’s a letter on the public record in which he says that the team needs the city.” Whatever “limited credibility a threat of immediate relocation had, it’s gone now.” However, the more “subtle threat of eventual relocation remains very much on the table” (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com, 9/30).
Revere, Mass., Mayor Dan Rizzo “will try to acquire” the Wonderland Greyhound Park property in his casino negotiations with nearby Suffolk Downs racetrack “as the first piece of an ambitious plan to bring" the MLS Revolution to the town, according to Mark Arsenault of the BOSTON GLOBE. Rizzo is “negotiating mitigation payments with Suffolk Downs over plans to build” a $1B gambling resort at the thoroughbred track, which "straddles the city line” between East Boston and Revere. As mayor of one of the host cities, Rizzo has “tremendous leverage under state law to demand compensation from Suffolk Downs for accepting casino gambling in the community.” Suffolk Downs and city records show that the partnership that owns Suffolk Downs “also controls Wonderland, a 34-acre parcel entirely in Revere" and assessed at about $10.8M. Revolution Owner Robert Kraft has been “looking for several years for an urban location to build a new soccer-specific stadium, with the intention of moving the Revolution from cavernous Gillette Stadium in suburban Foxborough.” Kraft “explored building in Somerville as recently” as ‘10. The team has talked with Rizzo “about building at Wonderland if the city gets control of the land.” Team officials “believe they could draw 20,000 a game in an urban area,” and Revere “fits the bill as a densely populated community close to Boston, with the added attraction of a large number of immigrants from soccer-crazed Latin America and Brazil” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1).