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The NBA Kings and Rocklin, Calif.-based Sleep Train Mattress Centers yesterday announced a multiyear marketing partnership that includes naming rights for the Kings' arena. Financial terms were not disclosed (Kings). In Sacramento, Kasler & Bizjak in a front-page piece report the agreement is "a five-year deal." Sleep Train Founder & CEO Dale Carlsen, a Kings season-ticket holder for 25 years, said that the deal "will boost his company's profile and possibly help solidify the team's uncertain standing in Sacramento." Kasler & Bizjak report the agreement "contains an insurance policy in case that doesn't happen." Carlsen said that Sleep Train "has the option to end the contract or renegotiate if the Kings decide to leave Sacramento within the five-year period." Kasler & Bizjak note the arena name change "takes place immediately, although signage won't go up until November." Marketing consultants said that Sleep Train "would be a significant upgrade from Power Balance, a sports-wristband marketer that filed for bankruptcy protection after getting hit with a slew of consumer lawsuits about its products." It is "unclear, though, how much of a boost the deal brings to the team's financial bottom line." Carlsen and Kings President of Business Operations Matina Kolokotronis "refused to discuss dollar amounts." But Kolokotronis said the deal is "very fair and very competitive." Kasler & Bizjak note Power Balance "was supposed to pay" the Kings $975,000 in the first year of its agreement, and the deal was "supposed to ramp up to $2.3 million in the fifth year." Meanwhile, the team "appears about to lose another key financial partner." Thunder Valley Casino spokesperson Doug Elmets said that the company "has decided not to re-up as a Kings sponsor." The casino "reportedly committed" $1M as a sponsor last year. Elmets said that the casino "will keep its suite at the arena but has decided to focus its advertising dollars elsewhere" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/16).
It is "much too early to say whether the Warriors arena project should fill a 13-acre pier just south of the Bay Bridge," but the architects "have come up with an approach that redefines what the Embarcadero could be," according to a front-page piece by Cote & King of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The idea is to "sculpt Piers 30-32 as a multitiered environment focused on the Bay Bridge, with the arena as an imposing but not overwhelming presence on the east." This "inventive, almost geological approach is a hallmark of the work of Snøhetta, the design architect for the $1 billion complex." Placing the 17,500-seat arena in the southeast corner means "it won't block the vistas from any nearby streets." It also would not "seem to scrape the bottom of the Bay Bridge." Setting aside the "legitimate issues of traffic and crowds, we need to see a much more detailed architecture." The idea may be to "wrap the arena in glass, but it will still be the largest structure on any pier along the bay." The ascending plazas "sound intriguing," and the "reality could have the feel of a theme park" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/16). CSNBAYAREA.com's Andy Dolich noted the Warriors have "targeted the 2017-18 NBA season as the grand opening of their arena to be built on the San Francisco Embarcadero at Piers 30-32." The cost of "getting the pier infrastructure ready to hold the arena could be as high as $150 million." Based on projections, "the cost of the arena will be in the neighborhood of $600 million or more if the neighborhood decides they want it." Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber said, "We can turn this dream into a goal by giving it urgency. We will play here in 2017. Take that as a promise that we will fulfill. This will be a world-class entertainment venue. We're all-in." The proposed Warriors arena "plays perfectly to the fact that Bay Area sports fans are consumers of 'new'" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/15).
The Metropolitan King County (Wash.) Council yesterday “voted unanimously to move forward with a Memorandum of Understanding with investor Chris Hansen to build a $490 million sports and entertainment venue with $200 million in public funds,” according to Thompson & Young of the SEATTLE TIMES. The Seattle City Council "approved the amended deal on a 7-2 vote." Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Exec Dow Constantine "plan to sign the agreement Tuesday in a ceremony with Hansen and elected officials at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in South Seattle." The signing will set off a "21-day window for legal challenges." The local longshoreman union has said that it will "sue to have the deal killed because it creates 'irreversible momentum' to build the arena in Sodo, in violation of state environmental laws." Hansen will have to "buy an existing team and move it to Seattle, because the NBA has no plans to expand beyond its 30 teams" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16). In Seattle, Nick Eaton noted a state-mandated environmental review will "analyze an arena's effect on the Sodo neighborhood, the Port of Seattle, and the surrounding industrial lands." It also will "look at at least one alternative site for a new venue." Those studies are "expected to take about a year." After the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) study is completed, the city and county councils "will have the option to move ahead with the Sodo arena or kill the project in its tracks." The Memorandum of Understanding "covered financial agreements among Hansen's investment group, the city and the county for public help building the new arena." No new taxes "would be created to fund arena construction," and only people who "attend games at the new venue would help pay for it" (SEATTLEPI.com, 10/15).
HOCKEY HOTBED? In Seattle, Master Tesfatsion notes hockey fans "weren't represented in Seattle City Council and Metropolitan King County hearings, but some in the sport say the region could be on the cusp of a hockey explosion if an NHL franchise arrives." Data from research firm Scarborough shows that interest in the NHL is "comparable to at least one other NHL city." Only 9.2% of those surveyed in the Seattle metropolitan area said that they were "somewhat or very interested in the NHL, about the same as Phoenix (10.4)." Yet it is "already higher than interest in MLS before that pro soccer league expanded to Seattle." In '04-05, 7.1% from Seattle said that they were "somewhat or very interested in MLS." That number has "more than doubled to 17.2 percent, and Sounders FC has been a stunning hit here, breaking MLS attendance records." Seattle's interest in the NHL "is now close to the NBA (12.5 percent), the other pro sport expected to share" the proposed $490M arena (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16).
With last night's Wizards-Nets preseason game at Barclays Center, the NBA in Brooklyn “debuted with the combination of pomp and logistical growing pains, with a large crowd that grew louder as the game progressed, and a mad scramble from the arena staff to get Barclays Center ready for tipoff,” according to Stephan Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The night was “devoid of any major snafus.” But less than two hours before game time, while players were “shooting on the court, workers drilled and screwed in seats.” Other problems included "power failures and broken video feeds,” but there were “no disasters, just hiccups.” The game "started on time with bright lights and loud music, with the Nets being introduced to their adopted theme song, ‘Brooklyn,’ by rapper Fabolous.” The announced crowd of 14,219 "started off subdued, and there were frequent moments of silence in the first half.” But the noise “picked up as the Nets picked up the pace and their defense in the second half” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/16). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes the Nets falling short of a sellout by about 3,500 is “not unusual for a preseason game, but a mild disappointment for a team making its celebrated debut in a new city.” At least “one-third of the seats were empty at tipoff.” Still, the crowd “was engaged.” The game was, by “any measure, a huge improvement over the moribund atmosphere of the Prudential Center in Newark” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).
HONEYMOON PERIOD: YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski writes Brooklyn is “a basketball borough, and it'll be demanding” of Nets G Deron Williams and his team. The novelty will “wear off, and the Nets will need to beat the Knicks and be competitive in the Eastern Conference to become a credible entity here.” Nets C Brook Lopez said, "These are high basketball IQ fans here. They know the game here." Nets coach Avery Johnson “confessed to treating this far, far differently than a preseason game.” Williams "had to laugh over Johnson re-inserting him into the game late, and his eyes bugged over the score sheet that told him his coach had played Joe Johnson 38 minutes” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/16). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger wrote the Nets, for “a change, will have fannies in the seats and will generate buzz by virtue of their change of address and Williams' star power alone.” But they are in the “novelty stage of the honeymoon, and it makes you wonder what kind of story this will be when the newness wears off” (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/16). However, SportsNet N.Y.’s Peter Schrager said of fans in Brooklyn, "They’re just going to be excited to have a team. I don’t think that there’s this great expectation of an NBA championship” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 10/15).
TAKING IT ALL IN: FOXSPORTS.com’s Sam Gardner writes there were many fans “not even making an honest attempt to find their seats until the second half, if at all, because they were so preoccupied with everything else the dazzling new billion-dollar arena had to offer.” From the moment fans "emerge from the brand-new subway station exit at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the scene.” There are LED lights “galore, and as you walk through the grand entrance, which leads into a huge foyer facing the court, it almost feels like boarding a UFO.” Once inside the building, "virtually everything is monochromatic, with black the dominant hue.” The feeling inside Barclays Center is “one of excess.” The theater lighting, "was a slick touch, and the unique dark-wood herringbone court looked even better in person than it did in photos.” Gardner: “It really was magnificent” (FOXSPORTS.com, 10/16). SI.com’s Chris Mannix wrote the "most high tech stadium in sports, or so it is being billed, offers free wifi and an app for fans to order food from their seats with a three-story sized scoreboard hanging from the rafters.” But the "sponsorship of, well, everything gives the building a bit of a goofy, Roger Dorn-owns-the-Indians feel" (SI.com, 10/15).
THROWING STONES: In N.Y., James McKinley reported the Rolling Stones “ended up choosing the Prudential Center in Newark over the new Barclays Center” for the band's 50th anniversary tour. Madison Square Garden officials said that the band had “first approached” MSG, but the Manhattan arena, which has “a tight calendar, did not have two dates available in December.” Sources said that the Stones then “entered talks with Barclays.” But in the end “no agreement was reached” (NYTIMES.com, 10/15).
Fenway Sports Group has "marked the two-year anniversary of its purchase" of EPL club Liverpool by "confirming it wishes to remain at a refurbished, 60,000-capacity Anfield" that will cost approximately $247.7M (all figures U.S.), according to Andy Hunter of the GUARDIAN. The redevelopment "will be funded by the club's own banking facilities and is dependent on Liverpool city council negotiating the purchase, and demolition, of surrounding homes." Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre and the city's Mayor, Joe Anderson, "hailed the decision 'a major step forward' in the wider regeneration of north Liverpool, although no guarantees or plans on the new stadium were provided at the announcement." Ayre did, however, "effectively signal the end of Liverpool's decade-long pursuit of a new stadium on nearby Stanley Park." He said, "Stanley Park is off the table if we can be sure there is a solution [to staying at Anfield] and we believe there is a solution." Hunter writes it is "believed the refurbishment of Anfield will consist of a new Main Stand and Anfield Road end, each to be built behind the existing stands to minimise disruption -- and loss of revenue -- during the season." A planning application is "expected to be submitted next spring." There is no naming-rights deal required for the redevelopment of Anfield, "unlike the new build in Stanley Park." Liverpool's "existing banking arrangements will provide" the estimated cost. Liverpool has "fallen behind their Premier League rivals due to the stalled stadium issue." The club has made $65.8M from "match-day revenue" compared to $174.7M by Manchester United, $149.8M at Arsenal and Chelsea's $108.6M (GUARDIAN, 10/16).
NUTS & BOLTS: In London, Tony Barrett reports Liverpool intends to "use existing banking facilities to finance" the redevelopment of Anfield, which Ayre "insists will not have a negative impact on their ability to compete in the transfer market." With naming rights "dismissed as a non-starter for Anfield, FSG will borrow the money to provide the necessary finance to increase the stadium's capacity." Liverpool is expected to "submit a planning application early next summer and they will do so with the support" of Anderson, who "believes that the trust and leadership needed to bring the club's 12-year stadium saga to an end is now in place." Anderson said, "The difference between dealing with the administration of the club now and dealing with the previous owners (Tom Hicks and George Gillett) is like chalk and cheese. There's an element of trust and collaboration now" (LONDON TIMES, 10/16). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja noted Liverpool had "previously ruled out enlarging Anfield, citing difficulties in getting planning consent." The stadium is located "amid a maze of row houses in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/15). The AP's Rob Harris noted work on a new $800M venue in nearby Stanley Park started in '08 but "was put on hold" by Hicks and Gillett "due to financial shortfalls" (AP, 10/15).
WORK WITH WHAT YOU GOT: In N.Y., Steven Cotton writes, "To those who view Anfield as their spiritual home, it makes perfect sense." The Anfield redevelopment project "may go some way" to defining the legacy of FSG Chair John Henry "among Liverpool supporters and in English soccer as a whole." Liverpool "has yet to confirm the capacity of the new-look Anfield, but the consensus seems to be that it will grow by about 15,000 from its current size." The "obvious need for growth is offset by an equally clear desire to protect the heritage of a site that has been the club’s only home since its formation in 1892." Previous owners of Liverpool have "tried, and failed, to redevelop the stadium because the needs of the local community were not met or respected." The difference "this time, it seems, is that there is finally a willingness from all parties to work together, with a wider regeneration of the area -- not just the stadium -- now planned." There is "genuine hope that Anfield can now follow a blueprint that worked so well at Fenway Park," as Henry "has proved he can strike a balance between sentiment and modernization" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).
Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik is “linked to the acquisition of several parcels” around the Tampa Bay Times Forum that “tie the Channel District together and could set the stage for the massive redevelopment of a barren swath of downtown,” according to Thalji, Harrington & Baird of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. A Vinik partnership, Crestline Acquisitions Group, two weeks ago “paid $9.5 million for a narrow, 5-acre strip owned by the Italiano family that sits across from the Times Forum.” The land is “right next to 7 acres that another group tied to Vinik, Pinnacle Channelside Properties, bought last year for $6.8 million.” All that land fronts the Tampa Bay Times Forum arena, which “Vinik leases, and is near the Channelside Bay Plaza entertainment complex, which he's trying to acquire.” Vinik and his partners “envision refurbishing and relaunching the beleaguered Channelside Bay Plaza; adding new development like a hotel to create a contiguous waterfront development from the Times Forum to the Florida Aquarium; and tying it all to the city's Riverwalk.” Lightning Exec VP/Communications Bill Wickett said that there are “no plans to develop the new purchases -- not yet anyway.” Wickett said, "Other than immediately focusing on improving parking options and service for our guests and employees, we have not discussed plans for any of the property north of Channelside Drive, but could envision our involvement in some kind of future development." One thing Wickett “did rule out was Vinik's involvement in a potential baseball stadium” for the Rays. Wickett: "While we are excited about our neighborhood and its potential development, we are not engaged in any discussions regarding any designs for baseball" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/13).