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SBD/March 1, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on Thursday night announced that Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov were "teaming up on a bid to buy" the NBA Kings and "construct an arena at the site of downtown's lagging open-air mall," according to a front-page piece by Lillis, Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The bid will "serve as Sacramento's counteroffer" should the NBA BOG next month reject the Kings' deal to move the franchise to Seattle. The bid price "was not revealed Thursday." However, Johnson said that the bid would be "very strong and competitive." A source said that it is "expected that the NBA will look over the proposal and forward it to" Kings Owner the Maloof family. Johnson said that Burkle would be the "driving force behind the arena plan, while Mastrov would lead the charge on the bid for the Kings." Sources said that both men would "contribute financially to both the arena and the team acquisition." Johnson added that Sacramento businesses have pledged $50M in sponsorships "for the first five seasons the Kings play in a new arena." Mastrov also intends to "revive the WNBA's Monarchs," which folded in '09, while former NBAer Mitch Richmond has committed $1M "toward the purchase of the team." Richmond is among "more than 20 local investors" who will bid on the 7% of the Kings being auctioned in bankruptcy court. Johnson made "no mention in his speech of Kings limited partner John Kehriotis, who seeks to buy the team and build an arena near the current Sleep Train Arena." Another source said that the project's "potential role in revitalizing downtown is 'a big reason why Ron has been interested.'" A source added that Burkle was "considering recruiting" both AEG and Live Nation to "bring entertainment acts to the arena" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski cited a source as saying the Mastrov-Burkle bid is "slightly lower" than the $341M that hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have agreed to pay for the available 65% stake in the Kings (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28).
RENEWED HOPE: In Seattle, Shannon Fears wrote Johnson’s speech came “before thousands of cheering supporters” and was “long on hope and short on surprises.” He said, “With all due respect to Seattle … it is not going to be this team, our team. No way.” He said that it “could be done as a ‘public-private partnership’ that would not cost taxpayers money or reduce the city’s general fund.” Neither Mastrov nor Burkle were “present for Johnson’s speech” (SEATTLEPI.com, 2/28). In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak noted the speech “took on the atmosphere of a pep rally, with many in the crowd standing and cheering when Johnson took off his jacket to display his purple shirt and tie, and then announced Mastrov's name.” The announcement should “trigger several weeks of intense lobbying by both Sacramento and Seattle, culminating in an NBA vote on April 18 on whether to ratify the deal the Maloof family has struck with Seattle” (SACBEE.com, 2/28). Also in Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes Johnson “might not be able to pull this off” because the arena “ordeal is a real doozy.” But the mayor “doesn’t give up easily. He doesn’t give up, period.” Voisin: “The end is always near. Las Vegas. San Jose. St. Louis. Anaheim. Virginia Beach. Now Seattle. Don't talk about moving vans and fatal blows to Kevin Johnson, though” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/1).
FOOTING THE BILL: CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger noted Mastrov, who “finished second to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in a bid to buy" the Warriors, is believed to have a net worth of $350M -- "not regarded as enough to stand alone as majority owner in the franchise.” But with the “backing of other investors and Burkle spearheading the arena, Johnson might just have drawn up a compelling enough play to cause owners who will be voting on the fate of the Kings to take notice.” Johnson, who for “three years has fought valiantly as the Maloofs threatened to move the Kings … has forged a potentially potent alternative.” Though the purchase price “isn’t expected to be the sole deciding factor, it’s worth noting that the Mastrov-Burkle bid would not have to meet the Seattle bid to the dollar.” If the team were to “stay in Sacramento, it would save a relocation fee estimated" to be $30M or more and the city's $70M loan "would not have to be repaid.” Thus, the Mastrov-Burkle “apples-to-apples number is approximately" $425M to compete with the Seattle bid. Once the dollars “are resolved, the Maloofs' fellow owners will be in the uncomfortable position of choosing between relocation and the permanent stain it would apply to the NBA brand and an equally undesirable alternative: telling the Maloofs they can't sell their own asset to the buyer of their choosing” (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/28).
The Nationals on Friday will "send details of their new 'Ultimate Ballpark Access' card to season ticket holders" after running a similar pilot program last season, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The team said that the cards will "eliminate around 10 seconds from each person-to-person interaction with a ticket-taker." The same card within a few months will "serve as an 'e-Cash' debit card at Nationals Park retail and concession stands." Nationals COO Andy Feffer said the program represents a "monumental change" in the ticketholder-franchise relationship. The team will be "instituting the switch for all 20-game, 41- and 81-game plan holders this season." Sports execs believe that the Nationals could be "leading the way" for U.S. franchises. The Red Sox are "launching a similar pilot program for approximately 700 season ticket account holders this spring and hope to expand the program in 2014." But the Nationals have "gone further by combining every system in a single card, linking ticketing with concessions with retail with loyalty rewards that can be used for seat upgrades as well as such real-time offers as discounted popcorn and jersey specials." The team will "allow fans to buy 3-by-7-inch commemorative tickets on premium stock, both at the stadium and online" Ticket plan holders who "share seats can each register and receive their own cards; tickets can be instantly transferred from one card holder to another" on the team’s website. Feffer added, "This is an investment in your fans. How do you engage your fans in a way that provides better value for being a season plan holder?" He added, "Tickets were a transactional thing; you pay, and you come into the ballpark. Now, you’re engaging with your fans in a much different way that goes far beyond a transaction" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/1).
Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said that fans have purchased 28,500 season tickets, the "highest total in franchise history, up from 17,000 last season." USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes Kasten "ponders whether they must cap the total at 31,000 to ensure fans can still buy single-game tickets." The Dodgers have a payroll of about $230M this year, the "highest in baseball history." They are "shelling out more than" $100M for stadium improvements, "nearly tripling the size of the clubhouse for players." Kasten said, "You know who doesn't complain? The Dodger fans. And that's who we really care about. Having a strong Dodger franchise is good for baseball" (USA TODAY, 3/1).
MO' MONEY, MO' PROBLEMS: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes the "truth is, any Mets' renaissance has to be powered by money, and there's still no proof [team owner] the Wilpon family is in a position to reinvest next year's windfall on the roster." Continuing to refinance the club's debt "is a dangerous game, one the banks won't allow forever." The Mets have $52M "coming off the books next year, thanks to the expiring commitments" to P Johan Santana and former LF Jason Bay. Klapisch: "Perhaps the Wilpons have another way of managing their debt, one more trick up their sleeves, but if not, it looks like that windfall is headed straight to the bank and not the 2014 payroll" (Bergen RECORD, 3/1).
SEEING IS BELIEVING: MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said of the Yankees' plan to lower their payroll beneath the $189M luxury-tax threshold by '14, "I imagine [Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner] is sincere when he says that. But like a lot of things, I'll believe it when I see it." Weiner added, "I'm not concerned, because they're dropping their payroll to put themselves in position to greatly increase their payroll the next year" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28).
FRIARS' CLUB: MLB Network’s Chris Rose noted the Padres will run a “Throwback Jersey” promotion during several Thursday night games “where they wear those terrible jerseys from the late ‘70s into the mid-‘80s.” MLB Network’s Kevin Millar noted those jerseys "are terrible," but said, "Old style we bring back sometimes in this generation. You never know, these might be the new jerseys.” Rose said “throwback jerseys are cool” but the Padres are “awful.” MLB Network’s Alanna Rizzo: “Uniforms are the least of the Padres concerns” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 2/28).
CHERUB ROCK: Musician Billy Corgan, a noted Cubs fan, was asked on Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s “SportsTalk Live” Thursday what his ultimate band lineup and venue would be. Corgan said he has “played some of the most famous venues in the world,” but noted, “I’d love to play Wrigley Field one day." Corgan: "I’ve talked to the Ricketts [family] about it. Hopefully my band can get big enough again to do that. It would be a dream come true certainly to be on the field at Wrigley” (“SportsTalk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/28).