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AEG’s proposed Farmers Field in downtown L.A. is "essentially dead to the NFL” less than six months after the L.A. City Council voted unanimously to support it, according to sources cited by Jason Cole of YAHOO SPORTS. The problems with the plan are "numerous, but the most essential one is the economics.” A source said, “The numbers just don't work, no matter how you look at the deal. It's either too hard for AEG to make money (and pay the debt on the stadium) or too hard for the team. I just can't see a way for it to work." Cole wrote, “Unofficially, the NFL believes that the cost of the AEG plan, which the league believes will be at least $1.8 billion, will make it unworkable.” AEG has been “hoping to build a stadium on space that currently occupies the convention center and is across the street from the Staples Center/L.A. Live complex.” While the league had been “intrigued by the idea for a couple of years, the economics and the cramped conditions that would come with shoe-horning a stadium into that area would leave the site unacceptable for what the NFL wants and needs to be successful when it returns to the city.” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke has said that his company is “open to changing the plan.” But any system that involves an NFL team renting a stadium from AEG "seems unworkable.” There also is "the issue of who's going to buy AEG.” The NFL in the meantime “has again started to focus on other locations" around L.A, such as Hollywood Park in Inglewood and Majestic Realty President & Chair Ed Roski's site in City of Industry. A source said that the “only answer may be for a particularly wealthy owner to pick a site and make it work” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/4).
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory yesterday said that “no state money would be available" for the Panthers, "complicating the team’s bid for public money to help upgrade Bank of America Stadium,” according to a front-page piece by Jim Morrill of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The team has “asked the state" for $62.5M toward a planned $250M renovation. But McCrory said, “We don’t have the money in the state to address that issue.” He added that the team “doesn’t qualify for an incentive grant from the state Commerce department.” Morrill writes the decision “represents a setback for the Panthers.” This comes four days after state legislators “effectively turned down a city of Charlotte plan" that would have given the team $144M from a municipal tax hike. State Sen. Ruth Samuelson on Thursday led a group of state legislators in introducing a "bill to help the Panthers with existing taxes." Samuelson said any bill raising taxes “won’t go anywhere.” It is unclear whether Charlotte "will make a counterproposal" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/5).
DON'T BET ON IT: In Minneapolis, Hopfensperger & Stassen-Berger reported Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday “reiterated his support for the Vikings stadium funding plan" despite the state forecasting that taxes from charitable gambling would "fall far short" of projections. Those revenues are now forecast to run $15M less "than was projected” this year, and $46M less in '14 and '15. Dayton said, “It’s not an insurmountable problem, but it is a problem. ... We will solve it.” He added that no bonds “have been sold to finance the new stadium," and that "none will be sold until August.” The gambling taxes were “projected to raise" the state’s $348M share of the Vikings' new $975M stadium. Hopes were “pinned on the introduction of new electronic pulltab and linked bingo games," but there has been a "slower-than-expected rollout of the games.” In November, $17.1M was "projected to be generated for stadium funding from the games this year, but that figure has "plunged" to $1.9M (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/2).
Sacramento officials said that they will "begin formal negotiations this week" with 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov and Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle for a new NBA Kings arena, according to Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. They must "decide how much the massive redevelopment effort will cost, divvy up those expenses, come to an agreement on how to share future revenues -- and get it all to the City Council in the form of a preliminary 'term sheet' by early April." City staffers in a recent memo to the City Council "acknowledged that means most of last year's deal points may no longer be viable." But, the city and the developers are "benefiting from extensive research for last year's ill-fated deal." Sacramento City Manager John Shirey said that an "early April return to the council should give the public a couple of weeks for discussions before a council vote on whether to move forward on a project that would reform and redefine a key part of downtown." But a "major financing question for Sacramento has yet to be resolved: How much money will city officials feel comfortable putting into the mix?" In the arena deal last year with Kings Owner the Maloof family, the council agreed to $255M in city money, "most of it to come from a plan to leverage future downtown parking garage revenues." City Council member Kevin McCarty has "argued that is way too much money for the city to contribute." Other council members said that they are "waiting to hear more details from city staff before deciding." The Downtown Plaza location "creates a complicating factor for the city." City officials said that losing parking spots would "reduce the value of the city's overall downtown parking assets" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/5).
KEYS TO THE CITY: NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote the Maloofs still own the Kings, and that holds "significant sway among NBA owners." Owners "do not like to tell other owners to whom they should sell their teams." Sources said that they "believe the ultimate decision on where the Kings will play next season won't be made by the owners on the finance or relocation committees." Aldridge wrote, "The final call is, and remains, the Maloofs' to make." But that "doesn't mean the Maloofs couldn't ultimately decide to change their minds and swing their backing away" from the Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, if they are "blown away by the Mastrov/Burkle deal." Aldridge: "I believe the league, ultimately, wants to wash its hands of the Maloofs. And I think [NBA Commissioner David] Stern is genuine in his desire to give Sacramento a legitimate, fair shot at arguing its position to the Board of Governors." The Maloofs "aren't stupid," and they "know that selling to Mastrov means Burkle can make out big time, if the arena deal indeed is the economic catalyst for a revitalized downtown" (NBA.com, 3/4).
Ohio State has a new sports food vendor for the first time in 28 years. The school today announced it has signed a seven-year deal with Chicago-based Levy Restaurants to operate general food concessions and premium dining at its sports venues, including Ohio Stadium and Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena. The contract, effective July 1, includes an $8M investment by Levy to improve the food operation, covering upgrades in branding, signage, technology and equipment. Under the contract terms, Levy has agreed to pay OSU a blended commission rate of 43%, an average return of 9% more to the university compared with the school’s deal with Sodexo, its concessionaire since '85. The current agreement generated $11.4M in gross sales for fiscal year '12 with OSU receiving $3.5M in commission. Based on those numbers, school officials estimate the Levy deal will generate about $1M in additional revenue, according to OSU Associate VP/Business Advancement Xen Riggs. Levy, owned by Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider, won the business by committing to bring more local flavors to the stadium and the arena, Riggs said. Levy’s proposal was heavy on signing partnerships with longtime Ohio-based food operators, and connecting those iconic brands with the rich history of the Buckeye sports programs appealed to school officials. Those partnerships will be announced at a later date, he said. The OSU agreement is Levy's biggest deal in college sports. Elsewhere, Levy runs the food service at Iowa State, Purdue and Missouri. Those deals are tied to a joint venture with Learfield Sports, the multi-media rights holder at those three institutions.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche on Friday said that an MLB team is “looking into establishing Spring Training facilities in Northern Palm Beach County, possibly in Palm Beach Gardens,” according to Andreassi & Pfahler of TCPALM.com. Valeche did not disclose the team or teams involved, but "confirmed discussions have included an 82-acre site" near I-95. He said, “I would say it’s, right now, kind of a long shot, but we’ll see how things develop. It would probably be a year or two before anything happened, I would think, because it’s construction and everything.” Valeche and other Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast officials said that a new Spring Training facility in northern Palm Beach County “could help keep the other four MLB teams on the East Coast of Florida.” The Cardinals and Marlins train in Jupiter, while the Mets' camp is in Port St. Lucie and the Nationals' in Viera. Losing one of the teams to either Florida's West Coast or Arizona “could prompt the other teams to leave the East Coast because of concerns about travel time for Spring Training games.” The Palm Beach Gardens site “is four miles south" of Jupiter (TCPALM.com, 3/1). In West Palm Beach, Bill DiPaolo reported a “host of issues ... would need to be resolved before a team relocates to the area.” Among them are "whether the city, county or team would pay for the stadium -- which would cost well into the millions -- and whether local roads can handle the traffic the stadium would generate.” The stadium site also “would have to pass environmental and zoning reviews” (PALM BEACH POST, 3/2).
LOOKING FOR PLAYING PARTNERS: In Florida, Jonathan Mattise noted the Mets and Cardinals can “head elsewhere if three or fewer teams train nearby.” The Mets have been “talking with the Houston Astros as a possible partner.” Astros Owner Jim Crane “toured the facility last spring." However, Crane, who owns the Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, has "expressed interest in building a new two-team facility elsewhere on the East Coast.” Three of Florida’s 15 Spring Training clubs “have leases up for renewal in 2016 and two are up in 2017.” Six teams have “ditched Florida for Arizona since 1998” (TCPALM.com, 3/3).
CACTUS LEAGUE UPDATE: In Phoenix, Joe Martin reports a “wave of renovation contracts could be stepping up to the plate as the Cactus League looks to keep its teams happy and push millions of dollars in economic benefit to its communities.” It all is “geared toward not being picked over by other cities looking for new cash flows, just as the league did by targeting teams in Florida’s Grapefruit League for its expansion.” The difference is “noticeable" between the older and newer stadiums. The new facilities “are more fan-friendly, with individual seats and open concourses that allow patrons to see the action on the field even while they’re buying a drink or a hot dog.” Cactus League President Mark Coronado said that the league “needs to be in a position to help provide funding for up-to-date renovations for the teams and ballparks.” He added that it is “'critical' for the league to work with the state and local governments to make sure funding is adequate” (PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/1 issue).
StubHub, which yesterday announced a naming-rights deal with AEG for the MLS venue in Carson, Calif., will “begin to make its imprint on the facility, with the main focus being the soccer stadium,” according to Phil Collin of the Torrance DAILY BREEZE. However, StubHub Managing Dir of Partnerships & Business Development Geoff Lester said that the company “hasn't yet decided on specifics for changes.” Lester: “We've made a number of trips down there over the past few months. We've held a number of discussions with the venue staff internally, and customers. We asked them what makes the fan experience stand out to you? What would you look for in the best fan-friendly stadium in the world?” MLS Galaxy President Chris Klein said, “One of the most exciting things for me is these guys are soccer fans. They love the sport, they’re committed to the sport.” Collin notes MLS Chivas USA will “remain tenants although they’ve made it clear they are exploring options for a new home.” Lester said, “We’re going to see how we can work with them as tenants in Stub Hub Center. It’s probably worth giving more thought and something we’ll need to look at” (Torrance DAILY BREEZE, 3/5).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Columnist Kevin Blackistone said at one point, one of the "things that was the bane about sports was people scalping tickets." Blackistone: "Corporations didn't like it. Teams didn't like it. Nobody liked it. You could get arrested for that kind of thing." But StubHub's naming-rights deal shows "how far times have changed." He said, "Everybody is involved in moving tickets to the audience and customers that want them and need them. Good for them, good for everybody growing up on this issue” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/4).
In Chicago, Dan Pompei reported the Bears "have met with major Chicago businesses over the last month to sell naming rights to added space at their Lake Forest headquarters." The team is "soliciting a 10-year title sponsorship that is estimated to bring in anywhere from" several hundred thousand dollars up to $2M annually. But Bears Senior Dir of Corporate Communications Scott Hagel said that the facility's Halas Hall name "will not change" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/4).
CAPITAL GAINS: In DC, Steven Goff reported the June 2 Germany-U.S. men's soccer friendly "will take place" at RFK Stadium "barring late complications." The U.S. Soccer Federation "has also been considering" FedExField in Landover, Md., and, "in case a deal couldn’t be reached with the DC area venues, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore." The match is "tied to the USSF’s centennial celebration and would cap the federation’s annual general meeting, May 31-June 2 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill." RFK Stadium’s "soccer history and location inside the city worked to its advantage" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/4).
THE HEAT IS ON: Twins President Dave St. Peter said that the team will "put its state-of-the-art heating system to use this year, to melt the snow that accumulated at Target Field over the winter and have the field ready for the April 1 opener." St. Peter: "It's a pretty elaborate system. It's the exact same system that they have below the Lambeau Field playing surface in Green Bay." In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman wrote, "The cost of buying and installing the million-dollar-plus system was worth the investment, considering the 15 home games the team will play in April" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/3).