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SBD/April 4, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday said the league needs "a lot more data and information" before it can decide whether the Kings move to Seattle or stay put, according to a front-page piece by Bizjak, Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Following a "long day of closed-door presentations in a Manhattan hotel, where contingents from Sacramento and Seattle separately pitched their cases for ownership of the Kings franchise, NBA officials offered no timeline for deciding the fate of the franchise." Stern said both presentations were "extraordinary." But he added that the league wants "more details on publicly subsidized arena plans in both cities and how each side plans to deal with obstacles, including potential legal challenges." The NBA also is "looking for more information on how the competing bids to buy the team are structured." As a result, the league's final decision "may not come until after" its annual BOG meeting April 18-19. Stern: "We've never had a situation like this." Stern in March said that Sacramento's initial bid to keep the Kings was too low, but yesterday said the current offering price "is not one of the issues" holding up the decision. California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that the committee of owners asked "pointed questions about California's environmental laws and whether they could interfere with a proposed new arena at Downtown Plaza." He said the state is prepared "to do whatever it takes to avoid unnecessary delay." Warriors Vice Chair and Kings bidder Vivek Ranadivé "talked about his desire to turn the Kings into a technology force and described 'sport as an agent of change.'" Meanwhile, Kings co-Owners George, Joe and Gavin Maloof "sat in" on Seattle's presentation (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4).
SEATTLE'S PLEA: Stern, when asked if there was a "drop dead" date for a decision said, "There may be, but it isn't here yet." King County Exec Dow Constantine said, "If I was confident going in, I am even more confident, optimistic now." In Seattle, Bob Condotta in a front-page piece notes Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said that their role was to "assure the NBA there were no insurmountable hurdles in Seattle's arena plan." Constantine: "They really wanted to know about the things that traditionally have been the hardest to pin down, like the political will, for example. And we were able to convincingly, I think, answer those questions." Condotta notes NBA expansion "was not discussed during the Seattle presentation," and Stern said that it remains something the league "is not favoring." Constantine, when asked if he had a sense of the BOG's feelings, said, "They were playing it a little close to the vest. But you could tell that the owners liked a lot of what they heard about the financials, about the state of development of the proposal and I imagine they also put themselves in the shoes of the owners, the Maloofs, thinking 'How would I feel if I was in this position having an agreement with these guys to sell the team?'" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/4). Seattle's KING-TV reporter Chris Daniels tweeted George Maloof was "very emotional," saying that Hansen would be a "good steward of the franchise."
NOT GOING ANYWHERE? Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "The NBA does not want to move a team from one market to another, period. ... They normally move a team from one market to another when the fans don't support it or you can't build a building. That's not the case in Sacramento." USA TODAY's Zillgitt & Amick note the Hansen-Ballmer group has "already given the Maloofs" a $30M, nonrefundable deposit. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that the deposit "came with contingencies." Silver: "We're not going to speak to the specifics. And I tell you, it's two entirely different situations. Again, when the Seattle group put down the down payment, that was a contingent deal based on, of course, the ability to purchase and relocate the team. We're dealing with a different circumstance in terms of potential Sacramento buyers" (USA TODAY, 4/4). Stern said that the committee will "meet again" before the BOG meeting (AP, 4/3). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes NBA execs "didn't quite expect this." Instead of gaining some "clarity in this two-city tango for one team, ... Stern and several of his owners went off to dinner Wednesday with an even bigger mess on their hands." The Sacramento group "completely mucked this up" for the NBA. The Sacramento contingent "transformed a once neat and tidy process into that mud-wrestling match, that arm-twisting duel, that backroom brawl." But they did "exactly what they needed to do." Voisin: "How does the NBA turn away from Sacramento now?" While NBA officials "want a franchise in Seattle, they continue to wince at the mere mention of relocation" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/4).
RUNNING THE POINT: SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell writes of Johnson, "Point guard, point man, does it make a difference? Kevin Johnson is all that. He has shown himself to be an All-Star at both, and because of his tireless efforts over the last few months, the betting money says the Kings aren’t going anywhere." If everything is "equal, then why would the NBA encourage a franchise relocation? For what reasons? On what basis?" The owners would be "hypocrites if they held open the door for the Kings and allowed them to leave Sacramento, even if a fair number of owners desperately want back in the Seattle market" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/4). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott wrote Hansen was "cagey when asked about right and wrong ways of getting an NBA team." One possible reason: Thunder Owner Clay Bennett, "who sneakily arranged the Sonics' departure, heads the NBA's relocation committee and is key to the NBA's decision-making" (ESPN.com, 4/3). The BEE's Voisin writes, "I think the league should devote an entire staff to dealing with arena issues that will continue to affect the NBA as long as franchises exist in 29 cities." Voisin: "Buildings get old. Owners go broke. It happens" (SACBEE.com, 4/4).
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Tuesday sent MLB Commissioner Bud Selig a letter "requesting a personal meeting to avoid 'additional litigation' over" the A's four-year quest for a ballpark in the city, according to John Woolfolk of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Reed said of the letter, "I'm hoping it might motivate the commissioner to take some action some time soon." The letter was copied to A's Owner Lew Wolff, who said that he "knew Reed was planning a letter and was OK with it." Wolff: "It's logical that he'd be requesting that." But San Jose officials have been "rattling their own litigation saber more loudly in recent months as the ballpark impasse drags on." City Council member Sam Liccardo said, "The pressure is building for a solution that's not being delivered by the current process. There are a lot of small businesses and property owners that have lost money as a result of the delay in the decision-making process." Reed said that he had "no signal that Selig would be more receptive to meeting with him than in the past" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/3).
ALL ABOUT LEW: Wolff appeared on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s “Chronicle Live” Tuesday night, saying his day-to-day involvement with the A’s is “as much as they’ll (allow), which isn’t too much." Wolff: “We inherited a great operation. Most of our people ... have been here for many years and I was really fortunate and lucky to have that organization turned over to me when we bought the team.” Wolff also said he has no intention of selling the team. CSN Bay Area's Jim Kozimor said the team “had a good year last year.” Kozimor said to Wolff, "The valuation of your club is very high right now ... and many people believe when you bought the team back in 2005, you kind of got it at a bargain basement price. Is that a fair assessment?" Wolff said, “Yes, we are doing well and we are happy with that. As far as the bargain price, if you recall, right before we closed our transaction Milwaukee sold, I believe ... for $220M, and they threw in a pretty new ballpark with it. When we bought our team for a little bit less, we knew going in that at some point, whether it be in Oakland, Fremont or San Jose, that we would have to add additional funds to create a new venue." Wolff said of negotiations between the A's and O.co Coliseum, "We're talking about extending five years, so that's a rather long period, at least to us, and I think the environment of getting that done is a positive. We'll know very soon." Wolff declined to comment on the slow pace of MLB's Blue Ribbon Panel, saying, "It has to go through the commissioner and the executive council. It's not a matter of twisting anyone's arm. It really filters from the top, just like the other 28 venues, and we're hoping to get an answer one of these days" ("Chronicle Live," CSN Bay Area, 4/2).
Attendance at MLS Whitecaps home games "has stalled" despite the team's "encouraging move up the league table," according to Bruce Constantineau of the VANCOUVER SUN. The club this week launched a promotion "offering discounts of up to" 40% for single-game tickets for the team's next five home games. But Whitecaps COO Rachel Lewis said that the discount "doesn't indicate growing concern over attendance at BC Place." The lower-bowl configuration has a "capacity of 21,000, but could be expanded to more than 27,000 if the demand ever called for it." Constantineau: "Don't expect that any time soon." Lewis said, "We don't expect huge incremental growth overnight but our objective is to remain in the top third of the league and we fully expect to do that this year." Ticket sales are "hugely important in MLS, accounting for more than half of all league revenues, so it's easy to understand the ongoing push to get more bums in seats." Lewis said that the Whitecaps "continue to pick the brains of MLS clubs that have succeeded in growing their fan base" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/4).
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria said that he "won’t try to predict the attendance at Miami’s home opener Monday at Marlins Park, but he hopes fans will give the team a chance." Loria said, "It’s the beginning of a new era for us and it’s exciting. People will look back two years from now and say, 'They did the right thing.'" In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes some estimates have Monday's crowd for the game against the Braves "in the 20,000s." But a source said that the organization is "expecting at least 30,000" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/4). In Miami, Clark Spencer notes Loria has "been on hand for the Marlins' first two games in D.C. and defended the on-field product following a turbulent offseason." Loria: "Give these guys a chance. Give us a chance. Watch them mature because they’re quality" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/4).
TEA PARTY: EPL club Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre on Tuesday appeared on CNBC's "Power Lunch," and the net's Tyler Mathisen said of Red Sox Owner John Henry also owning the club, "The English have not cottoned, as we might say here, all that well to some of the American owners. They're afraid that they're going to come in and do what they see American private equity guys do: Strip the club of its costs and make a big profit on the sale. Do you see that?" Ayre responded, "Not really. We've had fantastic support from our owners, from John and (Chair Tom Werner) and the others at Fenway Sports Group." He added, "If you've got something that's 100 years-plus old, globally recognized, then you need to treat it with respect and we get that respect and we get the right level of support" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 4/2).
THAT'S THE TICKET: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey noted the Grizzlies average of 16,538 per game is "just 324 off of the franchise's best annual average" of 16,862 in '04-05 "when FedExForum was brand new and the team was good." It is up 5.3% from last year's season average. Additionally, it is up 30% from the team's "low-water mark," the '08-09 season (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 3/29).