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The NBA Kings are "stepping up efforts to design and market a downtown arena," having "emailed an online survey to some 60,000 residents and businesses asking for opinions -- and testing the waters for potential upscale ticket buyers," according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Team President Chris Granger said that the team and city officials "have not yet decided on basic arena elements, such as how many seats it will have." Granger said, "I want to hear what other people think about the venue." Initial estimates had put arena seating "at 18,500, which is 1,200 more than at the current Sleep Train Arena." Granger recently said that that number "may be too high." Granger: "I think smaller is better. A tighter seating bowl adds to the enjoyment of everything that is happening." The team's survey "attempts to assess how many people might attend various non-Kings events at a downtown arena, and asks people to rate the importance of amenities such as enhanced Wi-Fi, added bars, restaurants, a children's play area and plush seats." It includes questions "assessing community and business interest in buying luxury suites, loge boxes, and club seats." Kings officials "plan to choose an architectural firm" next week to "lead the effort to come up with a design by October for an arena to be located in Downtown Plaza" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/6).
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has "reached the reluctant conclusion that keeping" the Rays in the region means he "has to let them cross the bay to explore a new stadium," according to Nohlgren & Puente of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Foster yesterday said that "tepid attendance over the last few years has changed his thinking." He added, "If your goal is keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay until 2050, you have to let them look in Tampa. ... I think there is a big question mark as to whether or not Tampa Bay is a major league region.'' Foster said that letting the Rays "explore all options now will enhance chances that the team stays for the long haul." Foster and the Rays have "quietly negotiated for months on a legal framework that would let the team explore possible Hillsborough sites." Foster yesterday "publicly explained his thinking for the first time." The Rays are "averaging 18,476 fans a game -- second worst in baseball." Foster: "You've got the hottest team in baseball, you're in a fight in the AL East, and you're not breaking 20,000. That sends a message to a lot of people." Foster in the past has "questioned whether the Rays were marketing the team aggressively." But he said that "ticket discounts, a summer concert series and other efforts show the team is making a good-faith effort to draw fans." Foster: "I didn't always believe that, but I do now" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/6). In Tampa, John Romano writes, "Whether he planned it this way or not, Foster might have played this perfectly." He "stood up to the Rays when it suited his purposes, and then turned conciliatory before the game got out of hand." By "reaching out to the Rays now, he maximizes his bargaining position while more than a decade remains on the Tropicana Field use agreement" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/6).
International Speedway Corp. yesterday announced that it has "sold its 676-acre property" in Staten Island, N.Y., for $80M to Staten Island Marine Development, which ends ISC's "6-1/2 year effort to find a buyer for the former industrial property," according to Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. ISC purchased the land for $100M in late '04 with "plans to build a motorsports racetrack but scrapped that plan two years later after encountering strong opposition from area residents." ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy in a statement said the money from the sale could be used for "a mixed-use and entertainment destination development" across the street from Daytona Int'l Speedway. Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz said the price for the Staten Island property "seemed to be fair" and should make ISC investors "feel better about (the company's) plans for Daytona Rising now that they have cash that’s accessible" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 8/6).