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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that when city officials learned late last week of the Braves' plans to relocate to Cobb County, they were "still weighing a 16-point proposal the team submitted in September at the city’s behest," according to Katie Leslie of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Reed yesterday said, "We didn't let the Braves walk. They came to us with a deal in late September that we were in the midst of vetting." Atlanta Deputy COO Hans Utz "primarily managed talks with the Braves on behalf of the city," and he "rebuffed reported complaints city officials failed to respond to that proposal." The city "believed it had until mid-November to respond to the latest request," and was "stunned last week when the Braves notified them of their decision." Utz said, "We were operating under the good faith assumption they wanted $100 million (and were) suddenly given 48 hours to respond to a $450 million deal." He added that talks over the redevelopment plans around Turner Field "stalled earlier this year because the Braves wanted to engage on both sides of the process -- outlining terms of the request for proposal yet also applying to win the bid -- a role city officials said then was a conflict of interest." Utz said that the city "cannot commit hotel-motel taxes to the project as those funds were authorized by the state solely for the future Falcons stadium." He added that Turner Field upgrades "would have to come from another source of city revenue, funds that otherwise would go to infrastructure problems such as sidewalk repair." Utz: "No one blames the Braves for liking the Cobb County deal. ... But they surprised us by dropping it in our laps at this last second. I’m not sure what else we could have done" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/12). In Atlanta, Maria Saporta writes under the header, "What The Atlanta Braves Wanted To Stay At Turner Field" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12).
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: In Georgia, Hohmann & Wiley note the decision to leave Turner Field "was made in quiet conversations" between Cobb County Chair Tim Lee and Braves execs. Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said he only found out about the negotiations "about a week ago" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12). Cobb Chamber of Commerce VP/Economic Development Brooks Mathis said, "I was the only one involved, to keep it very confidential. We met quite frequently. It really didn't differ from other projects as far as the path we took. But obviously it’s one of the largest projects we've worked on." Lee said the secrecy was important because "it was very clear, if any word leaked out the deal was off" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/12). Lee said that it was State Rep. Earl Ehrhart who "put him in touch" with Braves execs in a lunch that "ended up in a proposal to move." In Georgia, Jon Gillooly notes Ehrhart has "befriended a number of Braves executives through his involvement in developing Emerson-based LakePoint Sporting Community in Bartow County." Ehrhart: "It just came up in a conversation out here. They asked me if I could introduce them to those in Cobb County. They laid out some very clear metrics for me that most of the population of Braves' fans are right here in the Cobb County area. Then they showed me the $800 million or so of economic impact that it could have, I'm thinking, wow, this is a wonderful thing for Cobb County." Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said following that lunch, "Tim quickly ... got the Chamber's economic development organization involved, and they've been the lead organization that we've worked with in the last couple of months." Mathis said, "It was very important for them to still have an Atlanta address, which this site does have" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12). The ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's Saporta noted the project "has not gone through any of the government approvals that could be necessary to get public funding" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). Atlanta-based WXIA-NBC's Jeremy Campbell said the Braves' announcement was "totally out of left field," and "even the players just got word" yesterday morning (WXIA-NBC, 11/11).
NOT QUITE A DONE DEAL? Lee said that he "didn't know" where Reed "came up with information Cobb had offered $450 million in public support to the Braves." Lee: "I don't know where he got that number from, but I can neither confirm nor deny." The MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL's Gillooly notes the plan "must pass muster with the Cobb Board of Commissioners, which will have final say on the contract and is expected to take the matter up for a vote at its Nov. 26 meeting." The ballpark "would be owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority." Naming rights for the venue are "expected to head to the market soon after the vote by commissioners." Lee said, "It's a public-private partnership that reflects the conservative nature of Cobb County in its execution and it's anticipated it will be considered a win-win for everyone involved." Braves President John Schuerholz said that team Owner Liberty Media is "fully on board with the move." Schuerholz: "Their response is that 'We like this, we give you the green light to go forward' and we have" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12). The ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's Saporta reported Reed yesterday seemed to be "exploring the possibility of an Atlanta response to the Cobb County deal." Reed in a text message "made a point of saying the Braves had not yet closed on the 60-acre Cobb County parcel" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). In Atlanta, Galloway & Bluestein wrote Commission-level approval "tells you something very important: No countywide referendum is involved, which means no new tax would be levied" (AJC.com, 11/11). The ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's Douglas Sams writes financing the Braves' new ballpark with Cobb County tax dollars "will certainly face opposition" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11).
CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC: MLB.com's Mark Bowman noted the Braves "evaluated ways to make improvements at Turner Field and surround it with the numerous entertainment options that will be available around the new stadium year-round, but those improvements would not have addressed the transportation issues." Heavy traffic in downtown Atlanta has "deterred some fans." Plant said that Turner Field is "about 5,000 parking spots short of the optimal figure when filled to capacity." Plant: "It's the No. 1 issue cited by our fans as to why they either don't come to games or come to as many games. It's difficult to get here and very difficult to get out of here. The parking situation is cumbersome and challenging." Schuerholz added, "What is unique about this project is (that) coming out of the ground at the same time as the stadium is the first phase of our mixed-use development, this great destination where people will be able to mitigate the traffic problems by going someplace early, where they can have a nice meal, shop or hang out with friends and family, and then stay there afterward if they like." The new ballpark would have "upwards of 30,000 parking spots that will be owned and operated by the Braves." Plant said, "We just got to a point where (we couldn't overcome) the challenges we have put on the table of identifying the large bucket of funding for infrastructure improvements, fan enhancements and access. They became insurmountable in our discussions." Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in a statement said, "The Braves have kept us apprised of their stadium situation throughout this process. Major League Baseball fully supports their decision to move to a new ballpark" (MLB.com, 11/11). Braves Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller said that the new ballpark "will have all the modern fan amenities, and the fewer seats will make it a more intimate fan experience" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11).
IMPACT OF A BAD TV DEAL: SPORTS ON EARTH's Robert Weintraub wrote the team is "paying the price for locking itself into the league's worst local television contract, a deal signed in 2007 as the team was being sold by Time Warner to Liberty Media in the wake of the disastrous merger between TW and AOL." The Braves are "in desperate need of revenue enhancement." Local subway system MARTA has "tried to expand to this northwest region of the metropolitan area for decades, but has been batted away each time by local interests afraid of what mass transit might bring -- in a word, minorities, with easier access to their doorstep." Turner Field's public transport access "wasn't anything like Yankee Stadium, but it wasn't as bad as critics portrayed it, either" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 11/11). FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes the Braves' local TV deal "might be the worst in baseball, and it still has 13 years to run." Turner Field also was in a "problematic downtown location." Rosenthal: "Put it all together, and the team’s announced move to Cobb County makes perfect sense, even if Turner Field’s lifespan will end up consisting of only 20 years. If anything, the Braves' recent success under general manager Frank Wren is all the more remarkable, considering the obstacles that the team faces" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/12). MLB Network's Ron Darling said of Turner Field, "They've always had trouble getting people in there. They have nothing around there. I think what they're doing (in) Cobb County is chasing the money, going to a place where there’s going to be a little richer environment" (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 11/11).
BIG WIN FOR COBB COUNTY: Ott said that he "feels it's a good deal" for Cobb County, and that 99% of county taxpayers "should not expect to see any tax increase tied" to the project. Ott: "The businesses around there are going to be footing the bill." Neither execs nor commissioners yesterday would say "where the financing for the project would come from." Ott said that he was "already hearing from his constituents" yesterday. He said that his e-mail inbox "was flooded and his cellphone was lighting up." Ott: "I think the biggest concern people have is traffic. But there are $580 million of transportation projects coming on line in that area in the next 10 years. ... So there's some good plans out there to address those concerns" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12). Lee said that transportation improvements "already underway or being planned in the vicinity ... will be adequate to handle game traffic." Lee added that the county also is "planning to begin a trolley line that would connect Cumberland-area businesses with the new stadium." In Atlanta, Dave Williams noted, "Most Braves fans, however, likely would use their cars to get to the new stadium." Lee "didn't dismiss rail or other big-ticket transportation improvements as a future possibility" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). In Georgia, John Bednarowski notes the 45 extra acres on the ballpark site will leave "plenty of space to help the new stadium flow into the Cumberland Mall and Galleria areas, where the shops, hotels and restaurants will likely see a significant jump in business." That is something the neighborhood around Turner Field "just could not accommodate" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12).
ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS: SI.com's Jay Jaffe noted the move will make Turner Field "the first of the 24 major league ballparks to open since 1989 to be replaced, and buck the trend of teams returning to urban centers." The proposed ballpark is "in the suburbs and closer to the geographic center of the team’s ticket-buying fan base, a much higher percentage of which happens to be white." Instead of sinking $350M "into fixes to modernize Turner, the Braves are spending $200 million for a new park, with much of that cost likely to be covered by the development of the surrounding area and the sale of naming rights." Notably, Turner is "one of just eight venues that doesn’t have such a deal in place." While the announcement of the new ballpark is "good news for many suburban Braves fans, it’s unsettling for the industry as a whole." The A's and Rays "would take Turner Field as their home in a heartbeat if it could be shipped to them" (SI.com, 11/11).
The "primary reason Atlanta is unlikely to actively challenge" the Braves' move to a new stadium in nearby Cobb County is that spending public money on stadiums "has become a volatile topic" in the city, according to Galloway & Bluestein of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Remaking the Falcons stadium has "drained the well of public good will." Galloway & Bluestein: "If you presume that the city of Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed were in the loop on this one -- and the two parties were in the midst of lease negotiations, it would explain why he fought so hard to keep the Falcons in the downtown area" (AJC.com, 11/11). Reed in a statement said, "We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz writes if Reed "hadn't been carrying [Falcons Owner] Arthur Blank’s water for months, making it seem like a Falcons’ potential move to the suburbs was like the coming of apocalypse, he would deserve praise for his comments" yesterday. But he is "being a complete phony because he took the opposite position with the Falcons." Reed "backed the wrong horse," because if "anybody had a reason to gripe about their situation," it is the Braves and not the Falcons (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/12). Georgia State Rep. Earl Ehrhart said, "My personal opinion, I think Arthur Blank sucked up all the money that the city would have had to do anything to fix the stadium that it needed and there just wasn't anything for them to do so they left the Braves out to dry" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/12).
HAD TO PICK A SIDE? USA TODAY's Ray Glier asks, "Did the city back the wrong team?" Invest Atlanta board member Julian Bene said, "The Falcons were not worth what we were giving them in hotel/motel tax because the number of games is so small." Bene added, "Now you are talking about the Braves, who play eight times as many games as the Falcons, and you are talking about a little more jobs' impact from that particular team. ... It's pretty shocking that we funded the wrong stadium" (USA TODAY, 11/12). The JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Schultz wrote the "lack of development is why the Braves want out." Schultz: "How do you think they felt when city officials started making (empty) promises to the Falcons and Atlanta residents about mixed used development and new restaurants around the proposed football stadium, despite the fact the area surrounding the baseball stadium remains an open sore? I’m not endorsing the Braves’ move, mind you. They’re leaving a perfectly good stadium. But I understand their mindset" (AJC.com, 11/11). Former MLBer Tom Glavine, who played 17 years with the club, said of the move, "It makes sense. I think if you ask people what they don't like about Turner Field, it's getting in and out of there and there's nothing to do down there. And I think most people enjoy the ballparks where there's an experience around it, so with the move the Braves certainly have an opportunity to not only address the getting in and out of there part of it but also address the making it more of an atmosphere that’s not just destination oriented" (WXIA-NBC, 11/11).
As opponents vow to put the Warriors' plans for an 18,000-seat waterfront arena in S.F. "on the ballot," the team has "put its design on a diet," according to John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The changes, which have "been in the works for months, include lopping 15 feet off the edge of the roofline, increasing the amount of public open space and lowering the public plazas to create a gradual slope of greenery." Much of that open space "comes in the form of plazas and grass-planted roofs covering a practice facility, 500-space parking garage and fire station." There also is a "spiraling walkway around the arena's exterior that would lead to a lookout deck and pass a massive window to allow the public to look in and spectators to look out at the Bay Bridge." The results are "unlikely to mollify the project's fiercest critics, but the nips and tucks expand the open space to cover 60 percent of the proposed arena site at Piers 30-32." Design 3.0, as the Warriors call it, "trims back the height of the arena itself, originally planned for 135 feet." In a previous design tweak, the team had "already lowered the roof to 125 feet." Now, it "still would rise to 125 feet in the central portion but be shaved down to 110 feet around the perimeter to cut back on the height seen from street level." Other changes, "including a new plaza on the northwest corner of the site where the entrance to a parking garage had been in the previous version, also came in response to critiques from neighbors and agencies that will have to approve the project." Portions of the piers also would be "carved out, reducing how much of the bay is covered." The team is "facing an aggressive timetable to obtain permits and complete construction" in time for the '17-18 season (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/12).
DOING THEIR RESEARCH: In S.F., Eric Young noted the Warriors have "spent more than a year talking to local neighbors and logging their concerns." The team "hired a point person to address neighborhood and political issues tied to arena development." The Warriors also have a "citizens advisory committee comprised of residents and local business owners" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). Also in S.F., Matier & Ross wrote the question no longer is whether the Warriors' waterfront arena "will go on the San Francisco ballot -- but rather, when it will go on and which side will put it there." S.F. Mayor Ed Lee said, "I think (the Warriors) probably have to. I think they need to consider that, because everybody is going to want to have a voice." November '14 would seem a "better option for the team," as a general election will "pull a better turnout" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/10).
WHAT'S YOUR E.T.A.? Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob, when asked if an arena could be completed by '17, said, "I do. I'm an optimist. There are people who, from day one, said it's not going to be possible. No one ever said it's going to be easy. ... This is not just a condominium project or something like that. This is a civic gift, in many ways. It's something that all of the people can use, not just the Warriors. Not everyone is going to agree on this, but we think the majority of San Franciscans support this." He added of alternate arena plans, "We're trying to make [Oracle Arena] better every day, spending millions every summer to improve it. Because we also recognize there is a possibility we'll be there longer. If it is, it is, and we'll make the best of it. That's certainly an alternative plan, to stay where we are. There are alternative sites, though it's very hard to find a site in the Bay Area that can accommodate a building like this, with good public transportation" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 11/11).
Dodgers owner Guggenheim Baseball Management is adding Wi-Fi to Dodger Stadium, which will allow the team to "get revenue from sponsors that can send advertisements to fans' phones," according to David Nusbaum of the L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL. Fans starting in '14 will be able to use cellphones to "show digital passes to get into the parking lot and stadium" and "order Dodger Dogs and drinks and have them delivered to their seats." A majority of the Dodgers' sponsorships "were set up for renewal" in '14, while 15 sponsorships that were set up for renewal before this season "were signed for only one year." Dodgers Senior VP/Corporate Partnerships Michael Young said that in some cases, the team "took less money this year for a one-year contract in order to have a clean slate for the beginning of next year." Nusbaum reports after the Dodgers' sponsorship revenue rose from $28M in '12 to $40M this year, the team has "set a goal" of $65M for '14 because it has "created new ways for sponsors to interact with fans." The team "will charge sponsors more" due to these options. Deals in '14 will "offer advertising opportunities beyond just billboards on outfield walls." The team will be able to "send sponsored messages to fans' smartphones and engage them via social media." The team has "sought out ways to create what Young calls 'Instagramable moments' as fans document their visit to the stadium," and wants to "create ways for sponsors to tie into that." The Dodgers also are "pitching sponsors with the idea of interactive displays featuring games or other entertainment in new plaza areas around the stadium." Guggenheim will spend $40M in the next two seasons to "make improvements to the stadium." Wi-Fi originally was "supposed to be ready this June, but the old stadium's electrical infrastructure needed to be upgraded to accommodate the service" (L.A. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/11 issue).
Coyotes Owner IceArizona is "talking to sponsors and other businesses about a new naming rights deal for Jobing.com Arena," according to Mike Sunnucks of the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. Jobing.com in '06 acquired the naming rights for $30M over 10 years, but there are "some indications" the new Coyotes owners "could work out a deal with Jobing.com to end the arrangement early if a more lucrative arrangement comes along." The team's lease approved by the Glendale City Council this summer "gives the city a share of new naming rights revenue" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11). In last week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton cited sources as saying that Jobing.com is "looking to get out" of its naming-rights deal, and that Front Row Marketing is "assisting" the Coyotes with the naming-rights sale. The Coyotes are "hoping for a 10-year deal," but the "real question is how much money there is in the Phoenix market" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/4 issue).
NEW TV DEAL: The Coyotes and FS Arizona yesterday announced a new long-term local TV rights agreement. FS Arizona and FS Arizona Plus will televise 70 Coyotes regular-season Coyotes games this season (Coyotes). In Arizona, Zach Buchanan cites a source as saying that the agreement "is for 12 years" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/12).
W.M. Jordan, one of the Virginia Beach area's "biggest construction firms, has submitted to the city a proposal with partners to build an arena next to the city's convention center," according to Aaron Applegate of the Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT. Unlike a previous "failed idea, which envisioned attracting" the NBA Kings to Virginia Beach, this one is "not proposing a major league team as an anchor tenant." W.M. Jordan President & CEO John Lawson said that an existing arena "might help attract a team to Virginia Beach, and the building would be constructed so it could be modified to accommodate a team." He added that it "could open" at the end of '16. Lawson "declined to provide financing details about the proposed public-private partnership that would be used to build it." The Virginia Beach City Council is "scheduled to hear more about the arena plan at its meeting today." The council could "decide to open the process to other parties interested in submitting proposals." Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said that he "thought a group of Chinese investors might also be interested in building an arena." He added he is excited about the new proposal, "but we have a long way to go." W.M. Jordan is "teaming up" with Dallas-based HKS Architects to design the arena and Comcast-Spectacor to "operate it under a 25-year contract," while the city would own it. HKS also was "part of the earlier arena proposal" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 11/12).
A proposal for a new stadium for the Double-A Eastern League Richmond Flying Squirrels yesterday "came into clearer focus," but details on the project's financing and the level of political support for the plan on the City Council "remained cloudy as the baseball debate progressed into a new phase," according to Moomaw & Martz of the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said that the stadium plan "honors the area's historic role in the slave trade." But several city officials characterized the stadium announcement as "the beginning of a citywide discussion of the plan’s merits that won’t reach a final conclusion for some time." The city yesterday "introduced a resolution that seeks the council’s support for the major redevelopment plan that involves a stadium, a slavery memorial, a Hyatt hotel, a Kroger grocery store, 750 apartments and a parking deck, but the council did not get into a public discussion of the mayor’s proposal." Despite the inclusion of a slavery memorial as part of the project, several dozen protesters "hoisted signs and shouted criticism, characterizing the plan as a misallocation of resources, a giveaway to a sports team and disrespectful of the area's historical ties to the slave trade." Jones called Shockoe Bottom the "right location," saying that the new heritage site would "preserve an important piece of the city’s history and that the development would generate more tax revenue that could be used for schools, transportation and other city priorities" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 11/12).
MUSIC CITY MONEY: Nashville city officials yesterday announced that the total cost of the Triple-A PCL Nashville Sounds' new ballpark "will be about" $150M. In Nashville, Scott Harrison reported the city will pay $65M "as part of the project's public-private partnership." The Metropolitan Nashville Sports Authority BOD "approved a resolution to issue" $65M in revenue bonds "to fund the project, which would be repaid by the city over 30 years." That issuance will "need to be approved by Metro Council, which is scheduled for its first reading of the ballpark agreement on Nov. 19." City Finance Dir Rich Riebeling yesterday said that the council would pay $4.3M annually "to repay the debt." He projected that after revenue from the new park, the project "will cost the city $345,000 annually." Riebeling said that the city is "seeking to finalize the deal before the end of the year" in order to open the ballpark in the spring of '15 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/11).