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The Warriors have "abandoned their plan to build an arena on Piers 30-32 just south of the Bay Bridge and instead have purchased a site in San Francisco's burgeoning Mission Bay to hold a new 18,000-seat venue," according to a front-page piece by John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Warriors President & COO Rick Welts said that the team "bought the 12-acre site from Salesforce.com at an undisclosed price in a deal signed Saturday night." The team "plans to have the arena ready" for the '18-19 NBA season. The "shift in location provides the Warriors with predictability and fewer regulatory hurdles." It also "eliminates any need for voter approval." Welts said, "To me, everybody wins here. We never lost sight of the overriding goal, which was to bring the Warriors to San Francisco and build this world-class sports and entertainment venue that the city has never had." Cote notes a "waterfront park is planned across from the arena." The Warriors will "own the site outright, rather than leasing it" from the Port of S.F. The team said that the arena "will be entirely privately financed -- a rare instance of a modern sports venue that would use no taxpayer funds or public land." The Warriors already have spent about $20M "on design, engineering, consultants and other work for building on Piers 30-32." Welts said that "some of that will transfer over." He added that the interior of the arena "will likely remain the same, although the exterior design could change to reflect the new surroundings, including possibly eliminating a public pedestrian walkway and lookout deck that had been planned for the previous site." Cote notes the arena will "remain about the same height, 125 feet in the center -- well below the 160-foot height limit for the property." The team has "yet to decide what else it will seek to build on the 12-acre site." Welts indicated that it "could include office space and retail geared toward arena visitors" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/22).
FUELING THE CHANGE: CSNBAYAREA.com's Monte Poole noted Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob last night conceded that "spiraling costs and political pushback presented too many obstacles to overcome within the desired time frame" for the waterfront site. Lacob said, "It became more difficult and more expensive as time went on. ... We were always -- always -- evaluating Plan B and Plan C." He added of the new site, "We are paying a pretty penny ... but we think it's going to be worth it. We think it's still going to be very, very good. It's got a lot of advantages. And I think it's very doable. And that became a reality that we had to deal with." Lacob said of the new site, "While it isn't as spectacular in terms of its location, it met a lot of other criteria that we thought would be great for the city and great for us, including great public transit" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 4/21). The S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion said the new site presents a "much more tenable situation" for the team. Killion: "It is closer to freeways. It's closer to public transportation. It would not be years of building." Piers 30-32 were "never going to work." Killion: "They talked a good game, a lot of bluster, but from the get-go everyone said, 'That's not going to happen in San Francisco'" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 4/21). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto noted the location change "can be regarded as a mild defeat" for Lacob and Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber. But if the goal was "to secure new digs" for the team, Lacob and Guber have "finally taken the first step they thought they'd taken two years ago." It is "not the bridge-side site they wanted most, but it is also not the site that would have made them unwilling partners with the Giants" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 4/21).
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: In San Jose, Tim Kawakamai noted Mission Bay is "not far at all from AT&T Park, so I now wonder if they need to have discussions with the Giants (or have had them) to fully capitalize on the proximity and make sure there aren’t bad overlaps while the arena is constructed" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/21). But Ratto noted the Giants probably would not get involved and hinder the building because it is "far enough away" from AT&T Park that the team does not have a "great case to make." Ratto: "Secondly, there really are no ordinances that prevent the Warriors from doing this" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 4/21).
NYC FC yesterday confirmed that it will play its inaugural MLS season in ’15 at Yankee Stadium, a move that solidifies the team's short-term future and allows season-ticket sales to begin. The club will play all 17 home games in the ballpark, which will have a reduced capacity from 49,642 for baseball to 33,444 for soccer. The pitcher’s mound will be removed prior to each NYC FC match. It will take three days to completely reconfigure the park from baseball-ready to soccer-ready. The news was announced via a press conference at Yankee Stadium with NYC FC execs joined by Yankees President Randy Levine and COO Lonn Trost. The club, which is jointly owned by the Yankees and EPL club Manchester City, entered MLS with ambitions of building a soccer-specific stadium. NYC FC Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti yesterday said that goal is still his "No. 1 priority." But with the team's debut 11 months away and no progress being made on a stadium site, NYC FC was under increasing pressure to find at least a short-term fix. Pernetti said that the club is only officially committing to playing its first season at Yankee Stadium, but said it is "likely" NYC FC will play there beyond ’15. A report last week had the club calling the Bronx home for three years. Pernetti said that the club considered multiple venues to play in next year, but Yankee Stadium ended up being the clear choice. Officials for both the Yankees and NYC FC at yesterday’s event dismissed suggestions that the soccer pitch will be too narrow and that the field could fall victim to wear and tear. Pernetti: "The Yankees are no stranger to doing other events at Yankee Stadium, both inside and outside the season. They've done it in a variety of different sports and have done it seamlessly, so we don't have any concerns."
GET YOUR TICKETS: The club yesterday also announced it will start accepting down payments on season-ticket plans. While the plan prices will not be released until summer, the team sold 1,100 deposits in the last 24 hours. There are three different tiers: standing-room supporter group ($30 deposit); general admission ($50); and premium seats ($200). Pernetti said the club will look to work with the Yankees where it can to create crossover season-ticket holders for both clubs. He noted NYC FC will consider using dynamic pricing for single-game tickets depending on several factors, including how initial season-ticket sales go. The club has already made about 25 hires on the business side and is looking to approximately double that number by next season. That includes positions in ticket sales, fan services, a head of marketing and communications.
CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Pernetti said that the MLS club will embark on a marketing campaign over the coming months centered around fan engagement initiatives similar to when NYC FC used a fan vote to determine its logo. He added, "Beyond that, I think we'll look to take advantage of the World Cup this year and activate as much as we can in New York when the awareness of soccer is at its height." Pernetti said merchandise sales on NYC FC’s Legends-run e-commerce website have been brisk so far, with more than $25,000 sold in the first week of availability. Team gear also is beginning to pop up at retail shops throughout the city. The club is projected to unveil its first kit in either late summer or early fall. Pernetti noted the Yankees and NYC FC have been looking for sponsorship deals that encompass both teams - deals he thinks will eventually come to fruition. Pernetti said as part of Yankee Stadium’s design for soccer, the outfield wall "will be something that we can brand, and we intend to utilize for branding at NYC FC and potentially some other partners. And I think there will be other areas of Yankee Stadium that will be branded as you see it today." However, fans should not make too much of a potential cross-town rivalry with the nearby Red Bulls. Pernetti said, "I'm of the mind when it comes to rivalries that they need to hatch organically. I think that's something that probably will more develop itself more than it can be developed by the guys in the suits behind the desks."
OUT OF SCHOOL: The move to the soccer world is a change for Pernetti, who had spent the majority of his professional life in the college realm before resigning as Rutgers AD last year as part of the Mike Rice scandal. He said the transition from colleges to pro soccer has been “eye-opening.” Pernetti: “Sports business is a really tight-knit industry; everybody knows everybody. I had existing relationships with people at the Yankees. But the people at Manchester City I was meeting for the first time. For me, it's been really educational to kind of witness the sport and how it's growing here in the U.S. as part of MLS. The opportunity to build a pro sports franchise in New York City is something that I feel really lucky to have been selected to be a part of.”
Incoming MLS expansion club Orlando City SC announced that it will play its entire inaugural season of '15 "in the renovated Citrus Bowl," while opening the '16 season in a new soccer-specific stadium, according to Tenorio & Schlueb of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The club cited "delays in the City of Orlando's acquisition of land required for the downtown, soccer-specific stadium" for the one-year hold up. Orlando City COO Brett Lashbrook: "The fact that the venue is a $200-million renovated Citrus Bowl, it’s going to provide a great atmosphere and a great fan experience for our inaugural MLS season." Tenorio & Schlueb report the city of Orlando has "bought most of the two square blocks of land on West Church Street where the stadium is supposed to be built." The final parcel "not under the city’s control is Faith Deliverance Temple, a family-owned church." City officials and members of the church family have "been in stop-and-go talks about buying the small church for nearly a year." The stadium issues are "a blemish for MLS, which has long declared expansion-hopeful cities must commit to building a soccer-specific stadium in order to receive a club." Club officials maintain this delay is "not a sign of any extensive issues with the stadium agreement" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/22).
The price tag for the new NBA Kings arena set to open in '16 "just went up, and the team’s development deal with the city has undergone significant changes," according to a front-page piece by Kasler & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Terms released by the city yesterday "shows its planned contribution to the project has actually been reduced" to $255M and the Kings’ owners will pay for the additional $30M for a total of $222M. The higher costs "reflect the Kings’ decision to move their practice facility out of the arena itself" and into an adjoining building at the east end of Downtown Plaza. The higher price tag brings the project's total cost to $477M. City officials said that the revised agreement "gives them a larger and more reliable share of the revenue generated by the arena." Kasler & Lillis note financing "won’t be in place for several months." City officials said that they will present City Council "with proposals for interim financing." Kings President Chris Granger said that team ownership would "put up the cash for the early months of construction to keep the arena on track." The city’s "contribution to the project was pegged at a maximum" of $258M, and the Kings "would be on the hook for additional costs." Among other changes, the Kings have now "committed to making lease payments" of at least $6.5M a year, with "the amount expected to grow." The team previously had "estimated it would pay" $4.7M annually, "depending on the arena’s profitability." The annual payment will jump to $7.5M in '21 and will "grow by at least" 3% per year after that, depending on inflation. City officials said that the team’s payments "could grow" to $18M or more (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/22).