The city of Denver has paid $1.5M in legal, financing
and engineering consultants to handle issues concerning
replacing Mile High Stadium and McNichols Arena since '91,
according to Alan Snel of the DENVER POST. Snel: "Hiring
sports consultants poses an age-old dilemma for cities.
Faced with local professional teams seeking new taxpayer-
subsidized stadiums, municipalities nationwide have to
decide whether it's more cost-effective to create in-house
positions to handle complicated stadium negotiations or hire
private-sector consultants for those jobs." Denver has
"gone the consultant route" and its top money-makers have
been local development lawyer Tom Ragonetti and MN sports
finance consultant Craig Skiem (DENVER POST, 11/23).
IS IT WORTH IT? Snel listed all sports facility-related
expenditures, which included $255,866 to Coopers & Lybrand
from '91-95 for financing advice on "sports trends" and the
arena issue. The city has also paid Skiem's MN-based CSL
Entertainment $215,605 over six years. City Council
President Cathy Reynolds: "Yeah, the city spent a lot of
money on consultants. But it's worth it." Mayoral staffer
Liz Orr said having people work in-house on sports "is a
waste of taxpayer money." Skiem added that he "doesn't know
one city that has a full-time staff person that performs"
his type of consulting duties (DENVER POST, 11/23).
The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority "acquired
the final piece of land needed" to build the Astros new
downtown ballpark when it completed the last of five eminent
domain proceedings Monday, according to John Williams of the
HOUSTON CHRONICLE. In all five hearings, property owners
received "substantially less than what they had sought"
(HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/25)....Abe Pollin, NFL facility
consultant Rick Horrow and economist Roger Noll were
participants at a stadium and arena financing forum at DC's
Brookings Institute. Noll, on proposed legislation by U.S.
Senator Pat Moynihan (D-NY) that would take away the tax-
exempt status of municipal bonds used to finance facilities:
"If Congress eliminated the tax exemption on state and
municipal bonds used to finance sports arenas and stadiums,
the interest rates would go up and cause the public to think
twice about each project" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/24).
In Toronto, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place
approved the Maple Leafs' "proposal for an arena and related
development with record speed, but many questions surround
the matter," according to David Shoalts of the Toronto GLOBE
& MAIL. The board passed the team's plans for a $200-250M
investment in a 19,200-seat arena and a 1,400-space parking
garage. In addition, the team has "been granted" a five-
year option to develop another 12.5 acres of property around
the site. If the plan is approved by Toronto's Metro
Council on December 10, an 80-day period of due diligence
will follow, with "neither side being bound to the deal
financially or contractually." Shoalts writes that the
latter part of the deal "raises ... questions," since it
allows the Leafs to "walk away" from Exhibition Place "at
any time up to" the end of February. Shoalts writes that
speculation persists that the proposal is being used by the
Leafs to force a "favourable partnership" with the Raptors
at Air Canada Centre (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25).
REAX: In Toronto, Damien Cox: "Don't read too much into
the latest Maple Leaf arena scheme ... [T]he probability
that all these bits and pieces can come together over the
next 80 days ... seems somewhat far-fetched" (TORONTO STAR,
11/25). Also in Toronto, Craig Daniels reports that Leafs
Minority Owner Larry Tanenbaum sat "four seats to the right"
of Raptors Owner Allan Slaight at courtside during last
night's Raptors game. Although "neither side is admitting
so," a "new dialogue" between the two teams "appears to be
under way." One source said that the Leafs are "using their
interest" in the site at Exhibition Place as "leverage to
... negotiate a buy-in at Air Canada Centre, which naturally
they would want to control" (TORONTO SUN, 11/25).
The Penguins "apologized Monday for shutting public
officials out of negotiations" to sell the Civic Arena
naming rights to MD-based Allegheny Energy, but team
officials "said that doesn't mean the deal is off,"
according to Michael Coleman of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-
REVIEW. Penguins President Donn Patton said "he hopes to
convince public officials" that the team's six-year, $5M
deal to rename the Civic Arena the Allegheny Energy Dome "is
good for the public." Coleman: "Patton faces a tough sell.
The city-county Public Auditorium Authority, which owns the
arena, unanimously approved a resolution yesterday
authorizing its attorney to 'take all action necessary' to
halt the agreement. The resolution also said the public
must be included in any future discussions about renaming
the arena." Councilmember Dan Cohen "questioned the
relatively short term and low price of the deal," and said
that the naming rights "could have been sold to the highest
bidder." An Allegheny Energy spokesperson said that the
company "is still interested in a naming rights deal" at the
Civic Arena, "regardless of how the current controversy
plays out" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/25).