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Volume 24 No. 177


Santa Clara City Council members yesterday "appeared on their way to approve a mountain of debt to build a gleaming" new stadium for the 49ers, according to Lisa Fernandez of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The council is "expected to vote for the development contract and financing package Tuesday." But this week's hearings "offered critics their first chance to express concerns publicly about the city's exposure to risk." City and 49ers officials and the project's lenders "offered assurances Tuesday the city is protected in the deal, noting that the NFL would not let the 49ers default." 49ers COO Paraag Marathe "told the council the team already has sold nearly $200 million in luxury suites for the new stadium and predicted a 'significant announcement' on naming rights may come by the spring." In a separate "twist revealed earlier Tuesday, the council also received unexpected news from the current owners of Great America theme park, the potential neighbors of the 68,500-seat stadium." Cedar Fair Entertainment announced that it would "retain ownership of the park, even though just months ago it planned to sell it to a real estate investment group heavily backed by the 49ers." Santa Clara officials indicated that new Cedar Fair President Matt Ouiment was "determined parking concerns would be addressed" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/7).

NOT GONE YET: A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states last week's announcement that the 49ers had "secured the $1 billion in financing for a new stadium was widely interpreted as marking their move to Santa Clara as a done deal." The editorial: "It is not. While there is no question that the football team is determined to move south, the obstacles in the way remain significant." What is "regrettable is that the franchise has all but foreclosed the option of building its new stadium in San Francisco if the Santa Clara deal falls apart." The deal that has been "put together in Santa Clara includes elements of risk that could raise doubts both in Santa Clara and within" the NFL (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/7).

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said yesterday that the city is "backing the Metrodome as its favored site for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and wants to use the nearby Minneapolis Armory to create an enhanced game-day experience for fans," according to Ragsdale & Kaszuba of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Rybak said that the "presence of one (and eventually two) light-rail lines at the Metrodome and its lower costs compared to Arden Hills make the current home of the Vikings the best place for a new stadium." He added that the Vikings' "desire for activities outside the stadium led Minneapolis to consider ways to use the privately owned armory as an 'event center field house, the centerpoint of a new game-day experience' for the team's fans." State Sen. Julie Rosen, the Senate's chief author on stadium legislation, said, "I think that's getting to be a very viable option." She noted that the Metrodome would "cost roughly $200 million less than the Vikings' preferred site in Ramsey County's Arden Hills." Senate Taxes Committee Chair Julianne Ortman asked Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale "why the stadium is an urgent matter." Mondale said, "If the Vikings continue to be at the lowest point of revenue and lose money or break even on their investment, as they are today ... then sooner or later they will leave." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that the team has "heard from two cities seeking an NFL team -- Los Angeles and another he would not identify" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/7).

PLAYING FAVORITES? In St. Paul, Doug Belden notes during a hearing at the state Capitol, Minneapolis leaders said that they "could contribute $300 million to a downtown stadium." But "not to be outdone, Ramsey County's mixture of targeted taxes could near $350 million." The plans are a "key step toward building a stadium for the NFL team that could cost $1 billion." Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett "didn't testify at the hearing but said in an interview that Minneapolis is getting so much time and extra chances that he is beginning to think the deck is stacked against the Arden Hills plan." Bennett: "Minneapolis went in with their dog-and-pony show, and everybody bent over backwards and told them how sweet they were." He added, "It was like watching an episode of 'we've already made up our minds and here's what's going to happen'" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/7). Also in St. Paul, Brian Murphy notes the Vikings and "their Metrodome landlord have scheduled a sitdown for the first week of January to resolve whether the team's lease expires Feb. 1, 2012." Mondale, who "contends last year's roof collapse triggers a clause that extends the lease another year, told a state Senate committee Tuesday that the issue should not 'get in the way of moving forward to getting a new stadium'" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/7).

Visitors to LP Field “will see replays in higher definition, hear referees’ calls more clearly and have an easier time getting to the stadium’s top levels after the Metro Council approved financing Tuesday for up to $28 million of improvements” to the Titans' home, according to Michael Cass of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The council voted 33-3 “for a bond issue to benefit the city-owned facility,” with ticket tax revenues “expected to pay off the debt.” The council also agreed “to raise the LP Field ticket tax, which applies to most events there, from the current level of $2 to $3, starting Aug. 1, 2013.” The Titans have said that $2 per ticket “should be enough to cover the debt service on the planned projects, with [the] additional dollar paying for future improvements, such as new seats.” Titans Exec VP/Administration & Facilities Don MacLachlan said that the planned improvements “will be completed before the Titans start the 2012 season.” They include “much larger, high-definition video boards in both end zones; high-definition, LED ribbon boards; a new sound system that will distribute sound more evenly; a fan hospitality area; a new control room; and elevators to the upper parts of the venue.” He said that the Titans, who “have been criticized for not bringing more concerts and other types of events to the facility, are now ‘working feverishly’ to do that.” City Council member Phil Claiborne “criticized the organization for not doing more to ease the city’s burden,” but MacLachlan noted that the Titans “pay all of LP Field’s operating costs, which he said run between $4 million and $4.5 million a year” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 12/7).

Marlins President David Samson told Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, City Manager Johnny Martinez and City Attorney Julie Bru that the team "would not kick in toward any unexpected tax expense" from the parking garages the city built at the Marlins' new ballpark, according to Patricia Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. A summit at city hall last Wednesday was "held to ask the Marlins to help cover property taxes -- nearly $1.2 million a year -- for four parking garages" at the newly constructed venue. Sources who attended the meeting said that Samson "said his ballclub would not fork over any cash or renegotiate its deal with the city and the county to give Miami better terms." Regalado said of Samson, "He just said, 'We're willing to help, but we're not willing to pay more.'" The property tax issue is "under scrutiny as part of a wide-ranging federal investigation into the financing of the new $634 million ballpark." The SEC, which "subpoenaed the city and county Thursday, specifically asked Miami for documents concerning whether the garages would be subject to property taxes" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/7).