St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg yesterday held a "much-anticipated sit-down for about two hours in Rays offices," according to Nohlgren & van Sickler of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Foster "declined to comment" on the meeting, and said that he "wanted to brief City Council members before making any public statements." Sternberg "characterized the meeting as 'nothing dramatic' but did offer one optimistic note: He foresees 'a nice improvement' in attendance for 2012." Sternberg said, "We feel really good about it. We had a great finish last year. Our TV ratings increased dramatically in the last couple of months.'' But he added that any such improvement "does not change the team's determination to seek new stadium possibilities in Hillsborough County." Nor did his meeting with Foster "change the city's determination to stick to the Trop contract and forbid such discussions." Sternberg said that the meeting "mostly touched on ways to improve marketing and communication." Sternberg: "You kind of do a tune-up every six months or so -- a what's been bothering you, what's been bothering us? The city wants to know if they can help us promote the team, and we'd like to know what the city can do to help promote the team and work together in that vein.'' Nohlgren & van Sickler note several council members "were pleased." Relations have been "testy for 19 months, since Sternberg announced that he would not discuss new stadium sites in Pinellas County unless he can research Hillsborough sites as well" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/18).
READING THE TEA LEAVES: WTSP-CBS' Noah Pransky wrote yesterday "may have been the meeting needed to break the stadium stalemate; it also may have been much ado about nothing" (WTSP.com, 1/17). WFTS-ABC's Tom Korun wrote, "Let's face it; the two [have] a completely different agenda that won't ever be resolved." Korun: "So what was gained by Tuesday's meeting? Nothing. ... I'm quite sure that Sternberg understands if he wants to meander over to Hillsborough County with lawsuits chasing him from behind, he better bring millions with him to the table. I'm just guessing here, but I think Stu would have to put up more than half the freight for a new ballpark to even get some legs with the Hillsborough County voters. ... I am also going to take the Lightning word that owner Jeff Vinik is not and will not be interested in buying the Rays if they get the green light to relocate to Tampa" (ABCACTIONNEWS.com, 1/17).
More than three years after the '08 Summer Games, managers of Beijing's Olympic landmarks are "desperately exploring new ways to profit from them in order to avoid financial woes," according to Wang Wen of the CHINA DAILY. The most "recent concern is the Water Cube." Enthusiasm for the "bubble-like architectural wonder has continued to decline, with the number of visitors falling by almost a third in 2011 compared with 2010." Beijing National Aquatics Center Co. Ltd. said that it was US$1.74M "short in balancing its books last year." The organization said that despite hosting some "large sports events and art performances the venue is still unable to break even." Financial problems are "not just pressing on the Water Cube." The number of visitors to the main Olympic arena, the Bird's Nest, "also declined by almost 50 percent in the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010." The operating team has to "aggressively look for commercial options to fill that gap, although ticket sales still account for half of the arena's revenue." National Stadium Co. Ltd. Deputy Manager Xiang Jun, whose organization runs the Bird's Nest, said that it is "changing its role from that of a venue provider to a content provider by organizing more programs." Interest in naming rights for the Water Cube and Bird's Nest stadium has been "high since the end of the Beijing Olympics, but formal discussions have never started, because of the government's reluctance" (CHINA DAILY, 1/17).
In DC, Liz Farmer noted Loudoun County, Va., “is striking back in a bid to keep the Redskins in Ashburn after officials in the District and Prince George's County have said they want to steal the teams headquarters facility away.” The “carrot being dangled before owner Dan Snyder after months of silence is in the form of a potential Redskins Hall of Fame, an idea that was floated in Loudoun in 2008 but narrowly rejected by that board of supervisors.” Now, Broad Run District Supervisor Shawn Williams is “reaching out to Snyder and dropping hints that a hall of fame facility could be in the team's future -- if, of course, it stays in Loudoun County” (Washington EXAMINER, 1/17)
WE WANT YOU: In London, Charles Sale wrote Wembley Stadium officials are “concerned enough about the renewal of their corporate seating packages, which are crucial to the financial long-term future of the national stadium, to be targeting the lucrative Russian market.” IMG, which sells the seats for Wembley, “had hospitality brochures on display and sales personnel busy attempting to attract new clients at a gala dinner to celebrate the Russian Old New Year for Russia’s sports business elite.” Club Wembley was “one of the sponsors” at the event (London DAILY MAIL, 1/16).
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': In L.A., Deborah Crowe reported the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce is “urging managers of the Rose Bowl to consider offering its venue as a temporary home if Los Angeles is successful in luring a National Football League team back to the region” (LABUSINESSJOURNAL.com, 1/17)....In Sacramento, Ryan Lillis writes MLB Giants CEO Larry Baer has “this message for those trying to build a new downtown sports arena in Sacramento: ‘Don't give up.’” Baer gave the keynote speech yesterday at the Downtown Sacramento Partnership's State of Downtown breakfast at Memorial Auditorium. Baer said, “It can be done, don't give up. You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector." He added, “If you can get (an arena) started, there will be a ripple effect, there will be a domino effect” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/18).