AEG “had plenty of reasons to pass on investing $58.75 million in Sacramento's proposed downtown arena,” but the group “committed to the arena anyway, reasoning that Sacramento is a long-neglected market that has nowhere to go but up,” according to Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak in a front-page piece for the SACRAMENTO BEE. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said, “We think we timed the economy perfect." While all sides have agreed to a non-binding term sheet, yesterday marked “a key moment in negotiations that will play out over the next several months to forge a more definitive series of documents.” In return for its investment, AEG “would run the Sacramento building, book all the non-Kings events and collect most of the profits.” The city would also get a share, “which it estimates at about $1 million a year.” Leiweke said that the Sacramento project “would be his company's first new arena since the recession started.” Leiweke: “It's telling that we have this much faith in the marketplace. We're willing to bet on this community." He added that AEG “ignored at least 40 other arena proposals in other cities.” Leiweke said that he met with Kings Owners the Maloof family yesterday and told them the team's performance “will be vital to the arena's profitability.” Leiweke: "We're betting on the three of you. We need a good team." He also said that AEG has “already talked to a half dozen companies about the building's naming rights, which could go for as much as $6 million a year.” That revenue would be “split between AEG and the Kings and would represent a greater payday than the team's current deal with Power Balance” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/21).
CALIFORNIA POLITICS: ESPN.com's J.A. Adande writes sometimes “there’s a benefit to fitting into the grander scheme, and there just may be enough agendas in play that the byproduct will be keeping the Kings in Sacramento.” NBA Commissioner David Stern “wants to halt franchise movement" and AEG “wants to protect its local turf while adding new arenas to its concert promotion business while staying on the good side of the California state politicians it needs to get a football stadium built in Los Angeles.” AEG could “add to its California footprint if it’s successful in its bid to operate the Oracle arena in Oakland” that currently houses the Warriors and the adjacent stadium that’s home to the Raiders and A’s. Adande writes there is “much left to be done in Sacramento.” The story “won't be over until the shovels hit the dirt” (ESPN.com, 3/21). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes Mayor Kevin Johnson got Stern “to take Sacramento seriously and AEG to see Sacramento as a good bet.” Johnson used his connections with Stern and Leiweke “to tilt negotiating leverage away from the Kings owners, who once ran roughshod over the mayor's political predecessors.” Breton: “It's his gift. The native son and former NBA star learned long ago to use his celebrity as entrée to rich and powerful people” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/21).
SHOWING SOME OPPOSITION: In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak reports a local group called Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork are calling the city's downtown arena plan “a bad deal" and intend to “launch a petition drive to put the issue on the November ballot.” Members said that they “intend to file a petition for approval this week with the City Clerk's Office, and hope to gather 30,000-plus signatures by an end-of-May deadline” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/21).
Hillsborough County (Fla.) Commission Chair Ken Hagan said that he will "ask county attorneys to opine on whether Hillsborough can engage in direct talks with the Rays about their future in the region despite the team's lease at Tropicana Field," according to Varian & Van Sickler of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. If Hagan gets a favorable response, he said that he will "reach out to the team to figure out what the Rays want and how local government can help." Since a team proposal in '08 to build a new stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront met opposition, Rays officials have said that they "want to look at other locations including in Hillsborough." A business-backed group called the ABC Coalition issued a report two years ago that found a ballpark "in or near Tampa would generate more fans and corporate backing." St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster yesterday said that he was "surprised by Hagan's comments." Varian & Van Sickler note Foster and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn last month organized a summit with top business leaders to "discuss how the region can better support the team." Foster said of Hagan's actions, "I would question the timing." St. Petersburg City Council Chair Leslie Curran, who "criticized Foster last year for what she called his inactivity in breaching a communication gap with the team, said she was puzzled by Hagan's critique." Curran: "I don't know what his plan is or what his reasonings are for bringing this up now. The best way to keep the team in this area is to keep doing what we're doing." Hagan said that he "remains convinced that Tropicana Field is not a viable home for the Rays moving forward and that the sooner the issue is tackled, the better." Hagan added, "Common sense tells you that it's in everyone's best interest to negotiate earlier than later. Not to do so is shortsighted and smacks of political calculations" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/21).
In Minneapolis, Mike Kaszuba writes as part of the push for a new stadium, the Vikings “want the public's share of any team sale to be based on the profit, not the overall sale price.” The slight wording change, “buried deep in the Vikings' 70-page public subsidy stadium proposal, could mean $100 million or more” for team Owner Zygi Wilf. Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commissioner Chair Ted Mondale said the Vikings' clause regarding the public's share in a sale was "pretty close to the same language, you know, that [Twins Owners] the Pohlads struck." Mondale also said that the change, “which the Vikings requested, was made in part to recognize that Wilf had paid substantially more for the Vikings than Pohlad paid for the Twins” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/21).
CHEERS AND BEERS: In Houston, Erin Mulvaney noted the MLS Dynamo have been playing games at the Univ. of Houston’s Robertson Stadium “in the past and have always allowed tailgating prior to games.” However, fans “won’t have the same luxury at the Dynamo’s new stadium because [of] a quirk in the city ordinances.” One city ordinance “prohibits an open container or public consumption of alcohol within the central business district,” in which the new BBVA Compass Stadium is located. Mayor Annise Parker and city council members “are working to give soccer fans the same privileges as Texans fans.” The Houston City Council “will consider a proposal this week that would create room in the ordinance for property owned or operated by a sports team to allow open containers and alcohol on the property.” If approved, the proposal “would clear the way for tailgating" at BBVA Compass Stadium, Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park (CHRON.com, 3/20).
WALKING IN MEMPHIS: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey reports a plan to make improvements to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium “has been delayed.” City Council member Reid Hedgepeth via e-mail said that he “would hold the proposal for two more weeks.” He “originally planned to make the proposal at Tuesday's full council meeting.” Hedgepeth had told the committee on March 6 that the “city and the stadium's tenants would need to work quickly to get the improvements done in time for the Sept. 1 start" of the Univ. of Memphis' football season. The improvements “would still have plenty of time to take place before the 2013 season, but Hedgepeth's urgency was based on trying to get them done in time for this season -- especially the video boards, which would take months to build” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/21).