Newark Mayor Cory Booker yesterday "criticized Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek for using what the mayor said was 'legal jiujitsu' to convince" an independent arbitration panel to grant the team $2.7M per year in parking revenues, according to David Porter of the AP. The city contends that the parking agreement was contained in an '05 letter "between the city and the team but was never formally approved." Since the city opened the arena in Oct. '07, the Devils "haven't paid rent to Newark while the parking dispute dragged on." In addition to the ruling on parking revenue, the panel said that the city "owes the Devils" $4.6M that it "must put into a capital fund for the team." The total "owed by the city is more than" $15M, or more than the $14.7M the Devils "must pay in back rent, fees and other expenses." Booker said of Vanderbeek, "He came to this city with a mouthful of promises and a pocketful of lies. He is a high-falutin, high-class huckster and hustler" (AP, 4/4). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Heather Haddon notes the agreement indicates that the Devils' future rent will begin at $3.9M and "escalate annually under the 30-year lease until it reaches nearly" $6M. Haddon writes the ruling was "widely seen as a victory for the team and a devastating blow for the struggling city." Booker is "known for a diplomatic touch," but yesterday he "showed flashes of anger as he spoke about the city's defeat." Booker: "There has been few times in my term as a public official that I've been this angry and upset." Booker also wrote on Twitter, "In a nation with some very great sports team owners, (Mr.) Vanderbeek has now tied us up in court working to exploit rather than partner with us." A Devils spokesperson said that the team owners "recognized it was hard for Mr. Booker 'to accept a legal loss" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/5).
The flare-up during the past week over whether the NBA Kings must chip in for pre-development costs "has thrown the city's arena effort into doubt and exposed a fundamental problem: The two sides never were fully on the same page," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. City officials "described the 'term sheet' negotiated" about a month ago as a "nearly complete agreement" at the time. But the Maloof family have said that they "disagreed with key elements of the term sheet from the get-go and that they had expected significant changes before any deal was signed." The "rift puts into question whether the Maloofs will agree to the next step in the process, which calls for them to sign a tenant lease agreement by April 15 with AEG, the company the city plans to hire to operate the arena." Kings attorneys "filed a voluminous request two weeks ago with the city to view all memos, emails, letters and other documents exchanged between the city and the NBA in the last year." The recent "acrimony provides a dramatic backdrop" for next week's NBA BOG meetings in N.Y., where Commissioner David Stern said that he will "brief owners on the Sacramento situation." The "fight over pre-development costs appears to be only one of several points of dispute." Sources said that the Kings have "disagreements with the term sheet involving parking issues, revenue streams, length of the deal and decision-making authority." The team also "expressed concerns in a letter Monday about the city's ability to pull off an arena in the tight time frame -- a 2015 opening date that the NBA has set as a target for getting the Kings in an updated arena" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/5).
The MLS Dynamo after "six years of playing at Robertson Stadium" are “bringing in cash at a franchise-record pace” with their new BBVA Compass Stadium, according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Dynamo President Chris Canetti said that with Dynamo Soccer LLC and Dynamo Stadium LLC “taken into consideration, revenues have essentially doubled from last year.” Former Astros Owner Drayton McLane said, "It changes everything when you move to a great new facility. ... It gets people excited. People that have not been going to Dynamo games start coming to games.” The Dynamo have “traditionally averaged around 17,000 fans per game,” but this year they are “optimistic about selling out the team's 20 games in the 22,000-seat stadium.” The season-ticket base has “gone from around 5,000 last year to more than 10,000 with five weeks until the stadium opens.” Canetti hopes to “sell 12,000 season tickets this year, which would rival the Astros and Rockets' season-ticket bases.” The Dynamo “had not engaged in any seven-figure business partnerships other than the jersey sponsorship with Houston-based recycling company Greenstar” before this year. Now at BBVA Compass Stadium, the team has “seven founding partnerships worth at least $1 million locked into either three- or five-year contracts.” Canetti said that he “expects to end up with 10 founding partnerships” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/5). Ortiz noted Canetti “beams when he shows off the latest pictures from BBVA Compass Stadium, which is coming along quite nicely heading into the May 12 opener.” Canetti said, “Everything’s on target.” The team is scheduled “to hold their first practice at the stadium” on May 5, which will also “be open to season-ticket holders.” Stadium employees “will be allowed to move into the south building on April 16” (CHRON.com, 4/4).
Arizona State Univ. unveiled plans yesterday for its "long-awaited renovation of Sun Devil Stadium, complete with a futuristic-looking canopy to protect football fans from the scorching sun," according to Jeff Metcalfe of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Renderings "revealed a unique, modern stadium on the current venue’s iconic spot between the buttes on the Tempe campus that would be neither an enclosed dome nor an open-air arena." The stadium renderings drawn up by Valley-based developer Future Cities "are considered preliminary, and the university has not hired an architect yet." In its "first major overhaul in a quarter of a century, the 54-year-old football arena would be smaller and opened up at one end to provide scenic views." The facility would seat 55,000 to 65,000 instead of the current 71,706. Some projections "put that timetable at" 10 years. Yesterday’s announcement "moved the new stadium closer to the front of the line, perhaps cutting that time frame in half." Metcalfe notes the other 11 Pac-12 schools "have spent almost" $1.3B on football stadium projects since '98. Major funding for the stadium, which "could cost as much as" $300M "including the canopy, still will come from revenue generated by the new district. But ASU "plans to get started by using private donations, premium-seating revenue, the university’s share of new Pac-12 television revenue that starts this year, and perhaps bonds, but not from tuition or tax support to the university" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/5). ASUDEVILS.com's Chris Karpman notes school officials "hope financing plans are in place by June." ASU AD Steve Patterson said that the lower bowl of the stadium "could remain, albeit with a different seating configuration, or be replaced, but it will depend on the cost and other factors" (ASUDEVILS.com, 4/5).
GRASSY KNOLL: In Nashville, Jeff Lockridge notes Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor of Athletics David Williams "confirmed that a large 'berm' is to be constructed in the open end of Vanderbilt Stadium as a place for fans to watch games starting this fall." The project, in "addition to other renovations, is scheduled to begin after the Black & Gold scrimmage" on April 14. While several schools such as Clemson and Virginia "have hillside seating, Vanderbilt’s affinity for the idea stemmed from" the team’s '11 visit to BB&T Field at Wake Forest, which features "Deacon Hill" in one end zone. Vanderbilt will "begin selling season tickets for its hillside seating" today. The university will also "install a JumboTron in the open end zone that will showcase a significantly larger screen than the one above the closed end zone" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/5).
PRICE OF COTTON: In Dallas, Steve Thompson reports the Dallas City Council last night unanimously supported taking on an additional $25.5M in debt for "major improvements" to the Cotton Bowl. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and the State Fair of Texas are "pitching the improvements in a bid to keep the annual Texas-Oklahoma football matchup until at least 2020." Council member Dwaine Caraway said that if anything, the $25.5M "isn't enough." Caraway: "Twenty-five million dollars, realistically, is not enough money for what we're talking about. We're patching it up once again" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/5).
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and other city leaders are urging the Triple-A PCL Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Chickasaw Nation "to reconsider their decision to rename the Bricktown ballpark after the town of Newcastle and the tribe's casino, Newcastle Casino," according to a front-page piece by Kimball & Lackmeyer of the OKLAHOMAN. Team and casino reps claim the ballpark's new name, Newcastle Field at Bricktown, is a "new way to promote both venues," but critics see the naming-rights deal "as disrespectful to Oklahoma City and a move to groom young people into the next generation of compulsive gamblers." No city officials from Oklahoma City were on hand yesterday as RedHawks President & GM Michael Byrnes and Newcastle Casino Marketing Manager Jennifer Cross "unveiled the new name and logo." Byrnes indicated that the relationship with the casino "began two years ago with advertising inside the ballpark." Cornett and City Council member Meg Salyer were "unhappy with naming a $34 million ballpark built and paid for by Oklahoma City taxpayers after Newcastle, a suburb of 7,700 people." However, both Cornett and Salyer noted that they "have no control over the naming rights." Byrnes and Cross "defended the naming rights deal as a means to continue improvements at the ballpark" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/5).