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Volume 24 No. 136


A task force formed last year by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to develop a financing plan for a new basketball arena "was funded in large part by one of the parties with whom city officials would end up negotiating: the Sacramento Kings," according to a front-page piece by Ryan Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The agreement stipulated that 10% of "the millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships the mayor helped raise for the franchise last spring would be funneled into his Think Big committee." None of the donations "were revealed until months after negotiations between the city and the Kings owners had collapsed." Documents filed with the city clerk show that is "well beyond the state deadline for local officials to report such donations." As a result, the California Fair Political Practices Commission "is examining Johnson's network of nonprofits." Records show that the "largest benefactor of Johnson's fundraising over the past 15 months has been his arena task force." Documents show that between June '11 and March '12, the Kings "made $379,923 in donations to the Sacramento Public Policy Foundation." Officials said that "all of that money went to Think Big." The money "represented a cut of the $10 million in corporate sponsorships Johnson helped raise in spring 2011 to keep the Kings in town." Team and task force officials said that some companies "made their payments directly to the mayor's arena task force, while others paid the Kings the full share of their sponsorship deals and agreed to have the franchise transfer a 10 percent cut to Think Big." City clerk records show that the Kings organization "then made donations to the mayor's foundation in the form of behests." Johnson's name "appears in the records as the elected officer overseeing every behest made by the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/5).

The Univ. of California-Berkeley’s “rebooted stadium is an absolute delight to behold,” according to Mark Purdy of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The $321M renovation of Memorial Stadium is a “splendid reinvention of the Bay Area's oldest and most historic still-standing sports structure.” The seats are “all new and aluminum, some with seat backs,” while the concourses are “bright and three times as wide as the old ones.” There are club-level lounges with “multiple televisions tuned in to college games across the country.” There is “one odd non-improvement,” as portable toilets are “still needed on the walkway above the east rim of the stadium.” Even “with that caveat, the new Memorial Stadium immediately becomes the best football venue in California, college or pro.” In addition to the stadium upgrades, “there's a state-of-the-art training center” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/2). In S.F., Jill Tucker wrote, “To the casual observer ... probably didn't look much different.” Memorial Stadium’s “historic facade was retained and the bowl seating and field look about the same, albeit 4 feet deeper.” But some of the “more subtle improvements were not lost on die-hard Bear fan” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/2). Cal radio play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey said, “Most people are going to be delighted that they now have metal benches instead of wood ones that manage to splinter your body on a regular basis” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/4). Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said of the renovations, "I'm very impressed. Looking at it from a macro perspective, it's a great accomplishment" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/2).

: In California, Jeff Faraudo noted Cal is “fixing a problem that led to the sale of seats that did not exist in three sections" of renovated Memorial Stadium for last Saturday's season-opening game against Nevada." Cal Associate AD/Ticket Sales, Marketing & Service Ashwin Puri said that it is “standard practice in new stadiums to make estimates before the project is complete of how many seats will fit in each row so tickets can be sold.” Puri said, “Every stadium comes up with manifested number of seats prior to building being finalized. It wasn't a guessing game. It was based on conversations we had with the construction company.” Puri: “We didn't oversell it. We realized the error in our ways. I don't have an exact number -- no more than 100. I doubt if it was even that many” (CONTRA COSTA TIMES, 9/4).

Toyota Center for the '12-13 NBA season will unveil a new video board that will be the largest indoor center-hung scoreboard in the U.S. The board will debut at the Nov. 3 Rockets home opener against the Trail Blazers. The new scoreboard will be manufactured and installed by Panasonic. The larger sides of the scoreboard will feature screens 25' high by 58' wide, while the end panels will measure approximately 25' high by 25' wide (Rockets). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen reported the Rockets' "entire project -- from upgraded Wi-Fi to a new control room to run the video screen and game presentation -- will cost roughly" $15M. Rockets CEO Tad Brown said, "We wanted to make sure we created a better experience. We think this is going to put us on another level.” Feigen noted the makeover, which "was part of the city’s bid to host All-Star Weekend, is to be largely funded by the Houston Host committee, which received the money from the Texas Special Events Fund based on its obligation to provide upgrades for the NBA All-Star Game." The Rockets are "fronting the expenditures and will be reimbursed only for a portion of the cost, with the money coming from the trust fund." The team is "expected to be reimbursed" $8-9M. Rockets Senior Production Manager and Producer Joe Abercrombie said, "This thing will be like an IMAX movie theater. Our approach is changing to a more cinematic approach for everything from our intros to our pregame videos to our timeout videos. We want everything to feel like you’re watching a short film" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/3).

IMPACT AT THE GATE? Rockets Media Relations Dir Nelson Luis noted that the scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium "is much larger, but we do view that as an outdoor board since it has a roof. Our designation was for arenas in the U.S." YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Devine writes, "Regardless of whether you think the domed enclosure in Arlington constitutes an indoor space, the new big screen at the Toyota Center will represent a huge upgrade over the existing scoreboard." As the principal tenants of the building, the Rockets "stand to benefit most, attendance-wise, from artful deployment of the new upgrades' functionality." For a franchise that has "long finished near or in the bottom third of the league in overall annual attendance, including a 24th-of-30 mark last season, providing a more enticing in-game presentation matters" (, 9/4).