There are “two ways to interpret" the proposed sale of AEG as it relates to the NFL’s possible return to L.A. -- Farmers Field is “either going to be fast-tracked or wind up on the conceptual scrap heap with dozens of other failed stadium dreams,” according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. If AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke “can bring in a new billionaire who's more willing to do a deal that the NFL likes -- whether that's [Lakers investor] Patrick Soon-Shiong or someone else -- it greatly increases the chances that L.A. will have a team in the next few years.” Sources said that Soon-Shiong “already has met” with NFL Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, the NFL Management Council Exec Committee Chair, and that it "wouldn't be a reach to suggest he's met with others in the league, maybe including Commissioner Roger Goodell.” Farmer writes, "Say Soon-Shiong takes the handoff from [AEG Chair Phil] Anschutz and carries the ball across the goal line. It could certainly happen, with the downtown proposal moving closer to getting its environmental approvals.” But there also is “a very different way to look at the AEG sale.” Anschutz “looked at the NFL deal and said it doesn't make sense for him." Farmer: "Is that the reason why he's selling the entire company? Probably not. But the NFL deal didn't work for him. That says something” (L.A. TIMES, 9/21). An L.A. TIMES editorial stated the proposed sale is an “unsettling turn of events, and before the City Council moves forward, it should demand a full explanation of the timing and ramifications of the sale, as well as assurances that the city's interests will be protected. ... Los Angeles needs to know what it's getting into” (L.A. TIMES, 9/20).
JUST ONE FACTOR: Former Dodgers Vice Chair Steve Soboroff, who was “instrumental in working with AEG to build Staples Center,” said that the Dodgers’ sale for $2.15B was not “the key factor in AEG’s decision, though certainly a factor.” Soboroff said, “They feel the stars are in alignment, that the timing was right for them.” He added, “I believe the new buyer probably will have more of a penchant, passion for football and less for soccer than Phil. From that perspective, depending on who the new owner is, it’s probably a positive" (L.A. TIMES, 9/21).
COMBINATION PLATTER: In N.Y., Michael De La Merced cited sources as saying that AEG’s “combination of real estate, entertainment and event promotion” is what has “so many would-be buyers salivating.” The sources “describe the model as a ‘virtuous circle’ that draws in income from rents, ticket sales, sponsorships and many other sources.” It also is “what makes valuing the company so daunting” (NYTIMES.com, 9/20). REUTERS’ Jeffrey Goldfarb wrote, "The privately held Anschutz portfolio is packed with trophy assets," which makes it “more like a blend” of MSG, which trades at "30 times expected earnings next year,” and EPL club Manchester United (REUTERS, 9/21).
The Cowboys on Sunday will begin their fourth season at Cowboys Stadium against the Buccaneers, and the team is “still fine-tuning its pregame and in-game fan experience to compete with the living room experience,” according to a front-page piece by Jeff Mosier of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The team plans to add "children’s activities, improved scoreboard information and cellphone apps," and will expand "outdoor plaza hours and entertainment.” Cowboys Exec VP/Brand Management and President of Charities Charlotte Jones Anderson said, “Our competition is the home theater, being with your friends, watching your big screen and yelling at the television set. We can create that same atmosphere with that whole big picture as well as the live game. Nobody else can do that.” Mosier reports the outdoor plaza on Cowboys Stadium’s east side “will open four hours before kickoff instead of two hours.” Fans can “show up early for what the team’s calling the ‘Cowboys Tailgate Party,’ with discounted food and drinks, live music and other entertainment.” The Cowboys “hope the expanded plaza party will be especially popular with fans who buy standing-room-only tickets.” In addition, the Kids Zone area “has been expanded to include a mechanical bull and a zip line.” Anderson said that she “doesn’t see a day when teams run out of ways to improve the game presentation or pregame entertainment.” Mosier notes the Cowboys have “experimented with innovative ideas with varying degrees of success.” A 3-D experiment “was maligned by many, and Anderson said that’s probably not in the Cowboys’ future.” But “augmented reality, which combines the real world with computer-generated imagery, is a more likely direction.” Meanwhile, team officials “mentioned several years ago that a Cowboys Hall of Fame would be part of the new stadium.” Cowboys Dir of Corporate Communications Brett Daniels said that team officials are “still mulling over concepts” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/21).
The Katz Group Thursday said that it “won’t meet" with the Edmonton City Council to "discuss the downtown arena, at least not yet,” according to Elise Stolte of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. The comments came in a letter posted to the Oilers' website responding to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel’s “invitation to appear before council to discuss the project.” Katz Group Exec VP & General Counsel John Karvellas wrote in the letter, “While we appreciate the mayor’s invitation, we do not think such a meeting can be productive until we have reduced the outstanding issues.” Mandel, who “took a positive view” of the statement, said, “Once and for all we’ll get this finalized.” Mandel suggested that the sides “could meet at a council meeting next week or the following one on Oct. 10” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/21). Mandel said, “I think the public are really getting tired of this. I’m getting tired of it. I’m sure the Katz Group are, too.” Mandel: “Let’s see if they can put pressure on themselves to make a deal, and whatever the differences are, see how they can close the gap” (CP, 9/20). Mandel said that city residents “should know the fate of the arena within a couple weeks.” He said, “Maybe, quicker than that. It’s not going to be uncertain for much longer” (EDMONTON SUN, 9/21). ANOTHER PROJECT: Mandel said that Edmonton “needs an outdoor facility that can handle 10,000 fans for soccer, amateur football and small concerts.” The EDMONTON JOURNAL's Stolte in a separate piece notes Mandel “kick-started that process by submitting a formal inquiry to city administrators requesting information on what the city could do to help.” The NASL FC Edmonton have been “playing at Clarke Park all summer with just 1,300 permanent seats.” The team owners “tried to add 3,000 additional seats this summer, but first got stymied by a late snow fall and then ran into building code issues with the city” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/21).
Members of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission said that a new $490M sports arena “would ‘devastate’ KeyArena, throw its existing business plan into doubt and leave Seattle Center without one of its major draws,” according to Lynn Thompson of the SEATTLE TIMES. Fans of KeyArena were “relieved when a revised agreement” for the new arena “included a $7 million fund to improve and study the future” of the aging venue. However, the “fine print calls for $5 million of the KeyArena fund to follow" the WNBA Storm if the team “relocates to the new arena.” The remaining $2M would “offset the cost of any future improvements to KeyArena.” Washington state Rep. Reuven Carlyle said, "KeyArena is dead and done the day the new arena opens.” Thompson noted business owners in the arena’s neighborhood, who are “trying to recover from the departure of the Sonics and a tough economy,” indicated that a new arena “likely would attract the biggest entertainers who now perform at KeyArena -- and what remains of their customers.” Mayor Mike McGinn said that he “appreciates that the revised agreement addresses KeyArena and the future of Seattle Center.” However, he noted that both “have struggled financially over the past few years, well before a new arena was proposed.” McGinn said before investor Chris Hansen "came along, we were already having this discussion.” KeyArena was built for the '62 World's Fair, and the city spent $75.7M in ‘95 “to substantially remodel it" for the Sonics. Storm owners this week said that they “wouldn't comment on the revised agreement with Hansen and what it means for the team.” Thompson noted the city “currently subsidizes the Storm at KeyArena to the tune of $300,000 a year.” The $5M that would follow the team to the new arena is “meant to continue that city support” (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/20).
FINAL PACT EXPECTED SOON: In Seattle, Keith Ervin noted despite "reservations about some parts of Chris Hansen's revised agreement with the Seattle City Council," King County officials said that they "expect to reach a final pact soon." Council Chair Larry Gossett said that the Metropolitan King County Council "probably will vote Oct. 8 or 15" on Hansen's plan for a $490M arena south of Safeco Field. Gossett added that McGinn and County Exec Dow Constantine "had hoped the council would vote next Monday, the same day as the City Council, but County Council members felt they needed more time to study details of the agreement" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/20).
The renovation of Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion is “nearly complete," as contractor Whiting-Turner is “to complete its punch list in less than 30 days," according to Ken Sugiura of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The “most obvious difference” to the facility formerly known as Alexander Memorial Coliseum is that the “walls separating the concourse and the bowl were removed, meaning that the floor is visible from almost every point in the concourse.” The domed roof and the 32 "steel support beams remain, but the McCamish interior looks nothing like the old Thrillerdome.” The lighting system, “similar to those at Madison Square Garden and Staples Center in Los Angeles, will illuminate the court while leaving the stands darkened.” The project’s final cost “will be $50 million, paid with athletic-department funds.” That includes $45M in "construction costs, which was the originally cited figure,” and $5M in what Senior Associate AD Paul Griffin “called ‘F, F & E’ -- furniture, finishings and equipment, which includes everything from the video boards to the goals” (AJC.com, 9/18).
SHOPPING LIST:Univ. of Minnesota AD Norwood Teague said that the school is “shopping for master planning firms to get the basics in place for an overall facilities layout and timeline.” He said that UM right now “is ‘down to the 11th hour’ in determining the right company, and will choose one next week.” In Minneapolis, Amelia Rayno noted a “major part of that eventual plan will include a basketball practice facility.” Teague said that there have been “several individuals highly interested in funding a potential basketball practice facility” (STARTRIBUNE.com, 9/19).