Guggenheim Partners CEO and Dodgers Chair Mark Walter yesterday said that his company is “exploring whether to bid” on AEG, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Walter said that the “possible ‘synergy’ in marketing and sponsorship among the Los Angeles teams could make AEG an attractive investment.” But Walter said that he “could not say for sure that a bid would make sense for Guggenheim” since prospective bidders “have yet to receive confidential financial information from AEG.” He said it is “not true” that Guggenheim has partnered with anyone on a bid. A report last week claimed that Guggenheim had “joined forces” with Lakers investor Patrick Soon-Shiong (LATIMES.com, 10/2). Walter said, "In our business, when you make investments, you look at things. Lots of things. You have no idea how many things we look at. We don't buy them all. That's just what we do." He said that the report of Guggenheim teaming with Soon-Shiong in a potential bid is “a bit overstated.” Walter: "We have talked to Patrick because we know he's interested. We just said, 'What are you doing? What are you thinking?’” (ESPNLA.com, 10/2). Meanwhile, SI.com’s Peter King wrote the “best point” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke made about the company’s proposed Farmers Field project “was about the area in Los Angeles where the stadium would be built.” His point is a “Super Bowl slam dunk.” If there is “something NFL owners understand, it's the power of synergy between pro football and the entertainment business, and having Los Angeles in the Super Bowl-site rotation” (SI.com, 10/2).
ROOM TO GROW: Walter said that the Dodgers franchise “still has the financial wherewithal to make significant acquisitions over the winter.” Walter: "If it's there and if it's right for us." He added that the Dodgers “wouldn't be careless with their money.” Walter said that while the luxury tax “will figure into the Dodgers' thinking at some point, that time hasn't come yet.” In L.A., Dylan Hernandez noted the Dodgers “added more than" $400M in player contracts this season, and the team's payroll is “projected to exceed" $200M next season." Any amount the club spends over $178M "would be taxed at 17.5%” (L.A. TIMES, 10/3).
The Twins, pending approval tomorrow by the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, will build a new branded destination at Target Field for single-game ticket buyers and group sales. The new 200-seat space in right field replaces bleacher seating in sections 139, 140 and 141 with seven rows of stools with backs, plus drink rails. The retrofit will improve sightlines for all fans by eliminating a block of obstructed view seats in right field, Twins officials said. A canopy at the back of sections 139 and 140 will provide partial cover and a heating element for those ticket holders. Ticket prices for the new seating area will be announced soon, officials said. The new space, similar to the Budweiser Roof Deck in left field, will have a title sponsor. The Twins are in talks with potential sponsors but to date no deal has been signed, officials said. The old bleacher seats will be donated to St. Paul youth baseball fields. In addition, the Twins will extend the concourse platform in Section 141 with additional drink rails to improve traffic flow between gates 34 and 29. The Twins are financing the upgrades but would not disclose project costs. Construction begins this month and will be completed in January, with the stools installed in March. HGA, a Minneapolis architect, is designing the space and Mortenson is building it.
The Cubs yesterday announced that they are “planning to add 56 seats behind home plate by moving the brick wall three feet closer to the field,” according to Danny Ecker of CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS. The meeting agenda for the permit review committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which meets tomorrow, shows the proposed renovation would “disassemble part of the current wall and salvage all the brick and stone cap to be incorporated into a new wall behind home plate.” Since the wall “falls under the guidelines of the stadium's 2004 landmark designation, the project must get a thumbs-up from the committee before the Cubs can get to work” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 10/2). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan reports the “prime club box seats could cost $200 or more, depending on the game.” The Cubs “added three rows behind home plate before the 2004 season, lowering the height of the wall and moving it 10 feet closer than it had been for decades, to about 50 feet behind the plate” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 10/3).
The Mariners plan to “move Safeco Field fences closer to home plate for the 2013 campaign,” according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The “biggest changes will be in left-center field, with the fence being moved anywhere from 4 to 17 feet and sure to benefit right-handed hitters.” Mariners President & COO Chuck Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik had Assistant GM Jeff Kingston “lead a committee to explore moving the fences soon after a Mariners road swing in late May.” Zduriencik and Kingston “insisted the change wasn't prompted by any one event.” Zduriencik conceded "the fact we started off slow probably got our attention.” He added that the ballpark dimensions “had been discussed internally for years.” The hand-operated scoreboard atop the left-field fence “will be moved, reducing clearance height for home runs from 16 feet to 8 feet.” The right-center power alley and fence leading to dead-center “will come in 4 feet.” The committee “used batted-ball information from throughout the stadium's history in deciding how far to move the fences.” Figures from this year were not used "because of a small sample size” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 10/2). MLB.com’s Greg Johns noted members of the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District Board have “reviewed and endorsed the changes.” MLB also has “been informed of the modification plans.” Some seating “modifications in the left-field area behind the current hand-operated scoreboard will be announced at a later date.” The space between the current wall and the new fence will “mostly be taken up by the bullpens or a slightly wider ‘moat’ between the stands and the fence as currently exists from center field to the right-field foul pole” (MLB.com, 10/2). GAME CHANGER: In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote this was “an absolute necessity for two reasons.” There is “no question whatsoever that the ballpark is in the heads of Mariners hitters.” Also, Safeco Field has “developed such a pervasive reputation as a hitters' graveyard that the Mariners' chances of attracting a quality free-agent offensive player had dwindled to almost non-existent” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 10/2). In a separate piece, Stone wrote players “broke into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the ballpark, and instructed their agents not to take a call” from Zduriencik. Mariners 1B Justin Smoak said, “I'm sure there are a lot of veteran guys out there, free agents, that have declined because of that reason. This should definitely change some things” (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).
Churchill Downs “wants to race next September, a step that would create a third meeting on the track’s calendar in addition to its spring and fall meets,” according to Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. But the move could come “at the expense of dates at the beleaguered Turfway Park in Florence, which opposes the change.” Churchill is “seeking 12 dates during four, three-day weekends after Labor Day.” Those dates have been “assigned to Turfway in the past,” but Churchill Downs “apparently sees opportunity in the mild September weather.” CDI Senior VP and Track President Kevin Flanery said that two dates “could be at night and be held to avoid conflicts” with Univ. of Louisville home football games. He added that Churchill Downs could “offer purses of $240,000 a day next September compared to the $97,000 a day that Turfway officials said they had this September.” However, Turfway officials said that letting the track “drop to three days a week in September -- as Churchill is proposing -- from Turfway’s current four could allow it to improve daily average purses to about $135,000.” Turfway acknowledged that amount is “still less than Churchill’s offer.” But Turfway Operations Dir Chip Bach said that September racing at the track “helps pay for racing during the winter months.” Another Turfway official said that taking away September dates “would cost $500,000 in revenues related to live racing and result in cutbacks, likely in January and February” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 10/3).
Developer Joel Cantor yesterday said that he “wants to buy and raze the struggling entertainment complex” Channelside Bay Plaza so he can “build a baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in downtown Tampa.” Cantor said that “a 33,000-seat stadium could fit on the waterfront site," much like AT&T Park in S.F. In Tampa, Thurston, Thalji & Danielson report there is “no lack of obstacles” to the proposal. A group led by Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik has the “inside track to buy Channelside and is close to a deal.” In addition, the Tampa Port Authority's BOG “would have to approve any deal.” The BOG's “reaction -- to put it mildly -- was skeptical” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/3).
STAKE YOUR CLAIM: In K.C., Paul Koepp writes the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority voted Sept. 18 to “suspend payments from the maintenance fund for Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.” The move “would seem to ratchet up tension between the county and the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, which long have disagreed about how to set aside money for stadium upkeep.” But all sides said that they “intend to keep discussing the issue.” An authority audit, completed in May, said that “the Royals ‘have put the Authority on notice that they may make a claim’ about the diversion of money” and that if the team does, “the Chiefs probably would make a similar claim.” The county and teams have been “negotiating a memorandum of understanding for more than a year to clarify how money should flow from the county’s voter-approved three-eighths-cent sales tax -- and other sources -- through a bond trustee and to the teams" (K.C. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/28 issue).
PERMISSION TO PARTY: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman reports the Ashwaubenon, Wisc. Plan Commission is “recommending that conditional use permits be required for so-called Packers party houses in residentially zoned neighborhoods.” The commission yesterday “recommended a transient residential facility ordinance for village board approval Oct. 9.” The regulations are “based on Green Bay’s ordinance.” Party houses are residences “purchased by individuals or organizations for private gatherings on the days of Packers games.” Some include “bands and after-game functions” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 10/3).
PENALTY BOX: On Long Island, Sid Cassese cited an Occupational Safety & Health Administration report as saying that SMG, which operates Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, “faces a total of $88,000 in proposed fines for asbestos, electrical, chemical and other hazards facing workers at the Coliseum.” SMG spokesperson Tom Mulligan said, "Nassau County, as owner of the Coliseum, is responsible for asbestos remediation, maintenance and capital improvements. … While SMG is gratified that OSHA did not find any willful violations, we will be contesting the citation” (NEWSDAY, 10/1).