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Volume 24 No. 160


NBA Kings President Chris Granger recently revealed that the team's new $448M Downtown Plaza arena "may have far fewer seats than originally proposed, possibly fewer than at old Sleep Train Arena, but could pack more patrons in, nonetheless, by offering special standing-room-only ticket sections and a dramatic outdoor plaza seating area," according to a front-page piece by Bizjak & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Original estimates called for the facility to seat 18,500, but Granger said, "I'd be surprised if we have more than 17,500." He and arena architect AECOM believe that limited seating "would create intimacy and allow designers to add elements no other arena has." Team officials said that they "may publish as many as five arena design concepts sometime in the coming months for public review." Granger: "We’ll get people and the NBA to weigh in" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/16).

NOT ON MY DIME: In Sacramento, Dale Kasler reports a "new Sacramento citizens' group was formed" yesterday to fight the proposed $258M taxpayer subsidy for the Kings' new arena. The group, Voters for a Fair Arena Deal, "will gather signatures for a ballot initiative launched months ago by another group opposed to the arena subsidy." But Voters for a Fair Arena Deal "took pains to separate itself from the original effort and said it will 'limit communications' between itself and the first group, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork." The new group was announced by Eye On Sacramento watchdog group President Craig Powell, who said, "We are not opposed to a public subsidy for an arena. What we are in favor of is an arena subsidy we can afford." He added that the proposed subsidy is "too expensive and will harm the city financially" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/16).

A survey of roughly 1,000 fans at the July 6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Int'l Speedway found that 44% "gave very high marks for their overall 'seating' experience," down from 57% last year, according to Ken Willis of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. For overall restroom reviews, 39% "gave very high scores," down from 51% last year. DIS President Joie Chitwood III said, "I find this interesting. We didn’t change the seat areas, we didn’t change the restrooms." He concluded that the only viable answer is a "testament to the effects marketing has on consumer satisfaction." DIS in June announced its plans for the Daytona Rising project, a "modernization of the 54-year-old venue that, among other features, will include vast improvements in two areas that directly affect the fan experience: Seats and restrooms." Chitwood: "We physically did not change the seats, so it’s interesting that we get called out this time. I believe it’s all the messaging I’ve been doing about ‘hey, we’re going to make it so much better,’ which reinforces that it’s not that good right now." Willis notes the fan survey "offered few eyebrow-raising shifts in customer opinion" aside from the view on seating and restrooms. Results showed that 54% of respondents "were returning customers" from the previous year's race, while 30% were "first-timers at Daytona’s July NASCAR event," and 17% returned after an unspecified absence (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 10/16).

The American Athletic Conference has a one-year deal to hold its women's basketball tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena with an option for a second year, and if the city of Hartford "fails to get its act together in a creative and unified manner," it is likely that the tourney "will never return to the XL Center," according to Jeff Jacobs of the HARTFORD COURANT. Mohegan Sun "is not in the center of the state, but it offers free parking and easy access." The arena, with a capacity of nearly 10,000, "seems perfectly configured for the tournament." Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess described the contract with the AAC as "a revenue-sharing deal arrangement." AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said it is "a financial deal that is very advantageous to us." UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said, "We had 'moral' issues with playing in a casino. But then the high schools played here and they did as good a job as they did for the [WNBA] Sun." He added, "I would think there are enough smart people at the XL Center to say, OK, how do we improve our position to recruit any tournament?" Additionally, Jacobs noted UConn's new deal for basketball games at the XL Center "is only for this season." If the XL Center "isn't smart and creative and Bridgeport and Mohegan Sun step forward, well, you can see what direction the dominoes will fall." Jacobs: "More than that, I foresee more and more UConn basketball games leaking out of the state's largest arena to other state venues in future seasons." Meanwhile, sources said that UConn "couldn't be more frustrated with the chewed-up field conditions" at Rentschler Field to the "point of concerns over player safety and game officials commenting about it to UConn people." Both the XL Center and Rentschler Field are operated by Global Spectrum (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/15).