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Volume 24 No. 155


Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis recently revealed that the team is "in the preliminary stages" of planning a practice facility separate from Verizon Center that will likely cost at least $20M, according to Michael Lee of the WASHINGTON POST. Leonsis "would like to complete the project by 2017, at the latest, and said the next step -- which has yet to begin -- is to find a location" in DC, Virginia or Maryland. He has "appointed a team to set the groundwork for a state-of-the-art basketball complex that would be the hardwood equivalent" to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex practice facility in Arlington, Va.. Leonsis said of practice facilities, "It’s almost become like an arms race. A lot of NBA teams started to make these big kind of investments, so we want to do it, too." The Wizards "have been practicing on a cramped court at Verizon Center since the building opened 16 years ago." Players after practices "often operate in the same spaces and have to move out of each other’s way as they run drills or shoot free throws." The WNBA Mystics also "practice on the court during the summer." Leonsis said that his preference would be for the facility to be "close to public transportation, similar to Kettler." He "would like to have multiple courts with stands so that high schools, colleges and other groups within the community could also use the facility to train and play games" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/16).

A 38,000-seat, $500M waterfront ballpark at the Port of Oakland is "being proposed" by a team led by Clorox Chair & CEO Don Knauss and former Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream CEO T. Gary Rogers -- with the blessing of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, according to Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Quan on Friday said, "It's one of the two sites we promised Major League Baseball we would offer, and it will be available early next year." Quan said that the other was the "current Coliseum site." The effort "includes at least two other prominent figures" in Oakland Planning Commission Vice Chair Doug Boxer and Signature Development Group President Mike Ghielmetti, who "wants to turn Oakland's Brooklyn Basin into housing, retail shops and parks." The idea is to "entice" A's co-Owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff to "join the plan -- or, failing that, to get Major League Baseball to see Oakland as a viable spot for a new ballpark and kill the A's hopes of moving to San Jose once and for all." A source said that the ballpark backers "aren't 'looking to jockey for ownership' of the A's." However, sources said that if Fisher and Wolff "aren't interested in the ballpark idea ... leaders of the stadium effort will form a new ownership team that would be ready to step up to the plate." Matier & Ross note the group will "soon ask the Port of Oakland to give it control over the 50-acre Howard Terminal site." The group said that it has "raised enough money to start an environmental review and get the regulatory approval process going, and it's come up with drawings of what the stadium might look like." Wolff said building at the Howard Terminal site "would be as close to impossible as anything" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/16).

COURT REPORT: In San Jose, Howard Mintz noted the city's antitrust case against MLB over the "long-stalled plan" to move the A's is now "headed to a federal appeals court -- but delay on a final outcome will continue to be the name of the game." U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte indicated that San Jose can "immediately appeal an earlier order dismissing the city's key federal antitrust arguments ... a move that elevates the legal stakes in a case that challenges MLB's cherished antitrust exemption." Whyte plans a "final decision later, but it came over the objections of MLB lawyers." At the same time, Whyte intends to "abandon his oversight of remaining legal claims made under state law, which argue that MLB has interfered with San Jose's interests by refusing to act for four years on the A's bid to move to Silicon Valley and the city's option agreement with the team to buy land for a ballpark" (, 12/13).

While Braves and Falcons officials said that they will set prices at their new facilities -- both slated to open in '17 -- "carefully and strategically ... to ensure access for a wide variety of fans," many are "well aware that teams in new stadiums tend to raise prices for just about everything, especially tickets," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Team Marketing Report data shows that the six MLB teams that have opened new ballparks since '06 increased ticket prices by an average of 36% in the first season, while the six NFL teams that have moved into new stadiums since '03 hiked prices by an average of 26%. The Braves have said that they "won’t sell" PSLs for their planned Cobb County ballpark. The Falcons will sell PSLs for their new downtown stadium, but "haven’t revealed the prices -- a source of worry for some fans." The 49ers sold Levi's Stadium PSLs for $2,000-80,000; the Giants and Jets sold MetLife Stadium PSLs for $1,000-25,000; and the Cowboys sold AT&T Stadium PSLs for $2,000-150,000. Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and President & CEO Rich McKay have repeatedly said that their PSL program "won't be in the same ballpark as those examples." Although neither team has "set ticket prices for the new stadiums, both have acknowledged plans for an increased inventory of premium, pricey seats with luxurious amenities in prime locations." Braves Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller said that the team's ballpark "will have about 8,000 fewer seats than rarely filled Turner Field, but 'we will have more than enough seats to offer affordably priced tickets and also to offer the premium and even super-premium seats for those who want it'" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 12/14).

ECONOMIC UNDERPINNINGS: The AP's Ray Henry wrote, "For the Braves, abandoning downtown Atlanta for the suburbs means moving closer to the team's fan base and developing money-making restaurants and amenities." Team officials said that it is "simply good business." But the decision also "highlights long-standing disparities over wealth, where people live and transportation -- all facets of life connected to race and social class in Atlanta." The Braves "will be moving from an area that's predominantly black and relatively poor compared to whiter Cobb County -- where the team says more ticket-buyers live." Georgia Tech professor emeritus Larry Keating, who has studied Atlanta's development, said, "It becomes a class issue in a lot of ways. A lot of the primo stuff that is highly valued by the society ends up going where the wealthiest areas are." Team officials said that they were "looking at other factors" when they chose Cobb County. Schiller: "We don't look at the exact makeup of the race, religion factor of that ticket buyer. What we're concerned about as a business that sells tickets is where do our ticket buyers come from? ... We are moving closer to where the majority of our ticket buyers come from" (AP, 12/14).

Joe Louis Arena would "likely be demolished" after the Red Wings move into a new $450M venue, according to Louis Aguilar of the DETROIT NEWS. City of Detroit officials on Friday said that the state of Michigan has "verbally committed to pay for tearing down the downtown arena, but details are still being worked out." Officials explained that it could be razed around '17 and "the reason is straightforward." Tearing down Joe Louis Arena is "part of an agreement approved Friday" between the city and Red Wings Owner the Ilitch family. The deal signed Friday "refines additional details about the new arena that will anchor a 45-block entertainment district just north of downtown." That agreement was between the Detroit Downtown Development Authority and Olympia Development of Michigan, the property development arm of the Ilitch family’s $2B "business empire." The 650,000-square-foot, 18,000-seat multipurpose arena is "slated to be built on a blighted patch of Woodward [Ave.], about four blocks north of the Fox Theatre and Comerica Park." The other $200M in development "would create residential, retail and office space." About $367M (56%) of the entire project "would come from private investment." About $283M (44%) in public investment "would come through existing economic development funds requiring no new taxes" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/15).

The city of N.Y.'s Buildings Department "slapped Turner Construction with a whopping 70 safety violations for renovation work" on Madison Square Garden last year -- the "most safety infractions at any construction site citywide," according to records cited by Reuven Blau of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Nine violations were for "illegal smoking at the site," and the city also fined Turner for "failing to use safety equipment, like guardrails or toe boards, to protect workers from falling off steep surfaces." Turner at nine sites citywide "racked up a total of 90 safety violations and $94,600 in fines," more than "any other builder" in '12. Turner officials said that the fines could be attributed to "increased scrutiny due to voluntary participation in the city’s new Major Projects Program." Turner VP/Communications Chris McFadden said, "Through this open and cooperative process, hazards were avoided and safety was increased" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16).

While investors "have to search a little harder these days to find shareholder freebies and discounts," Churchill Downs Inc. still "gives shareholders two season passes for general admission to any of its tracks, including Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby day included), Arlington Park in Illinois, Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans and Calder Racecourse Miami," according to Liz Moyer of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The passes "get holders access to the infield and paddock, but not the seating areas in the grandstand," and since the different tracks "operate on different seasonal schedules, it's possible to use the two free passes to access Churchill-owned facilities all year." The benefit in dollar terms of a "general-admission adult pass to the namesake Churchill Downs racetrack is $3 a day, adding up to $1,095 a year if the holder visited the track every single day" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/14).