The A's have "settled on land near Laney College as their preferred spot for a 35,000-seat, privately financed ballpark to replace" Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, according to a front-page piece by Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE. A's President Dave Kaval on the 13-acre location near downtown said, "Finally, we've got our site." The A's selected the site after also "considering the Oakland Coliseum site and land on the waterfront northwest of Jack London Square." The A's "hope to play their first game" at their $500M-plus ballpark in '23. But there is "a lot that has to happen first -- starting with cutting a deal with the Peralta Community College District, which owns the site and has its headquarters there." Kaval last night made the A’s intentions official in a letter to Peralta District Chancellor Jowel Laguerre, asking to "begin negotiations to buy or lease the land." Matier & Ross note as for the Coliseum, the A’s "plan to pitch Oakland and Alameda County on the idea of turning the site into a community sports park and urban youth baseball academy in partnership" with MLB. Meanwhile, the A’s "expect to spend the next nine months to a year negotiating with the college district." If that agreement can be worked out, the A’s "expect to spend another 18 months completing an environmental impact report." Under the "most optimistic projections, construction would begin" in '21, and the ballpark would "open two years later." However, there are "other obstacles in front of the A’s." Although they plan to privately finance the ballpark’s construction, the A’s will "need support from the Oakland City Council to come up with what outside experts say could be hundreds of millions of dollars in federal, state and local funding" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/13).
IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the A's want to open their new ballpark in '23 at "exactly the time that they stop being sub-mediocre." If the A's management makes the ballpark construction "march hand in hand with the roster construction, they will have at last a fighting chance" to match the Giants "blow for blow in a market that has tilted far too long to the west" (NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com, 9/12). In N.Y., Kevin Draper writes Kaval is "building up a reservoir of good will from A's fans who have endured decades of owners' threats to move the team out of Oakland." Draper: "But good will alone will not build a ballpark." Kaval has to "unify the team, the city and county governments, public agencies, interest groups and residents behind his vision" for the ballpark. He has to "secure financing for a baseball-only stadium that could cost more than a billion dollars." He has to "persuade corporations to lend their dollars in the form of sponsorships, naming rights and luxury box purchases." But perhaps "most difficult of all, he has to rebuild a fan base that has eroded after years of the team's attempting to leave Oakland and trading away popular players" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/13).
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray yesterday resigned following another child sex-abuse allegation, creating an "entirely new, unexpected dynamic in what seemed was finally an unencumbered path toward construction of a revamped KeyArena," according to Larry Stone of the SEATTLE TIMES. Most likely, yesterday's announcement that Oak View Group would spend $600M on renovating KeyArena still "will be the outcome." The "weight of momentum and the heft of city politics still seem aligned squarely behind" OVG and CEO Tim Leiweke. But if people were "wondering what a successful Hail Mary scenario for Chris Hansen’s rival arena group could look like, well, this is it." Hansen’s plan last week to "finance his own more modest renovation" of KeyArena was "summarily dismissed by the Seattle Office of Economic Development." But now there "might be a sliver of hope." Namely, that the "chaos at City Hall throws enough turmoil into the local political scene that the arena project is thrown off the fast track that Murray had it on, with an eye toward getting it all resolved before the next mayor took office." Murray’s goal was for a city-council vote "perhaps as soon as Dec. 4." But now council President Bruce Harrell has been "elevated to mayor -- at least for five days," at which time he "must decide if he wants to stay on until the November election." Stone notes the mayor’s role in the arena process had "effectively ended anyway with the MOU agreement." There had been "strong indications that the council is lined up to approve the MOU." But "turmoil at City Hall is Hansen’s friend." If the MOU vote is somehow "delayed while the political fallout of Murray’s departure is sorted out, it could buy him time to forge a true game-changer" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/13).
STARS ALIGNING: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted with OVG set to spend $600M to renovate KeyArena, the door "appears open for the NHL to welcome aboard another expansion franchise." The decision is a "no-brainer" for the NHL. It is only a "matter of time before the NHL anoints Seattle as an expansion team and begins the era of the Original 32." It finally looks as though Seattle will have a "place worthy of hosting NHL games." That is an "enormous turnaround from two years ago when the NHL last opened its expansion process and the market wasn’t even organized enough to put a bid together." Things have "changed drastically in Seattle since then, to the point where the market checks off almost every box the NHL requires of a new member." Nothing is "more attractive than expansion money." The $500M demanded of the Golden Knights is "going to look like a bargain." There is word that the league will ask $650M to "join the club this time." And this, as much as anything, could have an "enormous impact on the landscape of the NHL over the next couple of years" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/12).
WHAT ABOOT US? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts asks, "What does this mean for Quebec City?" The short answer is "not a lot." It still means Quebec City and its supporters "have to be patient and wait for another team to relocate." Seattle was "always right there with Las Vegas among the NHL governors when it came to the favourite cities for expansion." The only thing "preventing an announcement was an arena deal." By adding Seattle, the NHL will "achieve its long-term goal of balance between the Western and Eastern Conferences with 16 teams in each conference." While adding a team for $600M in Quebec City "would be tempting for the owners, it would put the conferences out of balance again" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/13).
Flames President & CEO Ken King yesterday said that the team is "no longer going to pursue a new arena in Calgary," according to a front-page piece by Schwartz & Blackwell of the CALGARY HERALD. King, appearing alongside NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, said that it "became clear the city has no genuine interest in helping build a new arena for the NHL team." The new comes with "less than six weeks until the municipal election, where Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is seeking a third term." Nenshi has "clashed with King about a new arena on multiple occasions." Nenshi said that he was "not aware" of Calgary Sports & Entertainment's new position. On Monday, Nenshi "pushed a plan for creating a cultural and entertainment district in East Village and Victoria Park." He said that it would "ideally include a Flames arena." Yesterday, King said that their meetings with the city about Victoria Park "have not been productive." A key point of contention between the Flames and city officials is "how much, if any, public money should go towards the construction of a new arena." Nenshi: "People have to come to terms with making sure that as I’ve said from the very beginning, public dollars have to have public benefits." King said the owners had "agreed to put up a substantial financial commitment" for the Victoria Park arena. The specifics of "how much the city would be asked to pay for the Victoria Park arena, and how much the Flames’ owners would cover, has not been made public." King said that the team "is not shopping around for a city that would be more willing to help pay for an arena." That is a "key difference from back in April, when King suggested the team would move if they didn’t get an arena" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/13).
THE PRICE IS NOT RIGHT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Maki & Tait cite a source as saying that Calgary "offered to pay for one-third of the arena, in equal installments over a number of years." The money would "have to be paid back." The source said that CS&E, according to this proposal, would "cover another third of the total cost and surcharge on tickets would pay for the remaining third." The source added that the Flames organization "rejected the offer." The CalgaryNext plan was "deemed too intensive -- three facilities in too small a space -- and too expensive by city council." One source described the "mood of the current owners as 'frustrated' and open to selling their interest in the team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/13). Flames C Matt Stajan said, "The hope for the players and being part of the city, you want a new rink and what Edmonton has. It's a little bit of a shock, and it's disappointing, but hopefully, we'll end up getting what we all want" (CALGARY SUN, 9/13).
IS IT TOO LATE? In Calgary, Eric Francis writes CS&E is "done pretending the City of Calgary and its current mayor are interested in serious negotiations to build a new arena in town." The desire remains, but the "patience to deal with a city council too scared to do the right thing by taking meaningful strides towards a much-needed investment in crucial infrastructure is over." The Flames' approach "needed to change as their best offer," which included more than $200M from the Flames owners, "didn't seem to whet the appetite of the city at all." Bettman and the Flames "weren't interested in discussing the obvious possibility of relocating to Quebec City or Seattle." Francis: "The threat is obvious." At the very least, the Flames' "new stance will help them determine one way or another whether there is any use in prolonging dreams of staying in Calgary or simply moving on" (CALGARY SUN, 9/13).
The Senators believe a move to their planned downtown arena "is still four to five years away," as they continue to "negotiate with the National Capital Commissioner to transform LeBreton Flats into a mixed-use community, including the NHL arena," according to Jon Willing of the OTTAWA SUN. Senators President & CEO Tom Anselmi said that it is "still early in the negotiations and there is no timetable for their completion." However, NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson just minutes later "suggested the two sides want to have an agreement in principle by the end of the year." Willing noted it is uncertain "what the Senators will need from city hall and what the city will ask of the Senators before shovels break ground." The city is "expected to have its own list of negotiation principles this fall." Anselmi said that having the arena built "by 2021, as first hoped, 'is possible but it's tight'" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/13).
WHY IS TEAM STRUGGLING AT GATE? Anselmi yesterday said that the Senators "need to sell 2,000 more season-ticket packages over the next two years." The team is putting a tarp over 1,500 seats at Canadian Tire Centre this season due to low ticket sales, and Anselmi said, "We just need more of us to come to more games more often." The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson notes there are "no lack of contributing factors" to the decreased ticket sales, including the fact the arena is "out in the wilds of Kanata, which makes attending a game something of an undertaking." Additionally, Ottawa's "biggest employer is the federal government, which removes the possibility of packing the stands with suits who are entertaining clients." However, both of those factors "are not new," and the Senators as recently as the '12-13 season "averaged more than 19,000 fans -- above capacity." One potential reason could be a "playoff-failure malaise." While the team has made the postseason 16 of the last 20 seasons, it has gone "as far as the conference finals only three times." Stinson: "That does tend to wear on a fan base" (NATIONAL POST, 9/13).