Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sprint Center an "Unintentional Experiment," and No New Expansion

The Kansas City model?

Here are a few links to check out from over the past few days:

Sacramento Bee: Mayor Kevin Johnson still wants Sacramento railyard complex

KC Star: NBA, NHL commissioners rule out expansion

Newsday: NHL head Bettman: Islanders need new home

First thing's first.  An interesting article from the Sacramento Bee of the arena situation in that city.  If you don't know what is going on there by now, basically the Sacramento Kings are run a problematic ownership group that doesn't seem to want to sell the team, but they don't do much for the success of the franchise (the Maloofs -- I urge you to check out the "Maloofs' Key Issues" bullet points just to the right of the article).  So, Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson, is taking matters into his own hand to build a new arena for the city, team or no team.  How will they get this done?  By following the "Kansas City model."

The Sacramento Kings had been expected to serve as tenant in a proposed $391 million arena in the downtown railyard before pulling out of the deal last week. Members of the Maloof family, which owns the team, have said they are committed to staying in Sacramento and have floated the idea of renovating Power Balance Pavilion. 
Johnson said city officials should remain focused on a downtown arena and perhaps follow "the Kansas City model." That Midwestern city constructed the Sprint Center – one of the world's busiest arenas – without a professional sports franchise.
Hey, that's cool, I guess.  Until you see why that is such a bad idea.  Bold added by me for emphasis:

If the sides remain apart, Johnson said the city should explore what was done in Kansas City.AEG, which had agreed to operate Sacramento's facility, contributed $53 million to the Kansas City project and operates Sprint Center. 
The Kansas City model is likely to be a difficult one to emulate. 
Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar magazine, which follows the concert industry, said the Sprint Center was "an unintentional experiment." The city expected to lure an NBA or NHL franchise to the building after it opened in 2007, but that still has not happened. 
"Until Kansas City did it, I'm not sure there was a major example of an arena being built without a sports team," Bongiovanni said. "It becomes a little iffier if you don't have a sports team." 
Arenas with sports anchors generate more revenue from signage and naming rights – advertisers want to be in a building that will be on television broadcasts, Bongiovanni said.  Nonetheless, the Sprint Center has succeeded without a sports team. In the first quarter of 2012, Pollstar ranked the arena the second busiest in the country and seventh busiest in the world based on ticket sales for non-sporting events. Power Balance Pavilion was not in the top 50. 
While the Sprint Center is considered a success by industry experts, Bongiovanni said Sacramentocould not support a new downtown arena if Power Balance Pavilion continued to operate. 
The key to the Sprint Center's success was the financial involvement of AEG, said Troy Schulte, the city manager of Kansas City. 
"There's a vested financial stake (for) them to fill the arena," he said. "I doubt we would have been as successful as a standalone arena without AEG." 
Johnson said the city would continue talking with AEG about a new arena. AEG officials declined comment Tuesday.
It isn't fair to call the Sprint center an "unintentional experiment" because it's not like other cities have built successful arenas (or not arenas) in other cities without a major tenant (look at the top 20 US cities on that list).  Arenas and other venues are built for specific entertainment purposes, and not necessarily for an anchor tenant.  Now, maybe Kansas City's citizens were a part of an intricate social psychological experiment administered by AEG and city officials back in the mid-2000s when they were attempting to promote constructing the Sprint Center.  If so, we are all entitled to monetary compensation for our part.

That second bolded section-- "advertisers want to be in a building that will be on television broadcasts"-- yeah, haven't we been told something else?  Something along the lines of "an arena is sustainable, and even more profitable without an anchor tenant"?  I don't know who this Bongiovanni is (great name), but I'm inclined to agree.  Why wouldn't a venue seen around the world generate more revenue?


Moving on, apparently Gary Bettman (and NBA commissioner David Stern) have absolutely no intention of expanding their leagues, which really isn't anything new, but here is what Bettman said anyway.

“There’s interest,” he said. “I hear from a half a dozen cities on a regular basis that would like to have a team, but that’s not anything we’re focused on.” 
While he stopped short of identifying those parties in Kansas City, Bettman was quick to trumpet the virtues of the Sprint Center as a venue amply capable of harboring a franchise. 
“Without being specific,” he said, “because I’m not sure they want to be identified, we hear on a regular basis that there’s this wonderful arena there just waiting for a tenant.”

Read more here:

That's the Bettman statement ever.  "I'm willing to talk about something, but I can't really go into any details so as to not have the media not to go nuts."  Whatever, again, not anything all that new, but something that happened.

In the meantime, Bettman offers advice to Kansas Citians, and citizens of other cities seeking an NHL franchise:

“Get the outer market (premium broadcasting) package or watch NBC for the time being,” he said. “Look, I don’t like raising expectations. I don’t really think that’s fair.”
Yeah, we'll get right on that.

Oh, also, the Islanders need a new building, but Bettman seems pretty dedicated to keeping the team there (because he is consistent).  Kansas City is mentioned.  That's about it.

Read more here:

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