22 August 2006

Six Degrees of Lew

NBC11's Raj Mathai ended the sports section of the tonight's late newscast with a mention of a Merc article about the Sharks' pursuit of a pro hoops franchise. Mathai noted that the Sharks' failed bid for the Seattle Sonics involved one particular big-money guy at the end: Oracle's Larry Ellison. The Sonics have already been sold to business interests from Oklahoma City, who last season played gracious and enthusiastic part-time hosts to the Katrina-displaced New Orleans Hornets. New owner Clay Bennett sounds diplomatic so far but just about everyone sees the skids being greased for a hasty exit.

The Sharks' initial bid appeared dead a few weeks ago, but now it appears that the Sharks will go to the City of San Jose looking for upgrades to HP Pavilion, which could make the Tank more attractive for an NBA team. The actual request is to authorize a study to see what improvements would be required, similar in scope to the ballpark study - though precluding an entirely new arena. While some technological upgrades would be welcome - particularly in the form of upgraded video boards, fascia boards, and HDTV monitors - I sincerely doubt that mere upgrades will make a NBA team leap to SJ. To make a deal attractive for a non-Sharks-owned team, the NBA team would be looking for a large piece of the Pavilion's current revenue stream, a piece that the Sharks would be loathe to give up. This would apply to the Sacramento Kings should their efforts to build a downtown Sac arena wither. If the Maloof brothers were to show interest in selling the team to San Jose interests, it would be a different story. There are problems with the Warriors, who aren't going to take a new competitor to their market lying down. Then there's the overlord himself, David Stern. From a strategic standpoint, it makes little sense to use SJ as anything more than a stalking horse. Stern has been more vociferous in his complaints than Sonics ownership, which tells me that he's actually interested in keeping them there. If he simply wanted a stress-free arena deal (market notwithstanding), the Sonics, Kings, or Hornets would already be signed long term to OKC, Vegas, Anaheim, or ahem, San Jose.

Speaking of the Warriors, they and the Coliseum Authority still haven't gotten a naming rights deal in place for the Oakland Arena. There isn't officially a naming rights sponsor for the new Arizona Cardinals stadium, but there is at least one suitor who has been turned down: hip mexican restaurant chain pink taco. pink taco is not some mom-and-pop taqueria. It's run by Harry Morton, son of Hard Rock Cafe/Hotel/Casino and Morton's Steakhouse proprietor Peter Morton. They're apparently serious, according to a press release and an article in The Business Journal of Phoenix. The Morton family just sold off the Hard Rock brand for some $700 million.

Interestingly enough, a Morton's location is scheduled to open in downtown San Jose as part of a huge refurbishment of Park Center Plaza. The complex, which was once a major part of Lew Wolff's portfolio, could soon spawn a big name competitor to Wolff's existing restaurants. And on the morning of August 30, Wolff will speak about the future of downtown San Jose a block away from Park Center Plaza at Adobe.

(Yes, I could've mentioned Wolff's previous stint as a part owner of the Warriors, but I chose the more circuitous route.)


The Cactus Leaguer said...

With a brand new (empty) arena, 2 million + metro, and prior history with the NBA, you'd have to add KC into the mix as a relo possibility... even if they are more saturated then the other cities you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't believe the Bay Area can effectively support two NBA franchises. I would expect the Warriors to fight this tooth and nail, as you've said.

Anonymous said...

I read that SVSE/Larry Ellison offered $450 million for the Sonics...that's a lot of cash (certainly a lot more than what the Oklahoma group offered). Any chance that in the future the same Bay Area group could show an interest in buying the Warriors? I'm pretty sure that Warriors ownership would salivate at $450 mil! SVSE/Larry Ellison could then ride out the OakArena lease till 2017 (or break it!), then move them to San Jose. lastly, if the Maloofs don't get their downtown Sac Arena, where would they go? Vegas, Anaheim, San Jose?

Georob said...

I've said this before, but San Jose ought to go after the 49'ers. They TOO are looking for a new stadium and have already indicated that they consider Santa Clara a backup if nothing pans out in SF.

And since the Niners are in a rebuilding mode for a few years with less interest and attention, there isn't a better time for San Jose to try. Other than that, an NBA team is a more reasonable goal, provided the "Shark Tank" could be renovated to accomodate them.

I don't think it'll be the Sonics though, but perhaps the Kings moving over from Sacramento. They're another team having "venue" issues, and moving them to San Jose eliminates the issue of THREE NBA TEAMS in Northern California.

Problem is, by taking the NBA out of Sacramento, do you then make it more or less likely the A's would consider going there?

peanut gallery said...

Larry Ellison has tried buying both the Warriors and the Niners (two of our worst owners). Both said no, subjecting us to more years of annual suckitude.

jrbh said...

We're going through such a crappy period of ownership in the East Bay right now. I grew up with Mieuli, Davis (when he was engaged and competent) and Finley. Now, we have Cohen, Schott/Hoffman morphing into Wolff/Fischer, and Davis in his decrepit litigous sleazebag mode. They're all weak in so many ways that it's hard to pick the worst, but I'm going to go for Cohen. He might be the worst owner in pro sports.

Georob said...

Unlike politicians, we can't vote out team owners. But we can still do one of two things: Buy our own teams or stop supporting them.

I don't know about the rest of you, but option #2 is more reasonable.

But if I was angry enough at a sports organization for ANY reason, that would mean that I stop going to ALL games, not just some. For even if I go to ONE game, I'm still helping Al Davis, Lew Wolff, John York, or whoever.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you JRBH?

jrbh said...


First, of course, I have reduced my financial commitment to the A's by quite a bit. I am in fact putting my money where my mouth is.

But this isn't a binary situation, one in which my only options are that I go to my usual 40 or so games a year, or not at all. I can rationally choose to cancel my season ticket package, go to occasional games, enjoy baseball, and still feel like I'm making my point. (I had a great time at the game today, in fact; A's fans gave Schilling a classy and well-deserved standing O on the occasion of his 3,000th strikeout, then kicked his Bush-loving ass and swept the Red Sox out of town.)

The A's are my team, or any fan's team, at least as much as they are Wolff's. Maybe even more so. Wolff may have the financial control to try and move the A's out of town, or to change the orientation of the team towards rich, corporate ticket buyers, or both, but he hasn't been rooting for them since Bat Day, 1969 the way I have. I'm not going to stop going to see the A's, or rooting for them, until Wolff makes it impossible by moving the team out of Oakland.

For what it's worth, I talked to two different people who work at the Coliseum today, one high-enough ranking to know what's going on, and one a union employee, and they were both completely convinced that the A's aren't going anywhere. It was heartening to hear, although I don't know I believe it.

Constance said...

To an average, rational-thinking person, moving a baseball team's stadium 25 miles shouldn't make it impossible to see and root for the A's.

Does it make it more difficult? Maybe a little. But 25 miles just isn't a big deal in today's world.

The A's won't miss you.