Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Arena building 101

Today in the Bee they're talking about the Peja trade. They mention that Peja wouldn't mind moving to the Bulls because Chicago has a large Serbian population and because he knows the coach. Talk about soft, Webber is right. Is that the path of a champion? He'll go wherever he can get his favorite lamb kapana and sarma? Or where he knows a guy? I guess I should stop thinking of Peja as a world-class athlete and fierce competitor and start thinking of him more like, well, me. I wouldn't want to stay in a city after my friends moved away and my coworkers were talking shit about me. Unless someone paid me like, say, 7 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. OK, OK, he could make that in any city, so I guess that's all he cares about and he doesn't care if he's on a winning team. And I have to accept the fact that the Kings are not like the cast of Friends-they don't hang out when they're not working (well, except when J. Will and Chris Webber used to ride their BMX bikes together). It's really gonna take the fun out of watching him play if he stays. So I don't care if they trade him.

So as promised, a six point plan by the Maloofs to get us to build this arena. How do I know what they're going to do? I'm not psychic. This list was presented in a book written in 1997 called "Field of Schemes". These are the tried-and-true methods used by team owners over the last couple of decades. They have honed and perfected these methods to get the maximum handouts possible in city after city. This may sound like some kind of wacko conspiracy theory, but team owners and managers have conferences where they discuss this shit. And it always works.

1) Pretend your arena is about to collapse. Commision a study that backs you up on this. After reading this book I can't believe I was stupid enough to believe that Arco can't be remodeled after reading that in Voison's column. Can't be remodeled? What kind of building can't be remodeled? You could remodel the fucking Pantheon if you wanted to (and they should, that shit is TACKY-it looks like Carmela Soprano's dream gazebo). In a study commisioned by the owners of the Detroit Tigers they said that the historic baseball stadium had to be torn down because salt used to melt snow over the years had corroded the steel girders. This was a total lie and a study commisioned by a citizen's group that wanted to save the stadium found that it needed minor remodeling. By the way, after a decade of fighting to save their beloved stadium, the citizens lost and it was torn down. On the other hand, it has led to a complete revitalization of Detroit, making it safe, prosperous, and a popular tourist destination. Oh wait. No it didn't.

2) Start indirectly threatening to move your team. This is delicate, because owners have learned that if they outright threaten to move, this can cause a backlash against them. If local fans start hating you, it can make your life miserable. So the trick is to publicly say over and over that you're not moving, you love the city, etc., while all the while having your spokesman or the press say that you will move if you don't get the new arena.

3)Start claiming you can't be "competetive" on the existing field. This is a very vague claim, but if you can pull this one off it helps to get loyal fans on your side. Fans want their team to win, after all. I don't think I've heard this one from the Maloofs yet, but these arena fights usually last years, so it could be still to come.

4) Trumpet the supposed economic benefits of the stadium. This tactic has been going on for a few years now.
Trouble is, the numbers can be manipulated any way you want and in city after city the new arenas have been shown to have little or no economic impact.

5) Declare a crisis. If the negotiating has been going on longer than you'd like, start whining that time is running out. This is why the Maloofs stormed out of the city council meeting. It seemed weird and inappropriate until I read this and understood that this was a calculated move. And it had its desired effect, which was to shake everyone up (the Bee even referred to the city council as "shaken" after the Maloofs left) and make them think that they had better push the arena through.

6) the author's call this one "moving the goalposts" and i'm sure we'll see some examples of it over the next few years. Once we agree to build the stadium, the Maloofs can renegotiate for ever more favorable terms, because once we start building they have us where they want us. They can always threaten to leave in the middle of construction if they don't like the way things are going.

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