Saturday, February 03, 2007

Conor Casey To MLS, Rapids, Toronto FC

Awhile back I mentioned that the Rapids FO were keen on bringing Colorado boy Conor Casey to the Rapids. Casey will be out of contract and is available on a free. The Rapids were careful with what they had to say on the situation. After all, most teams in Major League Soccer are higher on the allocation list than they are right now. I haven't been able to confirm it yet but the current rumor is that the striker that Toronto FC's coach Mo Johnston is trying to bring in Casey.

Friday, February 02, 2007

RSL Stadium Deal, On Again?

RSLFM is reporting on the chatter in Utah that a new stadium deal may be on the verge of happening. As mentioned earlier this week, the stadium deal for Real Salt Lake has looked all but dead. Earlier in January Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis had announced the stadium deal was dead. And last week Salt Lake County's debt committee said Real Salt Lake's business projections weren't realistic and voted against issuing bonds for the project. But as they say, it ain't over until the fat lady sings. And despite Curtis' comments, it look like the legislature still may step in with a bill that will specifically direct some of Salt Lake County's hotel tax to funding a new stadium for Real Salt Lake. Like the rumored Rapids name change, we'll just have to wait and see. Nothing is official just yet.

Rapids Name Change?

Despite all the chatter out there, as of 8am mountain time (and ridiculously chilly -9F at that) the Rapids have not officially announced a new name. They may do so today. We will find out. Some friends said that local channel 9 news this morning was reporting that the Colorado Rapids have changed their name. Will we see a new shield later today with "Arsenal" instead of "Rapids" on it?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

KSE, Rapids, Arsenal

One other note on the name change speculation for the Rapids. It just may happen. But keep in mind Kroenke's KSE is has a new team in a new outdoor lacrosse league that will also be playing at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. There's no more reason to assume they'll be renaming the Colorado Rapids to the Arsenal, as some are claiming who have noted that KSE owns a couple variations of the domain name, than there is to assume that this is going to be the name for the new outdoor lacrosse team. If anything, it's more likely to be for that than the soccer team. But we'll just have to wait and see until later today to know that. Or Friday...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rivaldo To Rapids - Big Announcement Tomorrow (Thursday)

There have been reports and rumors that the MLS has been in talks with Rivaldo's agent. Normally New York was linked with the player. They have a 2nd DP slot to use and Red Bull has the deep pockets. But NYRB's asst. coach Jeff Agoos has flat out denied being interested in bringing Rivaldo into the fold. The Rapids have a big announcement tomorrow. It's going to be the team's new colors. That's a no brainer. The question is, what else will occur? There is some speculation that there will be a name change. That could make sense since even though there have been leaked mock ups and photos of the new uniform and shield. A simple change could result in something like below. It wouldn't take much to modify the name Rapids as seen in this pic. Personally though I have a hunch that something else is up. They're talking about big announcements for Thursday and Friday. When was the last time a team held news conferences 2 days in a row? Don't be surprised when something no one was expecting happens like a big signing player announcement. Rivaldo's agent, how was dinner at Kroenke's penthouse?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Real Salt Lake Leaving Salt Lake Behind?

It's not surprising since things haven't gone well, but there is new speculation on the future of Real Salt Lake (RSL). Despite a ground breaking in August, RSL does not have all it's financing in place for their new stadium / hotel / office complex. You read that correctly, they had a ground breaking to announce they were building something before they new they could actually build it. Normally in those circumstances, you would assume the deal is close to done and just a few minor formalities are needed to complete it. But that wasn't so clear this past summer. Salt Lake County rejected the initial proposal. The financing available, a hotel tax, wouldn't kick in for a few years so the county was facing a few years without payments on their $30m in bonding for the $100 million project. The county balked as too much debt would accumulate during a couple years of non-payments (that is, interest added to principal and then interest added to interest on top of principal). To get an idea what this is like, ask your bank what your mortgage payments would be like had you not made a single payment for the first 3 years. What happens to that $250, 000 mortgage? If you're lucky it jumps to $300k. That's right, the $250k really is $300k+. If you thought the payments on 250 were a pain, good luck with the $300k+ ones. Now imagine what that sort of difference is for $30 million. The problem is that RSL's owner Dave Checketts and Sandy's Mayor Tom Dolan didn't take this into account. Or at best they did and didn't feel that such a jump in debt would matter to the politicians voting on this matter. But those with the vote, including RSL season-ticket holder and Salt Lake County Peter Corroon, didn't feel it was a good deal and rejected it early last summer (note : Salt Lake County has a board headed by a mayor; don't confuse with Salt Lake City and their Mayor Rocky Anderson). What was surprising is that soon after that the city of Sandy and RSL came back with nearly they same deal. The difference was that Sandy was coming up with $15 million to fill the bonding's financing gap. The problem with this plan was, as we can see today, it only addressed one of the many concerns voiced by those voting against the stadium. Leading up to the original proposal, Utah had been changing it's laws in regards to RDA money (similar to TIFFs). There was already a recent history of public debate over how much good comes out of public financing of any sort of project like this. Fresh on the heels of this debate, RSL popped onto the scene and started asking for money. First for infrastructure and land for a$60 million stadium project. Last this project turned into a $110 million hotel, office and stadium project. Did owner-operator Dave Checketts, RSL CEO Dean Howes and others involved not think that such a large jump on the overall price tag not have an affect on public perception? While not a major mistake in itself, moves like this played into the public perception that this project was just another rich businessman looking for public money instead of spending their own. Another move that played into this was RSL's reluctance to show transparency in regards to their finances. Given the public mood over the project and it's initial problems, RSL's leaders should have been searching to proactively address more of the issues at hand rather than just that of the ballooning debt. Stepping forward and publicly volunteering financial information would've helped. After all, when you're asked to do so and complain it raises eyebrows. What does RSL have to hide? But in the end I think the real problem came down to a lack of leadership at Real Salt Lake. Recently new stadiums have been built for baseball teams in DC and Minneapolis despite clear, strong public opposition to these deals. One poll of DC voters found those in opposition of public financing out numbers those in favor by 2 to 1. St. Paul voters twice rejected building the Minnesota Twins a new stadium in referendums. And the current deal that was passed for Hennepin County to finance the lion share of the stadium with a sales tax included a clause that wouldn't allow a voter referendum to held. Not exactly the sort of thing you do if you think most people favor the legislation. Why did they succeed when RSL failed? There aren't any silver bullets in life (sorry, Lone Ranger). Surely one of the major reasons these proposals failed is leadership. When things didn't go well for Checketts and company, the media had reports of Checketts butting heads with the very officials he was trying to persuade to fund the project. After the first proposal failed, Checketts had a public exchange heated words with Corroon and others on the county board. And it happened again recently after the county's debt committee recommended against the revised plan. Not only was RSL's management spending time haggling with those they were asking favors, they were doing so when the public was giving those leaders no reason to help Real Salt Lake. Just look at the recent election, Utah's House Speaker Greg Curtis was re-elected by only 20 votes. Not only did RSL's management fail to win support from leadership, they failed to anticipate how they should go about appeasing the public's fears. While they're never going to win over all of Utah's hearts and minds, they could have learned from the RDA debate leading up to their proposals. Had they done so, they would see that no matter how inaccurate it may be opponents will try to to frame the issue in a way that favors their viewpoint (actually, that's basic politics that again Real Salt Lake's management failed at). To ensure their proposal would pass when the majority of the public opposed it, Checketts should have made sure to have some school officials on his side before going to battle. They should anticipated the "you're taking money from the schools" angle. Another thing they could have done was get their word out to public from day one that they were only looking for money for land and infrastructure and framed it again what the Utah Jazz got for the Delta Center in terms of real dollars. There are other similar things that could have been done to help ease the public's fears. And having done that the politicians may have gone ahead with the plan despite the public opposition. After all, it's worked in other places. Why didn't it work in Utah?