More Stadium Gamesand Their Lawyers
While the value of TV contracts for many collegiate and professional sports continues to rise, so does the cost of constructing arenas and stadiums for the teams that lure fans to their TV screens and the seats of those facilities.
Last week, for example, the Los Angeles city council approved a plan to move forward with a $1.2 billion downtown football stadium backed by sports and entertainment giant AEG in the hope of luring a National Football League team back to the city after a 17-year absence. (The Los Angeles Rams, advised by Irell & Manella, left for St. Louis in 1995, the same year the Raiders returned to Oakland.)
Before construction on 76,000-seat Farmers Field can begin, a portion of the city's existing convention center must first be torn downa project that will be funded with $300 million in municipal bonds. AEG is to repay those bonds with proceeds from the stadium and an upgraded convention center, according to the Los Angeles Times, which has the full details on the plan.
Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few attorneys involved in the process. Los Angeles city attorney Carmen Trutanich, who has been in the news lately for unrelated reasons, is working closely on the project with a land use team composed of deputy city attorneys Edward Jordan, Kimberly Miera, Michael Bostrom, and Judith Reel, chief assistant city attorney Pedro "Pete" Echeverria, and senior assistant city attorney Jane Usher, a former general counsel of the now-defunct United States Football League.
Nixon Peabody is serving as bond and tax counsel to the city for the financing portion of the project aimed at upgrading the convention center. Public finance partner Charles Wolf and tax partners Travis Gibbs and Bruce Serchuk are leading a team from the firm working on the matter. (Public records show that a potential conflict led Los Angeles to hire Nixon Peabody last year to replace Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.)
Complicating matters is the fact that AEG's billionaire owner, Philip Anschutz, has put the company up for sale. Hogan Lovells is advising AEG in connection with that process, according to our previous reports, and several potential buyers have already stepped forward. AEG chief legal and development officer Ted Fikre and William Delvac, a name partner at Los Angelesbased Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac, have taken the lead on the stadium project.
Another wrinkle is the suit filed against the state of California in August by the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition, which claims that a state law passed earlier this year that expedites the legal process for challenges against the stadium on environmental grounds is unconstitutional.
Fernando Gaytan and Barbara Schultz, senior attorneys with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, are backing the coalition, along with solo practitioner Robert Newman Jr. and Dan Stormer, a name partner at Pasadena-based Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick. Schultz told The Am Law Daily on Thursday that the coalition has retained Sabrina Venskus of Venskus & Associates for another suit it will file challenging the stadium project itself.
Farmers Field does have the support of the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose senior attorney David Pettit appeared before a city council committee meeting last month and said the Play Fair suit could scuttle the proposed stadium's construction, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Around the Horn
Nixon Peabody beat out several other firms earlier this year for the right to represent Erie County, New York, on its stadium lease negotiations with the NFLs Buffalo Bills, according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal. Unable to reach a longer agreement, The Associated Press reports the Bills and Erie County signed a one-year extension in September.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority selected Dorsey & Whitney and Minneapolis-based Fabyanske Westra Hart & Thomson last month as general counsel and legal counsel for stadium construction, respectively, according to the Minnesota Lawyer. Jay Lindgren, chair of Dorsey's infrastructure practice and cochair of its urban redevelopment group, serves as general counsel for the MSFA, which is tasked with supervising the construction of a new stadium for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. The Am Law Daily reported last year on the lawyers helping the Vikings in their push for a new stadium, which was finally approved in May.
The NFL isn't the only major sports league being wooed with new stadiums. The Am Law Daily reported last month on the firms backing a $490 million plan to build a new arena in Seattle for a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League franchise. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the mayor of Louisville and local community leaders met last month to discuss the possibility of bringing an NBA team to the city, according to The Courier-Journal. Local lawyer J. Bruce Miller, a longtime booster for bringing an NBA franchise to Louisville, told The Courier-Journal earlier this year that a group of Chinese investors he had lined up lost interest in a deal during the NBA lockout. C. Edward Glasscock, chairman emeritus of Frost Brown Todd, serves as general counsel of the Louisville Arena Authority.
MLBs Oakland Athletics stormed toward the playoffs in the seasons final month, but the team will likely have to wait until year-end to learn whether they can build a new stadium in nearby San Jose, according to the Los Angeles Times. An antistadium group backed by the rival San Francisco Giants and represented by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman sued San Jose in December 2011 over the proposed 32,000-seat stadium, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig is expected to step in and mediate the increasingly nasty dispute.
MLB has a variety of other legal headaches to contend with. The outside counsel that prepared its high-profile steroids report, DLA Piper, is under fire for not turning over information on two player agents accused of working with a convicted steroids dealer, according to The New York Times. Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is being sued by his ex-wife Jamierepresented by Bertram Fields of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtingerover the value of their divorce settlement given the record-setting $2.15 billion sale of the team out of bankruptcy earlier this year. The New York Yankees are being sued by concession workers at their new stadiumwhich cost taxpayers $4 billionwho claim they have been cheated out of tips due to an automatic billing system, according to the New York Post. And in what can't be good news for their lenders, New York's other team, the financially hard-pressed Mets, expect to lose $23 million this season. Sibling publication Corporate Counsel recently caught up with Mets general counsel David Cohen to discuss his role with the team.
Broke, a new documentary by ESPN, looks at the surge of current and former professional athletes finding themselves insolvent after earning millions during their careers. One ex-player featured in the film is former Boston Red Sox star Curt Schilling, who this week was forced to post as collateral proceeds from the potential sale of a bloody sock he wore while winning a key game against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, according to the AP. Schillings video game company 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy in June, and the following month a trustee in the case sought to hire Cozen OConnor, according to our previous reports. Cozen has already billed nearly $90,000 for its efforts in the case, and news reports reveal that other firms are seeking reimbursement for their services as well.
This article originally appeared in The AmLaw Daily.