A new arena south of CenturyLink Field?
Potential NBA and NHL franchises alongside the current Seattle Seahawks and Mariners?
None of that would be a problem for Seattle’s Major League Soccer franchise, according to Sounders FC majority owner Joe Roth.
“I think it’s great,” Roth said in a recent interview. “I don’t think the traffic (around the new arena would be an issue). It would have less effect on us, frankly, than the Mariners just because of the number of games. But this city should have a basketball team. I was around when that thing went down (the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma). I don’t think it was the NBA’s finest hour.”
This week, the Seattle City Council approved a financing plan that could result in the creation of a $490 million arena in the SoDo district, which could house NBA and NHL teams.
Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, who is seeking a new hockey arena in Alberta, also visited Seattle this week.
In Roth’s view, the region has the fans and potential sponsors to support professional teams in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer.
“I think the TV deals, there’s a way to make that all work together where there’s an advantage to it,” he said. “Sponsorships? Sure, it’ll be competitive; but most of the time the sponsors that we have, they stick around. … It’s a great sports town.”
XBOX HEADING FOR EXIT?
The Sounders announced on Aug. 15 that CAA Sports had been hired to explore the team’s jersey-sponsor options for 2014, when the current deal with Xbox expires.
Speaking more than a month later, Roth sounded pessimistic that the current Xbox sponsorship will continue.
“They’re not out of the running,” he said. “They’ve just had a very unimaginative conversation over the course of the past year. They see things differently than we do. …They’ve been great partners, and I wish they’d stay on. I wish they would see it the same way that we do.”
Before their expansion 2009 season, the Sounders announced an agreement with Xbox to be the jersey sponsor for five years. Neither the club nor Xbox maker Microsoft revealed financial arrangements. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Redmond-based company would pay $20 million over the life of the deal. As part of the arrangement, Xbox 360 also was recognized as the video game console of MLS, and became title sponsor of the playing surface, known as Xbox Pitch.
However, Roth said that the Sounders have tripled the home attendance that was promised at the time and more than doubled the television ratings. The club wants its next jersey deal to reflect those higher numbers.
“We just saw our value as compared to the tops in our league: Toronto, Los Angeles, teams like that,” Roth said. “We felt like we should have some sort of (deal) like they do.”
Fifteen of the other 18 MLS teams also have jersey sponsorships: Chicago (Quaker), Chivas USA (Corona), Columbus (Barbasol), D.C. United (Volkswagen), Dallas (AdvoCare), Houston (Greenstar), Los Angeles (Herbalife), Montreal (BMO), New England (United Healthcare), New York (Red Bull), Philadelphia (Bimbo), Portland (Alaska Airlines), Salt Lake (Xango), Toronto (BMO) and Vancouver (Bell).
Roth said he values the appeal of Xbox and its association with the Northwest region – but within limits.
“If it was close, we would have caved like an accordion,” he said. “I came to believe after a long series of negotiations that they weren’t interested.”
A Microsoft spokesman provided this emailed statement: “At Xbox and Microsoft, we are proud to remain the jersey sponsor of the beloved Seattle Sounders FC franchise through the 2013 season. We have no further details to share about current or future contract negotiations.”
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