Been taking some time away from this site to work on other projects, but hey, it’s summer, right? Nothing new ever happens now, certainly not anyone dropping news of an entirely new arena plan out of nowhere—
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has begun to explore potential sites for a new Clippers arena, multiple NBA sources said.
What the whaaaa? The Clippers have long had one of the most stable arena deals in sports, playing in the 17-year-old-but-none-dare-call-it-anything-but-state-of-the-art Staples Center alongside the Lakers and Kings. According to the ESPN report, Ballmer is sick of playing third fiddle to the other two teams, and wants to explore whether he can do better by going it alone:
A new facility owned and operated by the team would afford the Clippers greater power to maximize earning opportunities, from sponsorship to licensing fees. As the owner of Staples Center, AEG retains control over naming rights, the business operations of running the facility for events and other substantial revenue streams like concessions.
Well, yes. You know what else a new facility owned and operated by the team would come with? Around a billion dollars in construction debt, that’s what. And while L.A. is conceivably one of the few places where you could make a good chunk of that back on naming rights and maybe seat license sales — i.e., the Rams playbook — that’s quite a hefty nut to pay off before you start enjoying all your maximized earning opportunities. Plus, L.A. is already bursting at the seams with existing arenas, so it’s not like Ballmer would have an easy time filling dates at top dollar on non-basketball nights.
(I’m not even going to get into the possibility of Ballmer asking for public money to help out, because it’s L.A. — or possibly Inglewood — and he’d have to hold a public referendum, but we probably shouldn’t rule it out entirely, because America.)
Of course, it’s also possible something else is going on here. The Clippers’ lease doesn’t expire until 2024, so whatever Ballmer is up to, it has a long lead time. So this could be a matter of exploring his options, or leaning on the Staples Center to give him a revised lease (or lease extension) so that he doesn’t explore his options, or doing whichever he decides is most lucrative once he gets there — i.e., the Islanders playbook. Only one thing’s for sure: He’s not going to Seattle.
“The Clippers are not going anywhere, ever,” Ballmer said. “I will die owning the L.A. Clippers in Los Angeles.”
Or maybe that just means that Ballmer has an incurable disease and less than eight years to live. Parsing owner statements is endless fun!