Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer went and said this this week:
“Last time I checked with any of my friends who are in the real-estate business, you’d better have an option than just going back to your current landlord hat in hand and saying, ‘Please, please, please, sir, please give me the chance to play in your building again.’ So, yeah, we’re going to have real options. We’re out sort of putting together those options today.”
This is being interpreted as an intention to build a new arena just for the Clippers by the time their Staples Center lease expires in 2024, and clearly Ballmer is going to be investigating that. But it’s also clear — both from Ballmer’s statement and from simple economics — that the Clippers owner is looking to create leverage so that he can negotiate a better lease on his current home if that looks like a better option. I.e., same as it was when he first said this back in August.
Ballmer has said he won’t move the team out of L.A., so it looks like his only two options are to spend maybe $1 billion on a new arena just for himself somewhere in SoCal, or to use that threat to extract more money from his Staples lease. This is his right, and more power to him — at least assuming he doesn’t try to play cities off against each other to try to get public subsidies to pay for his new home, which has proven tough in California — but let’s name our threats accurately, shall we?