Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Old, Empty Stadiums Could Be Last-Minute Gifts -

Old, Empty Stadiums Could Be Last-Minute Gifts -
[SP1] Associated Press
The Pontiac Silverdome is shown last month.

Most sports fans assume that once a stadium or arena is replaced by a newer model, the old house is immediately blown to smithereens in a pyrotechnics show that would make James Cameron proud. But many more than you think are still around. Some have historical value, while others are still bringing in funds to cash-strapped municipalities. Who knows, some may even be available to well-heeled holiday shoppers looking for a last-minute gift. Here are a few:

Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.
Thirty-five years after taxpayers spent $56 million to build it, this domed stadium, once home to the NFL's Detroit Lions and NBA's Pistons, was auctioned off last month for $583,000 to the highest bidder—a developer from Toronto. After several lawsuits, the deal is expected to go through this month because the city can no longer afford to maintain it. The developer, Andreas Apostolopoulos, spent last week in Pontiac and says he is in discussions with Major League Soccer to bring a team to the Detroit area. He says the stadium might not be quite the bargain it appears, given the amount he'll have to invest to bring the facility up to speed. "There's a lot of work to do first," he says.
Reliant Astrodome, Houston
The world's first domed sports stadium, the Astrodome was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it opened in 1965 to house baseball's Astros and football's Oilers. But since the Astros moved into Minute Maid Park (née Enron Field) for the 2000 season, after the Oilers had already decamped for Tennessee for the 1997 season, the city has spent millions over the years on basic upkeep even though the dome has no major tenants. After plans fell through to convert the facility into a hotel and convention center, there are groups lobbying to turn it into everything from a movie studio to a planetarium.
Pyramid Arena, Memphis, Tenn.
Associated Press
The Pyramid in Memphis shown in early 2008.
Opened in 1991, this 20,000-seat arena on the banks of the Mississippi—one of the world's 10 largest pyramids—housed the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis men's basketball team until both moved to the FedEx Forum in 2004. Shelby County, which sold its half share in the arena to the City of Memphis this year, has considered refashioning the pyramid as a casino or an aquarium. A local congressman suggested opening a new branch of the Smithsonian Institution. Sporting-goods outfitter Bass Pro Shops is renting the pyramid for $35,000 a month with plans to convert it into a megastore, but a spokesman says the company won't purchase the building.
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington
Former home of both the Redskins and baseball's second Senators franchise, which moved to Texas to become the Rangers after the 1971 season, the 48-year-old RFK hasn't been able to hook a new team for long despite $18.5 million in renovations for baseball's Nationals, which played there from 2005 through 2007. Critics pronounced it one of baseball's worst stadiums on account of its cramped quarters and awkward layout. The resident DC United soccer team hopes to have a new home by 2012.
Balboa Stadium, San Diego
Built in 1914, this facility housed the Chargers during some of their winningest years from 1961 to 1966 and hosted three American Football League championship games during that period. Now owned by the city of San Diego and leased to the local school district, the stadium has fallen into such disrepair that many soccer players and runners fear injury on the worn-down track and torn-up turf. The city and district have said they can't afford renovation.
Olympic Stadium, MontrealSP3
Associated Press
Montreal's Olympic Stadium in 2001.
Designed for the 1976 Olympic Games by ambitious French architect Roger Taillibert, this structure—which was part of a $1.5 billion project that was just paid off a few years ago—has been plagued by problems since its inception, thanks to labor strikes, fires and a host of structural snafus. The inclined tower—now the highest in the world—wasn't finished in time for the Olympics, nor was the retractable roof, which proved unstable in high winds even when it was completed a decade later. Part of the roof collapsed before the Montreal auto show in 1999. Once home to baseball's Expos, a soccer team and the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, the stadium was used this month for a swine-flu-vaccination clinic.
Beijing National Stadium, Beijing
This stadium, built for about a half billion dollars before the 2008 Olympic Games and better known as the "Bird's Nest," was transformed into a snow park this month, much to the chagrin of environmentalists who say creating the artificial snow is a waste of water, especially given the continuing drought in the area. The snow festival is one of only a handful of events the stadium has hosted since the Olympics. With annual operating costs of roughly $10 million, the facility was placed under government management in August to curb financial losses.
Alamodome, San Antonio
Opened in 1993, the nearly $200 million arena was forsaken seven years ago by the NBA's Spurs, fans of which complained of poor views from many seats in the designed-for-football stadium. (The Spurs now play in the AT&T Center). In 2005 the San Antonio City Council voted to spend close to $6.5 million to renovate the arena to lure a Major League Soccer franchise to the city, but it soon abandoned that plan, and the city hopes to someday draw an NFL team. One of Texas' least-utilized stadiums, it hosted the New Orleans Saints for a few games in 2005 when they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The stadium's bread and butter is playing host each year to college football's Alamo Bowl, which this season will feature Texas Tech against Michigan State.
The Forum, Inglewood, Calif.
Home of the Los Angeles Lakers and NHL's Kings until both moved to the Staples Center in 1999, this circular, $16 million arena was purchased by the Faithful Central Bible Church in 2000, though the church stopped holding regular services in the arena earlier this year. The church's Web site states "WE ARE AVAILABLE" for film shoots and rehearsal space; earlier this year the Lakers played a preseason game in the Forum to celebrate the team's 50th season in Los Angeles. The arena also has hosted big health clinics for low-income families.
Write to Hannah Karp at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lions Ex-Stadium, Once Super Bowl Host, Sells for $7.25 a Seat - Bloomberg

Lions Ex-Stadium, Once Super Bowl Host, Sells for $7.25 a Seat - Bloomberg

Over the past decade, Pontiac spurned offers of $17 million, $18.5 million and $22 million for the Silverdome, the Oakland Press reported.
“We proved nobody’s interested in paying that much because we held an auction that was advertised worldwide,” Leeb said.
Property values in the Detroit area have plummeted. Homes there have lost 28 percent of their value since 2000, according to the S&P/Case Shiller home price index.
The Lions vacated the Silverdome in 2002 to play at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. Since then, the stadium that once hosted the Super Bowl has been used for tractor pulls and auto auctions and served as a staging ground for construction materials, Leeb said.
It’s been a long decline since the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI, Jan. 24, 1982, before a crowd of 81,270.
“It was state of the art 20 years ago,” Andrew E. Meisner, treasurer of Oakland county, where Pontiac is located, said in a phone interview. “It’s been a symbol of neglect.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

City of Pontiac auctions off the Silverdome - Oct. 7, 2009

City of Pontiac auctions off the Silverdome - Oct. 7, 2009

"The reason we're putting it up for auction is because the Detroit Lions moved out years ago, and since then it's only been used sporadically," Leeb said. "So we want to convert a major premier asset of the city -- convert it from something that's been languishing into a new, vibrant marquee asset of the community."

Leeb acknowledged that "demolition is a possibility."

But the city is willing to work with a buyer to give the Silverdome new life. "We established a very flexible zoning ordinance to allow people to do virtually anything that makes economic sense," Leeb said.

Mark Rosentraub, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan and an expert in stadium finance and construction, said the city of Pontiac faces a tough sell in trying to get a good price for the now-empty dome, considering the state of the Michigan economy.

"The Detroit or southeast Michigan market does not need the dome in its current uses," he said. "The population base is not expanding, and between The Palace in Auburn Hills, Ford Field and the Joe Lewis Arena [both in Detroit], anyone looking at it has to have an alternate use in mind for the facility or the land."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Metro Times - News+Views: Dome sweet dome

Metro Times - News+Views: Dome sweet dome
 By Sandra Svoboda, Metrotimes, Published 9/16/09:

"...Now, after seven years without professional football at the Silverdome, and three failed rounds of bidding and negotiations to sell the site, Leeb says it's time for the landmark to go.

The city, with a $6.5 million deficit from last year and $106 million in debt, can't afford the $1.5 million it's paying annually in upkeep, security and insurance for the shuttered facility and its 127-acre site, he says.

"The Silverdome has been for sale for several years, but it's been a ping-pong ball between the City Council and the mayor. Both sides have blamed each other for causing deals that have been in hand to slip through their fingers," Leeb says."

In 2002, the city started accepting bids and proposals in a negotiation process that would last until 2006. Three finalists presented plans that included businesses, residential structures and entertainment venues with purchase offers between $11 million and $18.5 million. By February 2006, the two remaining proposals were withdrawn.

In 2007, another attempt to sell the Silverdome began. Last year the City Council approved a $20 million offer from Bloomfield Hills attorney H. Wallace Parker and his Silver Stallion Development Corp. that would have brought a hotel, casino, conference center and horse racetrack to the site. The mayor vetoed the sale but the City Council overrode it. Negotiations were not completed by the November deadline. Parker did not return telephone calls to Metro Times this week.
Two weeks ago, the City Council rejected Leeb's plan to auction the Silverdome site, voting unanimously against it at its Sept. 3 meeting, mainly because of the no-minimum-bid provision. But the council's opposition has no teeth.

"Mr. Leeb does have the authority to go ahead and move forward with what he wants to do," says council member Susan Shoemaker. "What the emergency financial manager wants, that's what the city of Pontiac is going to get."

Shoemaker, like some other council members, agrees the Silverdome should be sold, but thinks the city should be able to set a minimum price to at least guarantee reasonable income from the sale and future property tax revenue. The current economic climate makes that more important, she says: "I think we'll get maybe $500,000 in this kind of economy."

Council members suggested seeking proposals from moviemakers to blow it up as part of a film or to run a demolition school at the site, allowing students to dismantle the structure, and letting the city sell the scrap.

If the Silverdome comes back to life, it would be unusual among NFL teams' former homes. Seattle's Kingdome, of the same generation of stadiums as the Silverdome, was blown up a few years ago. The Orange Bowl, which the Miami Dolphins left in 1987, was torn down and is now the site of the Marlins' new stadium. Football stadiums in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Denver have been razed as well.

Former deputy mayor Leon Jukowski, who was one of eight candidates on the ballot in this week's primary election for mayor, would also like to see the Silverdome sold. But he'd like a guarantee of property taxes to be paid.

"You need to do an auction that says, 'The number I will hear from you is the amount of taxes you'll pay each year,'" he says.

Leeb says future taxes will be determined by Oakland County, which is contracted to do Pontiac's assessing; property values are to be determined by sale price, present value of cash flow at the site and construction costs. "With apartment buildings, the city could agree with the developer-owner on a payment in lieu of tax where the city could be paid a specific amount generally tied to the revenue of the property," Leeb wrote to Metro Times in an e-mail. "This amount, however, is typically less than the tax that would be paid based on the normal property tax assessment. This would reduce revenue to the city rather than increase it, but it would, hopefully, stimulate development in the city."

State Rep. Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills), whose district includes the site, says because the city of Pontiac will feel the sting of the current economic downtown and housing crisis for years, it's important that the Silverdome site get back on the tax rolls as soon as possible.

"I think it's the most valuable piece of property in North America. It's positioned next to M-59 and I-75 in Oakland County, the economic engine of the state," he says. "It's too valuable a piece of property. I think we'll see something soon."

Aug. 23, 1975 – The Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium opens after nearly two years of construction. The $55.7 million cost is financed with bonds issued by the city. Its name is changed in recognition of its silver-colored roof.
Oct. 6, 1975 — The Lions first regular-season game is played, a 36-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
April 30, 1977 — Led Zeppelin performs for 76,229 fans, the largest indoor musical audience at the time.
1978 to 1988 — The Dome is home to the Detroit Pistons.
Jan. 24, 1982 — The Silverdome hosts Superbowl XVI. The San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21.
March 29, 1987 — Wrestlemania III lures 93,173 attendees, the largest ever for a single sporting event.
1996 — The Detroit Lions announce they will move to a downtown facility, yet-to-be-constructed.
December 2000 — The City of Pontiac sues the Lions, trying to force the team to honor its 30-year lease that was to have run through 2006.
November 2001 — Pontiac and the Lions settle the suit with the team paying the city $26.3 million, more than the remaining $14 million in bond debt.
Jan. 6, 2002 — The Detroit Lions play their final game at the Silverdome, a 15-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys, before moving to Ford Field.
May 2002 — Online bidding begins for potential purchasers and developers for the Silverdome site.
July 2003 — Three finalists in the first-round bidding appear at a public forum to present their proposals which include offices, retail, restaurants, technology businesses, a hotel, an aquarium and convention space among the plans.
November 2004 — The Michigan High School Athletic Association holds its last football finals at the Silverdome, moving them to Ford Field in 2005. High school teams had played at the dome since 1976.
June 2005-February 2006 — The two remaining proposals from the July 2003 bidding deadline are withdrawn.
March 2007 — The Silverdome officially closes.
October 2007 — Nine bidders say they are interested in the site during the second round of bidding.
March 2008 — Seven plans are proposed at the deadline of the third round of bidding, including baseball, a casino, an indoor water park, horse racing, a convention center and a research park.
July 2008 — The Pontiac City Council votes 4-2 in favor of the potential $20 million Silverdome sale to Bloomfield Hills attorney H. Wallace Parker's Silver Stallion Development Corp. Mayor Clarence Phillips vetoes it. The City Council overrides the veto.
November 2008 — The deadline for the dome's sale to Silver Stallion passes without the city and the group making a deal.
March 2009 — Gov. Jennifer Granholm appoints Fred Leeb as Pontiac's emergency financial manager.
June 2009 — Emergency Financial Manager Fred Leeb announces plans to auction off the dome and plug its drain on city finances.
Sept. 3, 2009 — The Pontiac City Council unanimously rejects Leeb's proposal to auction the site with no minimum bid required. Leeb has the authority to proceed anyway.
Sandra Svoboda is a Metro Times staff writer. Contact her at 313-202-8015 or

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Michigan feels brunt of GM's bankruptcy | The Detroit News |

Michigan feels brunt of GM's bankruptcy | The Detroit News |

Pontiac: The announcement that GM's Assembly and Stamping plants in Pontiac were on the list piled more bad news on an already struggling city. Pontiac's state-appointed emergency financial manager, Fred Leeb, said the shutdown of the East Assembly Plant will cost Pontiac about one-fifth of its $50 million general fund.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SOM - Emergency Loan Board Names Financial Manager For the City of Pontiac

SOM - Emergency Loan Board Names Financial Manager For the City of Pontiac

The Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB) today, named Fred Leeb Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) for the City of Pontiac, effective Monday, March 23, 2009. Leeb, a turnaround specialist, is Owner and Manager of Nonprofit Management Group, LLC and Fred Leeb & Associates, LLC, based in Orchard Lake, Michigan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Top Six Overlooked Business Assets  
By Fred Leeb
Year-end holidays are traditionally a time for thanksgiving, reflection, appreciation of the people around us and preparation for the new year and upcoming winter.  This year, we also must prepare for a very harsh business climate in which the economic pie is getting smaller.  It is the perfect time to take a fresh look at all of your business assets, maximize their value using new techniques and begin to implement improvements.  This newsletter is designed to give you some tangible ideas on how to begin this process now.
Often CEO's are Too Close to Day-to-day Operations to Fully Appreciate the People and Assets Around Them
The Best CEO's Recognize They Should Bring in Consultants Periodically to Help Them Unlock the Full Potential of Their Assets

We have found that many of our clients have untapped strengths that represent major opportunities to improve cash flow.  Even though business owners have worked hard for years to build up these strengths, they are too close to day-to-day operations to see them.  They need an experienced and unbiased outsider to help unlock this potential.  When times were better, CEO's could be content to rely on themselves and not to take this step but this is a luxury that they can not afford any longer.  The best business owners recognize they must constantly hunt for new ideas and business perspectives, often with the help of objective consultants, to achieve the highest returns on their assets. 
The one thing we know about this economy is that it will get much tougher; the business cycle will never bring us back to 2007.   If we use all of our resources creatively now, however, we will be on track to thrive again rather than just survive over the next few years. 
The Top Six Overlooked Business Assets
During our 20 years of consulting with many small, medium and large businesses we have been able to take advantage of many opportunities to help our clients quickly increase their cash flow.  Some of the most significant ways to increase the return on unrecognized and underutilized assets are as follows:
  • Employee knowledge:  The employees frequently know more about the business, on a collective basis, than the CEO and are a tremendous untapped source of valuable information.  By  bringing in a consultant to interview employees, the CEO is telling the employees that he/she is serious about wanting their input, there are new opportunities for employee advancement and visibility (by providing new ideas) and that the employees can speak confidentially, if desired.  Remarkable value can be generated in many areas including the following:
1) Employees have the most face-to-face/first-hand meetings with customers and vendors.  During these meetings and discussions, they get valuable feedback on product pricing, quality, delivery timing, product features, packaging and potential add-ons. 
2) Employees know which employees and family members are pulling their weight, which have leadership potential, and which are committed to the success of the business and the cause of improving morale.  They also know who can benefit the most from additional training and who are entitled to promotions.
3) Employees have ideas for potential innovations, cost reductions, new efficiencies, decreases in "shrinkage", better usage of inventory and methods of collecting receivables.  
  • Ability and energy:  Even though many managers are highly capable, the CEO often does not allow them to manage.  As a result, many significant risks and opportunities are not addressed.  In fact, the company may be limited more by the lack of management resources than a lack of cash. 
CEO's frequently could give much more responsibility and authority to their management team.  This would take some of the burden off the CEO, enable time for high-return special projects, and cause the business to be managed much more effectively.  The CEO should remember that these managers were hired because it was recognized long ago that it was not in the best interest of the company for the CEO to do everything him/herself.  On the other hand, if the CEO can not trust the managers to do their job, the managers should be replaced.  Otherwise, the CEO is perpetuating low returns on the company's investments in managers' salaries and training dollars. 
The managers can and should be the source of encouragement for the employees, new ideas, energy and future leadership ability.    
  • Professional expertise: The company already has paid for at least five outside advisors (the banker, consultant, accountant, attorney and insurance broker) to go up the learning curve on the intricacies of its business.  If CEO's would use these professionals judiciously, rather than try to keep them at bay, they could significantly improve the returns on these often-overlooked assets.
After working on the company's investments, business plans, financial projections, acquisitions, divestitures, real estate, financial statements, tax returns, audits, employee disputes, benefit plans, collections, etc., these professionals are a tremendous storehouse of knowledge and ideas about potential business improvements.  Paradoxically, CEO's sometimes try not to involve these people in their business in an effort to reduce cost.   This is the equivalent of buying a large, expensive and flexible piece of equipment for one application and then purposely trying to never use it again.   
  • Knowledge of the competition:  Salesmen, engineers and others in the company have a substantial body of knowledge about competitors' product features, pricing and upcoming new developments.  They also  have many contacts outside the company through which they could get highly valuable additional information.  If this intelligence would be sought out and communicated across departmental boundaries, management would be much better informed and investments would generate much greater returns.
  • Customer and vendor relationships:  CEO's frequently miss opportunities to gain assistance from two of their most important stakeholder groups, their customers and vendors.  This is because CEO's jump to the conclusion that customers and vendors will abandon them in a heartbeat at the first hint of trouble.  The reality is that this is not the case--customers and vendors also have developed a strong reliance on you because you are one of their stakeholders. 
Vendors know that many other customers, particularly in this economy, also are having great difficulty and they know that it would be hard for them to improve on their position with you.  They also may have tailored their company to meet your needs and it might take a long time before they can replace you and collect from their new customers. 

Your customers also have come to rely on you and trust your processes and quality. Their personnel may have built strong relationships with your employees and they may not want to change. 

Momentum is on your side with both your customers and vendors.  They probably want to help you.  For example, they can slow their collections of receivables from your company and can speed up payments of payables to your company, etc.  This additional credit may not be available to you anywhere else.  But, you must communicate with your customers and vendors properly and build their confidence and trust.  If they think that you are taking advantage of them they will run away as fast as they can.   
  • Buildings and equipment:  Buildings and equipment often are much larger and more sophisticated than needed because they were sized based on needs before the economic downturn.  They are likely to remain more than needed for years.  This represents sorely needed cash that is trapped in these assets.  Due to the difficulty of finding a buyer during the economic downturn, you should begin the sale process for these assets as soon as possible.  If you ever have the customer demand to need these assets again in the future, they can be repurchased. 
In addition, just putting these assets up for sale is a very important tangible indicator to all of your stakeholders that you are serious about implementing improvements to your business now.  This helps to build your credibility and stakeholders will be more inclined to trust your judgment on many other matters.

Virtually everyone agrees that the economic conditions will get worse before they get better.  There is no time to waste to make your company stronger.  Take action before conditions get worse, cash is diminished and even fewer options are available. 

Competitive Advantages and the
Fred Leeb & Associates Value Proposition

  • Bringing innovative solutions to the table from extensive experience in over a dozen successful multi-billion dollar companies and almost 15 years of helping small and medium-sized businesses in over 50 different industries throughout the US.
  • Teaming with the client's management, key personnel and other professionals to refine the solutions into practical strategies that are feasible for the client. 
  • Lending immediate credibility to the client's business plan; leveraging excellent business relationships and a track record of success as a consultant and interim CEO. 
  • Providing the value proposition--enabling the client's personnel to become the solution themselves as quickly as possible rather than bringing in an army of consultants to stay at the client's location doing everything as long as possible.  Supplying only what the client can not provide so as to maximize our added value, a necessity for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Consulting experience and techniques from working in AlixPartners and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, two of the most preeminent consulting firms in the world.
  • MBA from Wharton, membership in the Turnaround Management Association, numerous articles and presentations to professional organizations.

Call Fred Leeb & Associates, the value proposition since 1994, to help build your company's strength and cash flow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Council of Michigan Foundations :

Council of Michigan Foundations :

Presentation Topic: The Changing World of Philanthropy

For many Michigan nonprofits a perfect storm has hit and survival is the key question. How can foundations help grantees survive these difficult times and continue to serve the community?
Join us for a presentation to address these questions:
  1. Why is it urgently necessary to take action now rather than waiting for more clarity?
  2. What can nonprofits do right now with little additional cost (e.g., develop realistic cash flow projections to determine when/if they will hit the wall, etc.)?
  3. What can foundations do right now to help nonprofits turnaround (e.g., consider establishing an emergency fund, provide a forum for grantees to share best practices, provide letters of credit, etc.)?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Vacation is Over

By Fred Leeb 
Urgent to Take Action Now
It is now almost certain that Michigan will continue to experience a very harsh economic climate, possibly a depression, for many months if not years.  If no actions are taken now, there will be many fewer options and resources available in six months than are available today. Without decisive action, a downward spiral could develop that is almost irreversible once cash is drained from the organization and management has lost credibility from inaction and broken promises.  Also, the best employees will leave the organization because they do not want to be associated with a failure.  There is no time to waste.
Time is needed to:
  • Analyze the issues and develop a new plan of action as well as a contingency plan.
  • Cut out all low-performing businesses and dead wood.
  • Generate net benefits from reducing expenses.  For example, severance and vacation payments could more than offset initial payroll savings; time is required to renegotiate contracts.
  • Communicate with and enlist the support of all other stakeholders (e.g., vendors, customers, banks, employees, etc.) to build the credibility of the organization, and explain the viability of the turnaround plan.  Obtain concessions and assistance.
  • Raise cash from asset sales because transactions will be slow due to the current illiquid markets (but there will not be enough time to wait for higher prices).
  • Put new managers and professionals in place, if necessary, to refocus resources and implement changes.