Paul Domowitch: Wall Street woes could affect an NFL team near you

Posted: November 14, 2008

WHILE WALL Street's woes are making life miserable for us poor saps on Main Street, you'll be happy to know they're also causing some discomfort for the NFL's 32 teams, particularly those with new stadiums or ones still under construction.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose $1.2 billion showplace is scheduled to open next season, is trying to borrow $350 million by the end of the month to help refinance an existing loan and pay for cost overruns on the stadium, according to Sports Business Journal.

The owners of the Giants and Jets have seen the size of their loan payments on the money they borrowed to build their $1.7 billion stadium in the Meadowlands shoot up dramatically because of what's happening with the credit market.

Even teams like the Eagles, whose 6-year-old stadium cost less than a third of the cost of Jones' new palace, are getting pinched as the adjustable rates on their stadium loans go up, up, up.

"The credit markets and credit insurance markets are causing our interest costs to go up fairly significantly," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "And there's a risk going forward that they could go up even more significantly.

"People that have loans, unless they're completely fixed, and ours are fixed within a range, as the dates come up where the banks have the right to increase the costs, everybody is going to be facing increased costs."

Those of you out there who already are convinced that Banner and owner Jeff Lurie are the cheapest SOBs this side of Ebenezer Scrooge no doubt will view this as a convenient excuse to avoid spending money on free agents or first-round draft picks next year. But it needs to be pointed out that I brought up the subject with him, not the other way around.

While the rising interest rates on their stadium loans are jacking up costs for the Eagles and other teams, it has yet to be determined what the effect of the ailing economy will be on revenues.

It almost certainly would have no impact on season-ticket sales. If any current season ticketholders become too cash-strapped to pay for their seats, there are thousands on the waiting list who would kill to replace them. Luxury suites, sponsorships and advertising and marketing deals, though, are another matter.

"At least for this year, [revenues] have not been affected," Banner said. "We've continued to close marketing deals. I don't know what will happen when we get into February and March; what the economy will look like then and what companies will be doing.

"On a fan level, I don't think we will be affected unless things get really terrible [with the economy]. There's just too much demand. On things like suites and marketing revenues, if it went on long enough, we'd take a hit like every other sports franchise. But we still have a cushion of time there. We've got a window until maybe next March to kind of see where everything's at and whether there is going to be much of an impact on the revenue side."

Around the league

* Unless the 3-6 Browns can rally down the stretch, which seems unlikely, coach Romeo Crennel will be history after the season. General manager Phil Savage also could find himself out of a job, although his exit isn't as certain yet as Crennel's. Topping the list of possible replacements for Crennel is former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who is ready to end his 2-year hiatus now that his youngest daughter's high-school basketball career is coming to a close. Cowher played for the Browns and began his coaching career in Cleveland as an assistant to Marty Schottenheimer. If Cowher takes the job, it's unlikely Savage would be retained, since his contract gives him final say over the draft and the team's 53-man roster.

* Running back Larry John-son will be back in uniform for the Chiefs this week after missing four games because of club and league suspensions. How much he'll touch the ball remains to be seen. The offense he's coming back to isn't the same one he left. Since Tyler Thigpen became the starting quarterback three games ago, the 1-8 Chiefs have ditched their tailback-oriented attack and gone to a spread offense.

"Our offense has changed a little bit, but [Johnson] is going to be involved in it," coach Herm Edwards said. "He's excited about being back. We're still going to try to run the ball, with him being one of the better backs in the league."

* This very likely will be Marvin Harrison's final season with the Colts. The 36-year-old wide receiver has just 30 catches for 357 yards this season. With an '09 salary-cap cost of $13.4 million, it's hard to imagine the Colts keeping him around.

* Former Eagles punter Dirk Johnson is with the Cardinals, but it's even money whether he still will be with the team when they play the Eagles at the Linc on Thanksgiving. Johnson is 25th in the league in both gross average (42.6) and net average (35.9). "His performance has got to improve," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. *

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