SBD/Issue 169/Franchises

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  • Jim Balsillie Says Nothing Regarding Relocation Of Predators

    Incoming Predators Owner Does Little
    To Assuage Relocation Fears
    Research In Motion (RIM) co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who has agreed to buy the Predators from Craig Leipold for $220M, “did not ease fans’ concerns Thursday about the future of the franchise in Nashville,” according to John Glennon of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. But Leipold said, “I think he’s going to give it a chance. He’s going to be required to give it a chance. The NHL would not permit him just to pick up this team and move it without the NHL believing he did what he could to make it work here.” Glennon notes the NHL’s standard sale agreement “requires a new owner to keep a team in its current city for seven years, but that is contingent on the team’s having a lease.” The Predators could opt out of their lease after next season if certain paid attendance parameters are not met and if the city decides not to reimburse them for ticket shortcomings (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/25).

    MONEY LOST: Leipold said that despite the league’s new revenue-sharing plan, the Predators had lost $27M over the last two seasons (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/25). In a letter to season-ticket holders, he wrote, “When the franchise began, I said we would run it as a business in order to be successful. ... We indicated that making a huge profit was not a top priority — but we certainly didn’t make plans to lose a significant amount either” (Predators).

    SPONSOR SUPPORT: In Nashville, Chas Sisk reports “several major sponsors of the [Predators] said Thursday that they planned to step up efforts to promote the team to local businesses in a bid to keep” the club from moving. Sommet Group Managing Partner Brian Whitfield, whose company last week bought naming rights to the team’s arena, said, “I’ve already had some folks calling me who have ideas for supporting the team.” First Tennessee Bank President Mike Edwards said that he would also “promote the team to businesses.” A survey of 12 team sponsors found that, except for Whitfield, “all of the team’s sponsors were unaware that a sale of the Predators was in the offing” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/25).

    RELOCATION SITES: In Toronto, David Shoalts writes “even high-ranking NHL executives expect the Predators to be moved in two years after the out-clause” is exercised. A source close to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that Sprint Center in K.C. “is the preferred location in the short term.” But the source said that a move to Canada “is not out of the question” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/25). In Nashville, Paul Kuharsky examines potential relocation sites and notes Hamilton, Ontario, is 41 miles from Toronto, “so a team moving there would have to negotiate around complicated territorial issues” with the Maple Leafs. There is “rampant discussion” that Balsillie could build an arena in Waterloo, where RIM is located, Kitchener or Cambridge — which all have no territory issues (TENNESSEAN, 5/25). Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr, who spoke with Balsillie yesterday, said, “If he chose to have it in Kitchener, we are prepared to assist in finding an appropriate site and doing what we can to make sure it gets here. He’s not at that stage yet” (FINANCIAL POST, 5/25). The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell: “I think their team is gone. You’ve got a Canadian owner who’s passionate about hockey and who has all but publicly said he wants to bring a team to Canada” (TENNESSEAN, 5/25).

    HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW? In Nashville, David Climer writes Leipold “couldn’t have consummated the Predators’ sale at a worse time.” The current ticket sales push “is likely to go south.” The team already raised ticket prices, and it “cannot make deep inroads in the business community” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/25).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Nashville Predators, NHL, Sprint, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • NHL Franchise Notes: Ducks Season-Ticket Sales Rise Sharply

    Ducks’ Trip To Stanley Cup Finals
    Expected To Boost Season-Ticket Sales
    In L.A., Greg Johnson reports the Ducks expect to sell around 14,000 season tickets for the ’07-08 season, up from 7,000 when co-Owners Henry and Susan Samueli bought the team in ’05. The club is on pace to sell out all of its postseason games after selling out the final 22 regular-season games. The Ducks plan to build “new ice rinks, or partner with existing operators, so youngsters can get ice time.” Meanwhile, the first 55 playoff games league-wide averaged an announced crowd of 18,364, filling 99.5% of available seats (L.A. TIMES, 5/25).

    RED WINGS: Also in L.A., Helene Elliott reported the Red Wings “didn’t sell out any of nine home playoff games, ending a streak of 452 consecutive sellouts.” While the announced attendance was “often close to capacity ... the large clusters of empty seats told of an economic alienation” between the team and fans. The average regular-season Red Wings ticket was $43.13, but the cheapest first-round playoff seat cost $63. The most expensive was $144, which increased each round and topped out at $225 for the conference finals (L.A. TIMES, 5/24).

    LIGHTNING: In St. Petersburg, Damian Cristodero reports the Lightning will not cut payroll next year and it “might even end up higher than last season’s $44[M].” Lightning Exec VP & GM Jay Feaster said that he believes Palace Sports & Entertainment Owner Bill Davidson “will allow payroll to go higher if the team plays well and needs to add pieces” next season (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/25).

    Print | Tags: Detroit Red Wings, Franchises, Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Franchise Notes

    Marvin Lewis Apologizes For Saying
    Police Are “Profiling” Bengals Players
    In Cincinnati, Mark Curnutte reports Bengals coach Marvin Lewis apologized Thursday to Cincinnati Police for comments he made Wednesday on ESPN Radio’s “The Dan Patrick Show.” Lewis said in a statement, “I gave a radio interview and made some comments that did not illustrate the high regard I have for the Cincinnati Police Department. I apologize that what I said did not reflect my true feelings. ... I do not believe the Cincinnati Police Department is specifically profiling our players.” Lewis said on the program, “I think there’s profiling, no question. (Cincinnati is) a small place. Our guys stand out, and they know that, and you’ve got to do things the right way” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/25).

    BRIGADE: The AFL Brigade will play at Sprint Center starting next season. Most ticket prices will go up, but the team is “hoping the new arena’s improved amenities will help boost falling attendance.” Front-row season tickets will cost $1,125, up from $890 currently at Kemper Arena, while end-zone season tickets will increase from $192 to $225. Some upper-level seats will remain $68 for the season. The team averaged 15,234 fans per game last year, but through six games this season, the club is averaging just 11,384 fans (K.C. STAR, 5/25). HORNETS: Hornets Owner George Shinn said the team grossed $150,000 from season-ticket renewals during the team’s draft lottery party Tuesday night. In New Orleans, John Reid reported the Hornets are “planning to utilize [G Chris] Paul and several other players in a number of events to increase the team’s fan base in New Orleans.” Paul said that he “plans to work with Saints [RB] Reggie Bush on community-related events” (TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/24).

    MILLWALL FC: Chestnut Hill Ventures’ John Berylson and Demos Kouvaris have invested $2M in English third division club Millwall FC, giving them the option to acquire more than 30% of Millwall Holdings. Berylson said, “We would rather start at the ground level and go up. The Championship (second division) is our near-term goal” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/25).

    Print | Tags: Cincinnati Bengals, ESPN, Franchises, New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Saints, Sprint, Walt Disney
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