SBD/Issue 111/Franchises

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  • MLS To Award Expansion Franchise To Philadelphia Area

    Garber Today To Award Expansion
    MLS Franchise To Philadelphia
    MLS today will award an expansion team to Chester, Pennsylvania, to begin play in 2010, according to Jeff Gammage of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. MLS Commissioner Don Garber is scheduled to announce the league's 16th team at a 2:00pm ET news conference in Chester, where the club will play at a "planned waterfront stadium." CEO of the unnamed team's ownership group Nick Sakiewicz said: "The soccer fans are just coming out of the woodwork. It's incredible." The team's "immediate priority is to start stadium construction." The hiring of a front-office staff will begin this fall and the team intends to hire a coach "this time next year." The team already has begun accepting season-ticket applications over the phone, and a new Web site "will go live shortly offering a 'Two for a Ben' deposit deal -- $100 to reserve two seats.'' The $115M stadium will "anchor an expansive $500[M] housing, office and retail development" that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said would "change the face of Chester forever." Rendell is expected to attend today's news conference, alongside "other government leaders, MLS officials and former area soccer stars." A string band also will be in attendance as will at least 100 members of the "Sons of Ben," the team's fan club. Gammage notes the announcement comes exactly four weeks after Rendell "promised that Pennsylvania would provide a key $47[M] in funding for the stadium complex." Delaware County Council is contributing $30M to the project, Chester City Council donated the land, and the Delaware River Port Authority last week kicked in $10M. State Rep. Dwight Evans, Appropriations Committee Chair: "It shows that when government and the private sector work together, everybody's a winner" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/28).

    Expansion Team To Play In 18,500-
    Seat Soccer Specific Stadium
    GOOD SIGN FOR MLS: In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen writes the new franchise "may not challenge the established Philadelphia sports teams for fans and media attention just yet," but it is joining a league that "seems to have gotten its act together." MLS "never will be the NFL, the English Premier League, or Italy's Serie A." However, the league that "got off to a rocky start in 1996 has diversified its ownership -- previously, a couple of billionaire owners kept the league afloat -- and network television partners in two languages now pay small rights fees to show their games." Previously MLS "used to pay the networks" to air their games, but now "things are so good that every MLS game was televised nationally or regionally last season." When the Philadelphia franchise begins play in 2010, MLS "hopes to have 10 to 12 of the 16 franchises playing in soccer-specific stadiums," including the 18,500-seat park planned in Chester." That is a "significant threshold for a league that had an average attendance of 16,770" last season, the second highest in league history behind the inaugural '96 season. MLS President Mark Abbot said of a soccer-specific stadium: "It provides a top-level, intimate atmosphere. Secondly, the ancillary revenues you are able to generate are a key component" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/28).

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  • Knicks Talking To Vandeweghe To Replace Thomas As President

    Knicks In Talks With Kiki
    Vandweghe About Running Team
    The Knicks have had preliminary discussions with Kiki Vandeweghe, presently Nets Special Assistant to President Rod Thorn, about "replacing [Knicks President of Basketball Operations & coach] Isiah Thomas in the front office, but possibly allowing Thomas to continue as head coach," according to a source cited by Frank Isola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. MSG Chair James Dolan is "prepared to strip Thomas of his title as Knicks President," and the source said that Vandeweghe "would be willing to accept the job of rebuilding the Knicks even if it meant having to retain Thomas." The source said that the Knicks "have not made a formal offer to Vandeweghe," who has "strong support inside [NBA] headquarters to take over the franchise he once played for." Talks between the two sides reportedly have "included Vandeweghe evaluating the 15-man roster that Thomas built." Vandeweghe denied any contact with the Knicks. Vandeweghe: "I have a job right here" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28).

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  • Red Sox-Dodgers Sellout Could Break MLB Attendance Record

    Dodgers Raise Capacity Of Exhibition
    Game At L.A. Coliseum To 115,000
    An early sellout for the Red Sox-Dodgers' March 29 exhibition game at the L.A. Coliseum has led the Dodgers to put an additional 25,000 tickets on sale Saturday, "increasing the capacity to 115,000" for the game, according to Steve Springer of the L.A. TIMES. In what would be "the biggest crowd to watch a baseball game," many of the additional tickets will be standing-room only, with people "allowed to stand under the arches at the peristyle end and on the grass behind the right-field wall." Tickets also will be sold for peristyle seats. Ticket prices have dropped from $25 to $15, with some standing-room tickets available for $10. If the game is a sellout, it would break a 49-year-old record set by the Dodgers in a '59 exhibition game against the Yankees, also at the Coliseum, when 93,103 fans turned up. ThinkCure President Janet Clayton, whose organization is the Dodgers' fundraising charity for cancer research, estimates that "$1[M] could be raised from the Coliseum game." The Dodgers will match the final total (L.A. TIMES, 2/28).

    FAREWELL TO FLORIDA: The Dodgers throughout Spring Training will honor their fans, legendary players, coaches, managers, execs and local officials as part of a month-long opportunity to say thanks for 60 years at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. During the seventh-inning stretch of each home game, the Dodgers will honor the longtime employees of Dodgertown, including five who have worked there for more than 25 years. A different Dodger legend will be honored during pregame ceremonies each game, beginning with '62 NL MVP Maury Wills, who will be honored prior to today's game against the Braves (Dodgers).

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  • Buc Stops: Pirates' Season-Ticket Retention Rate Below Average

    Pirates Season-Ticket Retention
    Rate Below Industry Average Of 80%
    While Pirates President Frank Coonelly yesterday confirmed that the team's season-ticket retention rate is "running below the industry average" of 80%, the team has "declined to divulge their season-ticket sales figures," according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Coonelly: "We still believe we will be at approximately 9,000 full-season ticket equivalents by the time all is said and done." The team sold 9,011 full-season ticket package equivalents in '07 and 11,320 full-season equivalents in '06, when PNC Park hosted the MLB All-Star Game. While acknowledging that sales of corporate suites have "taken a hit this year," Coonelly said that the Pirates are "slightly ahead of last year's pace for total ticket sales because of a renewed focus on group sales." The team also "hopes to spark sales by creating a mini-plan" that allows fans to pick eight games -- excluding the April 7 home opener against the Cubs and the June 24-26 Yankees series -- and get two additional games free. Additionally, the Pirates yesterday unveiled an "all-you-can-eat seating section that will be available through single-game and season-ticket sales" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/28).

    TIGERS: Tigers VP/Marketing & Ticket Sales Bob Raymond on Tuesday said that the team has "cleared the 26,000 mark in season-ticket sales for this season," through a combination of full and partial season-ticket plans. In Detroit, John Lowe reported the Tigers sold 9,300 full-season tickets in '07, and all but 5% were renewed for '08, while about 5,000 new season-ticket packages have been sold. As a result, the Tigers have "sold 13,854 full-season ticket packages," which totals more than 15,000 after including luxury suites. Additionally, the Tigers plan to add 500-700 seats to Comerica Park, on risers in left field under the scoreboard and on the Pepsi Porch in right field. The team "hopes the new seats will be in place by Opening Day" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/27).

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  • Franchise Notes

    In Philadelphia, Todd Zolecki reports the Phillies for the '08 season will have their "highest payroll in franchise history'' at more than $106.4M. The number is based on salaries of the Phillies' projected Opening Day, 25-man roster. It also includes projected salaries for P Cole Hamels and CF Shane Victorino, both of whom remain unsigned, as well as other salaries the team is responsible for, including White Sox DH Jim Thome. The $106.4M in '07 would have tied the Phillies with the Mariners for seventh highest in  MLB, but it is unclear where that number would rank this season (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/28).

    WHERE'S THE LOVE? Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis Tuesday wrote on his blog: "I am at the Tampa airport on my way home to DC. I was here on business and am shocked at how much coverage the Lightning gets down here. There are kiosks in the airport to buy Tampa gear, hats and t-shirts; co-promotions with Subway; and signs everywhere. When I left National airport I didn't see any Caps merchandise, but I did see the kiosk selling 'Rudy Giuliani for President' t-shirts. The front page of the Tampa paper today had a blurb on the re-signing of Dan Boyle and there were two stories on the Lightning and their trades and plans. The sportscast last night led with the Lightning as well" (TED.AOL.com, 2/26).

    Forsberg Return Helping Avalanche
    Sell Tickets To Remaining Games
    ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: In Denver, Chris Walsh reports the return of C Peter Forsberg and D Adam Foote to the Avalanche has "created a much-needed boost in ticket sales for the team's remaining 10 home games." The Avalanche in the past few days have sold 5,000 tickets, including 700 Tuesday night for Saturday's Kings-Avalanche game. Avalanche officials said that Saturday's game is "about seven times the expected volume had the team not brought back the players." Fans also have purchased 225 "stretch run" ticket packages, including 100 Tuesday night (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/28).

    LIONS SHARE: The Lions notified season-ticket holders by mail that the price of a majority of tickets at Ford Field for the '08 season will increase 18.5%. The increase, the first one since the '05 season, affects 83% of the 64,500 seats at the stadium, and the new average ticket price of $71.85 would have ranked No. 14 in the NFL in '07. Tickets previously costing $40-70 will sell for $40-90, though season-ticket buyers will get a $100 discount at the Ford Field merchandise store and receive admittance to the team's training camp (DETROIT NEWS, 2/28).

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