SBD/Issue 2/Franchises

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  • Cubs-Astros Games Moved To Milwaukee After Ike Hits Houston

    Hurricane Ike Forces Cubs-
    Astros Series To Milwaukee
    The first two games of the Cubs-Astros series, which were postponed from Friday and Saturday due to Hurricane Ike, were relocated to Miller Park last night and today, and Astros Owner Drayton McLane said that the team was "left with no choice except to play at Miller Park because every other stadium had a schedule conflict or possible weather issues," according to Richard Justice of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McLane: "There was just no other choice. We wanted Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Arlington, Atlanta, you name it. There was nothing else." McLane said that the games "couldn't be played after the season because there wasn't enough time to play all three and still start the playoffs in time to satisfy Fox television." Justice notes the decision to play the games in Milwaukee, which is only an hour and a half from Chicago, "didn't sit well with the Astros," and to "emphasize that point, they wore their gray road uniforms and dressed in the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/15). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt noted the Astros "desperately wanted to keep the games in Houston, especially after Minute Maid Park sustained no damage in Hurricane Ike." The Astros "hoped at the least to host two games Monday, but the city of Houston closed downtown to the public" so the cleanup process could begin. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "picked Miller Park because its retractable roof would eliminate any further weather-related issues." Brewers Exec VP/Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said, "Given the lack of other viable options, we will be ready to serve as hosts." Haudricourt noted Miller Park also "hosted a 'neutral site' series in April 2007 between" the Indians and Angels "due to a snowstorm in Cleveland" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/14).

    NO OTHER OPTIONS: McLane: "With all the devastation of the hurricane and because most people have been without power, we just felt that it was improper to be playing baseball [Sunday] or Monday (in Houston)." In Houston, Jose De Jesus Ortiz noted "several neutral sites were considered, including Minneapolis, Atlanta and Cincinnati." McLane: "Give credit to [Selig]. He hammered it out." Ortiz reported the "finale of the three-game series will be Sept. 29 at Minute Maid Park if it's needed to determine" the NL Central or NL Wild Card races. Meanwhile, Minute Maid Park "survived Hurricane Ike with only minor water damage," and the stadium is "ready for use whenever it's safe to play a game downtown." McLane: "It just shows how well that stadium is designed. It came through in great shape" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/14).

    WAITING TOO LATE? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan reported McLane until Saturday afternoon had "steadfastly refused to concede that playing games in a hurricane-ravaged area was unfeasible, insisting the Astros deserved to keep their home-field advantage" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/14). ESPN’s Buster Olney noted McLane "has gotten some criticism for not agreeing to move this series to a different place before the weekend” (“Mike and Mike in the Morning, ESPN2, 9/15).

    Miller Park Crowd Chants Zambrano's Name
    As He Neared Conclusion Of No-Hitter
    NOT SO NEUTRAL: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer reports for last night's Cubs-Astros game at Miller Park, almost "every one of 23,441 in attendance chanted [Cubs P Carlos Zambrano's] name, booed the 'home' [Astros] and stood cheering late in the game on two-strike counts," as Zambrano approached a no-hitter (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/15). In Milwaukee, Dan Benson reports Cubs fans "rained down boos on the home team Astros as they ran onto Miller Park's field at the top of the first inning" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/15). Astros manager Cecil Cooper before the game said of having to play in Milwaukee, "I am upset. But what are you going to do about it?" Noting the ballpark would favor the Cubs, Cooper said, "We're not happy with that. If I see [Selig], I'll tell him that. I understand, but I'm not happy" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/15). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Sullivan writes, "Was it fair to make Houston play the Cubs in what's often referred to as 'Wrigley North?'" Astros 1B Lance Berkman said that MLB "'could have done a lot better job' in picking the neutral site for the makeup games." Berkman: "We could have gone to Atlanta, done something in Florida. In my opinion, there's more going on here than just getting two baseball games in" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/15). The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Justice writes, "Neutral field? Are you kidding me? There's ridiculous and more ridiculous and whatever this was supposed to be." Selig "should be embarrassed to have thrown a team in the thick of playoff contention into this situation" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/15).

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  • EPL Club Newcastle Owner Mike Ashley Confirms Plan To Sell Club

    Ashley Confirms Plans To Sell Newcastle United
    English Premier League (EPL) club Newcastle United Owner Mike Ashley said that he "wants to sell the club," according to the LONDON TIMES. Ashley in a statement said, "I paid [US$238.2M] out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another [US$195.5M] into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it. The club is still in debt. ... I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived. But there was a double whammy. Commercial deals such as sponsorships and advertising had been front loaded. The money had been paid upfront and spent. I was left with a club that owed millions and part of whose future had been mortgaged." Ashley: "I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans. But I am now a dad who can't take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted. Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United" (LONDON TIMES, 9/14). Ashley said he was "prepared to bankroll Newcastle up to the tune of [US$35.6M] per year, but no more" (London INDEPENDENT, 9/15).

    POTENTIAL SUITORS: In London, Rob Stewart reports Newcastle VP Tony Jimenez has "flown to the Middle East to spearhead Ashley's attempts to off-load the club." Dubai Int'l Capital (DIC), which has attempted to buy EPL club Liverpool, "will only be interested in taking the club off [Ashley's] hands at a knock-down price." And Indian businessman Anil Ambani has "publicly ended his interest after failing to get a response from the club" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/15). In Manchester, Louise Taylor reports it is "understood that Ashley tried to make contact with representatives of [DIC] last week." Meanwhile, another possible buyer is Chinese property developer Xu Rongmao, who is "seemingly keen to exploit" Newcastle's stadium grounds by "redeveloping the high-value land around the ground" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 9/15). The TELEGRAPH's Stewart notes other possibilities include Microsoft Chair Bill Gates and former Newcastle Chair Freddy Shepherd, who was banned from the team's stadium under Ashley but "last night claimed he had been approached by two separate consortia to spearhead a takeover" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/15).

    Liverpool Fans Hoping Gillette, Hicks
    Become Next Owners To Sell Team
    ATTENTION TURNS TO LIVERPOOL: In London, Oliver Kay wrote with Ashley confirming his intention to sell Newcastle and former EPL club Manchester City Owner Thaksin Shinawatra earlier this month selling that club, all the EPL "needs now is for that pair of cowboys at Liverpool to be chased out of town and [the league] will have the early-season hat-trick it wanted." Liverpool co-Owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett "know that their time is up and, whatever their denials, are looking for a way out." But "until then, the club will continue to limp on without leadership, without direction, without a proper business plan and without any hope of the new stadium that is so fundamental to their long-term financial growth" (LONDON TIMES, 9/14).

    AMERICAN FLAVOR: The trend of Americans buying EPL teams was examined by the N.Y. TIMES' PLAY magazine's Joe Nocera, who notes in addition to Hicks and Gillett, Buccaneers Owners the Glazer family owns Manchester United, Browns Owner Randy Lerner owns Aston Villa, and Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke owns 12% of EPL club Arsenal. Nocera writes Americans have "become fixated on" the EPL partly because "soccer is the most global sport with the greatest reach," and partly because "they think they can make more money there than they can in American leagues like the NFL or the NBA." But the appeal is "mainly because, to a surprising degree, they can act far more like old-fashioned two-fisted capitalists in England than they can" in the U.S. The EPL does not have a salary cap like the NFL and NBA do, and in the U.S., "there are limits on how much teams can market themselves outside the umbrella of the league; the [EPL] has far fewer restrictions" (PLAY, 9/ '08 issue).

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  • Best Week Ever: Thunder Sell Out Of Season Tickets In Five Days

    The Thunder Friday sold out its available season tickets in advance of the '08-09 season and has created a waiting list for prospective ticket buyers. In five days, the team sold approximately 13,000 season tickets at all price levels, including $10 upper level seats. The team cancelled the remaining three days of its seat selection process and all fans who had scheduled appointments during that time will be put on a waiting list to be offered eight-game packages (Thunder). Thunder Owner Clay Bennett said, "I am pleased we were able to offer a reasonable amount of affordable seats. That's important. To have this kind of velocity in sales is remarkable." Bennett, on joining the Celtics, Lakers and Suns as the only NBA teams with a season-ticket waiting list: "To actually see it happen, we're thrilled. We're tremendously gratified by the response." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett: "It's not just a question of us having enough seats in the arena. One of the highest demands are for seats around the floor, the most expensive seats. You can add seats, but you can't add anymore closer to the floor. That's how high demand was" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/13). Thunder GM Sam Presti: "The short amount of time we've been in the community, the response has been invigorating for the team and our players. We're looking forward to working with the community and growing with the community" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/15).

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  • Freeman Says Preds Are Making Strides Under Local Ownership

    Predators Owner Confident That Team Can 
    Top Attendance Benchmark For Revenue Sharing
    Predators Owner David Freeman believes the organization "has made business strides in its first offseason under local ownership," according to John Glennon of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Freeman also "does not believe the team will be harmed" by the resolution of Predators investor William "Boots" Del Biaggio's ongoing bankruptcy court proceedings and is "confident the team will hit the 14,000 average paid attendance mark necessary to qualify for the NHL's full revenue-sharing package this season." Freeman: "This is going to be a year where our goals are higher and our expectations are higher. Just hitting 14,000 is not going to put a smile on our face and neither will losing in the first round of the playoffs. This is the year we hope to take that next step. We're trying to build a franchise with long-term stability and long-term prosperity." Predators President of Business Operations Ed Lang added the goal is to "greatly exceed" the 14,000 average. Lang: "Hopefully we can talk about sold-out buildings or sold-out games instead of seeing whether we're at 14,000 or 13,900." The team has not disclosed its season-ticket renewal rate, but Lang said that the team is "slightly behind on their season-ticket goals." However, it is "well ahead of group-sales goals." Lang said that the Predators "expect to announce some new business deals in the next few weeks." Lang: "Over the next six weeks, we've got a lot of things planned because the ownership group has committed to spending more dollars to promote ticket sales. ... There will be radio, print and billboard advertising the next few weeks and television will follow the week of the 20th" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/14).

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