SBD/Issue 150/Franchises

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  • Setting A Bad Tone: MLB Teams Already See Economy's Impact On Tix

    MLB Clubs Struggling With Ticket Sales
    Because Of Weather, High Prices
    The MLB Giants drew a paid attendance of 26,593 for yesterday's game against the Padres, marking the "all-time low in 10 seasons at AT&T Park," according to Andrew Baggarly of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The previous low was 30,029 (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/22). Meanwhile, the Pirates drew just 10,650 fans for yesterday's game at PNC Park against the Marlins, and FS Florida's Rich Waltz said, "Such a beautiful facility, a great sports town, but with 16 consecutive years of losing the crowds have dwindled." Waltz: "I think, though, if they were to get it going here this once again could become a great baseball town" (FSN Florida, 4/22). ESPN's Karl Ravech, leading a discussion on the low attendance at MLB games so far this season, said the crowd at the Marlins-Pirates game "looked like there were even less there" than the announced figure. ESPN’s John Kruk noted the recession's impact on ticket sales, but added the "weather on the East Coast has been absolutely dreadful so far in April." He added the Giants "have a lot of guys on that team that aren’t very marketable players that you want to go see, and until they turn ... around, people aren’t going to probably go watch as much” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 4/22). ESPN's Peter Gammons acknowledged the bad weather, but added, "You say, ‘Wow, can people afford these tickets?'" Gammons: "As the season goes along, it’s going to be hard. Attendance is down, for comparable periods of time, I think 6.9%. It could go down more than that. If a team falls 10 games out by June 1st, I think it’s going to be very hard to get people to pay even $20 to bring their kids to the games." He added MLB is the "first sport that began the season in the recession, and that’s what’s going to be interesting to watch" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN2, 4/22). ESPN The Magazine’s Tim Kurkjian said MLB "should be concerned" about the early-season ticket figures. Kurkjian: "I unfortunately think it’s going to be a concern all season. … We’re going to have to watch this every day and keep your eyes on the Yankees’ attendance. They’re running the show here and they’re only drawing 70-75% attendance every day in their beautiful new ballpark" (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 4/23).

    TRENDING DOWNWARDS: In Seattle, Greg Johns noted the Mariners averaged 30,207 for their first six games at Safeco Field this season, down 3.3% from an average of 31,238 for the first six games last year. And though the ongoing series against the Rays is "expected to draw only 16,000-17,000 per game, those figures also run pretty close to last year's results at this point in the year" (SEATTLEPI.com, 4/21). In Toronto, Gary Loewen reported the Blue Jays' average attendance through seven home games was 22,056, down from 27,881 a year ago. But the '08 figures were "inflated by ticket giveaways to businesses," meaning this year's figures are "more accurate because the Jays have ceased with the freebies" (TORONTO SUN, 4/22).

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  • Yankees Continue To Struggle Filling High-Priced Luxury Seats

    Yankees' Legends Suite Section Has Been
    Filled Only Once Since New Stadium's Opening
    The most expensive seats in "America's costliest ballpark have become an embarrassment packing a financial sting" to the Yankees, as the Legends Suite section "has been filled only once in the six games" since the new Yankee Stadium opened last week, according to Ronald Blum of the AP. Seats in the section, which cost $500-2,500 for season tickets and $2,625 for individual games, "haven't been close to full ... on most days." During Tuesday night's game against the A's, "only 64 of the 146 seats at the top price level were occupied in the bottom of the second inning," and the "outermost Legends Suite sections, which each contain 90 seats, were entirely empty until two fans finally emerged to sit in them during the late innings." Legends Suite seats which originally sold for $500 also "were available for $225 early Wednesday" on StubHub, and tickets behind the visitors' dugout "could be had for $263, down from their $850 original price." But Yankees President Randy Levine yesterday said the team is "done talking about seats." Levine: "We're not talking about seats." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who owns Legends Suite season tickets, said, "The question becomes what happens as the economy rebounds. To what degree does the economy have to rebound before that type of spending resumes?" (AP, 4/23). The Yankees are continuing their sales push, placing a full-page ad in the April 20 edition of the N.Y. Observer promoting the team's party suites (THE DAILY).

    FOR ALL TO SEE: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes in a new ballpark the Yankees "can't seem to fill, they need to import hundreds, even thousands, of people to sit in unsold seats or in those their owners don't want to claim." If televised images of empty seats at the ballpark are "important --- barely half the 43,342 announced as paid attendance in the Wednesday afternoon rain showed up -- then here's a tip for the Yankees: Follow your old business partners, the Nets, and play 'The Price is Right.'" Sandomir notes at a Mavericks-Nets game at Izod Center on December 19 held during a snowstorm, the arena PA announcer "implored fans in the arena's upper reaches to 'Come on down!'" and sit in lower-level seats. Meanwhile, it was "refreshing to hear" Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay during YES Network's broadcast "announce the paid attendance Wednesday, hear him give a few reasons for why 43,342 looked nothing like 43,342, and to see the YES cameras pan to some empty expanses" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/23). ESPN's Brian Kenny noted from the main camera shot from behind the pitcher during a broadcast, “you’d think there’s nobody at the game.” Kenny: “Basically they now have a little moat around the field of empty seats. Those seats, by the way, can run you up to $2,600, and the waiters and ushers outnumber the fans back there." ESPN's Michael Wilbon added, "They're embarrassing themselves. They're just showing greed in every way imaginable." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "This is simple economics. If you have an overwhelming supply and no demand you have to change something" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/22).

    Phillips Says Teams Must Raise Ticket Prices
    To Be Able To Afford Higher Player Payrolls
    DEFENDING THE SEATS: ESPN's Steve Phillips said, "The reality is this: those seats behind the screen, behind home plate -- they’re not for moms and dads and kids to go watch. Those are corporate seats. Those are for corporations that are going to spend the big bucks and buy them. They can write them off to take their clients to ball games. So in the end, that’s not affecting mom and dad taking the kids to the ball game anyway.” Phillips added, "This is a new era and a new wave of the game. You want new stadiums, you want high payrolls, you want the best teams. In the end, if you don’t like it, then have the players take less money, and they’re not going to take less money. So if you want to have the good players, you’re going to have to be able to find a way to afford them and that’s how you do it. You have to raise the prices” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 4/22).

    MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAN BASEBALL: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote "some of the problem" with the empty seats is "unsold seats, of course." Best: "But here's another thing: Many of the empty seats were sold to someone, and many of those someones are off somewhere on a concourse or in a club -- eating, drinking, talking and perhaps keeping an eye on the game on TV" (NEWSDAY.com, 4/22).

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  • Out Of Tune? Jazz Having Trouble Selling Tonight's Playoff Game

    Jazz Reminding Fans Playoff Tickets Are Still
    Available With Full-Page Newspaper Ads
    The Jazz are hosting the Lakers tonight in Game Three of the first-round NBA Playoffs match-up and the team in recent days has been running full-page ads in the local newspapers "reminding basketball fans that ... tickets are still available," according to Michael Lewis of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. Such a "scenario would have seemed preposterous six months ago, when the Jazz began the NBA season amid soaring excitement and high expectations." But the "easy availability of tickets suggests that many fans have all but given up on the team as it limps toward an inglorious end to what began as a promising season." A Jazz spokesperson said that a "'limited amount' of tickets remain for tonight's game, though he declined to say exactly how many." Nearly 600 seats were available "through just one of the myriad online ticket brokers" yesterday. Recent sales of team merchandise have also been "unspectacular" at a Fanzz apparel store in Sandy, Utah. But Fanzz store manager Derk McDermaid said that "many fans buy memorabilia on the day of home games, so today will give him a better indication how far passion has plummeted" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/23).

    SLOW BUILD TO TAKEOFF: Last night's Heat-Hawks Game Two at Philips Arena drew a sellout crowd of 19,146 (Mult., 4/23). However, in Atlanta, Larry Hartstein reported by mid-afternoon yesterday "about 1,000 tickets remained" for the game. Several fans were "pleasantly surprised to be able to walk up and buy tickets Wednesday afternoon." Hawks Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Tracy White before the game said, "We know the game is going to sell out -- we just don't know at what point" (AJC.com, 4/22). Meanwhile, also in Atlanta, Sekou Smith notes the Hawks' official live mascot "ignored his usual pre-game flight path," stopping in the stands, on the midcourt scoreboard and on the camera over one of the shot clocks. Officials stopped play with 8:48 to play in the first quarter to allow the bird's handler to retrieve it (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/23). TNT's Dick Stockton said the hawk, “not happy with (just) flying around in the pregame, wanted to get into the action during the game as well” (“Heat-Hawks,” TNT, 4/22).

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  • Group Meets With NHL, NHLPA On Second Team In Toronto Area

    Daly Reportedly Has Met With Group Trying
    To Bring Another NHL Team To Toronto Area
    A group of business execs “wants to bring a second hockey team to the Greater Toronto Area, and the NHL took the group seriously enough to grant it an audience,” according to a front-page piece by David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Sources said that the unidentified group met with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly last week in Toronto. The meeting “was scheduled to last one hour but stretched approximately 2 ½ hours.” The group has “also discussed its proposal” with NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly. It proposed to build an arena in Vaughan, Ontario, on land owned by former Royal Group Technologies Chair & CEO Victor De Zen. A source said Daly told the group that the league is “not currently considering expansion nor do we have any intention or desire to relocate an existing franchise.” Shoalts notes the city of Vaughan “may be that much farther removed” from the Maple Leafs’ Air Canada Centre “to make a second team acceptable" to the team’s owner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. MLSE has previously indicated that it "would not consider allowing another team into its territory until the league presents concrete data to demonstrate that the Leafs position in the marketplace would not be compromised.” Sources said that the group is “taking a long-term view,” and “at least two years -- more likely three to five -- would be needed to build an arena and settle territorial-rights fees for the Leafs and perhaps the Sabres.” Sources added that De Zen has “no interest in owning an NHL team but may be willing to participate in an arena deal” (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/23).

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  • Jaguars Unveil New Uniforms With Modern Flair, Classic Look

    Writer Notes New Jaguars Uniforms
    Feature A More Streamlined Look
    The Jaguars yesterday unveiled new uniforms, and Owner Wayne Weaver said they have a "little bit of a modern flair but still a classic look," according to Michael Wright of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. The Jaguars have worn "at least six uniform combinations over the years, in addition to using eight variations of the team's logo," but the team this season "will stick to two primary looks." The Jaguars will wear "teal jerseys with white pants for home games -- depending on the home team's uniform choice -- and white jerseys with black pants for away games." Weaver: "No longer will there be a question about who we are, what our identity is. We felt one of the things we should do after 15 years in the NFL (is) we should establish a more permanent identity." Wright notes the new uniforms "feature a more streamlined look, minus the Jaguars logos that once adorned each sleeve." The numbers and letters "appear to be in a more modern font, and there isn't gold coloring" on the jerseys. The most "radical change is in the helmets, which will now be painted with what's called a Spectra-Flair bright silver pigment that produces a rainbow-like effect, allowing the helmets to change colors, depending on the angle of the light hitting them" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/23). The Jaguars yesterday also announced that the team's "teal-tongued cat head" logo would now be its "main logo identity" (JAGUARS.com, 4/22).

    NICE DECISION: In Jacksonville, Matt Soergel writes the uniforms are "certainly cleaner than those busy old ones, accomplished largely by banishing the color gold to where it belongs: The iconic snarling Jaguar head." Some observers "will complain that it's boring, but what's undeniable is that the new look is crisper and more elegant." Soergel: "Another wise move: It's teal jerseys and white pants for home games, a classic Jaguar combination." Soergel notes the all-black uniforms that "showed up a few times the last few years are gone." Weaver "flatly ruled them out" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/23). Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of the new uniforms, “A real clean look, something that we do think will have a timeless-ness about it. ... We’re going to have a freshness about us” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 4/23).

    LIONS DEN: In Detroit, Jamie Samuelsen wrote of the new Lions logo and uniforms, "If the goal is [to] dramatically alter the model, I don't see much alteration. I hope the goal was just to tweak things because if they were looking to overhaul the look and feel of the team, they failed." Samuelsen added, "I just never had an issue with the Lions logo. I tend to be boring when it comes to sports teams, but I'm just not a big fan of change. ... My reaction to the Lions logo? A bit of a yawn" (FREEP.com, 4/22).

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  • Mavs’ Cuban Still Focused On A Championship After 10 Seasons

    Cuban Says He Has Money, But
    Not A Championship
    Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban’s “youthful appearance, drive and exuberance have changed little" since he bought the team in January '00, but with “two straight first-round playoff ousters, the on-court returns for Cuban’s millions were diminishing” entering this season, according to a front-page piece by  Brad Townsend of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. This season marks the Mavericks’ ninth consecutive playoff appearance, but Cuban “recalls finishing in the black only twice during his tenure,” and according to Forbes’ figures it has “happened only once.” Mavs President & CEO Terdema Ussery noted that the Mavericks “consistently rank among the NBA’s top four revenue producers, despite ticket-price decreases” in parts of American Airlines Center the past four years. The team “consistently exceeds the NBA salary cap, usually dramatically so,” and according to Forbes’ numbers, the Mavericks “lost $13.6[M] last year, largely because of their $103[M] in player salaries and bonuses.” Cuban said, “Depending on where the economy goes, we’ll have to make adjustments. But I’ve got money. I don’t have a championship.” Cuban is “still the public face of the franchise, but he notes that he gives considerably fewer in-depth interviews,” and if he “has something to say, he prefers to do so through his blog.” Cuban emphasized that his “commitment to the franchise hasn’t changed, but admits that losses don’t weigh on him as long as they did before he had daughters Alexis and Alyssa.” Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki said of Cuban, “We don’t see that much of him anymore. I remember when he first bought the team, he was all over us” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/23).

    AT ALL COSTS: Cuban said the team has "lost money most of the years. … I think we’ve made money two years.” But he added, “I’d just rather win than make more money. I’ve got money.” Cuban: “I want to win for myself, the city, the players, that’s just my goal. Now, how we do it is the hard part. It’s not always just about spending money, so we’ve got to try to figure it out.” Meanwhile, Cuban said of his relationship with other owners, “The ones that are active and involved, I get along great with. The ones that aren’t, I don’t.” Cuban also said he is “just as committed” to the team as when he bought the franchise. Cuban: “I just don’t get as upset after losses like I used to. … I’ve kind of mellowed out in terms of in-games” (DALLASNEWS.com, 4/23).

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