SBD/Issue 86/Facilities & Venues

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  • Big Hard Sun: Dolphins Sell Stadium Naming Rights To Sun Life

    Sun Life Financial's Five-Year Deal With Dolphins
    Reportedly Averages Around $7.5M Annually
    The Dolphins on Wednesday will announce Sun Life Financial as the new naming-rights partner for their home stadium, just four days before the Pro Bowl and 11 days before Super Bowl XLIV are played at what will be called Sun Life Stadium. Sources said the five-year entitlement deal averaged around $7.5M annually. It was unclear whether Sun Life category rights will be restricted to insurance or be more broadly-based to include a number of financial services categories. The creative ties between Sun Life and an NFL team venue in South Florida are obvious. However, how much marketing value Sun Life will be able to extract in less than two weeks from an association with this year's Pro Bowl and Super Bowl site is questionable. From an industry perspective, the recession put many naming-rights deals on hold. It remains to be seen whether the Dolphins' new deal catalyzes similar entitlement deals for the Cowboys' new $1.2B stadium before next year's Super Bowl, or for the new Giants/Jets stadium before it opens April 10 with the Big City Classic lacrosse tournament. The Sun Life stadium entitlement comes just two months after the company launched its first national branding campaign in the U.S., entitled "Get to Know Sun Life," from ad firm The Martin Agency, which began Sun Life creative last August. All those marketing programs, designed to expand Sun Life's brand awareness, are being directed by Sun Life Financial U.S. Senior VP & Head of Marketing Priscilla Brown. Prior to joining Sun Life, Brown was a top marketer at Lincoln Financial Group and part of the marketing team that purchased a 20-year, $139.6M entitlement at the Eagles' stadium in '02. Sun Life has generally been sports sponsorship shy. It signed on as a U.S. sponsor of Cirque du Soleil in August '09. It is interesting to note that Sun Life was title sponsor of the recent Frozen Fenway college hockey game at Fenway Park. That sponsorship was sold by Fenway Sports Group, where Mike Dee was President before jumping to the Dolphins as CEO.

    YET ANOTHER NAME CHANGE: The Sun Life deal puts yet another name on the 22-year-old facility that has been called by five additional monikers since opening as Joe Robbie Stadium. It has also been known as Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium, after an Anheuser-Busch beer licensed by Jimmy Buffet. The insurance category has been fertile territory for those selling sports sponsorships and sports media, even during the recession. Allstate has a USOC and BCS deal, along with its compelling branding on goal-post nets, Nationwide bought title rights to NASCAR's No. 2 circuit last year, and Progressive has naming rights to the Indians' home ballpark. Geico is an NHL sponsor and a large buyer of national and local sports media. State Farm has MLB and NCAA sponsorships, and had NFL rights until this season.

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  • Cubs Plan Wrigley Renovation For Park's 100th Anniversary In '14

    Kenney Says Wrigley Field Renovation Will
    Allow Cubs To Use Park For Another 100 Years
    Cubs President Crane Kenney said the team is planning a "complete renovation" of Wrigley Field in conjunction with the ballpark's 100-year anniversary in '14, according to Dave van Dyck of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Kenney said that the renovation, dubbed "Wrigley 20-14," will include "construction projects during the season so the Cubs can use it 'for another 100 years.'" The "focal point of the massive restructuring will be the long-talked-about 'triangle building' to the west, a project that will include knocking down the outer wall on the third-base side to form a large open-air courtyard that would include concession areas and shops." Ultimately, all of the concourses "will be widened and include expanded restrooms, some of which will be completed for this season." The project also means construction "will be ongoing during the 2011 and 2012 seasons." While plans "still are sketchy, there also could be a restaurant below the third-based terrace 'suites.'" The only parts of the ballpark that "will not be reconfigured are the bleachers, which already have been altered by more seats and a restaurant." Meanwhile, during a Cubs Convention panel discussion, Kenney was asked about naming rights for the ballpark, and he said, "I can't imagine the ballpark not being called Wrigley Field" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17).

    TIME FOR A CHANGE? In Illinois, Bruce Miles reports the Cubs are "not considering personal seat licenses" for Wrigley Field, and team Owner the Ricketts family is "not considering increasing the number of night games from 30 or seeking Friday night or Saturday night home games." Cubs BOD member Laura Ricketts said that "any profits the team makes under the family's ownership would be put back into the team." Meanwhile, the Cubs "continue to lobby" MLB to "host the 2014 All-Star Game to mark Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/17).'s Carrie Muskat noted the Ricketts family is "weighing proposals" for Spring Training facilities from Mesa, Arizona, and Naples, Florida, and they are "expected to make an announcement this month." Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts: "The fact is that our goal is to have the best facilities in baseball when it comes to Spring Training" (, 1/16). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan reported the family also is "looking to hire what it called a 'Chief Hospitality Officer' to bring fans suggestions and complaints to ownership." Tom Ricketts added that they are "looking into asking the city to block off some streets before games, making it less of a 'bar-like atmosphere outside the stadium'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17).

    FAMILY MATTERS: The Illinois DAILY HERALD's Miles reports the "clear winners" of the Cubs Convention over the weekend were the "members of the Ricketts family." The new owners "met face to face with fans and took all their questions," marking the "first time in the 25-year history of the convention that fans actually got to see and talk to the owners of the Cubs." The Ricketts "talked of winning, improving Wrigley Field with 'respect' to its history and listening to the fans." They added that they "wouldn't be as visible -- or as loud -- as" Yankees Chair George Steinbrenner, but that they "would be at the games." The family's presence "alone this weekend seemed to put the fans in a better mood after they came loaded for bear following an extremely disappointing 2009 season" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/18). In N.Y., Dave Seminara reported the family "received several rousing ovations over the course of the weekend," during which "some 15,000 fans attended" the Cubs Convention (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).'s Melissa Isaacson wrote the Ricketts family "doesn't deserve anything harsher than guarded optimism" currently. Not even "raised ticket prices caused any serious wrath, the subject coming up as a polite plea from one fan." The fan asked, "Will you please reconsider your decision to raise ticket prices considering the economy and job losses, so fans can afford it?" Isaacson wrote, "To the Ricketts' credit, there were honest, straightforward answers." Tom Ricketts said, "If we're going to compete with the bigger teams in the league, if we're going to try to compete for talent with the Red Sox or the Yankees, we're going to have to have some financial flexibility. With that said, we don't have any plans for any ticket increases in the future" (, 1/16).

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  • Sacramento Arena Task Force Open To All Seven Proposals

    Sacramento Arena Task Force Could
    Combine Ideas From Several Proposals
    Sacramento First arena task force co-Chair Chris Lehane Friday said that his group is "not yet putting any proposal ahead of the others" among the seven submitted to build a new sports and entertainment center for the NBA Kings, according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Lehane: "This is not about a shining arena for the Kings and NBA. It is about what is best for Sacramento. The Kings and the league have backed other proposals in the past, and those have not come to fruition." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in a blog on his Web site wrote, "The review process will determine which proposal or proposals best puts Sacramento First." Lehane said that the task force "may consider cobbling together ideas from several of the proposals and from their own research when they make a recommendation to the mayor." Bizjak noted "five of the seven proposals shared a unifying factor, making the case that the venue belongs downtown where it would enliven the urban core." Meanwhile, NBA officials "created shock waves by announcing they already back one of the plans." The proposal spearheaded by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos includes a "complicated land swap moving the State Fair to the Arco Arena site in Natomas, turning Cal Expo over to private developers, and leveraging income from those moves to help finance an arena in the downtown railyard." Baltimore-based Moag & Co. CEO John Moag, a consultant working for the NBA on the arena project, said that the proposal "stands out among the seven ... because it includes something other proposals don't: deep-pocketed private partners to jump-start the project financially" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16).

    TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? In Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote under the header, "Is Land-Swap Arena Proposal Too Bold For Sacramento?" It seems an "amazingly clever and innovative deal -- and too good to be true." Putting aside the "environmental questions and neighborhood opposition, it's unclear whether the state can sell Cal Expo to one group without putting it out to competitive bidding." Also, the new arena "would go up on city-owned land at the railyard -- though the city is headed to arbitration with the railyard developer over the value of that land." The developer, Thomas Enterprises, "has its own arena bid competing against the Kamilos plan." Breton noted Kings Owners the Maloofs are "on board" with an arena plan "for the first time," supporting the Kamilos plan. The new Kings arena at that location "would be paired with a new transit station that could be the hub of a revitalized downtown," and Cal Expo "could become a thriving commercial and residential area instead of a worn-out fairground." Breton: "It's a bold vision that transcends our sensible-shoes landscape" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/17). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial stated it is "appealing that Arco could be reused as a Cal Expo exhibit hall, instead of tearing it down or building housing on this floodplain property." But there also are some "open questions about how this deal would be structured." The city "has lent the Kings" $70M, and Moag said the loan would be "retired" as part of the proposal. The NBA insisted that it is "not expecting the city to 'forgive' the loan," but the editorial wondered, "If not, what will be the source of funding for retiring this debt? And what would the city get out of this deal, in exchange for giving up land?" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/16).

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  • Canadiens' HOF Opens With 100 Years Of Memorabilia On Display

    Canadiens' New HOF Opened Its Doors 
    Saturday At The Bell Centre
    The Canadiens' new HOF opened on Saturday at the Bell Centre, and team President Pierre Boivin "called it the 'icing on the cake' of the team's 100th anniversary celebrations," according to Bill Beacon of the CP. Visitors "enter into a space with a floor painted to look like centre ice at the old Montreal Forum, with a dome overhead covered in pictures of the 54 players and builders the team has sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame." Down some stairs is a "wall done up like the old Forum's Atwater Street facade, but in front are life-size mannequins of current Canadiens players celebrating a goal." The net in the display is the "one used for the final game at the Forum in 1996." There also is a "replica of the Canadiens dressing room from its dynasty days in the 1970s." Many of the "rare artifacts came from Montreal collector Allan Rubin, including hundreds of hockey cards in pristine condition, some going back to the Canadiens first season in 1909-10." Former players "donated other pieces." Tickets to the HOF cost C$10 for adults and C$7 for children and seniors, while "fans with a ticket for that night's game get in for" C$5 (CP, 1/15). In Montreal, Dave Stubbs noted fans will "find touch-screen tours, audio-video loops and an interactive multimedia display." In addition, "almost endless are the items culled from the Canadiens' vault and those loaned by private collectors and borrowed" from the Hockey HOF in Toronto (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/16).

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  • StubHub President Claims Paperless Tickets Hurting Fans' Options

    Tsakalakis Argues Fan
    Choice Being Eliminated
    StubHub President Chris Tsakalakis said paperless ticketing is reducing fan choice and stifling marketplace competition. Electronic ticketing, where entry to an event is obtained typically using a magnetic strip on a credit card or driver's license, represents an estimated 1% of the marketplace, but through efforts of companies such as Veritix and Ticketmaster, it is growing rapidly and gaining increased adoption among pro and college teams. Tsakalakis at the Ticket Summit conference in N.Y. Friday argued that fan choice is being eliminated by rules that often limit resale of those electronic tickets to secondary forums operated by the primary ticketing vendor, venue or team. "People often talk about the virtues of paperless ticketing, and there are some, but there are also two main negatives: It takes away fan rights and eliminates resale competition," Tsakalakis said. "And with no competition, you usually get a lower level of service and higher prices." Tsakalakis said the company's future plan to combat paperless ticketing is not fully clear, but said, "We think there's scope here for potential regulation." He added StubHub would continue to inform consumers on the drawbacks of paperless ticketing. Veritix has sold more than 2 million paperless tickets since its '06 launch as Flash Seats and generated more than $500,000 in new secondary ticket revenue so far this season for its NBA clients the Cavaliers, Jazz, Nuggets and Rockets. It predictably disputed StubHub's view. "The free market is defined by the content owners," said Veritix President Jeff Kline. "And content owners -- the leagues and teams -- are choosing us because of what we provide. It seems pretty clear that what Chris is seeing is that the market is shifting, and that he's losing business in the markets where we're at."

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  • Facility Notes

    Phoenix Int'l Raceway's Grandstand
    Capacity Has Dropped By 20,000 Seats
    USA TODAY's Nate Ryan reports several NASCAR tracks have "sliced their grandstand capacities by several thousand seats after a 2009 season in which attendance was flat or down at virtually every race." Among the "biggest drops" are Daytona Int'l Speedway, which decreased from 168,000 to 146,000, and Phoenix Int'l Raceway (PIR), "which dropped by 20,000 seats." ISC Exec VP & COO Roger VanDerSnick: "Phoenix is a nice market, but it's been hit hard. This is an opportunity to take valuable real estate that wasn't going to be used and turn it into amenities." PIR President Bryan Sperber said that the track "expanded seat width from 18 to 22 inches to address a frequent complaint from fans" (USA TODAY, 1/18).

    NIGHT MOVES: In New Orleans, Bob Fortus noted the New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Course held it's first night race card of the season on Friday, and the atmosphere was "part nightclub, part racetrack." Dancers in "short shorts entertained in a track-side tent while people ate oysters." A band "played in the clubhouse," and "well-dressed people mingled, drinks in hand." Attendance figures for the card "weren't available as of Saturday, but it was evident that this wasn't a typical Friday gathering." Track President Austin Miller: "I'm just as pleased as I can be. I can tell you, it's not your grandfather's racetrack. ... In terms of creating an environment or creating a vibe, it all went fantastic" (, 1/17).

    CUTTING BACK? DAILY RACING FORM's Steve Andersen reported Santa Anita is "considering reducing its racing calendar at the current winter-spring meeting, with the possibility of running fewer races per day or one fewer day per week." Santa Anita President Ron Charles Friday said that the track is "concerned about field size after eight-race programs on Wednesday and Thursday drew 52 and 49 starters, respectively." Charles said that "ontrack handle is down" 10% and that the Southern California intertrack network is "down a 'little less'" (, 1/15).

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