Sunoco Debuts "Essence Of Racing" Campaign Executive Transactions Isiah Thomas Expected Backlash Over Hiring FanDuel Brings On Most Of Zynga Sports Team Georgia Approves Increased Athletic Budget Kentucky Adding Ribbon Boards At Rupp IndyCar Ponders How To Attract Fans Long Term Jeff Gordon Hired As Full-Time Analyst For Fox Danica's Sponsorship Status To Be Telling For NASCAR Classified Advertisements
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James' Departure From Cavaliers Would Be
One Of Region's Most Crushing Sports Moments
LeBron James' free-agency decision "will change everything for the Cavaliers and their fans," according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. If James "stays in Cleveland, the Cavs remain a legitimate contender," and if he leaves, there is "nothing owner Dan Gilbert and all of his millions can do to change the fact that [the] Cavs are headed back to the middle of the NBA pack." With James, the Cavaliers "sell out every home game and Cleveland is one of the biggest planets in the basketball universe," but without him, the casual sports fan "starts talking about when Browns' training camp starts" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/8). In Akron, Jason Lloyd writes if James leaves the Cavaliers, it will be "one of the most crushing moments in a region used to heartbreak" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/8).
PUTTING ALL THEIR EGGS IN ONE BASKET: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy reports the Nets "weren't meeting with free agents" while James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh "were mulling their conglomerated future, so they handcuffed themselves while fall-backs decided to go elsewhere." It was a "LeBron-or-bust gamble that will likely backfire, especially since the Nets haven't secured a running mate to entice James," and "barring the unexpected ... the Nets' summer of promise was a failure." The team has "marketed owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z as the 'The Blueprint for Greatness' and the keys to landing James," but both Prokhorov and Jay-Z "were in Europe last weekend during the heart of the free-agent courtship." If James chooses to join the Knicks, it would be a "public relations disaster for the Nets" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/8).
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND? In N.Y., Marc Berman cites a Knicks source as saying that CAA's Leon Rose, who reps James, "told the Knicks they'd get word shortly before" James announces his decision tonight on ESPN. But Rose "made no promises." A Knicks source: "It's nuts, but it's worth the wait" (N.Y. POST, 7/8). Also in N.Y., Filip Bondy writes "The Decision," ESPN's one-hour special during which James will announce his decision, "can be as absurd and self-absorbed as" James wishes. Bondy: "You can trot out some kids, to make it seem like it's not all about LeBron, and we won't call you on it. Unless you're going back to Cleveland, or to Chicago or to Miami. Then all bets are off and we will not be happy about being used, teased and discarded" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/8). Meanwhile, MSG shares yesterday "soared" 6.9% over the "excitement surrounding the possibility" that James might sign with the Knicks. The "pop in the shares of MSG, which owns the Knicks, means the Dolan family, which owns 20 percent of The Garden, made about" $20.5M yesterday (N.Y. POST, 7/8). Meanwhile, if the Knicks were to sign James, it "would not only ensure a stronger ROI on the rebuild, but would have a positive impact on profitability levels across MSG's businesses," BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in a research note released this morning. "Suite sales, merchandising sales and MSG Network ratings all stand to benefit from a meaningfully stronger Knicks' team with an iconic player like LeBron" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
CAVALIER ATTITUDE: In an informal poll on SportsBusinessDaily.com conducted from yesterday afternoon to noon today, 40% of the 374 respondents felt that James will play for the Cavaliers next season. The Knicks were the second-likeliest landing spot for James with 33% of the vote, followed by the Heat 12%, Bulls 6%, Nets 6% and Clippers 2% (THE DAILY).
Heat Expecting To See Gains In Sponsorship,
Tickets With Recent High-Profile Signings
Regardless of who else joins the Heat, the team is "well-positioned to command a regularly full arena, an increase in jersey sales, and the potential for new sponsorships, national TV games and a boost in advertising rates on local broadcasts" with G Dwyane Wade and F Chris Bosh yesterday both announcing their decision to play for the Heat, according to Sarah Talalay of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The boost would be the Heat's "biggest since the team made the trade" for C Shaquille O'Neal in July '04, and "back then, the arena sold out every night, was regularly on national TV and starred in Christmas Day games." Michael Cramer, Dir of the Texas Program In Sports & Media at the Univ. of Texas, said if the Heat are "able to pull off the coup of bringing" free agent F LeBron James in as well, "The ticket will be the hottest ticket in the NBA in years." Meanwhile, Talalay writes joining the Heat likely means Bosh's profile "would be raised." His familiarity is "limited because he's played in Toronto and doesn't have the national stature of James and Wade" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/8). In Miami, Adam Beasley writes interest in the Heat "already has spiked to 2006 levels." Traffic yesterday was "so heavy to the Heat website that some inquiring about season tickets" received an error message reading in part, "Due to an overwhelming demand, we cannot process your request at this time." Team officials "declined to comment Wednesday on ticket interest, but from talk radio to the Internet, anecdotal evidence indicated a newfound enthusiasm among the faithful" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/8).
PAINFUL LOSS: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the Raptors were "gutted by the loss of the latest in a long line of all-stars" with Bosh choosing the Heat, and the "junkyard that is Toronto's sports marketplace got even junkier." Bosh "came off as child-like in his attention-starved exit, frustrating the Raptors by being as uncommunicative as he was indecisive." He "did Toronto zero favours after promising to work together" with Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo. But it is Colangelo "who failed to build a contender around Bosh." Feschuk: "It's been grim in Toronto before ... but you can argue it has never been grimmer" (TORONTO STAR, 7/8).
THE THUNDER ROLLS: In Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry notes Thunder F Kevin Durant yesterday announced to his over 200,000 followers on Twitter that he "had agreed to a five-year extension that will keep him in Oklahoma City through the 2016 season." Durant's agent, Aaron Goodwin, said that the deal was "originally projected to be between" $85-86M. Durant: "I'm a very loyal person. People say that might hurt me sometimes, but I think it's a great attribute that I have." Mayberry writes by "agreeing to a new deal now, Thunder owners and management demonstrated the high level of commitment they have to the league's newest star." It "didn't take long for the two sides to strike a deal," and the past week was spent "simply fine-tuning the fine print." Mayberry writes, "In what has been billed as 'The Summer of LeBron,' it was Durant who augmented his already ample adulation with the manner in which he delivered his news." Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: "As a coach, somebody who follows basketball, what you appreciate is he just sort of did it. There was no big fanfare compared to what's going on with all these free agents. This is a guy who sort of gets on with business." Durant: "I'm just not the guy that always wants to be in the limelight or have my business out there, even though it will be out there sooner or later. I didn't want to go through that. Twitter has been good to me. I have a lot of people that follow me. I know a lot of people wanted to know about the contract, so why not? It was cool" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/8). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote under the header, "Durant And Thunder Get It Right." Adande: "No summit, no TV show, no drama. The NBA's top up-and-coming team knows its franchise player won't be going anywhere" (ESPN.com, 7/7).
Mets Again Inviting Former Season-Ticket Holders
To Take In A Game At Citi Field For Free
The Mets, in a "continuing effort to lure back old season-ticket holders, have treated members of that group to free game tickets this week," according to Ken Davidoff of NEWSDAY. After getting "positive feedback from the last such venture, conducted during the Mets' May 21-23 series against the Yankees, the Mets welcomed back some former season-ticket holders to Tuesday night's game against the Reds." Others were "invited to attend tomorrow's or Sunday's game against" the Braves. Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard said that "some people from this target group purchased pro-rated season-ticket plans for the duration of the season, although he wouldn't provide a specific number or estimate" (NEWSDAY, 7/8). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Larry Brooks reports the crowd at Citi Field for last night's game against the Reds was "announced at a little more than 30,000, but there were scads of empty seats in not only the expensive section of the ballpark, but in the cheap seats in the outfield grandstands." Brooks writes, "There is a sense, a real sense, that the Mets are now operating as a mid-market club, unwilling or unable to dive in to attract the best that money can buy. ... Maybe that perception is unfair to ownership, but it's as real as last night's empty seats and as real as the frustration of the fan base that already is resigned to losing Cliff Lee to a higher lend-lease bidder this summer." There is "no buzz around the Mets" (N.Y. POST, 7/8).
Ryan's Group Would Receive $15M "Breakup"
Fee Should It Lose Next Week's Auction
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott yesterday weighed in on the MLB Rangers' bankruptcy case, "urging the court in Fort Worth to reject the team's current reorganization plan because of how it treats some rights of tax-collecting bodies in the state," according to Barry Shlachter of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. The federal trustee in the case on Tuesday "asked the court to bounce the team's bankruptcy attorneys for being too close" to Owner Tom Hicks, and earlier, major lenders "opposed the franchise's 'pre-packaged' reorganization plan aimed at taking it out of Chapter 11." Meanwhile, sources said that a "marathon mediation session to hammer out ground rules for a July 16 auction of the Rangers resumed Wednesday after grueling negotiations broke off at midnight the night before." Coming under "intense scrutiny were bidding procedures proposed by attorneys for the ballclub, which some asserted too heavily favored" Rangers President Nolan Ryan and Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg. The sources "declined to say if the proposal had any chance of success." Under that plan, the $304M cash portion of the Greenberg-Ryan group's May 24 deal "would serve as a minimum bid, with the next bid at least" $20M higher. Also, the Greenberg-Ryan group would collect a $15M "breakup" fee should it end up losing. The deal was part of the "prepackaged" bankruptcy plan that the team "had hoped would sail through U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Lynn's court in Fort Worth." Houston businessman Jim Crane reportedly is "still interested in acquiring the team," and SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that Crane "should not be counted out." Ganis: "There isn't this virulent opposition to him, in contrast to a number of weeks ago when the word was that Major League Baseball was for Nolan Ryan and Greenberg and no one else" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/8).
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Former agent Dennis Gilbert did not attend mediation Tuesday in the bankruptcy case, suggesting he is not ready to bid for the embattled club. The team and its creditors met in federal mediation Tuesday and invited the spurned bidders of the club to attend, including Gilbert; his one time financial backer, Jeff Beck; and Crane. It is unclear if Crane and Beck attended. Gilbert's absence does not mean there will not be other bids, though it could suggest a certain reticence on behalf of MLB, a well-placed source said. MLB has pushed for Greenberg/Ryan, and Gilbert is seen as being very loyal to MLB and not wanting to cross the league's path in this regard. Gilbert confirmed he did not attend, but declined to say why. The league did not reply for comment right away. MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy last week said that when an auction occurred, MLB would retain its traditional approval rights of any potential buyer (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB: In Dallas, Evan Grant wrote Ryan's mission is to "care for the Rangers and their customers," and he "gets it." Grant: "While just about everybody else in this monetary mess has lost sight of their mission or purpose, Ryan continues to be a dignified front man for the Rangers. To a bankruptcy court, behavior, comportment, decorum and dignity may not matter. A stronger case for why Ryan -- and his partner Chuck Greenberg -- are the proper choices to run this franchise going forward could not be made" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/7).
Heightend Interest From World Cup Reaffirms
SS&E's Efforts To Put Soccer Team In San Antonio
Spurs Sports & Entertainment VP/Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Leo Gomez said that the company is "interested in pursuing a professional soccer team" for San Antonio, according to W. Scott Bailey of the SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL. Gomez said that "heightened interest in the U.S. team's 2010 World Cup run has reaffirmed SS&E research indicating that there is growing support" for soccer in the city. Gomez said that SS&E's plan is to "re-create the model" that FC Dallas used to "secure a new stadium in North Texas." That would "require SS&E to team up with an area independent school district interested in developing or renovating a venue to accommodate professional soccer, high school football and various entertainment events." San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza, who "tried to bring an MLS team" to the city five years ago, said that there have been talks between SS&E and the San Antonio Independent District Board of Trustees about the "possibility of renovating the aging Alamo Stadium." Gomez said that he "believes San Antonio should start with a team in the USL." But he said that SS&E is "interested in a plan that would include a stadium suitable for the MLS."
GOAL ORIENTED: Bailey notes SS&E is "not the only entity interested in securing a pro soccer franchise" for San Antonio, as developer Gordon Hartman said that he also "hopes to bring a team" to the city. Hartman: "I'm working very aggressively to put together a plan to bring a professional soccer team to San Antonio. I want to build a venue that would accommodate a pro soccer team." He said that he has had "conversations with multiple teams about relocating to San Antonio" (SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/2 issue). In San Antonio, Richard Oliver notes Hartman, who opened his $9M STAR Soccer Complex in the city earlier this year, "hopes to build a multimillion-dollar stadium in coming months to serve as the centerpiece of the sprawling STAR project." Hartman said that he has "approached city and county officials about the idea and added 'the public sector' would have to be involved in financing in some way." Hartman and Playbook Management Int'l Managing Partner and former FC Dallas President & GM Michael Hitchcock are "targeting a franchise in either" the USL or NASL. Hitchcock said that a team "could compete in San Antonio by 2013" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 7/8).