SBD/Issue 34/Franchises

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  • Bullet Proof: Leonsis To "Punt" On Decision To Rename Wizards

    Leonsis Will Focus On Other
    Improvements To Team, Arena

    Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis Tuesday said he “decided to just punt on the decision” to change the team's name, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. Leonsis on WWDC-FM’s "Elliot in the Morning" show said, “I’ve probably gotten 8,000 e-mails, and I’ll betcha 2,500 of them have argued very passionately why we should change the name back to the Bullets, or why we should keep the name Wizards, or why we should have a new name.” Leonsis: “It’s a big effort, and it honestly takes no less than 25 months, and it’s millions and millions of dollars.” He said there is “so much work immediately in front of us, and there are so many investments that we need to make, I’ve honestly decided to just punt on the decision. I don’t think it’s a decision that needs to be reached right now.” But Leonsis said he does “want to change the colors.” Leonsis: “I think that it’s very natural for all of the teams to play in that building to sport a red, white and blue motif, and so yes, the fans can expect some kind of re-imagineering, an homage to the past in terms of colors and design. But as to the name change, there really is zero going on right now.” He added, “I’ve had my hands full with doing things like putting beer holders over the urinals, and I got just as many passionate e-mails on I need gluten-free food, and we need kosher food, and we need more vegetarian fare. We’ve tried to do our best. I know we can always improve, and not everything we do will meet everyone’s standards, but at least I think for the most part people realize that we are trying our best and we are listening” (, 10/27).

    CAPITAL GROWTH: In DC, Michael Lee notes the arrival of Wizards rookie G John Wall and Leonsis this season “has injected considerable excitement into an organization that appeared to be stripped of all hope.” The Wizards are "among the NBA's top 10 teams in new season ticket orders, with nearly 2,000 fans signing up" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/28).

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  • MLB Giants Owners' Tech Backgrounds Help At Gate, On Field

    Neukom Using Technology To
    Boost Fans' Ballpark Experience

    The MLB Giants, “backed by owners from Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Intel Corp., are bringing Silicon Valley knowhow to bear as they take on” the Rangers in the World Series, according to Satariano & Gloster of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The team is “increasingly using technology to hone players' skills and draw more fans” under the direction of Managing General Partner Bill Neukom, a former Microsoft General Counsel. The Giants “use motion-sensor suits to help evaluate throwing and hitting mechanics and a specially outfitted pitching machine that shoots different-colored balls at more than 100 miles per hour to help batters.” The team also is the “first to use software that sets ticket prices based on supply and demand, similar to airlines or hotels.” AT&T Park was the “first to offer Wi-Fi Internet service to fans” in '04, and Neukom said that the Giants are now “exploring ways to distribute content on mobile devices and social networks.” He said, “The point is to be restless about where technology can help us on the baseball side and on the business side.” Giants investors include former Intel Chair and Apple Dir Arthur Rock; Yahoo BOD member Arthur Kern and the company's former President, Jeff Mallett; Cisco Media Solutions Group Senior VP & GM Dan Scheinman; and venture capitalist Paul Wythes. Giants President & COO Larry Baer said the team reaching the World Series is worth “several millions of dollars” in additional revenue. About 4,000 “new season ticket applications have been received by the club since the beginning of September.” Baer: “The real benefit is 2011, where you can drive season tickets, where you can drive sponsorships, where we can drive pricing” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/28).

    STAR TREATMENT: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt notes the Giants "have kept the door open" for former LF Barry Bonds and have "repeatedly brought him back to the stadium for ceremonies celebrating the team's history." Neukom: "It's a conscious thing. It's certainly something I spent a lot of time thinking about and talking about to people in the front office. He is a huge part of the Giants' history, and he is adored by the fans here. And his accomplishments speak for themselves." Neukom acknowledged that "some people within baseball were probably not enthused that Bonds was a continuing presence" at AT&T Park. Neukom: "It's a fine line we walk. Nothing has been proven, and the sensible and fair thing is to continue to recognize him for all he has accomplished, but we are not trying to do anything that is thumbing our noses at the federal government or Major League Baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28).

    ROOM TO GROW: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Gloster & Flinn reported the Giants are hoping to spur a "transformation of the mostly neglected area behind AT&T Park," which is "leased by the Giants from the Port of San Francisco on a year-to-year basis." Baer "looks at the parking lots and decrepit docks sitting just beyond the right-field wall and envisions a cultural, residential and retail complex." Baer said that the area "may be the site of a concert hall, or a sports arena that might seek to lure" the Warriors to S.F. "as part of an 'activated, multifaceted place for people to work and live in the city.'" S.F. Planning Department Dir John Rahaim said that "some plans for development near the ballpark have stalled because of the economy," but he added that "building a sports center across from AT&T Park could work." Rahaim: "There are good synergies to having an arena there, if it's done right. It's important to have it be part of a mixed-use thing and not just an arena" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/27).

    PAYMENT PLAN: The Giants last year were the first MLB team to institute dynamic pricing for single-game tickets, and Baer said the concept "really works for the fans." Baer: "We were concerned about it, but the reality is 75% of the games, the prices are actually at or below the fixed pricing. It's the other 25% where it can go pretty high. The other thing is, you get people in seats at lower prices and you can sell them concessions. An empty seat can't buy a beer, can't buy a hot dog, can't park a car. ... We think it's about an 8-9% factor in terms of revenue by being dynamically priced versus being statically priced" ("The Call," CNBC, 10/27).

    CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? USA TODAY’s Gabe Lacques notes AT&T Park is “a few miles up the road from Apple’s headquarters, and that might be part of the problem” with fans getting a strong network connection in the area. Giants fan Thom Hicks said that fans’ “love affairs with their iPhone bogs down the vaunted AT&T network and prevents him from engaging in the frivolities he’s come to enjoy from his mobile device.” Hicks: “My sports app won’t come up on my iPhone” (USA TODAY, 10/28).

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  • Thrashers Promoting Black Players In Local Marketing Efforts

    Evander Kane (l), Anthony Stewart (r) Part
    Of Effort To Promote Thrashers In Atlanta

    The Thrashers' five black players are tied for the most ever on one NHL roster, and the team is "promoting that distinction" in ads in the Atlanta area, according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. The Thrashers’ roster makeup at the start of the season "led to speculation in the blogosphere that the team was deliberately acquiring black players in an effort to broaden its appeal in greater Atlanta, an area long known for the size, prominence and wealth of its African-American population." But Thrashers President Don Waddell said, "It all just kind of happened. It wasn’t like we went out and tried to pick up black players." Klein reports despite the "incidental nature of the acquisitions, the Thrashers are taking advantage of their windfall of black players." The team "has started to advertise in print media and radio stations to black audiences." Waddell: "We’re not trying to exploit our players. But we have an opportunity now to reach a different community, so we’re doing a lot more advertising on urban radio stations, some magazines." Klein notes the Thrashers' attendance last season ranked 28th in the 30-team NHL, and this season it is "down even more after three home dates." Whether the marketing push "will bear fruit is still unclear, but the demographic evidence is certainly compelling for a team desperate to find new fans." Atlanta has the "highest proportion of middle-income African-Americans of any major metropolitan region" in the U.S. (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28).

    PLAYERS BEHIND MARKETING PUSH: Thrashers RW Anthony Stewart said, "It's great for people who may not be traditional hockey fans to have something to identify with. It's not necessarily a big market yet, but it could help the casual fan just to come out and catch a game or two. ... Just the casual fan sparking an interest that can lead to a lot more fans coming on a night-to-night basis." Thrashers LW Evander Kane: "It would be silly not to try to promote it and market it. The Thrashers are probably going to try to do that and I'm more than willing to be a part of that and be one of the focal points of that campaign" (, 10/27).

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  • Sounders Fans Surprised, Confused By '11 Season-Ticket Prices

    Sounders Season-Ticket Holders Will See
    A 3% Per Game Price Increase Next Year

    Renewal invoices for MLS Sounders FC season-ticket packages "have been met with mixed emotions," according to Joshua Mayers of the SEATTLE TIMES. Some fans "were angered by the three-percent, price-per-game increase," while others "were confused about the billing breakdown." Some fans "weren't expecting a price hike, especially after ownership promised a one-game rebate next season after an embarrassing 4-0 home loss" to the Galaxy in May. The steeper prices are "mainly due to" an "expensive premium for a big international friendly." Sounders investor & GM Adrian Hanauer said the friendly will be against a "top-five team in the world." Hanauer said that the club "listened to fans' wishes while considering the new season-ticket package," and as a result, there will be "just one friendly instead of three, as well as 17 regular-season matches." Hanauer added that the Sounders are "working with the expansion Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps and the MLS to determine an appropriate ticket allocation for visiting fans for games between the Northwest teams" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/27). Hanauer: "We all along intended to raise our tickets prices 3 percent in this third year for original season-ticket holders. I do think there was some confusion about that. ... I'm sure we're partly to blame. I have seen articles online and message board information about us not raising ticket prices 3 percent, but I haven't seen anything from our club that actually said that." Hanauer added that the surcharge "reflects the expense of bringing any of the top clubs in the world to Qwest Field" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/27).

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  • NBA Franchise Notes: Chouest's Deal For Hornets Still On Track

    In New Orleans, Jimmy Smith cited NBA sources as saying that George Shinn's sale of majority ownership of the Hornets to Gary Chouest is "still on track." League sources indicated that both Shinn and Chouest are "attempting to work out final details of an agreement that was first reached in May." Chouest, who already owns 35% of the franchise, "seems to be accepting a more visible role in the team's operation." At last week's tip-off luncheon, he was "front and center at the festivities, and his recent contributions to the franchise were repeatedly noted by various speakers" (, 10/27).

    Prokhorov Held Champagne Toast For Media 
    Before Nets' Season Opener Last Night

    ROOKIE DEBUT: Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "held a champagne toast for some media" before last night's season opener against the Pistons. Prokhorov "spoke on several topics," including the new billboard of Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire near the Barclays Center construction site. Prokhorov joked, "I saw the picture but Amar'e, I think, he is very sad. He wants to play in Brooklyn in a couple years" (N.Y. POST, 10/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joshua Robinson writes Prokhorov has "injected a healthy, if possibly unrealistic, dose of ambition into the franchise." Nets CEO Brett Yormark: "Prokhorov has given the organization a bit of a swagger. It gives everybody in the organization a sense of confidence" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/28). Prokhorov said that he plans to attend 25% of Nets home games this season, and he will "meet with businessman and politicians and get a first-hand feel for the organization during this visit" (, 10/27).

    CAN'T STAND THE HEAT: TRUEHOOP's Henry Abbott noted there were "not the huge swaths of empty seats that mar many" 76ers games at last night's home opener against the Heat, but there still were vacancies "here and there." The 76ers for last night's game "opened parts of the Wells Fargo Arena that are normally closed, including standing room here and there, and seats in the 'halo' around the very top of the arena." Abbott noted the game was "no sellout," and during the second quarter "there were no lines, and several windows open," at the ticket office (, 10/27).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Blue Jays To Raise Payroll In '11 As Players
    Like Bautista Become Eligible For Arbitration

    In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich reports the Blue Jays' payroll "will increase for the 2011 season and could rise even more if the team is in contention next summer." The team's payroll was $78M this season, and Rogers Media President Keith Pelley said that the increase will occur "mainly because of the number of Blue Jays eligible for arbitration," including RF Jose Bautista and Ps Brandon Morrow and Shaun Marcum. Pelley added, "This team is poised to be a competitive, exciting ballclub for the next 10 years. ... If, in fact, the Jays are in contention (next summer) then ... I wouldn't be surprised if we pulled out everything to go for a championship." Pelley said that team owner Rogers Communications "will focus on marketing the team in the off-season" (TORONTO STAR, 10/28).

    BOSTON FREEZE: In Boston, Thomas Grillo reported the Red Sox Tuesday announced that they are "freezing most ticket prices for 2011," and that "about 30 percent of Fenway Park tickets -- limited to certain seats in the field box, loge box and infield grandstand sections -- will see 'modest' increases." Fenway's "overall average price hike" is 2%, which is the "lowest percentage increase over the past 16 seasons -- save for 2009 when the Sox froze all ticket prices." The ballpark's "cheap seats, located far up in the center-field bleachers, remain $12 a ticket" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/27).

    TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: In Dallas, Mike Heika wrote, "I don't really know what Tom Hicks has done to deserve the ire of Stars fans." He "rode in on a white horse to rescue this team when Norman Green couldn't afford it in 1995." Hicks "took over, sank tons of money into the team and made it one of the best franchises in the Subelt." In addition to winning the '99 Stanley Cup, he "helped build American Airlines Center, he built a marvelous training facility in Frisco and he helped develop real estate around both buildings." Heika: "The Stars will have a new owner soon enough, and that guy will be a hero for a while. Just don't forget that Tom Hicks was 'that guy' for a long time with this team" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/27).

    NOTHING TO CHEER ABOUT: In Toronto, Rosie DiManno writes the Oilers adding a cheerleading squad is a "pathetic attempt at juicing up a product that has hit competitive bottom." DiManno: "When all else fails -- management, coaching, trades and draft choices -- throw out some girl candy." For "hockey-come-lately jurisdictions, this might be marginally acceptable." But there "have never been hockey cheerleaders north of the 49th Parallel, mercifully." DiManno: "We are traditionalists. Hockey and pompoms isn't us" (TORONTO STAR, 10/28).

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