SBD/May 3, 2011/Franchises

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  • Sacramento Turns To Arena Plans After Retaining Kings For One More Season

    Johnson says city is united behind effort to keep the Kings

    After a "remarkable victory" to prevent the Kings from moving to Anaheim, Sacramento "faces a non-negotiable deadline" to keep the team in the city, according to Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. If there is no financing plan for a new arena in place by next March, the Maloofs and the NBA "agree the team will be free to go." Sacramento "will need to find hundreds of millions of dollars in a community wracked by recession and historically hostile to using public funding for a basketball arena." Kings co-Owner George Maloof said, "We need to see how it is going to be financed and, quite frankly, we are not going into this with a big checkbook. Is it even right to ask people to pay for it?" City officials are "discussing a regionwide joint powers authority to explore an arena plan," and a "much-anticipated study on how to finance a facility is expected by month's end." Details of the plan for a new arena "will not emerge until" developer David Taylor and arena builder ICON Venue Group release the study. The group is "expected to estimate the project's cost at around" $350M, but "still unclear is how Taylor and ICON will propose paying for the new arena." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "What's different this time is we are all in it together." Maloof said, "We'll look to the mayor to turn his words into reality. We have to put him on the spot." He added, "At the end of the day, we felt we should go back and give it one more try (in Sacramento). Some of us felt it wasn't necessary to go back, some of us felt we should give fans the opportunity. We're all on board though with this decision." NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "This may be that special moment where forces join together. We're feeling pretty good about the prospects here. ... We are going to put all of our efforts in Sacramento and make it happen and make it succeed" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3).

    LENDING A HAND: Stern this week will assign nine league employees to help the Kings run their business. Stern said that Exec VP/Team Marketing & Business Operations Chris Granger will lead the league’s operational assistance in Sacramento. Brian McIntyre, Senior Communications Advisor to Stern, also will work with the team. McIntyre retired in '10 as NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications after 30 years in the league. Stern also said Joe and Gavin Maloof are “in good standing” with the league (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton notes the NBA is "all but operating the Kings business now," helping the team with "ticket sales, media relations and marketing" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3).


    SUPPORT SYSTEM: Joe Maloof this morning on "The Dan Patrick Show" said the team "got a great commitment from the fans" in Sacramento, "which we knew we would always get, and the business community really stepped up and it was just terrific what they did for us." He added the Kings would have left Sacramento "if we hadn't seen the great response from the fans and the business community and just everything that went on the last couple weeks." Maloof: “I think really the NBA wanted us to go back. They wanted us to give it another try and we decided to go ahead and do that. … We'd love it to stay in Sacramento. We always have." Maloof said to stay in Sacramento, "Mayor Johnson has to bring us a financial package that makes sense for everybody involved and just take it from there. It has to work. We've looked at all types and we're willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. We're 100% behind the mayor to get it done."When asked if there are any financial problems with ownership or the team, Maloof said, "No, not at all. I think that our franchise is in as good a shape as any going in the future. We'll have more cap space than any team to spend. We're going to have another top-five pick. I think we've got a great young core of players. ... There's a lot of optimism as far as our team goes." Johnson said, "What we need to do as a city over the next year is really lay out a critical path to a new arena, and I think we're up for that challenge." Johnson said if the Kings do eventually leave Sacramento, the city will pursue another NBA franchise because the objective is to "remain an NBA city" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 5/3).

    GIVING IT ONE MORE GO: Joe Maloof said, "Everybody knows we never wanted to leave. We just can't survive in this building. ... We have a heart. We have a soul. If I heard it once, I heard it one hundred times. 'Can't you give Sacramento one more chance?' That 'Here We Stay' stuff? The scene at the last game? Man, that really got to me." In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin notes George Maloof "will be more involved in future arena conversations than at any time in the past," while Joe and Gavin Maloof "will concentrate on increasing season-ticket sales and sponsorships and interacting with the public" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3). Voisin wrote it "became pretty obvious that Joe and Gavin Maloof's stature as the oldest of the five siblings was a huge factor in the family's decision not to buck the league's opposition to a move to Anaheim." Additionally, the league's "intention to 'substantially' increase revenue sharing in the next collective bargaining agreement was no small factor in the NBA's decision to nudge the Kings back to Sacramento." Also, Johnson's "background as a former NBA All-Star can't be understated." But Voisin wrote ultimately "this came down to the other owners' skepticism about the viability of a third team in Southern California" (SACBEE.com, 5/2). Kings F Jason Thompson said, "It's definitely a good feeling, not just for us but for the city of Sacramento. It's definitely good to know earlier than later so we can prepare for working out and living." Kings coach Paul Westphal: "We think we finished strong, and we really felt the love and support of the fans" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3). YAHOO SPORTS' Kelly Dwyer wrote the NBA "got one right" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/2).

    George Maloof says city must come up with a
    plan to finance, build new arena
    IN SACRAMENTO'S HANDS: George Maloof said Sacramento has to "show us a plan and how the (new) arena will be financed." Maloof: "We've been down this road before, but we have respect for the community. ... We're going in with blind faith." Stern added, "Anaheim made a great pitch as a stand-alone market. Anaheim is in the future of the NBA. This process only moved it along, rather than detracted from it" (L.A. TIMES, 5/3). The SACRAMENTO BEE's Breton writes, "It's up to Sacramento to get an arena deal done. ... Sacramento is great at opposing things. This is about supporting something. Let's do it" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial: "Sacramento, you should give yourself a pat on the back." But "Maloofs or no Maloofs, it will be a tough road ahead figuring how Sacramento can help finance and build a sports and entertainment arena" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3). In N.Y., Howard Beck writes the chances of keeping the Kings "long term rest solely on the city's ability to approve, finance and build a new arena -- a goal the city has failed to meet many times in the last decade" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/3). Joe Maloof said of Johnson, "It's up to him. The league is giving Kevin Johnson one more year (to get it done). This decision (to return) is being made for the (Kings) fans." In California, Randy Youngman notes the Maloofs "ultimately decided not to challenge the NBA at this time, apparently in exchange for the reassurance they would reserve the right to relocate in the future" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/3).

    ANOTHER NEAR MISS FOR ANAHEIM: The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER's Youngman notes this is "at least the fifth time Anaheim's bid for an NBA franchise has fallen through." A spokesperson for Anaheim Arena Management, which operates Honda Center, said that the deal to bring the Kings to the city "included several financial guarantees from" Ducks Owner Henry Samueli. Among these were "at least $70 million for improvements and upgrades at Honda Center; a six-year TV contract worth $24 million a year; and a $75 million personal loan from Samueli" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/3). In Sacramento, Dale Kasler writes despite "offering the Maloof family $145 million worth of incentives, including a huge personal loan, Anaheim's 18-year quest for an NBA franchise resulted in more frustration Monday" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/3). Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Ray Ratto said of the Kings, "I think Orange County is closed to them now simply because (Lakers Owner) Jerry Buss did a great job of canvassing other owners and saying, 'Not here. I don't want my new TV deal screwed up by a third team in town.'" Ratto added, "Anaheim is dead because Jerry Buss rose up, and David Stern does not want the league looking prosperous when they're going into labor problems" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/2). The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding said, “It's hard to think that Anaheim is leading the way anymore. I think something really has to go wrong at this point for Anaheim to get back into it" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 5/3). But Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in a statement said, "The final chapter has not been written. Anaheim/Orange County is ripe for the NBA and we offer an incredibly attractive package to any team" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/3). Stern said, "Anaheim is not in any way stigmatized by the decision of the Maloofs to give Sacramento another year." He added, "I would tell you the Maloofs will have a lot of support for wherever they choose to go" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/3).

    JACKSON APOLOGIZES
    : In California, David Lassen reports Lakers coach Phil Jackson "formally apologized for a recent comment about" Joe and Gavin Maloof. Jackson yesterday said that he "sent a written apology for his comments comparing the Maloofs to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt." When asked if he "had actually handwritten a letter to the Maloofs," Jackson said, "Yes. I had a gun at my head, but ..." Lassen notes the Maloofs were "upset enough about being compared to McCourt ... that they sent an attorney to the home of Orange County Register writer Janis Carr last week, seeking a tape of Jackson's comment to reporters" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 5/3). Joe Maloof said Jackson's comments were "below the belt." Maloof: "It was completely wrong. He was off base, didn't make any sense. ... We don't have any ill regard towards him. Just wish that maybe he'd stick to basketball and don't put his nose into our business" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 5/3).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, Sacramento Kings, Basketball
  • McLane Exclusively Negotiating Sale Of Astros With Jim Crane

    McLane has narrowed a list of 20-25 Astros bidders to one

    Astros Owner Drayton McLane yesterday said that Houston businessman Jim Crane has become his "sole focus for the sale of the ballclub after other potential bidders languished at various stages of the process," according to Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McLane in late March had said that he was "in discussions with 'three or four' individuals or leaders of groups, and in January, there had been '20 or 25' individuals put through the vetting process, but they have all funneled to one." McLane: "Jim Crane is the only person we’re negotiating with now." McLane confirmed that he "has had discussions with Harris County-Houston Sports Authority chairman Kenny Friedman regarding the potential sale of the Astros." But McLane said, "They’ve never made a solid proposal." Friedman is "in a sense McLane’s landlord as the Astros are in year 12 of a 30-year lease with the Sports Authority" for Minute Maid Park. But he said that he "doesn’t see a conflict of interest with his public role at this point in what has been limited activity with McLane" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/3). Friedman, the father of Rays Exec VP/Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, said of the Astros, "I understand they recently entered into an exclusive negotiating period with Mr. Crane and his group, which is not surprising. They're well ahead in their efforts. I'm going to continue to keep pushing until someone tells me not to." When asked about his confidence to put a deal together if Crane does not buy the team, Friedman said, "My confidence is 100 percent. I think it would take us a few weeks to put together a solid deal" (MLB.com, 5/3).   

    Print | Tags: Houston Astros, Franchises
  • Tom Gaglardi Agrees On Price, Most Terms For Purchase Of Stars

    Sale of the Stars to Gaglardi could be approved by early June

    Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi and the bankers in charge of selling the Stars "have agreed on a price and most of the major terms of the sale," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. The goal now is to "wrap this up in a package so it can be taken through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as smoothly as possible and present the team to Gaglardi (assuming none of the other interested parties presents a higher bid to the court) by early June." A source said that an estimate of $250M for the Stars plus a 50% interest in American Airlines Center is "far too generous." The source "pegged Gaglardi’s offer closer to $125-million, which was disputed by a second source." That source characterized the $125M as the "cash part of the transaction with Gaglardi assuming debt from the Stars and the arena to make the sale price higher." Meanwhile, both sources said that Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban was "interested enough to make an informal offer for the Stars." He "told the bankers he would pay no more than $80-million for the Stars and cover their next three years of losses up to a total of $75-million" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/3). In Dallas, Candace Carlisle noted unless other interested parties -- which could include Cuban or "two Dallas oil men, Doug Miller and Billy Quinn -- step forward with an higher bid, it appears the sale of the team to Gaglardi likely could go through this summer" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/2). 

    Print | Tags: Dallas Stars, Franchises
  • MLB-Best Indians Using Social Media To Better MLB-Worst Attendance

    Indians drawing MLB-worst 14,275 fans per game at Progressive Field this year

    With MLB's best record, the Indians should have Cleveland "in a frenzy and the stadium packed with fans," but it "isn’t that simple anymore -- not in Cleveland, not in this economy," according to Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. The Indians rank last in MLB attendance this season, averaging just 14,275 fans per game at Progressive Field, and the team's attendance has "declined by nearly" 60% in the last decade. For the Indians, drawing 2 million fans to home games this season "would represent a great year," and 2.5 million is the "outer limits of their market." Still, the Indians are "determined to get to those numbers -- one fan at a time, one tweet at a time." Manager Manny Acta is the "public face of the organization’s new, fan-friendly, social-media-intensive approach." Indians President Mark Shapiro, who along with Acta is a frequent Twitter user, said, "We’re trying to connect to our fan base. And Manny’s sincerity and authenticity, and his positive outlook come through when you read his tweets. It’s part of the strategy. It’s not going to change everything. But that’s what we have to do to compete." Acta: "This is the future. This is where it’s heading. Especially the young people -- that’s how you connect with them these days." Shapiro added, "Our (television) ratings are higher than they’ve been at any point, since, really, our last era of success -- and better than in ’07 when we won 96 games. So people are watching and noticing. ... We just have to look at our business differently" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/3).

    SLOW OUT OF THE BOX: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes after two straight seasons with more than 90 losses, season-ticket sales are "at their lowest since the Indians moved into their current stadium in 1994." Shapiro: "We’ve dealt with some extreme weather and a very low season-ticket base, and that creates challenges because there isn’t a sense of urgency to come to the ballpark." The Royals face "a similar challenge." They have the "second-lowest attendance this season -- 16,985 a game -- even though they are right behind the Indians in second place" in the AL Central and "almost as much of a surprise as Cleveland is." Conversely, several teams have had "significant increases in attendance to offset some of the gloomier news elsewhere." The first-place Rockies have "sold 19.8 percent more tickets" this season than at the same point in '10, while the Reds have had a 21.3% increase in ticket sales. Overall, MLB attendance is 1.3% lower than at the same point last season, and 20 of 30 teams "have drawn fewer fans." Belson notes attendance "traditionally picks up in the summer when school is out and pennant races start to take shape," and teams also "add more promotions when the weather improves." Whether that will help MLB "reverse a three-year decline in attendance is unclear" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/3).

    Print | Tags: Cleveland Indians, Franchises
  • Devils Set New Standard In Social Media With "Mission Control" Hub

    Devils have added about 70,000 Facebook fans since launching Mission Control

    No NHL team "has taken up social media" like the Devils, according to Maria Burns Ortiz of ESPN.com. Inspired by Dell and Gatorade, "two corporations with social media centers, the Devils took the concept a step further and put many of their social media efforts directly into the hands of fans." In February, the Devils launched "Mission Control," a "social media hub manned by the team's most passionate and social media-savvy fans." The Devils Army Generals, as the 25 social media liaisons are known, "monitored social media mentions and activity on more than a dozen screens -- from desktops to TVs to iPads." The various fans, donating their time on a volunteer basis, worked at the "Mission Control" center "up to 12 hours a day on game days and were a constant fixture in the Devils' executive offices on days off." The team saw a "direct return, as its number of Facebook likes surged to now 170,000, up from hitting the 100,000 mark a little over a month before Mission Control launched." The Devils' official Twitter account "added 600 to 700 new followers a week and is approaching 25,000 followers." The team has "managed to keep the momentum from stalling" even after the regular season ended, from a "continued presence on Twitter and regularly updating the Devils Army blog to organizing playoff viewing tweetups." "Mission Control" has "piqued interest from other NHL teams, with the Islanders, Sabres and Lightning calling the Devils for more information and insight." Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek said, "We're still in our early stages of (Mission Control) and learning ourselves every day, but it's exceeded our expectations" (ESPN.com, 5/2).

    Print | Tags: New Jersey Devils, Franchises
  • Franchise Notes

    Predators sold out 16 of 41 regular-season home games this season

    In Toronto, Damien Cox writes though some may "sneer ... at the up-and-down history" of the Predators, the team is still in Nashville and "sold out 16 of 41 home games this year (up from four a year ago)." The presence of G Pekka Rinne and D Shea Weber means that the Predators "have more bona fide stars than Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary can boast." The Predators have a "stable six-man local ownership group compared to the proprietary nightmares of the Coyotes and Thrashers." Predators Chair Tom Cigarran said that even though the team "would like to attract another $25 million in equity, it is determined to keep at least 70 per cent of the team locally owned." Cigarran: "This can't be the biggest money maker we've ever had or the best investment. But we want to be in Nashville forever. That's the basis for all our thinking" (TORONTO STAR, 5/3).

    SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR TRADITION: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle wrote it is "nonsense" that the NHL is asking the Canucks' "Green Men" to tone down their act, but it is "par for the course given the league's crack down on octopus tossing earlier in these playoffs." The league, "apparently, would rather have everyone in suits and sitting on their hands." It is "unfortunate" that there "aren't more fan traditions like the Green Men in Vancouver and the octopus toss in Detroit." Mirtle noted the Green Men "aren't shutting it down and will be on the road in Nashville" for tonight's Canucks-Predators Western Conference Semifinal Game Three and Thursday's Game Four (GLOBESPORTS.com, 5/2).

    WAITING OUT THE LOCKOUT: In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes yesterday was "supposed to be the deadline for Rams PSL holders to renew their season tickets," but in this "lockout-marred NFL offseason, the Rams have decided to extend that deadline to June 1." If fans "make a 10 percent deposit on the value of their season tickets between now and June 1, they won't be charged the full value of those tickets until there is some clarity to the lockout situation -- even if that 'clarity' comes after June 1." Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff said renewals to date "have been stronger than they've been in recent years." But he added the team wants to "be responsive to the other segment that maybe has concerns and hasn't renewed because" of the uncertainty over the '11 season (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/3).

    FACES OF THE FRANCHISE: The NFL Giants have launched a contest through which fans will have the opportunity to appear on the team's tickets this season. Fans can submit a story and photo showing their Giants pride, and the team will narrow the pool of entries to 20 finalists. Starting May 18, fans will be able to vote for their favorite story on the Giants' Facebook page, and a photo of the top 10 vote-getters will appear on the front of the team's '11 season tickets. This marks the first time in team history fans will be highlighted on the front of Giants game tickets (Giants).

    Print | Tags: Franchises
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