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SBD/August 11, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
The UFL Hartford Colonials "have suspended operations at least for now, and possibly forever," according to Shawn Courchesne of the HARTFORD COURANT. UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue yesterday said that he "hopes the league can return to Hartford, but that finances dictated that the league operate with four teams this season, not five, and Hartford lost out." Huyghue said that the UFL, which will kick off its third season next month with teams in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Omaha and Virginia Beach, will "re-evaluate Hartford at the end of the season." He added, "We did have ownership in Hartford. We didn't have it in Virginia. As we evaluated the two markets, what became clear to us was the cost of operation in Virginia was almost half, relative to day of game costs, stadium costs, those type of issues, than it was in Hartford." Huyghue noted that the "cost of playing at Rentschler Field drove the decision to suspend operations of the team." He said that it "was at least 50 percent more than other stadiums in the league." Courchesne notes the Colonials averaged "just more than 14,000 a game in four games last fall in East Hartford," compared to the league average of "just below 15,000 a game." Huyghue said that attendance "was not a factor in suspending operations" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/11).
TIME TO PAY UP: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs notes with the Colonials suspending operations, there is a "trail of unpaid bills left behind." As Huyghue "insists on keeping Hartford in play, instead of flatly folding the franchise, it is something he and his core investors must face." If UFL officials "expect one iota of support in negotiating the costs of Rentschler Field, they must pay people they already owe." Motion Inc. is owed $16,500 for producing a weekly television show for the Colonials, and company Owner Glenn Orkin said that he "gave the Colonials a favored rate and got burned." He added that he "talked to others who had given the Colonials good deals, too, and got burned." Huyghue, who grew up just minutes outside Hartford, claims that he "hasn't given up hope on Hartford." But Jacobs writes, "Why should Hartford put any hope in the UFL? ... Before they even think about looking for a better stadium deal, they have to face up to the fact they have burned bridges around here. When all the bills are paid, then come back" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/11).
A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB: In Sacramento, Mark Billingsley reports while the UFL has cut its schedule from eight games to six for the '11 regular season, Sacramento Mountain Lions Owner Paul Pelosi is "increasingly optimistic about the future of the UFL and his franchise." While not guaranteeing a '12 season, Pelosi said that the "hard economic decision to fold the Hartford franchise was a smart one for the UFL in the long run." Pelosi: "This is not going to be our last year in operation. I'm confident of that reality. I'm very enthusiastic about our start. This is better for the league from a business standpoint." He added, "We know we have a viable product on the field, and what we need is four or five other cities with investment groups to say to us, 'Hey, sell us a franchise.'" Billingsley notes TV contracts "continue to be a sticking point for the UFL and the Mountain Lions." The team has been "trying to secure a TV deal since the end of last season, when Versus carried all four home games." But NBC's cable network "is not broadcasting games in 2011, at least not yet." Some UFL games will appear on HDNet this season, and the Mountain Lions are "scrambling so hard they have even contacted" the local PBS station (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/11).
The NHL Jets are "putting the finishing touches on an Internet portal" for their website that "will enable season ticket holders to sell ducats that they can't use in a safe and secure manner," according to Geoff Kirbyson of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. The Jets' 13,000 season-ticket holders "can post tickets that they want to sell on the website," and members of the public "can peruse what's up for grabs and then buy them online just like they would any concert or sporting event ticket." The team then will "reimburse the season ticket holder," minus a "still-to-be-determined processing fee." Jets Dir of Ticket Administration Mitch Brennan said that the service "is offered league-wide and has proven very popular in hockey hotbeds such as Vancouver and Montreal." The team plans to "launch the website next month, around the same time as a limited number of game day tickets are put on sale" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 8/11).
UNDER FIRE: In Winnipeg, Jason Halstead reports anti-war hockey fans are "taking aim at the new Winnipeg Jets logo, saying its overt link to the Canadian military alienates them from the team." The logo "features an air force jet atop a maple leaf and a Royal Canadian Air Force roundel." Jets Dir of Corporate Communications & Hockey Operations Scott Brown said that the team "has received both praise and criticism for the military bent of the new logo." Jets Owner True North Sports & Entertainment has "pledged $1 million for military charities over the next decade" (WINNIPEG SUN, 8/11).
The Braves Sunday will hold a first ever "#BravesBash," an ambitious social media event following their home game against the Cubs involving a variety of live online player chats, Skype calls, Twitter and Facebook takeovers, behind-the-scenes videos, and live memorabilia and merchandise auctions. The event first started as a replacement to a more traditional gala benefiting the Atlanta Braves Foundation, and #BravesBash will include a significant fundraising component. But as planning developed, the event also morphed into an aggressive attempt by the club to heighten its social media outreach. Essentially every member of the roster will be involved, including 3B Chipper Jones, RF Jason Heyward, CF Michael Bourn, 2B Dan Uggla and C Brian McCann. "In one event, we're going to try to engage with everybody in every possible way," said Braves Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller. "This achieves a lot of different aims for us. We get in front of many more fans than we ever could in a traditional fundraising effort for the foundation. And we get to leverage our social media channels and continue to learn in that space. We have experience in all these various channels, but never all at the same time like this." Prior high-profile events for the Braves Foundation have raised between $50,000-100,000 each, a sum the club hopes to at least approach through #BravesBash, if not surpass. The social media event was developed internally with the aid of MLBAM. More than 1,000 people thus far have registered at braves.com/bravesbash for the chance to receive a Skype call from one of the players. The Braves have more than 91,000 Twitter followers and 871,000 fans on Facebook, a combined following sixth highest among individual MLB clubs.
In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes the Yankees will play the Angels next week for the first time at Angel Stadium since Yankees SS Derek Jeter recorded his 3,000th hit, and Angels VP/Communications Tim Mead last week indicated the team wants to "honor the man, the player and the person in some form." Mead said that the Angels subsequently received "about 100 calls and emails from fans concerned that the team would go out of its way to fete an opposing player, perhaps with a pregame ceremony." Mead said, "I think it had as much to do with it being the Yankees as much as anything." He noted that the Angels now "might acknowledge Jeter but had no plans for any kind of ceremony" (L.A. TIMES, 8/11).
NEW WARDROBE: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski reported it is expected the Blue Jays' uniforms "will have a new look for the 2012 season, one that will reflect a Canadian theme more than ever." The change "has been in the design phase for months." The new look could include "a more pronounced maple leaf and red and white colours on the uniform to capture characteristics of the Canadian flag" (TORONTO STAR, 8/10). The Blue Jays are making a dedicated effort to market the team throughout Canada.
MONEY DOESN'T BUY HAPPINESS: In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan noted the Twins "spent a franchise-record $115 million on a team that will be lucky to avoid last place in a weak division." After decades of "overachieving despite financial constraints, the 2011 edition is proving that neither a new ballpark nor inflated spending ensures success." The Twins, "like novice investors or the uninitiated in Las Vegas, found themselves with just enough cash to get themselves into trouble." Souhan: "With a lower payroll, they never would have invested $14.5 million in a skinny Japanese shortstop. ... Without a new stadium and the promise of record payrolls, the Twins never would have spent $184 million on one player, not even a reigning MVP from St. Paul" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/10).
REVISIONIST HISTORY: Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, but the Giants let the date pass without any public acknowledgement. Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said of the Giants, "Now that he’s gone, they kind of want him out of sight and out of mind. ... As long as there are legal issues going on involving Barry Bonds, he’s got to be someone you've got to be very careful with. I would say right now you don't really recognize that.” CSNBayArea.com's Ann Killion wondered why the team would "get involved" with Bonds considering his legal issues. Killion: "It's been a big enough embarrassment for the team, for the franchise, for the history.” She added the fourth anniversary “means nothing” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/10).
Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf yesterday said that Minnesota fans “don’t need to be nervous about the NFL stadium momentum” in L.A. Wilf said, “We’ve got momentum here in Arden Hills.” He was “chitchatting with 18 Ramsey County officials on the field during the Vikings’ morning practice,” as the team “invited the policymakers and civic leaders down for a tour and lunch.” Wilf also “disclosed for the first time that he met with Gov. Mark Dayton last week” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/11).
WELCOME ABOARD: In S.F., Eric Young reports the Warriors yesterday announced venture capital fund The Social+Capital Partnership Managing Partner Chamath Palihapitiya as the “newest member of the executive board.” Palihapitiya is a former Senior Manager at Facebook, and his addition brings the team’s ownership group to “eight members, led by venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Peter Guber” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/10).
CUT! In Ft. Lauderdale, Andrew Carter notes “recent portions of Dolphins' practices have shown up on YouTube, presumably shot by a fan in attendance.” Dolphins Senior VP/Media Relations Harvey Greene yesterday “asked fans who attend the team's open practices not to post video of the practices on the Internet.” Greene said, "We have rules in place that don't allow fans to take video of practice. Those rules exist so that we're not placed at a competitive disadvantage by having the teams we play see video of any portion of our practices" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/11).
THREE CHEERS: In Houston, Richard Justice wrote Texans Owner Bob McNair is “a model NFL owner,” and he “hires people he trusts and gives them the resources and freedom to do their jobs.” Justice: “He’s as patient as any professional sports owner I’ve ever known. Regardless, I think ... many of us feel really lucky that Bob McNair owns our NFL team.” McNair “wants a team that represents the community in a certain way,” and the Texans “are going to have players who are easy to root for” (CHRON.com, 8/10).