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SBD/August 23, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
The 49ers said yesterday that they "want a halt to the team's annual preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders after a violence-marred exhibition game at Candlestick Park in which two fans were shot, one was beaten into unconsciousness, 12 were arrested and dozens more ejected," according to a front-page piece by Cote & Van Derbeken of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The 49ers reacted to Saturday night's "alcohol-fueled mayhem by cutting the hours the stadium parking lot will be open before games, eliminating tailgating altogether after the kickoff and promising to punish season-ticket holders who sell their seats to troublemakers." Bay Area police said that they "would set up drunken-driving checkpoints around Candlestick and vigorously enforce laws against open alcohol containers on city streets." 49ers President & CEO Jed York: "The degenerate behavior that happened on Saturday is not going to be tolerated. ... There is a small segment of both teams' fans that when they get together, it is not a good environment." Both York and S.F. Mayor Ed Lee "suggested that part of the problem was season-ticket holders selling their seats with little concern for who was buying." Lee said, "We need them to be responsible about to whom they sell to." The 49ers said that they "would take steps to limit tailgating starting with the exhibition game against the Houston Texans on Saturday, including not opening the parking lot until four hours before kickoff." Team officials said that they also "would step up a program they implemented last year revoking the season tickets of people whose seats end up with thugs" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). York said that the 49ers will ask the NFL "to indefinitely postpone the yearly preseason game with the Raiders." Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask: "We look forward to discussing and addressing this issue with them in the same collaborative and cooperative manner we do all issues." In San Jose, Rosenberg, Maher & Kawakami in a front-page piece note the 49ers at Candlestick Park "will stop selling alcohol in the fourth quarter -- possibly earlier if the crowd is unruly." A "less stringent crackdown will get under way during Raiders games." Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said that the city "would beef up police presence during at least the next few Raiders home games, perhaps longer" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23).
CHANGE IS GONNA COME: York and Trask both appeared on S.F.-area KNBR-AM yesterday to discuss Saturday's game. York said, "It’s not going to be tolerated. We’re going to work with SFPD, NFL Security and with the Raiders and make sure for this game it doesn’t happen again. But more importantly for any game." He added, "We are definitely going to make sure we take all the appropriate steps … to make sure we have a great environment for our fans going forward." Trask said, "We simply can’t stereotype the fan bases as a whole by the action of a few." She continued, "When fans come to the game this Sunday, they’re not only going to see the robust security that we always have in the parking lots and in the stadium, but they’re going to hear from Raider season ticketholders and terrific, terrific members of the Raider Nation that any sort of behavior remotely resembling what we saw last Saturday night is not okay." Asked if the teams would consider banning alcohol sales at their respective stadiums, York said, "We cut alcohol sales much earlier than we normally do for this game and … that’s something that you’re going to have to address as a league and each individual team to figure out what’s the mood in the building." Trask added the Raiders organization evaluates security practices "every single day of every single month of every single year," and evaluating alcohol "is a part of that analysis." York indicated that Saturday's game being a preseason contest could have factored in the fan behavior. He said, "You don’t have your regular season-ticket holders coming to a game, I think that plays a big factor into it and that’s another reason why the NFL is looking at trying to revamp the preseason schedule" (KNBR.com, 8/22). But in response to York's comments, CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote, "This doesn't have anything to do with the NFL not having an 18-game schedule." York presented "an absurd notion that may have actually made the possibility of an 18-game schedule even more remote" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote, "We're at a complete loss as to what two fewer preseason weeks per season have to do with decreasing fan violence" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/22).
PICKING UP THE PIECES: In Sacramento, Matt Barrows in a front-page piece reports Saturday's "ugliness drew strong reaction Monday from the mayors of both cities and from the NFL, and it sent the 49ers, a team that is trying to build a new stadium in Santa Clara, scrambling to explain what went wrong and how they would fix it." Fans who attended the game said that "there was a strong police presence initially." But as the "game went on and the atmosphere deteriorated, police couldn't keep up" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/23). A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial states city officials and 49ers and Raiders execs "condemned the violence in strong terms" yesterday, and the "sincerity of their disgust is unquestioned." The editorial continued, "But beneath the outrage were fundamental questions about how security could have been so unprepared for an event between rival teams that often tends to produce heightened tensions. ... Videos and eyewitness accounts of various fights suggested that security personnel were slow to arrive. If there were enough police officers on duty -- a big if -- they were not deployed strategically" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23). Meanwhile, NFL Chief Security Officer Jeffrey Miller said yesterday that the league "will study the circumstances surrounding the fan violence at this past weekend's preseason game in San Francisco and eventually will take additional steps to safeguard those who attend games." But Miller indicated that the NFL "has no immediate plans for new security initiatives at stadiums because the league believes its current policies are generally effective" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/22).
NOT WORTH THE DANGER: Following news of the annual preseason game coming to an end, 49ers QB Josh McCown said, "If they need to end it to stop stuff like that, we need to put the price of people's lives and all that ahead of rivalry and what sells tickets. It would be a sad indication of our society if we view the other thing more than we do human life." 49ers OT Joe Staley: "The violence that happened at the game is unacceptable. Anything they can do to eliminate that, (I'm all for). Exhibition games are good work against anybody you're going against. The rivalry is nice, but what happened, transpired after the game, that can't happen" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). 49ers OT Tony Wragge: "It's a huge issue. I think the NFL is taking some big steps. I know they are doing an adequate job, but it still weighs on my mind." 49ers DT Ricky-Jean Francois: "You got kids, you got families, you got mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers coming to the stadium to see their son or grandson play. You don't want them to come to the game and have to worry about somebody having a gun in the parking lot, or fighting you in the bathroom" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/23).
THE RIGHT SOLUTION? YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "Canceling the game seems like a bit of an overreaction to incidents involving a few people. ... I just fail to see what this solves." Chase added, "Get at the real root of the problem. Add some more security and police. ... There's always going to be rowdy fans clashing in the stands, it doesn't matter whether they come from the next city over or from across the country" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/22). An OAKLAND TRIBUNE editorial states, "Alcohol consumption must be curtailed. ... It may be time to end pregame parking-lot boozing. It also may be time to end alcohol sales midway through a game, or stamp the hands of fans each time they buy a beer to track, and limit, the number consumed" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 8/23). ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote canceling preseason games between the 49ers and Raiders "seems like a logical, if unfortunate response to the violence at Candlestick Park on Saturday night" (ESPN.com, 8/22). But Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said cancelling the game is a "league call." Poole: "The ultimate decider is going to be the NFL. The best that the Raiders and Niners can do with this is recommend that the game be postponed or canceled” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/22).
MOVED TO THE FRONT BURNER: ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted "ramping security around stadiums is an absolute," and that issue "will get a priority from the commissioner." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "himself has sat in the stands once or twice every year since he was elected to the job in 2006" (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 8/22). A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial states, "Confrontations, fights and shootings have no place at sporting events today. If the 49ers don't understand the urgency of creating a safer environment for fans, Santa Clara leaders should make it clear in no uncertain terms" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). In Sacramento, Tony Couzens writes, "While we're not questioning how sincere the executives were about the two shootings in the parking lot and a savage beating in a restroom, we do wonder if they ever venture into the stands at Candlestick Park or O.co Coliseum, especially the upper levels" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/23).
PART OF A LARGER PROBLEM: SI.com's Ann Killion wrote NFL preseason games "can get ugly," regular-season games also "have become a venue for violence and intimidation where, too often, fans are made to feel they can't express allegiances without being hassled or worse." The problem for the NFL is that "more and more fans may opt out of the highly charged, alcohol-fueled (and expensive) stadium atmosphere for their home television set, affordable refreshments and choice of company" (SI.com, 8/22). In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes, "Are you having second thoughts about going to a ballgame?" (K.C. STAR, 8/23). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "NFL Must Do More To Stop Fan Violence." Purdy: "The NFL has a problem" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/23). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes under the header, "Fan Violence A Troubling Sign Of The Times." Rather than "pretend it’s a freak occurrence, leagues and law enforcement would be better off figuring out how to combat that new reality" (TORONTO STAR, 8/23). In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes, "Solving this madness will take a community effort. It will take professional leagues dedicating more time and money toward security. ... Fans need to take an equal amount of responsibility" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/23). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti: "Where the trend is going seems painfully obvious. Sooner or later, someone dies. Maybe more than one someone. And then what?" (USA TODAY, 8/23).
The Blues said that they "received 'multiple bids' for the club Monday, the self-imposed deadline for accepting offers from interested parties," according to Jeremy Rutherford of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. SCP Worldwide would not specify the number of offers; Blues minority Owner Tom Stillman and Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer "had made the only known bids for the team in recent months, and both were turned down." A source indicated that Stillman "has submitted a second bid." It is unclear if Hulsizer "made a follow-up bid before the deadline." A source said that the Blues are "asking for $180 million" in a sale. Sources indicated that Stillman's "original offer in April was approximately $110 million." The amount of his second bid "was not disclosed, but it's believed to be in the same neighborhood." Earlier this month, Game Plan LLC Founder Robert Caporale, whose firm is conducting the search for a buyer, said that "one of the groups interested in buying the Blues wished to forgo the bidding process and focus on negotiating a sale price." Rutherford reports it is "believed that was Hulsizer's group." Even if Hulsizer "has not yet submitted a second offer, he is still considered to be in the picture," which is why yesterday's deadline "should be considered a small step in the process and not a day that makes the sale of the Blues imminent" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/23).
MOVING THROUGH THE NEUTRAL ZONE: In Dallas, Mike Heika cited sources as saying that the sale of the Stars "is trudging forward." The sources said that a "good target date right now is around Labor Day (probably after, because they don't want a case to get delayed by any possible holiday down time)." That would allow Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi to "either get his bid in and push it through a quick pre-packaged bankruptcy hearing or for another potential buyer to bid over Gaglardi in a more extended pre-packaged bankruptcy hearing." Heika noted the lenders are "battling for position on the final payday and that is slowing things down, but Monarch and Chase don't want to start paying the players' paychecks for next season, so they would like to get this done before Oct. 15 when the first checks are due" (DALLASNEWS.com, 8/18).
NHL Panthers season-ticket holders in "three prime sections at BankAtlantic Center received a letter more than a week ago advising them of tentative plans to convert part of the lower bowl into an 'ultra-premium, all-inclusive' area known as Club Red" beginning in '12, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The season-ticket holders were given "first right of refusal or the option of choosing comparable seats at a 50 percent discount" for the '12-13 season. One season-ticket holder said that he was told his seats "would cost $22,500 apiece, which would cover other events at BAC in addition to Panthers games." He added that he "paid about $5,000 for two seats at center ice in row 15 for the upcoming hockey season." Panthers owner Sunrise Sports & Entertainment is "aiming to boost the revenue potential from those prime seats." Club Red members "would have access to a plush bar and lounge area with high-end food and beverage options." Panthers and SSE President & COO Michael Yormark said that a decision "hasn't been made to go ahead with Club Red but could come by the end of the month." The sections that would "become Club Red -- 134, 101 and 102 -- straddle center ice behind the team benches." There would be "672 seats in the area." The team said that the change "would affect about 180 current account holders who occupy about 360 seats." Pricing "has not been set," but a job posting on the Panthers' website "for a sales director for Club Red said tickets would start at $20,000 per year" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/21).
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: Yormark said that Club Red "isn't designed for a corporate clientele and pointed [out] that more than 80 percent of current season-seat holders are individual consumers." However, the SUN-SENTINEL's Davis noted Club Red ticket pricing is "out of reach of most household entertainment budgets." Yormark said, "We probably need to sell about 200 memberships, which is not that big a number when you think about the size of the market. We have a lot of confidence that we'll get this done. We're not creating something that's never been done before." He added, "Our responsibility is to continue to find ways to increase our revenue so that we can maintain this beautiful facility and so that we can continue to put a competitive product on the ice. ... I had one (fan) ask me today, 'Does this mean with this program that it protects the future of this franchise, that it will enable the franchise to continue to fund a hockey team that can be very competitive?' My answer was, 'Absolutely. Yes'" (SUNSENTINEL.com, 8/20).
The Ducks announced yesterday that they have reduced the average price of individual game tickets and introduced "all in pricing" for the '11-12 NHL season. Tickets sold on AnaheimDucks.com, ticketmaster.com and at the Honda Center box office no longer will have additional fees. As a result, fans purchasing tickets directly from the Ducks will pay the identical price regardless of purchase point. The new pricing structure will reduce the average individual ticket cost by 12.6% when purchased online (Ducks). Ducks COO Tim Ryan said, "We've spent an awful lot of time listening to our fans. When it comes to the decision on ticketing, they've been pretty clear that they'd simply like to know the price of the ticket on the front end of the purchase. We've spent time with Ticketmaster and we were able to work it out. Personally, I think it's going to be very well received." In California, Eric Stephens noted "some mid-level and high-level seats will see a small price increase but 88 percent of the entire ticket inventory will be lowered when purchased" through the Ducks' website or through Ticketmaster. Ticket prices are "being restructured throughout Honda Center for individual games with over three times as many available for $40 or less." The Ducks finished 25th in the NHL in average attendance last season, but Ryan said that the lower prices "aren't a direct response to the Ducks' disappointing attendance figures" (OCREGISTER.com, 8/22).
A crowd of nearly 30,000 for the Pirates’ game Sunday against the Reds “pushed the franchise over its attendance total from last season with 16 home dates remaining," according to Ron Cook of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The team was in first place in the NL Central late last month before sliding to their current position of 4th place, and Pirates President Frank Coonelly said, “Our fans have gotten excited about this team. They saw how fun it was again to be watching a team in the middle of summer that was in contention for a division crown.” Meanwhile, Cook notes Pirates officials have indicated that there is a "ticket price increase that's coming for next season." Coonelly "wouldn't confirm it officially but left no doubt that it's going to happen." The Pirates have not raised ticket prices since the '01 season, and Coonelly said, "We're the only team in Major League Baseball that has a streak quite like that" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/23).
WATCH AND LEARN: In Pittsburgh, Rob Biertempfel reports Fox’ regional broadcast of the Reds-Pirates game Saturday drew a 7.2 rating in the Pittsburgh market, making it the “second-highest single-game rating in the local market in the 15-year history” of the net’s Saturday afternoon coverage. The game drew a 17 share, meaning 17% of televisions “in Pittsburgh that were on during the game were tuned to the Pirates” (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 8/23).
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: The POST-GAZETTE’s Cook yesterday reported the Pirates signed RF Jose Tabata to a "six-year contract that guarantees him $15 million through the 2016 season.” The signing is an “absolute steal for the Pirates," and Sunday was a "good day for the Pirates franchise." Pirates management "will show all of us something if it brings in a big bat this offseason to help its core young players" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/22).
On Long Island, Ken Davidoff named his five best owners in MLB, led by the Red Sox's John Henry. Since buying the Red Sox in '02, Henry and his ownership group "turned Fenway Park from a perceived, past-its-prime dump into a valued jewel." In addition, Red Sox execs appointed Theo Epstein GM in '03, and in doing so "instituted a baseball operations department that functions as well as any in the game." Davidoff ranked Yankees co-Chair and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner second on his list, followed by Phillies President & CEO Dave Montgomery, Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch and Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg (NEWSDAY.com, 8/19). Davidoff also named his five worst owners in MLB, led by Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt. Davidoff: "It's truly amazing how loathed McCourt seems to be, both among the Dodgers fan base and in the Major League baseball offices." Davidoff lists outgoing Astros Owner Drayton McClane second, followed by Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and Mets Owner Fred Wilpon (NEWSDAY.com 8/19).
PUT IT ON THE TAB: The Dodgers have been billed nearly $2M in legal fees for the first five weeks of the club's ongoing bankruptcy case, according to court documents filed late yesterday and today in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Dewey & LeBoeuf, the lead firm representing Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt in the case, has asked for court approval of $1.37M, representing 80% of its $1.71M in attorneys fees and 100% of costs incurred in the case for the period of June 27, the day the club filed for Chapter 11 protection, to July 31. Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP, co-counsel for the case, meanwhile, has asked for court approval of $267,273 in fees (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
MORE OF A GOOD THING? In Toronto, Richard Griffin reported there is a "strong belief" that Rogers Communications "has already discussed a contract extension" for Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos just 23 months into his tenure. Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston "deserves full credit for insisting" the team hire Anthopoulos. In less than two years, Anthopoulos "has delivered" and Beeston "has been vindicated." Griffin wrote it is "easy to believe" Rogers has "indeed moved to lock up its GM for at least the next five years" (TORONTO STAR, 8/20).
EYEING THE TIGERS: In Detroit, Steve Schrader reported the Tigers are selling playoff tickets to fans "who have partial season-ticket packages -- they have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to buy them." Fans have the option to "buy tickets for the entire postseason now -- ALDS, ALCS, World Series and even a potential tiebreaker game, just in case." Playoff ticket prices "increase with each ensuing round, with some big markups in some price ranges." Until tomorrow, "tickets are $5-$82 for the tiebreaker, $35-$115 for the ALDS, $75-$155 for the ALCS and $90-$255 for the Series" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/22).
FROM THE MINORS: In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote after a "promising start to the return of minor league baseball" to Newark in '98, a "persistent dark cloud has settled" over the Can-Am Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium. The team in recent years has "gone into bankruptcy and emerged to an almost nonexistent fan base and grim financial reality." The Bears are "more than $800,000 in arrears on rent to Essex County and have provided little in ticket and sponsorship revenue due to the county." Araton wrote, "Did the city bet on the wrong sport? ... How much better off would Newark be if Newark had pursued professional soccer instead?" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/22). Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Richard Oliver noted a recent city-county sports study found that San Antonio "is ready" for minor league baseball. The study concluded that San Antonio "stacks up wonderfully" as a potential home for Triple-A baseball. California-based Premier Partnerships conducted the study and offered "a checklist of needs to ascend to Triple-A." The city as a Double-A host "has enjoyed a nice run, including the reigning highlight of the current Missions ballclub." But Missions Owner Dave Elmore "controls this market," and he would "need to obtain a Triple-A team and relocate the Double-A franchise elsewhere" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 8/21).
AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that the Galaxy's acquisition of F Robbie Keane this month "was the fastest deal he's been part of -- an amazing feat 'because this one was complicated.'" In less than 72 hours, AEG "made contact, arrived at a transfer fee with Tottenham, reached agreement on a two-year contract with Keane, worked out logistics on the Designated Player slot, received approval from 'various FIFA federations both here and over there' -- all while trying to beat MLS's summer transfer-window deadline, on Sunday night." AEG then acquired a visa for Keane in three days, despite an "expected wait time of two weeks." Leiweke said that U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and Steelers Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney, as well as L.A.-based Irish Consul General M. Finbar Hill, "pulled strings to speed the pace" (ESPNLA.com, 8/19).
LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDOW: Timbers COO Mike Golub said that the MLS club "might open up more seats" at Jeld-Wen Field later this season and "push capacity past the 20,000 mark next year, which would let it expand its season-ticket base by another 1,000 or so." In Vancouver, Bruce Constantineau noted the Timbers have a "season ticket base of about 12,500, with a waiting list of 3,000 people wanting to buy season tickets when they become available." Golub said that corporate support for the expansion franchise "has been great, allaying any fears the team had about selling into a market during a tough economy." Golub: "We think we'll break the record for sponsorship revenue of any expansion MLS team" (VANCOUVER SUN, 8/22).
RAISING ARIZONA: ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote the Cardinals' new eight-year contract with WR Larry Fitzgerald is a "watershed moment" for the franchise and a "referendum on how the Cardinals are doing business." Cardinals President Michael Bidwill's "profile has risen in recent years as he has taken more day-to-day control of the organization from his father." Sando: "It was appropriate for him to be the one sitting alongside Fitzgerald at the news conference" (ESPN.com, 8/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Craig Morgan wrote, "Once mocked for their frugality, the Cardinals have been one of the NFL's most aggressive and free-spending teams since the lockout." Bidwill said, "This was the plan all along." The Cardinals played at Arizona State Univ.'s Sun Devil Stadium before moving into Univ. of Phoenix Stadium in '06, and Bidwill said, "Fans didn't recognize the realities of playing in a college stadium. This is pro football. Revenue does matter. We wanted to deliver on our promise but it was like going into competition with one hand tied behind your back" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/22).
KIDS 'R' US: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reports the Penguins once again will distribute 18,000 free tickets to "kids aged 5-21 for an exhibition game" Sept. 24 at Consol Energy Center against the Wild. Unlike the "first free game last season, for which the Penguins partnered with the Allegheny Conference to promote keeping young people in the region, this event is totally geared toward treating kids." Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse said that the game "will feature kid journalists between the benches, videos and music geared toward young people and Penguins Foundation activities to promote keeping children active." The Penguins are "absorbing the cost of the tickets" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 8/23).