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SBD/December 14, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Marlins President David Samson said that the team has been "selling 'several hundred' season-tickets a day in the wake of signing three premium free agents," according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Samson yesterday said, "We should be in the top eight or nine in all of baseball for season-ticket holders. The reason we're not giving the numbers is the numbers will speak for themselves when you see 35,000 to 38,000 people here every single day." With less than four months to Opening Day, work on the Marlins' new ballpark is "91 percent complete." The retractable roof "is done, the field will be sodded in mid-January." Tickets for the April 4 opener against the Cardinals will be "difficult to obtain without being a season-ticket or suite holder." Samson said that "about 2,000 seats will be made available by lottery." Samson last summer said that the primary naming-rights deal "was in the final stages of negotiations between two companies." He indicated yesterday that "more suitors entered the picture due to the free-agent signings and surge of ticket sales." Samson also mentioned that the naming-rights deal "may not be finalized by Opening Day." Samson: "We were at the finish line and then we backed away. We feel as though with this team in this market and the interest that we have, we want to make sure we have the right deal and we don't want to do anything too early" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/14). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi noted the Marlins originally "hoped to have that deal in place by this past Sept. 1." At some point after that, the team "was close." But its "rash of free-agent signings ... prompted the team to slow down." Samson "declined to say which company or companies the team was close with." But he "did say the decision to slow down was made in the past two weeks" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 12/13).
OPEN HOUSE: The Marlins said that they "expect to have their certificate of occupancy in a few weeks, and will be allowed to begin holding events at the ballpark when they get it." WTVJ-NBC's Franklin & Tester noted "several sections of the ballpark are sold out, including the MVP Suites, Diamond Club seats and Championship Suites. Marlins Dir of Business Communications Carolina Perrina said that "only 20 of 296 seats still remain behind the first and third base areas" (NBCMIAMI.com, 12/13). In Miami, Viglucci, Rabin & Mazzei report Miami-Dade County’s inspector general is "asking questions about the integrity of structural elements of the sliding roof on the new Miami Marlins stadium in Little Havana, after learning that a subcontractor allegedly falsified inspection reports on some critical welds." Samson said yesterday that the team "welcomed the IG's review." He said, "We want inspections. That's great for us. I hope he's looking at everything in the ballpark -- everything" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/14).
LOCAL FLAVOR: The SUN-SENTINEL's Davis noted three restaurants with "deep roots in the community will be serving local fare in the Taste of Miami area on the Promenade level on the third base side: Papo Llega y Pon, Latin American Grill and Don Camaron." Marlins Exec VP/Ballpark Development Claude Delorme said, "Each concept will feature a specialty item, including seafood, pork sandwiches and Cuban sandwiches. It is important that we provide a unique experience for our fans" (SUN-SENTINEL.com 12/13). In Miami, Barry Jackson notes the Marlins will "announce soon that a high-school baseball matchup between Columbus and Belen will be the first game played at their new ballpark, at 7 p.m. on March 5." Though the stadium "seats nearly 37,000, capacity for the high-school game will be 5,000." Each school will be "responsible to sell 2,500 tickets." The Marlins will "hold at least five events at the new stadium before the April 4 regular-season opener against" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/14).
The Celtics have "unveiled a new, multimedia ad campaign that the team hopes will win back frustrated fans who may have lost interest after a long labor dispute delayed the NBA season," according to Johnny Diaz of the BOSTON GLOBE. The "I am a Celtic" campaign, which "features current stars and the team’s storied history, kicked off last week in advance of the shortened season." The campaign will "encompass television, radio, print, and online ads," and Harvard Business School professor Stephen A. Greyser said that it is "critical for the team as it tries to galvanize its fan base and maintain attendance at home games." The Celtics have sold out "209 consecutive home games, dating back to 2007." The campaign was designed by Massachusetts-based ad firm Allen & Gerritsen, which "has held the Celtics account for eight years." It was "inspired by coach Doc Rivers’s 'I am a Celtic' response last season when [he] was asked if he would return to the team." One TV spot, "called 'Causeway' shows players such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on the court at the TD Garden as a series of statements unfold on the screen." Among them: "I am history," "I am the legend" with the commercial ending with "I am Causeway Street" and "I am home." Another spot, "called 'House,' features other players such as Ray Allen, and copy that reads 'I am in the Garden' and 'I am in my house.'" The spots are "tied together by the voice of Rivers saying 'I am a Celtic.'" The ads are airing on Comcast SportsNet New England (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/14).
Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross after firing coach Tony Sparano Monday is now looking to "hire a big name, a proven winner who would get fans excited," according to sources cited by Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. If Ross "cannot make a big splash and has to settle for a lower-profile coach, then there is sentiment internally toward hiring an offensive-minded coach with a record of success developing quarterbacks." But the priority is "hiring a star coach, regardless of what side of the ball is his specialty." And a source said that "money will not be an impediment." One candidate with "strong appeal" to Ross is CBS' Bill Cowher. But a network source said that Cowher "reiterated to CBS colleagues over the weekend that he plans to remain in broadcasting next season." If Cowher "declines Miami’s overtures, Ross is expected to turn his attention" to former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden and Fox analyst Brian Billick. Ross also "hasn't ruled out hiring a top college coach if he cannot land a 'star' current or former NFL coach" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Lincoln noted Ross has "not been shy about the fact that he desires a marquee coach at the helm of the Dolphins, and such discussion made Sparano more or less irrelevant as his team struggled in the formidable AFC East -- this will be the Dolphins’ third consecutive losing season, and ticket sales have fallen accordingly." With "most of Ross’s desired candidates occupying TV jobs right now ... he’s got some serious courting to do in the offseason" (WSJ.com, 12/13).
BUSINESS & FOOTBALL: NFL Network's Jamie Dukes said that he "doesn't believe Ross would let [GM Jeff] Ireland's presence deter the team from hiring a coach who insisted on personnel control or wanted to determine his own personnel director." Dukes: "Ross is a businessman first. If someone says, 'I want to bring my own guy in,' you can be rest assured, Ireland's gone." In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes the role of Carl Peterson, Ross' "friend and confidante, also could factor into a coach's decision to accept or refuse the job." Ross and Peterson have said recently that the former Chiefs President "will remain only a hands-off advisor, but not everyone believes that." A former NFL exec said, "Ross is going to have to clear up what's actually going on with Carl Peterson." Dukes said that a coach who "doesn't want the spotlight probably won't be a good fit for Ross." Dukes: "If a coach comes in there and doesn't realize he has to sell tickets, he's a fool. They need a Jon Gruden-type to come in and energize the fan base. These are the considerations Miami has that other markets don't" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/14). NFL.com's Jeff Darlington noted among league circles, it is "widely known that Miami's football operations often didn't see eye-to-eye with the business side." Darlington: "Can Ross convince the right candidates that, if he becomes the coach, he won't have to deal with promotions that encourage alumni of the opposing team's quarterback to attend a Dolphins home game (i.e. Gator Day)?" These are questions that Ross "will need to answer." They are questions, "despite public perception that would understandably suggest otherwise, that he has privately been working to conquer on his own." Team sources said that Ross has "taken a proactive approach in recent months to get to the bottom of Miami's organizational woes" (NFL.com, 12/13).
Mets GM Sandy Alderson yesterday indicated that the team "expected to close some sales on minority shares in January," but sources said that the club "had not decided to end sales at that time," according to Andy Martino of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. It appears Alderson "was referring to the first round of sales closing in January." The number of shares "expected to be finalized next month is not known, but the team is believed to be seeking approximately 10 minority partners to invest about $20 million apiece." An MLB official said, "It could be a rolling process." The official added that the Mets "did not yet know exactly how much revenue they needed to generate from the sales" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). On Long Island, David Lennon notes Alderson's comments "come on the heels of Monday's acknowledgment by the Mets of a recent bridge loan" taken to provide cash to the team until the remaining minority shares are sold. Alderson said yesterday, "I wasn't even aware of the loan until (Monday), so it couldn't have had any impact on what I've done. On the other hand, I'm not surprised that with the losses that we sustained last year, they have to be funded somehow, and that's either with cash or debt, and I think a bridge loan makes perfect sense given the investments that are expected to close in January." Asked if the Mets are "financially sound," Alderson said, "Yes, I think with this infusion of cash together with the possibility, I think the strong likelihood in the next two or three months that there will be additional investors in Mets ownership, that we should be good to go over the next couple years." But Alderson "hedged" when asked if the sale of minority shares "would help him increase payroll at some point." He said, "I think eventually, but I wouldn't expect that an influx of capital in January or February would have a major impact on our payroll for 2012, at least going into the season" (NEWSDAY, 12/14).
MEETING PAYROLL NOT A PROBLEM: Alderson appeared on Fox Business yesterday and emphatically said the idea the Mets are in danger of not meeting their payroll “is not an issue.” Fox Business’ Liz Claman asked, “So you wouldn’t fall to the same fate of the L.A. Dodgers where MLB had to come in and seize the team?” Alderson: “No. I think that had to do with a completely different set of circumstances where some of the money was being moved out of the franchise and being used for other personnel reasons. I think this is an entirely different situation. But as I said, I think with the successful infusion of capital from new investors, we will be in good shape.” Meanwhile, Alderson addressed why the team did not re-sign SS Jose Reyes, who joined the Marlins last week. He said, "What ends up happening different owners have different motivations and in this particular case they're opening a new ballpark and they expect -- or hope -- that their revenues will increase if they can put a quality team on the field. So I'm not surprised they went after Jose" (Fox Business, 12/13).
STORM BREWING: In N.Y., John Harper notes there is no "mistaking the growing concern from inside the MLB offices about the state of the franchise." An MLB official said the Mets "have a lot of things coming due," and they "need some things to happen fairly soon" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). Bergen Record columnist Bob Klapish said, “[MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig is going to answer questions as to why he was so harsh with Frank McCourt and the Dodgers, and rightfully so. McCourt was misappropriating funds from the Dodgers. If I'm the Mets right now, I'd start to worry about maybe Bud Selig gets to decide to apply that standard uniformly because the Mets are very close to insolvency at this point” ("Yankees Baseball Daily," YES Network, 12/13). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff asked, "At some point it has to end, right?" Davidoff: "At some point, Selig has to meet with [Mets Owner Fred] Wilpon, his longtime friend, and say, 'Dude. Enough already. Time to sell the team. You're embarrassing us.' Maybe. But we're not there yet, and as we continue to gauge the future of the Mets' ownership, we need to appreciate Selig's significant pain tolerance. If he lacks the patience of Job, then he might get the silver medal. Selig will wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more, to get his desired resolution. He doesn't always reach where he wants to go. But by golly, he'll wait" (NEWSDAY, 12/14).
In Memphis, Clay Bailey notes from "billboards appearing around the city to increased ticket sales," the city is "talking about the Grizzlies." Grizzlies VP/Ticket Sales & Service Dennis O'Connor said, “It started last year, and obviously picked up during our playoff run, and kept going through the summer. Now that we're back, and have a schedule again, it's even bigger." O'Connor said that the team “doesn't make public specifics on ticket sales, but reported season ticket purchases are up about 30 percent compared to last season, and partial packages are also ahead of last year.” He added, "Our renewal rate is at an all-time high" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 12/14).
ON THE MENU: In Detroit, Vincent Goodwill notes the Pistons “have taken note of having breakfast, lunch and dinner at camp in order to save time, build camaraderie and remain healthy.” It is “a change, brought on by having Tom Gores as owner and Lawrence Frank as coach.” Frank said, "We have an owner who is extremely committed. We're asking these guys to put a lot of time in, but we're honoring their bodies.” There are “some other subtle changes, too.” The practice facility is “adorned with signs on every wall, such as Gores' mantra -- ‘Be Impactful.’" In addition, the team “will no longer fly out of Metro Airport, preferring Oakland-Pontiac, which is closer to where players stay.” Pistons trainer Arnie Kander said that it will “save 88 hours of drive time for the season” (DETROIT NEWS, 12/14).
NOT HEADING SOUTH: NBA TV’s Chris Webber indicated that NBA players “aren’t looking to come to Atlanta.” Webber: “To be very honest, Atlanta doesn’t sell out games. You have to have die-hard fans, and Atlanta needs to ask itself, ‘Does it have die-hard fans?’ That might answer the question as to why players don’t want to come here.” NBA TV’s Steve Smith added, “When you look at the top free agents, there has been an uncertainty of ownership and management in Atlanta and if you are a franchise star player like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, you want to know who your ownership is. It’s been in flux for several years” (THE DAILY).
ON THE PROWL: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen notes the Bobcats “held a raffle for their most loyal fans,” with the seven season-ticket holders selected having their ducats delivered by players and execs. Bobcats President & COO Fred Whitfield, President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins, GM Rich Cho and Gs Kemba Walker, D.J. Augustin and Matt Carroll yesterday delivered tickets to the winners (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/14).