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SBD/May 8, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night said that the league "had reached a preliminary deal on terms" for the league to sell the Coyotes to former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, according to Lisa Halverstadt of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Terms of the deal "still must be put to paper." The Glendale City Council also "must approve a new lease on the city-owned Jobing.com Arena," and the NHL BOG "must sign off on the sale," which could be in the $170M range. Bettman "would not confirm that figure" yesterday, but he said that he "was cautiously optimistic about the deal." Glendale City Manager Ed Beasley said that he "would expect a final deal to be presented to council within weeks." Jamison "became known for turning around the financially struggling" Sharks by emphasizing "community outreach and grass-roots efforts to draw fans." Bettman "acknowledged the strain that three years of league ownership placed on the franchise." He said he now sees "a light at the end of the tunnel." Bettman added that he "would expect the league to call a board-of-governors vote after Glendale approves an arena lease with Jamison." Beasley also "did not offer a specific date for an arena vote," but city council members have said that they "want to see an arena lease by the time they approve the coming year's budget on June 12" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes the biggest threat facing the deal is the "looming opposition from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative watchdog group which scuttled a previous bid on the grounds that Glendale would violate Arizona's laws against excessive public subsidies to private companies." The institute "is still battling the city in court over access to records related to the Coyotes sale." Sources said that the NHL and Glendale officials "believe their agreement with Jamison will comply with the gift clause in Arizona's constitution that limits public subsidies" (GLOBE & MAIL 5/8).
DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote, "What remains to be seen is if Jamison's bid won't fall apart when it's time for his investors to actually sign on the dotted line." LeBrun: "All signs point to his group being in line financially, but until that moment of truth, one doesn't fully know." The fact that Beasley was present at yesterday's news conference "is a good sign." Sources said that when the time comes to vote and pass the lease agreement at city hall, Jamison "has four of the required seven votes to get it through." LeBrun: "What remains to be seen is what kind of long-term commitment Jamison will ultimately give cash-strapped Glendale" (ESPN.com, 5/7). NBC's Jeremy Roenick, who played for the Coyotes from '96-'01 and '06-07, said Jamison has "his hands full in Phoenix," but he "couldn’t come into a better time to get involved in the Phoenix Coyotes with the way the Coyotes are playing right now." Roenick: "Hockey is buzzing in the Phoenix area right now. Now we have to make sure that they make this just as exciting for the regular season and the fans come out and support this team the way they’re doing in the playoffs. This is a great market ... (and) this team has a lot of promise” (“Coyotes-Predators,” NBC Sports Network, 5/7).
BUYER'S REMORSE? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote, "There is speculation Jamison will not be required to sign an 'unconditional guarantee' attached to his ownership." An unconditional guarantee "basically ensures the owner will be obliged to continue to throw unlimited amounts of money into the sinkhole without leaving the NHL to become a ward of the state." While the deal will be announced at about $170M, Campbell cited a source as saying that it is "unlikely the actual money changing hands will amount to even $100 million." Campbell: "Isn’t it time that perhaps the NHL did the right thing here and stopped holding this city hostage?" Glendale "is in for $50 million so far and if Jamison gets his lease, will have to pay another $92 million over the next five years." However, there is "no guarantee from anyone the Coyotes will stay in Glendale long-term." Bettman is "capitalizing on a feel-good situation in Glendale, where the team is winning and creating a short-term buzz" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/7).
FEELING LEFT OUT: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski asks with a deal in place to keep the Coyotes in Glendale, "What is going to happen to that nice new arena being erected in Quebec City, and another one in the works for Markham?" It now "appears both cities will have to wait for the next NHL candidate for relocation." When asked what yesterday's news means for Quebec City, Bettman said, "We're not focused on any other place for the Coyotes other than Glendale" (TORONTO STAR, 5/8).
Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway and GM Brian Xanders "mutually decided to part ways" when it became apparent the two's "career desires would never quite intersect,” according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. Xanders, who spent four years with the team, including the last three as GM, “leaves with one year left on his contract.” Xanders said, “I appreciate everything that (owner) Pat Bowlen has done for the Broncos and for bringing me here in 2008. It was great working with Coach John Fox. I’m telling you, he’s a great coach to work with, and it was great working with John Elway.” Klis notes the GM position “had long been Xanders’ dream position, but his first big gig never came with the final-say authority on roster personnel.” Former coach Mike Shanahan had final say in ‘08, as did successor Josh McDaniels from ’09-10. Elway was “hired to take control of the front office” prior to last season. Elway: “Everybody would like to have that position with that type of control, especially a general manager. That was something we discussed. Hopefully, someday Brian will be in that position where he is making all the decisions in the end.” Klis notes that Elway’s “biggest off-field moves seemingly have been made to streamline the Broncos’ football operations. He promoted Matt Russell from Dir of College Scouting to Dir of Player Personnel, which means he "oversees talent both on the NFL and college level." Elway also hired former agent Mike Sullivan to become the team’s new man in charge of contract negotiations and the salary cap.” Elway said, “It is a streamline; we’re not adding anybody” (DENVER POST, 5/8).
SHOWED ELWAY THE ROPES: The AP's Arnie Stapleton wrote that while Fox was leading the team’s on-field turnaround, it was Xanders “who helped show Elway the ropes of an NFL front office job last year, guiding him through the administrative procedures and policies.” There “will be no numerical replacement for Xanders; nobody else will get the GM title” (AP, 5/7). ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson writes, “I think the move was made because Elway is comfortable in his role.” In the past year it “became clear the Broncos were top heavy." Elway and Fox have a "terrific working relationship and there is a great comfort level between the two." There "just wasn’t enough for Xanders to do.” This decision is “another sign that the Broncos are Elway’s team” (ESPN.com, 5/8).
Pennsylvania-based law firm Stern & Eisenberg yesterday filed a "consumer fraud class-action suit against Comcast Spectacor, parent company of the Flyers, on behalf of all 2011-12 full season ticketholders," according to Frank Seravalli of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. The complaint alleges that Comcast-Spectacor and the Flyers "misled season ticketholders by excluding the 2012 Winter Classic game tickets -- a regular-season game held at the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park -- after the contractual ticketholder agreement stated that fans prepaid for 44 home games, three preseason contests and all 41 regular-season home games." Comcast-Spectacor VP/PR Ike Richman said in a statement, "We have been made aware of this frivolous claim, and we are confident that we acted appropriately in all respects." Seravalli notes Comcast-Spectacor "chose to not appeal a March 30 judgment in Montgomery County small-claims court, which awarded season ticketholder Richard Abt approximately $1,300 in a nearly identical suit." Abt was "paid in full by Spectacor, including court costs." Attorney Evan Barenbaum, who is leading the case for Stern & Eisenberg, said, "This was a regular-season game, in Philadelphia, on regulation ice. It should have been a part of the 44-game package that fans paid for" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/8). The lawsuit states that Comcast-Spectacor offered to resell the Winter Classic ticket "to the season ticket holders only if they also paid for tickets to two unrelated games -- an exhibition featuring the Flyers and Rangers alumni and a minor league hockey game -- whether they wanted them or not. The suit also alleges that Comcast-Spectacor charged season ticket holders, who "already paid a $10 processing fee for the original season tickets, 'excessive and unearned' processing charges for all three tickets." The amount of the additional processing fee "was not disclosed in the lawsuit" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/7).
The Palace of Auburn Hills will “stage an unusual State of the Pistons event” on May 17, according to Tom Walsh of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Palace Sports & Entertainment President Dennis Mannion, Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars, coach Lawrence Frank, a few players and “possibly team owner Tom Gores will address a crowd of about 2,000 invited guests and take questions.” Mannion said that the State of the Pistons “aims to show that Gores is aggressively investing to improve every aspect of the Pistons, Palace and affiliated venues.” Walsh notes changes will include “upgrades to all of the 100 lower-level suites at the Palace, as suite leases are renewed or sold to new customers." New flooring, new furniture and new audio-visual gear also "will be installed -- but suite rental cost will hold steady.” Mannion said that “about 70% of lower-level suites are sold, with 30% available for game-by-game rental.” Walsh notes in previous years, the Pistons “had a lower key autograph party for fans at the end of the season.” But this year, after asking fans what they wanted, Mannion said “many of them wanted to hear from the team and hear what they thought about the future.” Mannion: “We’ll have a stage set up with video boards. It’s an opportunity to have an intimate Q and A with leadership. Our plan is to film that and put that on Fox Sports Detroit and put it on our Internet for the summer, so people can see the direction that the team is headed and where the (other Palace venues) to some extent are headed as well.” Mannion added that other new initiatives will “include improvements to the Pistons digital offerings” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/8). In Detroit, Karl Henkel wrote, “The Pistons hope discounts and entertainment value will increase season-ticket sales” for the ’12-13 season. The team is “not raising ticket prices next season, and have offered a 4-percent discount to customers who pay in full by May 9.” Other incentives available for fans that renew are “free general parking as well as a chip-enabled jacket that allows them to claim discounts of 20 percent on food and beverages at The Palace and 30 percent on merchandise.” The Pistons also plan to “build on this season’s practice of holding halftime concerts by ramping up the entertainment portion of the basketball experience.” This past season season the team averaged 14,413 fans, the “third-lowest average in the NBA, even after introducing musical halftime performances.” PS&E cited “performance and attendance” as the reasons against raising ticket prices (DETROIT NEWS, 5/5).
Sharks season-ticket holders "will receive their invoices this week" for the '12-13 season and overall, prices are "going up about 6.5 percent -- though that figure will vary from section to section," according to David Pollak of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Tickets will "cost more if they're located in the end of the rink where the home team shoots twice." Sharks Exec VP/Business Operations Malcolm Bordelon said that 15 other NHL teams "have a similar system in place and others are expected to make the change this summer, all part of the variable pricing trend in pro sports that factors in supply and demand in establishing price." Pollak notes the price gap "depending on which end zone the seat is in will be $1 to $4." In the lower bowl, a reserved seat "that cost $75 last season will cost $80 in the attack-twice zone and $76 at the other end." Club seats will be "the same at either end of the rink because they carry additional perks." Fans "not wanting to pay extra for sitting in the attack zone during the first and third periods will have the opportunity to switch their seats to the opposite end of the ice." The Sharks also have "increased the number of distinct ticket price levels at HP Pavilion from 11 to 18." Sharks Dir of Ticket Sales John Castro said, "It's going to allow us to price more accurately based on seating location" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/8).
In San Diego, Brent Schrotenboer reports the Chargers “are hosting -- and paying for -- a public tribute to Junior Seau Friday at Qualcomm Stadium, an event that could draw a capacity crowd.” Stadium Manager Mike McSweeney said that the Chargers “are paying the city the standard $10,000 one-day rental fee for use of the stadium, plus all expenses incurred from use of police, first aid, traffic and other costs.” McSweeney said, “We’re preparing for a capacity crowd. We have to because we have no idea what it’s going to be.” Schrotenboer notes admission and parking “will be free for the event.” Staff for the city-owned stadium “will have a production meeting Wednesday to get a better estimate of the crowd size, cost and infrastructure required” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/8).
BAD TO THE BONE: In New Orleans, Mike Triplett noted Packers DE Anthony Hargrove, a former Saints player who was suspended for his role in the ’09 bounty scandal, released a statement to the NFL yesterday and “it looked bad” for the Saints and the league. Hargrove gave a “detailed account of how he was instructed by coaches Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt to ‘play dumb’ and deny the existence of bounties.” His testimony “hurt the Saints.” Although it may “strengthen the claim that players were just following orders, it doesn't help the organization or the coaching staff as a whole.” A source said that the “NFL has also misrepresented what Williams said in interviews with the league.” The source said that Williams “never admitted a ‘bounty program’ was in place and that the league ‘rephrased his statements to satisfy its needs’” (NOLA.com, 5/7).
BRING BACK THE FANS: In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote the Raiders “would be well served by having a liaison whose sole purpose is to engage the community, to wring the most out of the relationship between the franchise and the locals.” The team “might even consider lifting parts of the comprehensive community outreach program utilized by the Green Bay Packers, where new general manager Reggie McKenzie spent 17 years.” McKenzie, however, “has to focus on the football” and he is “doing that, rapidly overhauling the entire football operation.” That task, however, “is years in the making and even further away from producing actual results.” The Raiders “have a relatively clean slate.” They are “filling in after the loss of the franchise icon,” late Owner Al Davis, “who was one of the truly polarizing figures in sport” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/7).
The Bobcats announced yesterday they have sold out the approximately 500 season-tickets made available via the “Pay-The-Pick” promotion that launched last Wednesday. Through the promotion, season-tickets could be priced as low as $43 for an upper-level seat, with the cost per game equaling the draft pick the team receives in the lottery (Bobcats). In Charlotte, Andrew Dunn notes by finishing last in the NBA, the Bobcats “are guaranteed one of the top four picks” in the draft on June 28. If the team “falls to the No. 4 pick and takes a less-coveted prospect, the seats will be $4 per game, or $172 for the season.” Dunn notes despite the season-ticket purchase, buyers “won’t be able to trade in tickets or attend off-the-court season-ticketholder events” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/8).
WRAP IT UP: In California, Scott Reid wrote NBA Commissioner David Stern and the league “need to step up and put the Kings out of their misery and fold the franchise.” Contraction “is a necessity to restore credibility to a bloated league that, at 30 teams, is a horribly diluted, often unwatchable product.” The fact is there “just aren't enough big-time players, not enough big-time markets to support a 30-team league.” Kings Owners the Maloofs “are now looking for a corporate welfare package, a bailout for their last, mismanaged, fading asset, the Kings.” Reid: “And make no mistake somebody will give the Maloofs a hand out” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/4).
STILL SEARCHING: NBA.com’s David Aldridge wrote Trail Blazers acting GM Chad Buchanan has been in the position "since last summer, after owner Paul Allen fired Rich Cho” from the organization. The team has said that “it would consider Buchanan, but has been talking lately about wanting someone with more experience," like Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and TNT analyst Steve Kerr. The team has also “asked for permission to talk” with Pacers GM David Morway. The Trail Blazers' “collapse this season no doubt reflects poorly on Buchanan.” But nobody is “a harder-working bird dog than Buchanan, and Portland is in need of front office stability, not another new face that has to prove himself to Allen and his people” (NBA.com, 5/7).