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SBD/October 25, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Islanders Owner Charles Wang said that the team's new 25-year lease to play in Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning with the '15-16 season is "'ironclad,' without an opt-out clause," according to Marshall & Brodsky of NEWSDAY. Wang said that he "will remain the full owner of the Islanders." He added that the team will “retain their name and logo, and plan to honor their lease with the county by playing at Nassau Coliseum through the 2014-2015 season.” Wang said that he had been “seeking other options for the Islanders, including those outside of New York,” since shortly after a referendum to build a $400M new arena failed in '11. He said that talks with Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner “began in earnest seven months ago.” The deal was “finalized Tuesday night.” While Brooklyn had “always been an option for the Islanders, some had discounted it because of the relatively small size of the Barclays Center when outfitted for hockey.” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the arena “fits 14,500 hockey fans and could be changed to allow at least 500 more.” Meanwhile, Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday said that his administration “did everything it could to keep the team and would now work to develop the site into a ‘vibrant destination and job creation center.’” Nassau is “preparing to announce a new master developer for the 77-acre site surrounding the Coliseum.” Senior Policy Advisor & Communications Dir Brian Nevin said that a decision was “likely to come next week” (NEWSDAY, 10/25). In N.Y., Chen & Berger cite sources as saying that there were “no financial incentives involved, nor any involvement from the city government,” with the Islanders' move (N.Y. TIMES, 10/25).
LEAVING THE ISLAND: The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts notes Wang during a press conference yesterday commented about "looking forward to ‘continuing to work with' officials in Nassau -- which gave the impression he may try to negotiate an early end to the Coliseum lease.” Wang said, “Obviously, anything can happen in terms of breaking a lease, but we are committed to finishing and the 2015-16 season will be our first season here” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/25). Wang said of Barclays Center, “When you have a good alternative, at some point you take the alternative.” Bettman said, “I know firsthand he spent the better part of a decade and tens of millions of dollars in pursuit of a new home for the Islanders." Wang: “We tried everything we could. We wanted to stay there originally. We didn't have the opportunity to do it. Now we have this great, great, great alternative. ... After 12, 13 years, you feel a little bad. It's sort of a bittersweet thing, but at the same time, here, we're home” (NEWSDAY, 10/25). SportsNet N.Y.’s Chris Carlin said, “This is the best possible scenario for a franchise that has been dying on the vine for years.” Carlin noted the “opportunities for Nassau County, for Long Island, to keep the Islanders have been there for years, and they haven’t been able to get the job done.” Carlin told the fan base not to be upset with Wang because he “did the right thing here." Carlin: "They didn’t take this team completely away for you” ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 10/24).
NET GAINS: Bettman insisted the configuration of Barclays Center for hockey is "not an issue." He said that the “size of the arena would create a superior viewing experience for fans.” Nassau Coliseum currently seats around 16,200 for hockey, and Bettman said the "extra thousand seats aren't going to make that much of a difference." Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said that added seats “probably would be squeezed into the west end of the rink, perhaps as part of a high-end hospitality area.” On Long Island, Neil Best notes with indications the Islanders “planned to stay in Nassau County, the Barclays Center was built to create the best possible sight lines for basketball.” Rather than “center the hockey rink on the arena floor, it is shifted toward one end, so it is not possible to see the near-side goal from that side of the building, rendering many seats unusable because of obstructed sight lines” (NEWSDAY, 10/25). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Hollander & Brown note that for Ratner, the “arrival of a hockey team will be a big boost for his arena.” He had “long hoped to have a hockey team in addition to the Nets.” A second professional sports team “would strengthen the finances of the project” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/25).
ARENA CHANGING THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE: SportsNet N.Y.’s Jonas Schwartz said Barclays Center is “changing the landscape of New York sports.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bruce Murray noted Barclays Center is changing the city “just by its existence." Murray: "It was never a threat having a team play in East Rutherford, it was never a threat with a team playing out on Long Island. This place is cool, Brooklyn is cool.” However, the arena is "never going to takeover” MSG because “it’s still the Knicks and the Rangers." Murray said, "They’re the teams with cachet ... but there is a real challenge." The N.Y. Daily News’ Pat Leonard said the “completely new dynamic” between the Islanders and Rangers “might create additional marketing for both teams” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 10/24). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes the Islanders "do not sound particularly afraid about whether their fans will come with them” to Brooklyn. They will “create a new base to fill the modest capacity expected to peak at slightly more than 15,000.” If the NHL “doesn’t shoot itself in the skate boot with more lockouts, there is a very good chance this migration will succeed” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/25). But SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney said, “I don’t see it working because ... I don’t see that long-time Long Island fan from Suffolk County bothering to come to Brooklyn. And if you’re a hockey fan in Brooklyn, you’re a Ranger fan” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 10/24).
IN OTHER NEWS…: Bettman said that he “encouraged Wang to close the deal and make the announcement this week, despite the collective bargaining cloud above the NHL.” Bettman said: “Unhappy as we are to be in a CBA (dispute), we have a $3.3 billion business we’re trying to run and improve. So we can’t allow paralysis to the business. We want a league back that is in shape and growing” (TORONTO SUN, 10/25).
The Islanders “took a huge first step toward stabilizing the team and returning some cachet to what was once a proud and dynastic franchise” with the announcement of the move to Barclays Center beginning with the '15-16 season, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. The team has “put to rest all the nagging questions that have been dogging their ownership, hampering their offseason plans and frustrating ... their loyal fan base.” By partnering with the Nets, the Islanders will “capture some of the buzz emanating from Brooklyn's newest sporting attraction.” Not since the team drafted C John Tavares with the No. 1 pick in the ‘09 Draft has there been “so much optimism that the franchise can turn itself around.” The Islanders yesterday announced "ticket packages are already available for the 2015-16 season” (ESPNNY.com, 10/24). Several NHL analysts said that the move would “increase the team's relevance and reinvigorate its rivalry with the Rangers.” Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia analyst Bill Clement said, “Any move will help. I mean, they were just going to die there.” The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Mike Sielski notes Islanders Owner Charles Wang and GM Garth Snow are “counting on the franchise's new arena and urban setting to entice players and to allow the team to spend more money to sign them.” NBC analyst and former Islanders GM Mike Milbury said that the Nassua Coliseum’s “condition and location are significant drawbacks in pursuing elite talent” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/25). SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein said, "Brooklyn equals relevance. This team is now relevant for the first time in years.” Schein said if he was an NHL free agent, “I want to play in Brooklyn. This is great on the ice, great for the fan base” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 10/24). The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said, “The Islanders in Brooklyn will get a lot more coverage from the newspapers” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 10/24).
SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN: On Long Island, Arthur Staple notes there have been “numerous reasons Snow hasn't been able to attract any big-name free agents the past few summers.” A losing team has been the “biggest reason Snow has struggled to hit free-agency jackpots.” But having finalized a long-term home may “finally be something that tips the scales in the Islanders' favor rather than turning players off” (NEWSDAY, 10/25). In N.Y., Larry Brooks notes yesterday’s announcement “immediately transforms the Islanders into a viable franchise, perhaps even a destination franchise for marquee free agents.” Islanders fans on Long Island may “feel a loss today, but they have not lost their team.” Brooks: "Fact is, they have regained their team” (N.Y. POST, 10/25). Octagon Hockey USA Dir of Player Representation Ben Hankinson said, “It's just a team that lost their identity in the fact that there was so much turmoil around the organization with the building and the uncertainty” (ESPN.com, 10/24).
WHAT’S IN A NAME? In N.Y., C.J. Hughes notes while many in Brooklyn are "thrilled to add a pro hockey franchise" in addition to the Nets, they “wonder whether the Islanders’ name should be imported from Nassau County as well” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/25). Wang said that he was “not considering renaming the team the Brooklyn Islanders ... or anything of the sort.” The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jason Gay writes as the Nets have shown there is "great potential in a Brooklyn rechristening." There is an "undeniable marketing and merchandising opportunity with a Brooklyn re-branding.” It may be “too much for Wang and the Islanders to resist, and there's no embarrassment in recognizing the upside of this move” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/25).
BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY: Hockey HOFer Dennis Potvin, who played his entire 15-year career with the Islanders, said, “The more I think about this, the more it makes me sad” (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/24). Former Islanders G Chico Resch said that he “understands the move to Brooklyn, but it doesn’t lessen his disappointment.” Resch: “It's sad that they're leaving, but at the same time, Charles Wang probably doesn't remember those (Cup) times. So for him, there's no tug at the heart” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/25). Former Coach Al Arbour said, “It’s tough to see them move when they should have a team on Long Island.” Islanders VP/Corporate Sponsorships Mike Bossy, who also played his entire 10-year career with the club, said, “I feel terrible that the team won’t be there anymore, but I’m behind Charles 100 percent” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/25). More Bossy: “Today is today, yesterday was yesterday. … If they would’ve built a new arena in Nassau County, the Coliseum would’ve been gone anyway” (AP, 10/24).
Acknowledging the club “mishandled the communication of season-ticket increases for next year, a contrite Mariners organization has apologized to affected fans,” according to Larry Stone of the SEATTLE TIMES. Mariners Exec VP/Business Operations Bob Aylward sent out an e-mail Tuesday “expressing regret for not making it clear in renewal notices that the team was raising prices for many 2013 packages.” He wrote, “We recognize the financial and emotional investment you have made in Mariners Baseball. We are sorry for our miscommunication. And we pledge to do better.” Aylward yesterday “reiterated the Mariners' regret for their handling of renewals.” He said, “The need for the apology is that we clearly disappointed and negatively impacted the trust that is so important for the ballclub to have with our fan base.” Aylward said that he is “hopeful that most fans will still renew their season tickets.” Aylward: “To date, the number of people who have said, 'I'm canceling,' I can count on two hands. Yes, this will hurt us, but we don't have a mass exodus as a result” (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/25).
Hunt Sports Group is "seeking more local investors" for the MLS Crew, but Owner Clark Hunt said that comments made last Friday by MLS Commissioner Don Garber "were not entirely on the mark," according to Adam Jardy of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Garber said the Hunt family "made a commitment to get out (of Columbus), and we are encouraging them to do so." But Hunt yesterday in a statement said, "The City of Columbus, the Crew and Crew Stadium are extremely important to our family, and that hasn’t changed. We continue to believe that additional local investment only serves to strengthen the Crew’s standing in Columbus and Major League Soccer, and over the past two years, we have openly explored the possibility of bringing in minority investors to the club." Meanwhile, the Crew is "not engaged in substantial talks with any potential clients for the rights to the stadium's name." Crew President & GM Mark McCullers said, "We still have a ways to go." The club "has remained tightlipped on ticket-sales figures," but McCullers said that the Crew has "increased its number by 30 percent compared with a year ago." He said of hitting the 10,000-season-ticket-holder mark, "We’ve achieved this level in the past" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/25).
MLS Sporting KC is “not only on its way to joining the mainstream local sports scene … the franchise is changing it,” according to Sam Mellinger of the K.C. STAR. The club is “thorough, smart, and fan-first,” and the success of the franchise in the city “is remarkable.” Mellinger: “You would need a wild imagination and perhaps an opiate to believe Sporting will overtake the Chiefs or Royals in local importance, but that’s neither the goal nor the point. Why can’t Sporting turn Kansas City from a two-sport town to a three?” Every game but one “was a sellout this year, and the team’s revenue is actually up across the board.” The average non-premium season-ticket holder “is 27 years old.” Sporting KC is “not plotting world domination here, just a bigger chunk of the local sports market and two seasons in the plan is going off almost flawlessly.” The team is “winning, and the management group is putting on a virtual clinic on how to connect with a community and make fans feel part of the process.” The only “hiccup surrounds the name” on Livestrong Sporting Park amid the fallout from doping charges against Lance Armstrong. But the team “named its stadium after an organization that provides hope for cancer victims, not the fraudulent cyclist who started it, so backtracking now would be somewhere between counterproductive and cowardly.” Sporting KC “continues to elbow its way closer to mainstream” (K.C. STAR, 10/25).
The Blue Jackets' introduction of new President of Hockey Operations John Davidson yesterday was a "momentous day for the franchise," according to Aaron Portzline of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Club President Mike Priest said of the former Blues President, "We believe with John’s leadership, experience and expertise, the Blue Jackets will turn the page on the past and reach new levels of success." Davidson agreed "to terms on a multiyear contract early Tuesday." Priest said that Davidson would have "full autonomy and authority over hockey operations," meaning GM Scott Howson, Assistant GM Chris MacFarland and senior advisers, "along with others, will have a new boss." Team Owner John McConnell said, "I spent 10 to 15 minutes with the guy and I was like, 'Wow, I really like this guy.'" Davidson "did not want to guarantee when the Blue Jackets become perennial winners" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/25).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB: ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote Davidson is "one of the most connected people in hockey and is known for his ability to sell the game, an important distinction in Columbus where frustration is at an all-time high after another dismal season" (ESPN.com, 10/24). In Columbus, Rob Oller writes Davidson "brings aggressive patience and dynamic vision. And he is being given full rein to use them." Priest will most likely "slide back to the business side of things." Oller: "Davidson appears to be the perfect fit in Columbus, but then Mike Holmgren ... was supposed to be a great match with the Cleveland Browns and it did not work out" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes the Davidson hire "represents a smart move in the right direction." Davidson's presence "alone cannot change that attitude overnight, but it surely will help." In his previous job, Davidson acted "as the de facto front man for a St. Louis Blues franchise that was in similar dire straits before he took the wheel" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/25).
In Miami, Greg Cote writes under the header, "Meddlesome Owner Jeffrey Loria, Not Ozzie Guillen, Is Main Reason For Miami Marlins Mess." Cote: "You can surround him with an opulent new, state-of-the-art ballpark but, well, he’s still Jeffrey Loria. New team name, new logo, new colors, new uniforms, new stadium, new players … same old meddling owner leading the league in impatience." It has become "a comic tragedy, this franchise, a baseball version of 'The Emperor’s New Clothes'" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/25).
CRACKING DOWN: In Chicago, Danny Ecker wrote the Cubs are "cracking down on season ticket holders that it says exploit their seats on secondary ticket sites." The team yesterday "sent 'non-renewal notice' letters to about 40 accounts." The letter states in part, "After careful consideration, we regret to inform you we have decided not to renew the license for your account. As a result, you will not be offered the opportunity to purchase season tickets for the 2013 season." This marks the "first time the Cubs have done such a purge." Cubs VP/Communications & Community Affairs Julian Green said that the notices "will have no impact on other season ticket holders that sell some or even most of their seats on secondary sites like StubHub." Those that were sent letters were "identified as account holders that are more systemic in their reselling practices" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 10/24).