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SBD/October 29, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Astros’ new logo was "publicly unveiled Friday afternoon -- at a local sporting goods store, with no fanfare and without the support” of the team, according to Brian Smith of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. An "eager local fan" posted a tweet containing the new logo Friday afternoon. Several Houston-area Academy Sports & Outdoors locations released a "limited quantity of shirts bearing the new logo," but the product was “removed and is no longer for sale.” The tweeted photo “displayed a dark-blue T-shirt and a large five-point star in two shades of orange, topped off by an equally large white capital ‘H.’” Smith wrote, “The image doesn’t just sound familiar: It is.” The logo is "highly similar to the dominant logo worn by Houston teams from 1965-1993.” It is “being rolled back out during an unprecedented time of change for the organization, which has recorded 213 combined losses the last two seasons and overhauled much of its staff.” Initial fan reaction “was mostly positive.” However, a "long-planned official launch party" this Friday at Minute Maid Park with scheduled appearances by Astros 2B Jose Altuve and '12 No. 1 overall draft pick Carlos Correa has "lost some of its pop” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/27).
SO SORRY: Academy Sports & Outdoors CEO & President Rodney Faldyn in a statement said, “We express our apologies to Houston Astros fans, our partners at the Houston Astros ball club, along with major League Baseball for inadvertently releasing the new Astros t-shirts in limited quantity” (Academy). MLB Properties and MLBAM also apologized for the mistake, saying, "It is an error that should have been caught and an error we regret" (AP, 10/27).
The Islanders are likely paying "about $6 million a year in a lease agreement” at Barclays Center, according to a source cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. Expanding the arena to 15,000 would “match it with the smallest current NHL arena, in Winnepeg.” Despite the “additional costs of some off-season construction, this deal still makes financial sense to the Barclays Center.” An arena spokesperson said, “We may add in premium seats behind the goal.” There also would be the expense of adding a locker room. Two sources said that Barclays had “hired an engineering firm to see how expensive it would be to accommodate more hockey fans.” It is expected to cost roughly $25M. The spokesperson “described the costs as negligible and said it was less than $25 million, declining to give specifics” (N.Y. POST, 10/27). On Long Island, Arthur Staples wrote of all the positives the Islanders "have gained from their deal to move to Brooklyn in 2015, the biggest one may be something that can't be quantified in added revenue dollars or new season-ticket holders or points in the standings." Staple: "It's perception.” People around the NHL “finally might start to see the Islanders in a new light even before they play a game at Barclays Center.” For that matter, “even before the puck gets dropped on this locked-out season” (NEWSDAY, 10/27). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote he hopes Islanders Owner Charles Wang "can find an out" in the team's Nassau Coliseum lease, or "pay to get out of it.” It is “unfair for an out-of-towner to tell Nassau residents how they should vote, but they’ll miss their hockey team more than they realize.” Dupont: “Overall, smart move by Wang. The rivalry with the Rangers and to a lesser extent the Devils remains in place” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28).
SAY WHAT? In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote, “Now that the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn, there are basically three NHL franchises within an hour’s drive of each other. In Toronto, there is one. Will someone please explain?” (TORONTO SUN, 10/28).
White Sox Assistant GM Rick Hahn on Friday was named Senior VP & GM, while Exec VP Howard Pizer was named Senior Exec VP, according to Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Hahn replaces Ken Williams, who "was promoted to executive vice president, which also was announced Friday." The change in job structure "actually has been in effect for the past few weeks, with Hahn now calling the shots for the team's day-to-day operations." Under Williams, the White Sox "finished .500 or better nine times in 12 years while producing a 1,014-931 record (.521 winning percentage)" along with the '05 World Series title and the '08 AL Central title. The job admittedly "took its toll on Williams over the years, emotionally as much as physically." Pizer has served as the club's Exec VP "for 32 years and has primary responsibility for the business and administrative operations of the White Sox." He "joined the Sox in 1981 to handle the club's ownership transition" (MLB.com, 10/26). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan noted Williams' tasks "now will involve all facets of the organization." With the team coming up "short in attendance last year, he will brainstorm with the marketing and sales departments." Shutting down the "35th Street El station for construction only adds to the challenge for the Sox." Williams said, "We're trying. It didn't get much play, but we've had some massive ticket reductions here for 80-90 percent of our seats. Step one: Let's try and make it more affordable for people. Step two: What's the best possible experience we can give them? Let's start before they even get here, with cheaper parking." Williams said the players were "demoralized by the low attendance during the stretch run" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/27). Also in Chicago, Daryl Van Schouwen noted Hahn will sign off with Williams and Chair Jerry Reinsdorf "on major decisions" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/27).
OUR TOWN: Despite winning 24 more games in '12 than the Cubs, the White Sox averaged 24,271 fans per game, while the Cubs drew 35,589 per contest. Hahn "was asked if Chicago could ever become a Sox town again." Hahn said, "If we win, absolutely. I do think if we followed up ’05 fairly quickly with another (title) in ’06 or ’07, or at least a deep, deep run, that it probably would’ve swayed some of the momentum our direction. But in the end, it’s not going to change the decision about who is on the field. It’s not for me to worry about" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 10/27).
STAYING HEALTHY: ESPN CHICAGO's Bruce Levine noted Williams' health played "a prominent role in his decision to turn over the day-to-day operation of the team." Williams said, "I think it was time. I have never learned how to dial it back. After decades of not sleeping and your stomach doing odd things to you and your doctor telling you if you don’t learn to dial it back, than you could be potentially cutting years off of your life you stop. Even if I am not challenged the way I am used to as a type A personality, I will always have that little guy on the other shoulder saying 'yeah but you know the consequences.'" Levine noted Williams will be "involved with upper level baseball decisions as well as trouble shooting in all areas of White Sox business." Part of his plan down the road "is to learn how to run an entire baseball franchise." Williams also will look at his new job "as training wheels for his next business goal." He said, "One of the things I look forward to in this challenge is to delve into other aspects of this organization and understand them to a greater degree. If the opportunity arises where I can be a part of an ownership group either here or elsewhere, I will have more knowledge and capabilities to hit the ground running" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 10/27).
Memphis residents are “poised to have a greater influence” with incoming Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera owning the team than they did under current Owner Michael Heisley, where “relationships were fractured and the locals wound up owning less than 2 percent of the club,” according to Kyle Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Pera's local ownership group “will have a clean slate,” and will "spread good news about the team.” Not only “might that lead to more butts in the seats, it could be the catalyst of influence in the business community that leads to more premium seats and more sponsorships.” Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane has been “briefed on the NBA's new revenue sharing formula, which asks teams who wish to tap into the revenue to meet certain requirements.” Kane said that the team's “best path is to sell out the lower of the three levels at FedExForum, where season tickets range from about $2,500 per seat to more than $6,000 per seat” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/28).
BETTER DAYS AHEAD? In Memphis, Geoff Calkins wrote the local owners who agreed to buy part of the team under Heisley “didn't like him or trust him.” Calkins: “This is how the great experiment began. The relationship didn't get better over the decade that was to follow. It got much, much worse.” This is the “other reason to be cautiously optimistic about Heisley's sale of the Grizzlies” to Pera. It gives the franchise a “chance at a fresh start.” Grizzlies investor Staley Cates said, "We can finally finish what we started. This is going to be good." Calkins wrote Pera “may not have Heisley's deep pockets, or his willingness to lose cash in the short run.” That would “seem to be the biggest risk of Pera's ownership.” If he has the "wallet and the will to win," the rest "should be easy.” You will “notice it by the array of Memphians at the opening press conference.” Sometimes, it “feels like the entire city of Memphis has bought a piece of the team” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/28). A Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL editorial states, “The inevitable day that Heisley sold the team could have been fraught with worry for Memphis.” But the “inevitable day has come, and the team is secure, thanks to Pera.” He may be a “mystery, but from the company he keeps to the commitments he makes, the early signs are positive.” Now, it is “time to hear from the man himself.” The editorial: “What is his vision -- not just for a team on a court but a franchise in a community? Will he clean house? Is he hands-on? Will he be something of a Memphian, or an absentee owner? Will he spend to win?” There is “much for Pera to say … once the deal closes and the team is his.” The editorial: “But as we wonder, we see no reason to worry. The team is secure in Memphis for years to come, and that's what matters most” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/29).
Hornets and Saints Owner Tom Benson is “entering into new territory as an NBA owner but is just as eager to win championships and see sellout crowds at the New Orleans Arena as he has been for his NFL franchise,” according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Hornets "are no longer a franchise teetering," and have signed new radio and television contracts "with hopes of broadening their fan base throughout the Gulf Coast." The team in September “announced it had surpassed an average of 12,000 tickets sold per game." Additionally, there are "plans to build a practice facility at the Saints’ complex," and New Orleans Arena will undergo $50M in upgrades, which are "expected to be completed before" the '14 All-Star Game is held in the city. Meanwhile, Benson said that changing the team’s nickname “remains a priority.” Benson: "Sometime in the future we’ll get a new name and it will be that much better. Maybe one that relates to our community a littler closer than the Hornets do.” Benson said that he is "still learning about the NBA game, its business model and structure." He "admits that it has been a work in progress, especially with the NBA having guaranteed contracts, while the NFL does not.” Benson said that he "relies on his trusted right-hand man, Dennis Lauscha, the president of both franchises, and executive vice president Mickey Loomis to inform him of everything involving the franchise." Reid noted under the "current management structure, Lauscha oversees the business side while Loomis oversees basketball operations" with Hornets GM Dell Demps. All basketball-related decisions are "made in collaboration among Lauscha, Loomis and Demps before it reaches Benson’s desk for final approval." Benson said that he "will be in his courtside seat" when the Hornets open the '12-13 season Wednesday night against the Spurs in New Orleans, and he "plans to be a frequent visitor" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/28).