SBD/April 10, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Red Sox project that, barring highly unexpected walkup sales, tonight's game against the Orioles at Fenway Park will not sell out, marking the first game not to do so at the ballpark since May 15, 2003. The club has posted an MLB-record 794 straight regular-season sellouts, including Monday's home opener, and 820 games overall counting the postseason. But three straight non-playoff seasons, including last season's 93-loss disaster, has depressed ticket demand. The club is expecting a turnout tonight of slightly above 30,000, roughly 7,000 below capacity. "It's hard, really, to be anything but extremely grateful looking at all of this," said Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy. "The streak has been talked about a lot, analyzed a lot and so forth. It is really a reflection of the incredible passion of this market and our fan base." In the immediate term, sellouts are likely to be more the exception than the rule at Fenway Park, as most other games in the club's 16 home dates this month are similarly expected to draw between 30,000-35,000. "There's still a wait-and-see attitude among a lot of fans, which is certainly understandable," Kennedy said. The Trail Blazers sold out 814 straight games between '77-95, and the Single-A Midwest League Dayton Dragons have an active streak of 913 games and counting (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Kennedy noted that ticket sales before Christmas were "off, and then the season-ticket renewal rate, which had been coming in at 95 percent, dipped to 88 percent." Kennedy said that ticket sales have "ticked up the last couple of weeks," but "not enough to pick up the slack" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10).
SECONDARY FACTOR: In N.Y., Ken Belson cites TiqIQ data as indicating that it does "not help the streak that interest has dipped on the resale market, where the average price of tickets for the home opener at Fenway Park fell to $171.68 this year, about half what they cost for the home opener last year." Fans could have "paid as little as $63 to see Monday’s game, down from $103 last season." The prices for tickets to tonight's game have "fallen faster." TiqIQ data indicated that fans can "find tickets for as little as $12 for that game, about 75 percent less than the cheapest seat for the second home game of the season last year" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes the "few empty seats you'll see tonight -- as well as tomorrow night and beyond" -- are a reminder the Red Sox need to "earn your trust all over again." Those empty seats "represent casual fans who in the recent past" would have gone to a game like the one tonight (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10). Meanwhile, the HERALD's Gerry Callahan writes fans will "see how the next 155 games go," but even if the Red Sox "don’t win 95 or come close to a division title, there was something commendable and worthwhile about the offseason efforts of Ben Cherington and the Sox front office." They "know they probably won’t win the World Series," but that "doesn’t mean they can’t win back the hearts and minds of their disillusioned customers." The end of the sellout streak is "perfect," as front office execs now have to "earn their way back in front of a full house." If they "fail, the baseball world will be laughing at the Red Sox all over again," but "so far, so good" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/10).
GAME OF CHICKEN: Baseball HOFer Wade Boggs said that he and his agent have approached Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino and Owner John Henry "about a public relations role with the Sox" similar to the one the late Johnny Pesky had. Boggs said, "We gave them a number, they gave us a number, and neither number worked. It was very time-consuming for not a lot of money” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10).
Sacramento developer Mark Friedman, whose family "controls Arden Fair mall and other properties," yesterday agreed to join the city's bid to buy the NBA Kings and build a new downtown arena, according to Kasler, Lillis & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The development comes one day after Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle was forced to scale back his involvement on the bid. Friedman said that his announcement's timing was "coincidental" with the Burkle news. Friedman said that he will "invest in all three elements of the effort: team, arena and surrounding redevelopment at the struggling mall." Friedman did not disclose how much he is investing, but said, "I'm making a big bet" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/10). Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that he has been "talking with Friedman since January and that the NBA was notified of the potential departure of Burkle and addition of Friedman when representatives of Seattle and Sacramento met before a select group of owners" last week in N.Y. Johnson: "We shared Mark's name (with the owners). They were very pleased." Meanwhile, a source said that Qualcomm Owner the Jacobs family has "agreed to increase" its participation in the project (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/10).
BLESSING IN DISGUISE? In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes Burkle taking his name out of the bid initially seemed "like a big setback," but it may be "an unforeseen blessing." Burkle is "known to be despised" by Kings Owner the Maloof family, and as Burkle "fades to the background, so does a major Maloof objection to any Sacramento bid." The Maloofs now "can't pull the 'disrespect card' that they have dropped around Sacramento at every turn for years" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/10). Meanwhile, in Seattle, Danny Westneat writes if desire "does matter," Seattle's bid is "toast." Westneat: "Because Sacramento totally wants this more." Sacramento's $447M arena plan was "unveiled to the public and then passed by their City Council only three days later." Westneat: "Can you imagine the reaction from the Seattle process factory if our mayor put forth a half-billion-dollar public-private partnership and wanted it approved in just three days?" One thing "we know from bitter experience is the NBA cartel likes its host cities a little desperate." Westneat: "Easier to leverage more subsidies that way. Advantage: Sacramento" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/10).
Nets investor Jay-Z has “started the process of divesting his small share of ownership” of the team to “extend his Roc Nation Sports representation business into basketball,” according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Jay-Z owns less than 1% of the Nets, but has "been a central public figure in the franchise's marketing and move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.” Selling his share of the Nets is “a necessary prelude for Jay-Z to obtain” his NBPA agent certification. Sources said that the process is “expected to be completed in time for Roc Nation to compete for players entering the June NBA draft, but there's no guarantee of the timing.” A source said that those “within Roc Nation and the CAA alliance aren't ‘chasing a clock on this.’” Sources added that CAA and Jay-Z are “taking time to carefully formalize the arrangement on the basketball end, and are sensitive to making sure he exits the Nets partnership in a way that is respectful to the organization” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/9). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes Jay-Z has been “a mainstay in the Barclays Center this season, and was the first to model the team's new uniform during a concert in September.” His CAA partnership “will not force him to sell his small share” of the Barclays Center (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/10).
THE RAINMAKER: CBSSPORTS.com’s Royce Young wrote the question is “really what CAA's involvement is here.” CAA is “one of the biggest agencies in the world," representing Clippers G Chris Paul, Knicks F Carmelo Anthony, Heat G Dwyane Wade, Spurs G Tony Parker and Heat F Chris Bosh, among others. Young: “Will Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports inherit those clients, or will he basically serve as a recruiter for future players?” That was "essentially Jay-Z's role with the Nets anyway.” He “sits courtside and makes the franchise way cooler.” Either way, it has to “send a chill down the spine of rival agents.” Jay-Z has “massive influence and his name and brand will be a draw to players everywhere” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/9). SI.com’s Ben Golliver wrote there “aren’t many magnets for young talent" quite like Jay-Z, whose “popularity is enormous and whose brand is so closely associated with financial success” (SI.com, 4/9).
Twins President Dave St. Peter said that a news release announcing the team was going to allow select fans to pay to watch batting practice for $15 was "sent prematurely and hadn’t been approved by higher-ups in the organization," according to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. St. Peter said, "It was released before it ever should have been. It’s hard to believe, but it was not pulled down because of fan reaction." Rand reports the release stated the Twins would allow "up to 60 ticketed fans per game a chance to get inside the gates 45 minutes early to watch the home team take batting practice." That was followed by a "nearly unanimous outcry on Twitter, talk radio and online comments sections." One such comment at StarTribune.com simply read, “Unbelievable greed.” The Twins by late yesterday afternoon had "sent out another news release: disregard everything about the news release involving the $15 batting practice," as it was "no longer happening." St. Peter said, "Our focus going forward is to provide greater fan access to BP. Whether there will be charges added to that, I don’t know. But I’ve long believed BP is one of those things we undersell as an industry" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/10). In Minneapolis, Roman Augustoviz sarcastically writes MLB teams "always need new revenue streams," and BP could "just be the start." Augustoviz: "How about $5 to watch the groundscrew mow the grass and rake the infield? Maybe $3 to stare at the concession people as they get their stands ready? ... Another $3 to observe the ball boys get the bat racks loaded up?" The "possibilities are limitless" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 4/10).
The Marlins' announced crowd of 14,222 for the team's game last night against the Braves is the "smallest since Marlins Park opened last year," according to Dave George of the PALM BEACH POST. That comes after the team drew more than 34,000 fans for its first home game of the season Monday. Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria last night "came walking unnoticed through the seats in the second inning," and he "settled inconspicuously in the seventh row near the Miami dugout, not at his customary second-row location, and pulled a baseball cap onto his head." George writes Loria and his "low-budget club are just trying to find ways to feel comfortable in their own home again," but the first two games at Marlins Park "have been nasty." George: "Realistically, in this market, not much short of a World Series run ever will" fill the ballpark (PALM BEACH POST, 4/10). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis notes the crowd was the "smallest since the stadium opened by more than 4,000." At one point, a fan "with a paper bag on his head appeared briefly on the video board between innings" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/10).
YOU'RE OUTTA HERE: NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra wrote there could be some "he-said, she-said" behind two Marlins fans being ejected Monday, and maybe they "truly were being disruptive." But it "sure as hell sounds to me that the Marlins simply didn’t like the fact that someone was criticizing them in their own (tax payer-funded) house." One of the ejected fans held a "Free the Marlins" sign, while the other wore a T-shirt which read, "Marlins Baseball Helping Others Get Better Since 1998" (NBCSPORTS.com, 4/9). BUSINESSWEEK's Ira Boudway wrote the incident is "yet another example of the team’s spectacular ability to create bad publicity" (BUSINESSWEEK.com, 4/9). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde noted Marlins President David Samson said that a meeting Monday "stressed not to kick anyone out for signs or wording." The "last thing the Marlins want" is a story of fans getting ejected. Hyde noted he talked with the fans early on at the opener and "unless they changed their methods -- again, that’s possible -- they weren’t causing a loud scene" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/9).
In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes writes it “sounds as if the Progressive Field bullpen phones were in working order” for yesterday’s Yankees-Indians game. During Monday's home opener, the Yankees' bullpen phone “went dead.” This is the “first year teams can use specially designed cell phones to communicate between the dugout and bullpen as part of T-Mobile becoming the official wireless partner of MLB.” The system was “not in place” Monday (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/10).
GREEN SWANS: The GUARDIAN’s David Conn reported EPL club Swansea City announced a $24.5M (all figures U.S.) profit for the six-month period ending on Nov. 30, 2012, and “with it, for the first time, a dividend for the club’s shareholders” -- $1.5M for this and last season in the EPL. Swansea City Chair Huw Jenkins said that the $3.1M combined dividend “justly rewards the owners, mostly directors too, who have worked unpaid to steer a remarkable rebuilding, but it risks taking a little shine off Swansea’s halo” (GUARDIAN, 4/9).
CRANE OPERATOR: In Austin, Kirk Bohls cited sources as saying that MLB Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan and his sons, Reid and Reese, “could sell their interest" in the Triple-A PCL Round Rock Express “sooner than later because of Ryan’s demotion" from the Rangers and his sons' other interests. However, “nothing is imminent.” Astros Owner Jim Crane said that he would be “interested in acquiring” the Express for the Astros. Crane: “That’s a great spot for us. It’s a great market. It’s be something we’d be happy to look at. If my phone rang, we’d definitely be interested.” The Express’ contract with the Rangers runs through ’18 (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 4/8). Crane also has been in talks to possibly acquire the PCL New Orleans Zephyrs and move the team to suburban Houston in '15.
HIGHWAY TO THE DANGER ZONE, MAYBE: The Rays “announced their first five concerts of the season, starting with Kenny Loggins on May 11 and highlighted by Carly Rae Jepsen.” Each concert is "free with the purchase of that date’s game ticket and will begin following the conclusion" of the game (TAMPABAY.com, 4/9).