SBD/April 18, 2013/Events and Attractions

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  • Too Early To Tell If Cost Increases Will Doom Small Marathons After Boston Bombings

    Smaller marathons could take a hit due to higher insurance, security costs

    The marathon industry is concerned a potential increase in insurance and security costs could eliminate smaller events following the Boston Marathon bombings, but it is "too early to determine" if that will be the case, according to a source cited by Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. There was an increase on race insurance "in the years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11." NYRR President & CEO Mary Wittenberg said that if insurance and security costs "go up, the New York Marathon will not increase fees to make it cost-prohibitive to run." The NYRR in '12 did "wind up passing on the costs to runners to compensate for more police manpower needed to direct traffic in the city," as entry fees "increased by $60." Wittenberg "wants to preserve the integrity of the marathon." But she added that she "remains open to anything that will make it safer." She does not expect "phones to ring off the hook from people looking to cancel their race entry" (ESPN.com, 4/17).

    PAYOUTS FOR VICTIMS: The INSURANCE JOURNAL's Ben Berkowitz wrote victims of the Boston Marathon bombings will "eventually win some kind of compensation." Experts said that victims "have an easier path if they settle with a central relief fund, rather than pursue lawsuits against governments, race sponsors or perpetrators." Lawyer Marc Bern, who represented thousands of workers at the World Trade Center site in litigation over illnesses related to the 9/11 attacks, said a fund is the "easiest, the fairest and the quickest way to go." Berkowitz noted the parameters of the One Fund Boston are "still unclear and may not be known for days or weeks." Victims in theory also "have the right to pursue litigation against the Boston Athletic Association," or the "perpetrators." But it is "far from clear whether either of those parties will have sufficient funds to pay off any claims, or how long it would take to reach a settlement." The BAA's ability to "pay any settlements likely will depend on its insurance coverage." It may "have a specific policy to cover terrorism-related incidents or a special clause in its regular liability policy to cover such acts" (INSURANCEJOURNAL.com, 4/17).

    JOHN HANCOCK STICKING WITH RACE: In Boston, Beth Healy notes insurance and financial services company John Hancock has been lead sponsor of the Boston Marathon "since 1986, resurrecting the race as a major competition that pays significant prize money and attracts world-class runners." As part of the multimillion-dollar event, Hancock "trains its runners and hosts a week of activities, including a sports and fitness exposition and school events." John Hancock Exec VP, Chief Administrative Officer & general counsel James Gallagher said that he is "already hearing people talk about the future" of the event. Gallagher: "Already today -- and this speaks so well of our community -- people are turning their attention to the time ahead, both in terms of looking after the victims and their families, and also Boston Marathon 2014." Gallagher added that there is "no doubt there will be security along the route, especially near the tight quarters along the finish line." Gallagher: "But those security changes will give everyone the confidence to make it bigger and better" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/18).

    NO ADDITIONAL SECURITY IN WEST PALM
    : In West Palm Beach, Andrew Abramson notes officials organizing yesterday's Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run, a 5K run with 1,100 runners, on Tuesday announced that they would "have extra security on site." But West Palm Beach's mayor, police chief, fire chief, emergency operations director and recreation director held their own news conference yesterday morning and said that they would "have the regular amount of security on hand and wouldn’t add any additional detail" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/18).

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  • F1 CEO Ecclestone Potentially Looking Into Buying Long Beach Grand Prix

    Race execs said the grand prix is not for sale despite reports otherwise

    Reports emerged Monday night that a "bevy of suitors," led by F1 CEO Bernie Eccelstone, are "lining up to buy the 39-year-old" Long Beach Grand Prix "despite the fact that its owners, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, have not expressed interest in selling it," according to Bob Keisser of the Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM. LBGP President & CEO Jim Michaelian said the rumors "don't amount to anything." He added, "This is a story that keeps bouncing around every year or so, despite the fact that the race isn't for sale and there's been no contact between anyone and Kevin about a sale. Nothing is happening." Kalkhaven said, "Gerry and I are not interested in selling Long Beach." Michaelian said that the owners have "every intention of keeping their company." Michaelian: "My reaction is that it's their company, they run it well, and they have every intention of keeping it. Kevin is invested in the IndyCar series with his own team (KV Racing). If he was seriously looking at a sale, he wouldn't be pouring resources into his own team.'' IndyCar currently has a "contract with the city of Long Beach through the 2015 race" (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 4/17).

    TAKING A LOOK: SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller reported "at least one group is taking a serious look at making a bid for the longest-running, most successful street race in North America." Every sign "points to" Green-Savoree Racing Promotions co-Owners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree "trying to raise their already robust profile in promoting and track ownership." It also has been "rumored that [ISC Chair] Jim France and the newly formed United SportsCar Racing Championship could be a potential buyer." Gordon Kirby in his latest Motor Sport magazine blog "speculates" that Ecclestone and former CART President & CEO Chris Pook are "interested in re-acquiring the venue that hosted Formula One from 1976-1983" (SPEEDTV.com, 4/15).

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  • SFF Conference: Execs Find Twitter To Be Beneficial Outlet, But Challenges Still Exist

    In a breakout session yesterday at the '13 Sports Facilities & Franchises Conference entitled "High-Stakes Team PR in the Twitter Age," MLS Exec VP/Communications Dan Courtemanche, Nets & Barclays Center Senior VP & Chief Communications Officer Barry Baum and Sporting KC Exec VP/Communications & Digital Rob Thomson discussed the challenges facing PR and media relations execs in this era of ever-present social media. Sporting KC played the Red Bulls last night, and the team flew into the area on Monday. Thomson saw the news of the Boston Marathon bombings upon landing and he said it was important to notify the players of the incident so they would be cognizant of their social media postings. Courtemanche noted the Mexican national soccer team flew into S.F. Monday for last night's exhibition game against Peru. MLS’ Soccer United Marketing was behind the event, so he said it was important to notify the Mexican team of the incident so they would avoid insensitive comments, both in social media and while talking to the media. Courtemanche said the Mexican coach was hesitant at first, unconvinced the team would be fielding questions about the bombings. But Courtemanche said the SUM PR staff insisted, and effectively communicated the tenor of the American public in the wake of the bombings. Courtemanche: "All of this was occurring on social media, while the team was flying."

    USING TWITTER TO FILL THE GAPS: The panelists discussed Twitter's ability to get news or info out that previously would not have had an appropriate outlet. Baum said, "There are certain stories and certain photos that we don't necessarily have a particular place to go with. We have a lot of celebrities that come to our games, and you don't want to send a press release out, or an e-mail, of say, Justin Bieber wearing a Nets hat. So we'll tweet those photos out, and they'll always get picked up by various publications." While Twitter's immediacy and scope is clearly advantageous for spreading news quickly, Baum said there are situations in which news will have more legitimacy if broken by more traditional means such as the local newspaper. "Sometimes it's more meaningful to get a story where somebody else is announcing the news, rather than you're announcing the news," he said. Thomson added there are many occasions when Sporting KC uses Twitter as "more of a rah-rah tool" to drive the news, because the social media site "doesn't really paint the whole story."

    VERIFYING NEWS STILL IMPORTANT: Courtemanche noted when former MLSer Robbie Rogers recently announced he was homosexual on Twitter, virtually every media outlet immediately went to press with the story. However, he noted the AP did not, waiting until they sourced the story either directly from Rogers or his agent. Thomson recounted a situation in which a K.C. journalist went to press with a former MLSer's tweet, announcing he was going to be playing for Sporting KC. But the tweet turned out to be an April Fool's joke. Thomson said, "Unlike a poorly written, or misrepresenting article from five years ago, it's a short shelf life of him getting criticized, and it's kind of forgotten. So, it is different how information and how journalists are treated in the short cycles of news anymore."

    DIFFERENT MODELS FOR TEAMS: Baum said that Twitter usage for the Nets and Barclays Center is managed by a social media team, under the umbrella of the Nets' marketing department. But Thomson said, "For us, social media does fall under the communications department, which is rare in Major League Soccer. We're one of three teams or so that does this. It's really bridged the gap, too. I meet now way more with our sponsorship department team, and our marketing side, because it does help in our merchandise sales." He added Sporting KC often tweets photos of new merchandise, and a certain number of tweets or social media references can be built into the team's agreement with a certain marketing partner.

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  • SFF Conference: Execs Detail Plans For Ottawa Sports City At Landsdowne Park

    Marks, Clifford and Ashe (l-r) are leading the $500M Ottawa project

    The '13 Sports Facilities & Franchises Conference took a detailed look at the Ottawa Sports City development, a $500M project led by Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group CEO Bernie Ashe, Perkins Eastman Principal John Clifford and Premier Partnerships Managing Dir Jeff Marks. Ottawa Sports City will redevelop a 40-acre site at Landsdowne Park that includes a dilapidated football stadium with an attached unique multi-purpose indoor arena, and the iconic Aberdeen Pavilion, which according to Ashe "held the first hockey game in Canada under Lord Stanley." The impetus for the project came with a group of investors' desire to bring a CFL franchise back to Ottawa. That idea evolved when it became clear that neither the developers nor the city was going to fund the redevelopment of Frank Clair Stadium. OSEG then began partnering with retailers and condominium developers to build revenue for the project. Over the course of two years, the business model came together and a 50/50 project was approved between the development group and the city of Ottawa. Ashe said the project is the "largest public-private partnership" in Canada, with five equity investors. He described the deal as very "fair," adding the city "got behind it 100 percent" after the developers were all in place.

    GETTING THE DEAL DONE: Per the deal, the city of Ottawa will retain all the property after a 30-year lease, and the developers' return is only 8%, while Ashe said a typical return would "generally be twice that." Clifford said among the challenges in getting city approval for the development, was building an area that could be used every day by those in the community, not just for 15 or so gamedays throughout the year. "It was really creating, for the city's purpose, which I think helped to sell it for the entitlement process, a 365-day community where the stadium was part of it, and not just something that was driving the whole development," he said. Important to the project were anchor tenants such as Whole Foods, both office space and residential areas, and mixed use entertainment zones. Marks pointed to L.A. Live as a model for what Ottawa Sports City intends to build in regards to maximizing revenue. He said they are looking at a naming-rights deal for the entire complex, as opposed to selling the stadium, the arena and the development separately. Marks: "We envision a naming-rights partner, which would be for the stadium or the complex, and probably four to five founding partners." He added the naming-rights estimate asking price would be in the seven figures, but less than $10M. Ashe said there are challenges presented by companies interested in exclusive rights to certain sponsorship categories while the naming-rights deal is not yet firmed up. He said, "This area is very controversial within our company, because we're 60% leased right now." He added that categories including beverage rights and banking are on hold until a naming-rights deal is in place.

    WHAT'S IN A NAME? Ashe said while OSEG has decided on the name of the new CFL franchise, they are still in the logo development phase and are not ready to make the name public. He added that the team is in the process of arranging food and beverage contracts, as well as a ticketing deal. Ashe said, "Paciolan is the system we're looking at right now."

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