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Manchester City Owner Sheikh Mansour and his Abu Dhabi-based group will take a “similar approach” in its handling of MLS expansion team New York City FC as it did with the EPL club, but on “a smaller scale to reflect the structural differences between European and American soccer,” according to a source cited by Martin Rogers of YAHOO SPORTS. Mansour bought Man City in ’08 and “set about furnishing the squad with some of the best, most expensive players in the world, turning a team mired in mediocrity for years into one of the EPL's signature members.” The source said, "This is not some little side project. It is an important part of building the brand of Manchester City Football Club and in that sense it is crucial that the new team represents the overall message in the right way.” The source added, “MLS obviously has some salary cap restrictions that we don't have in England but expect some major signings. … The blueprint can be expected to be a combination of big names, high-quality imports, a strong core of experienced American players, plus an efficient development system to build future talent." MLS yesterday announced NYC FC, a partnership between Man City and the Yankees, will begin play in '15 as the league's 20th team. Rogers reported “serious talks between City and the MLS hierarchy have been ongoing for several months, but the addition of the Yankees to the deal was a more recent development” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/21).
TALE OF TWO CITIES: SI.com’s Grant Wahl wrote, “In theory, the Yankees' affiliation will help provide additional clout to get the deal done for a new stadium for this team.” But there “will be questions.” The Yankees “used to have an affiliation with Manchester United, City's rival, but that deal didn't bring about anything of substance.” The Yankees on paper will “have a much bigger role in this project, but we'll have to wait and see how their influence is used.” Still, this marks the “biggest MLS announcement since David Beckham signed” with the Galaxy in January ’07 (SI.com, 5/21). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes the partnership “represents a new sports model that makes great business sense, yet might not be embraced here with the same enthusiasm expressed by team officials.” If Man City “intends to use this club as a way station for second-tier, transfer players from the parent side, it will quickly discover that New Yorkers have little patience for Triple-A sports franchises at any venue.” Bondy writes, “Hopefully, after a lot of work, [Man City CEO Ferran] Soriano will build a solid MLS club independent of the English team -- not a feeder system.” He will “need to prove that quickly to a relatively sophisticated fan base around here, always a hard sell” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/22). Soriano said that he “may look at the idea of recruiting marquee names" such as Beckham to "help build a following for the new team” (London INDEPENDENT, 5/22).
THE BLUEPRINT: In N.Y., Brian Lewis noted MLS Commissioner Don Garber has “longed for a second team" in N.Y. Garber said, “From a league perspective, this is a project we had as part of the original business plan in 1996. It was always part of the plan to have two teams in New York, and we’ve worked on and off on it for 18 years.” Despite “inconsistent attendance by the Red Bulls, Garber pointed out that there are 19 million people in the area, and more than enough of them can be converted from fandom of some other non-MLS soccer team to provide a great rivalry with the Red Bulls, one that will help lift the league” (NYPOST.com, 5/21). Former MLS Commissioner Doug Logan said that MLS' original plan “called for the New York MetroStars -- which became the Red Bulls in 2006 -- to cater to fans in New Jersey, while the second New York team would serve fans in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.” MLS Union CEO & Managing Partner Nick Sakiewicz, who was MetroStars President from ‘00-05, said that N.Y.'s soccer market is “big enough for that plan to still work.” Sakiewicz said, "The vast majority of license plates in (the MetroStars) parking lot were from New Jersey. It was tough for fans in western Long Island or Queens to get to our games" (USA TODAY, 5/22).
HOW 'BOUT THEM APPLES? The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Robinson & Clegg note MLS officials hope a rivalry between the Red Bulls and NYC FC “will energize the area's fans, as has been the case in the Northwest, where grudge matches between” the Timbers and Sounders are “invariably sellouts.” Garber said, "I very much believe that the Red Bulls will be even more committed to the league and embrace this as an idea that will allow them and NYC FC to break through the clutter of over a dozen professional sports teams" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/22). ESPN FC’s Jason Davis wrote under the header, “Garber’s Legacy Rests On New York City FC.” A franchise within the city limits of N.Y. has “long been Garber’s overriding goal,” and it will be Garber who “will take the blame if it fails.” The plan “predates his MLS involvement, but the recent push for New York rests squarely on his shoulders” (ESPNFC.com, 5/21). In N.Y., George Vecsey notes the awarding of the “vital” 20th MLS team to N.Y. “touches off a search for a soft spot to land, potentially in the shrinking acres of land available to the working people of Queens.” MLS up to now has “done just about everything right since its inception in 1996.” But putting “a stadium, concrete access, traffic jams, plus another set of users into the parkland could be the league’s first major unredeemable act” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/22).
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: NBCSPORTS.com’s Steve Davis wrote a N.Y. expansion team was a “strategic choice all about dollars and good financial sense,” and what that “ultimately means is TV contracts.” That and “greater media awareness, too, which helps drive sponsorships and, ultimately, further enhanced TV contracts.” A MLS expansion fee “beyond the Big Apple runs about" $40M. Garber almost two years ago “set the NYC expansion price" at $100M. Davis wrote, “You don’t need much of a calculator to see about $60 million reasons why current owners would prefer this ordering of expansion, right?” (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/21).
SPACED OUT: The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Bondy notes the NASL N.Y. Cosmos “appear to have lost their bet.” NASL officials “gambled there would be no second MLS team established here, because there would be no stadium built in Queens.” Now there will be a second team, and the Cosmos are “thereby relegated to third-banana status, and hopefully will survive despite such a fate” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/22).
The “next task” for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke, following the redefining of Bryan Colangelo's role, is “the rebranding of the Raptors in an effort to increase the team’s popularity, not only in Toronto but across Canada,” according to Robert MacLeod of the GLOBE & MAIL. Leiweke yesterday said that he has “already determined that the Raptors have missed a great opportunity to better market itself in this country.” He added, “The one thing that is clear to me is, when I look at the Blue Jays I have great respect for the fact that all of Canada follows the Blue Jays. It’s not the same with the Raptors, and I get that. We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn to be Canada’s team.” Leiweke said that MLSE already has “made one big decision -- to make a bid to host the 2016 NBA all-star game, which would coincide with the Raptors’ 20th anniversary.” Leiweke: “The change is going to be this: Toronto’s not bidding on the 2016 all-star game. Canada is. And that’s where we’ll begin the change.” Leiweke also said that the club “will look into building a new practice facility for the team in an effort to make the Raptors a more desirable destination for NBA players” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/22).
LESS THAN IDEAL: Colangelo yesterday said that he is “not angry at being let go as general manager, despite his new boss's characterization as such.” The CBC’s Chris Iorfida noted Colangelo made his comments just after being announced as Raptors President, a “role that will see him slide over to more business-related decisions with the team.” Colangelo: "It's a unique situation for me to be in, not an ideal situation, but I'm going to embrace it and make the most of it.” Colangelo was “asked why he would stay with the team in such a role when he's had more than a decade of experience with respect to basketball matters.” Colangelo responded, "I do care very much about the Toronto Raptors, the success of this organization” (CBC.ca, 5/21). Leiweke said, “I admire and respect Bryan and his passion and loyalty for the Raptors and for Toronto. I think he’s actually done a good job with that. He’s gotten involved with the community. He’s gotten involved in the game of basketball in Canada. In that area I give him high marks.” Colangelo said, “I’ll give opinion where and when I’m asked about it. This is being portrayed as a non-basketball job. We’re in the basketball business and I’ve got a lot of experience. I think the new guy is going to understand that and appreciate that and I’ll give my opinion. I’m certainly not going to try to run him over because at the end of the day that’s not going to get me very far” (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/21).
BEWARE OF BACKFIRE: SPORTSNET.ca’s Michael Grange wrote if the decision by Leiweke "to fire" Colangelo “by keeping him around works out it will look inspired.” But “all of that will have to take place.” The Raptors “will have to make the playoffs” and “become a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference.” If “none of that happens,” then the “events of the past 24 hours will be as good a place to start as any for someone trying to explain why a rich club in a massive market is on pace for 20 years of various versions of basketball failure” (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/21). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote when Leiweke “gets around to hiring a new general manager for the Raptors, the basketball authority will rest with that man,” and Colangelo “is going to have to live with it.” Leiweke said, “Bryan is probably ticked off at me.” He added, “There’s no probably, he’s ticked off at me. This isn’t his perfect world, but he accepts it.” Smith notes if there is “one thing the two men agree on, it’s that the situation is not ideal.” Colangelo said, “Ticked off is not the right terminology. It’s a mis-characterization. I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able to see this through” (TORONTO STAR, 5/22).
CALLING THE SHOTS: In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat noted Leiweke will start with MLSE on June 3, rather than July 1, "at the suggestion of the MLSE board.” Leiweke “made it clear he is in charge of the search for the new GM.” A search firm “has been hired merely for background due diligence” (TORONTOSUN.com, 5/21). Also in Toronto, Mike Ganter writes Leiweke, if he “accomplished nothing else yesterday, confirmed he is in complete control of the entire Raptors operation.” It was “his decision -- and his decision alone -- to keep Colangelo.” Leiweke “knows the decision to keep Colangelo around opens him up to all kinds of second guessing and, quite frankly, he doesn’t really care.” He is “that confident that he can manage the process” (TORONTO SUN, 5/22).
ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR? The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes Colangelo “will likely end up with another NBA job.” He has “an ‘NBA out’ in his contract, and with the family name pretty much hoops royalty it would not be out of the question to see him get a job in the NBA front office” when Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver replaces Commissioner David Stern next February (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/22). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes the “only way” the Raptors situation “won’t be awkward is if Colangelo leaves for another NBA job and rather quickly” (TORONTO SUN, 5/22).
Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan yesterday announced that the franchise has “made an application to the NBA” for a name change to the Hornets, according to Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. It will take “until July, the next time NBA owners meet, for a vote to take place.” Based on past comments by NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who will become Commissioner next February, there is “little reason to think the league would have a problem.” Such a change “can’t be implemented before the fall of 2014, as it takes about 18 months for the NBA to rebrand one of its teams.” It still is unclear “whether the Bobcats would also take on the Hornets’ teal-and-purple color scheme.” Bobcats Exec VP and Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Pete Guelli said that the team expects to spend about $4M on the name change, "a million more than it estimated several months ago.” That figure “reflects many new costs and some loss of merchandise revenue as the team liquidates its stock of caps and jerseys.” Guelli said that there is a “public misconception that the team can make back what it spends on a rebrand through new merchandise sales.” He added that the “profit off licensed apparel is small enough that merchandise sales would not prompt this.” Guelli said that the Bobcats “haven’t seen a surge in ticket sales since the news started breaking last weekend, but ‘there’s been a lot more dialogue,’ with the team’s sales force.” He added, “The phones are very active” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/22).
POLL POSITION: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted the Bobcats last winter “hired polling firm Harris Interactive to analyze interest in a return to the Hornets name in Charlotte.” Guelli said that the results were “overwhelming.” Eighty percent of survey respondents “favored renaming the team the Hornets.” Jordan said he hopes the switch can “energize our fan base.” Spanberg noted the Bobcats “wasted little time seeking sales gains from the prospective name change.” An e-mail to fans last night "included offers for season tickets as cheap as $8 per game, with a bonus for buyers to receive a black Nike Jordan Brand warm-up jacket embossed with the words ‘Buzz City’ in purple and teal.” BackBuzzCity.com was “established as a website to sell season tickets” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/21).
THE NAME GAME: YAHOO SPORTS’ Eric Freeman wrote Jordan was “correct to note that this franchise will never catch on with local fans if the team doesn't perform well on the court, but that doesn't mean their branding should be regarded as irrelevant.” A sports franchise “succeeds when it becomes part of the local community, an extension of the same civic pride that drives other forms of culture.” Winning “certainly helps move that process along, but so can a sense of continuity and history.” At the same time, the new Hornets “can't appear to be a simple copy of the earlier incarnation.” The management team “needs to create something that can work in the future, not just a cute bit of nostalgia” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/21). ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell noted the name change “likely won't bring a significant number of people” to Time Warner Cable Arena, and it “won't even bring in much-needed revenue.” Rovell: “If it's money Jordan is seeking, he'll make much more by winning. That, or by continuing to lose and getting revenue-sharing money that will scale up to unprecedented heights next season as part of the collective bargaining agreement” (ESPN.com. 5/21).
The effects of the Orioles’ postseason run last year “could take longer to bloom for the franchise’s luxury suite sales,” according to Jack Lambert of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Orioles VP/Ticketing & Fan Services Neil Aloise discussed the “business of selling suites at Oriole Park at Camden Yards,” and described how the team is “increasing suite size and personalizing packages in order to attract more business clients.” Below are excerpts from the Q&A:
Q: Are businesses using suites more for personal entertainment than for attracting clients?
Aloise: I don’t think that dynamic has changed much. I think maybe you’re seeing a little bit more birthday party-type of events, especially on the weekend games. We’ve even had bat and bar mitzvahs in suites. You’re seeing a little bit more of those types of events, whereas maybe you didn’t have that as much, say, 20 years ago.
Q: How has the competition for corporate dollars changed since Oriole Park opened in 1992?
Aloise: When this ballpark opened, these were the only suites within a 500-mile radius. You didn’t have (M&T Bank Stadium). You didn’t have new venues in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York. Now Memorial Stadium had suites, but they were more like a private box you would see at Pimlico.
Q: How much did the playoff run in 2012 help suite sales?
Aloise: I think it has helped, especially a lot with our season-ticket base and some of the pregame parties and group outings. The suites take just a little bit longer to develop. You might start thinking about it now for the 2014 season. Depending on the level of investment, it can be tough to turn around that type of commitment very quickly (BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/17 issue).
Stars President & CEO Jim Lites said that the team is “in negotiations to hold training camp in Fort Worth in September as the first step of becoming the Southwest’s hockey team,” according to Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Lites said that the Stars are “close to completing a deal that is expected to produce a four-day training camp at the Fort Worth Convention Center Sept. 11-14 and also would include preseason games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.” He said, “We’d love to expand our footprint from New Orleans to Tulsa to Houston and beyond. We want to get people excited about the Dallas Stars.” Lites added that future camps “could be held in San Antonio, Austin area or Houston, among others” (DALLASNEWS.com, 5/21). The Stars also announced that they will “unveil new uniforms and a new logo" in a 6:00pm CT event June 4 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. Special invitations were “sent in early May to Dallas Stars full season seat holders with instructions on how to secure a ticket” (DALLASNEWS.com, 5/21).