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SBD/June 28, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz "again has the hottest sports brand in town" after a second Stanley Cup in four years, and with both fans and advertisers "jumping at the chance to be associated with a winner, business has never been better," according to Meg Graham of CHICAGOGRID.com. Wirtz said, "I think (the Cup) certainly helps with corporate sponsorships. It doesn’t hurt on the renewals. And obviously merchandise sales, and then just demand for tickets." He added that the Blackhawks have "roped in the hard-to-understand millennial demographic without really knowing how." Wirtz: "I don’t know why we have so many 20-somethings following our sport. They’re discovering it, they’re talking about it, they’re watching it together, they’re meeting at their favorite watering holes to view it and to celebrate. I think it’s part of the whole lifestyle of what younger people are looking for." Graham reported the team has "courted other nontraditional hockey demographics." Wirtz said that the Blackhawks "have a 40 percent female fan base and plan to do more to speak to that group." He added, "We’re not properly marketing to enough women. Many times advertisers are looking at this as a ‘21- to 54-year-old male.' We’ve gone a long way in knowing who our fan is, but we have a long way to go still." Graham noted Wirtz also believes that ticket prices "won’t scare away season ticket owners, who can now regard their purchase as a safer investment." That "new class of fan also opens the door to new classes of sponsors and other revenue streams." Though Wirtz maintains that the team will "lose money this year, he believes the Blackhawks will be profitable in two or three years." Part of that will "be continuing to invest in high-quality production of a sport that Wirtz admits is 'not an easy game to broadcast'" (CHICAGOGRID.com, 6/26).
PREVENTING A BREAKUP: In Chicago, Mark Lazerus writes while not every member of the team's roster will return next season, the "carnage won’t be anywhere close to the purge that took place after the 2010 championship, when more than half the team departed." Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane said, "Looking back to 2010, you had to win it that year because the next year, everyone was going to be gone. This year, there shouldn’t be too many changes." Lazerus notes the team's "biggest concern" is re-signing LW Bryan Bickell. They "might have to move a piece of their core" to do that (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/28).
The financial "burdens that come with keeping" the Coyotes in Glendale would be shared by local "taxpayers, the prospective owners of the franchise and hockey fans," according to a draft deal cited by Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The deal "calls for the city to pay the prospective team owners an arena-management fee" of $15M annually, which is "far more than city officials had hoped to pay." IceArizona, a new partnership for the prospective ownership group known as Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, "offered to soften the financial outlay by reimbursing the city with millions of dollars derived largely from fees collected from hockey fans who attend games." A vote on Tuesday is "expected to seal the fate of the Coyotes in Glendale." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday said, “If the council doesn’t approve it so that this transaction can close, I don’t think the Coyotes will be playing there anymore." Glendale City Council member Gary Sherwood said, "Do we have the votes to pass it Tuesday? I don’t know. I hope we do, but I’m not sure." Giblin notes deal points released by city officials state if the contract is approved, Glendale will pay IceArizona $15M a year to "manage the arena, while IceArizona will reimburse the city an estimated" $6.72M. The draft agreement calls for the Coyotes to "play at the arena for 15 years, but the prospective team owners could leave if their cumulative losses reach" $50M or more for any reason after five years. Coyotes attorney Nick Wood said that the team’s "projected reimbursements are based on 12,630 fans attending 41 regular-season hockey games a year, which excludes preseason and playoff games." Meanwhile, the original four investors will "remain as Renaissance and will serve as the managing partners of IceArizona, which will include a broader group of investors" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/28).
EXPLORING OPTIONS: The CP's Stephen Whyno noted Bettman "explained that the NHL has 'lots of options' if the Coyotes must relocate, even if that plan B hasn't yet been ironed out." Bettman: "I find it difficult to conceive of why, if the council turns this down, we would want to keep the team in Glendale any longer. And so we will then, if they turn it down, have to deal with the possibilities and the options that will be available to us, and they are numerous." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "didn't want to get into specific cities that could get the Coyotes if keeping the team in Glendale doesn't work out." Asked specifically about Seattle's KeyArena, he said that it could "house an NHL team." Asked about Quebec City being an option, Daly said, "I wouldn't rule it out." He added, "We tried to be clear that obviously there are a number of alternatives, and we have to decide which one is best for us in the short term." Whyno noted the "short term" would begin in '13-14. Bettman and Daly "confirmed there is enough time to move the Coyotes to another city without them playing a lame-duck season in Glendale" (CP, 6/27).
The Pirates enter play Friday tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central with an MLB-best 48-30 record, but the team through 38 home dates only four sellouts and is "averaging crowds of 23,203, or 61 percent of capacity,” according to Dejan Kovacevic of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. That average ranks 23rd in MLB and is "down 1,652 from the same point last year.” The Cardinals comparably rank third in attendance "with an average of 41,558 at Busch Stadium.” Kovacevic writes, “If you think market size is a factor, think again.” The St. Louis media market ranked No. 21 during the '12-13 TV season compared to Pittsburgh at No. 23. Even the Brewers, in the “midst of a miserable summer, rank No. 13 in attendance with an average of 31,449 at Miller Park.” The Cardinals, Reds and Brewers “all opened this season with larger season-ticket bases.” The Pirates “won't reveal the exact size of their base, but it's believed to be in the range of 10,000 full-season equivalents,” which leaves a "lot of extra tickets to sell.” What the Pirates have “done this summer hasn't exactly sneaked up on anyone,” as it has been “going on for months.” That has offered “ample opportunity to add to group sales, even partial-plan season tickets that are still available for as cheap as $250 for 30 games” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/28).
TRUE FANS: In Miami, Chabeli Herrera notes the Marlins “come in last in average home game attendance with 17,262.” Still, attendance “might be diminishing, but true fans remain.” Marlins Senior VP/Marketing & Event Booking Sean Flynn said that “hardcore fans, particularly season-ticket holders, get rewarded.” A rewards program “lets fans accumulate points for participating in watch parties and social media interaction during games.” Those points “can be traded in for autographed merchandise, tickets to suites and to meet-and-greets with the players.” Cote: “A reward to the fans who stay for extra innings, for losses” (MIAMI HERALD, 6/28).
The Seahawks have developed a fan advisory council that will meet quarterly with high-ranking team execs to address ways to improve CenturyLink Field's gameday experience. The panel, which will be comprised of 12 season-ticket holders, will be formally titled the President's Fan Advisory Council and meet for the first time this fall. Coming off a season in which they nearly made the NFC Championship game, the Seahawks already have received over 2,000 applications to be on the panel, including 150 in the first day it was announced. All this comes amid an offseason which has seen the team's season-ticket base swell to 62,000, with a franchise record 98% renewal rate. The club also has sold 5,000 new season tickets and established a 12,000-person waiting list. Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin noted that the team chose to form the council as a way to stay in touch with the needs of the consumer. Improving the in-game experience is a point of emphasis for NFL execs, and McLoughlin said, "We've got a really good product with the Seahawks right now both on the field and off in terms of stadium experience. We've gotten really high marks from the surveys the NFL has conducted in terms of game entertainment, stadium security and guest services -- but we always know we can do better."
THE BEGINNING OF A DIALOGUE: McLoughlin said the topics that will be discussed at meetings will largely be determined by the participating fans, but added that one thing the team is interested in hearing about is CenturyLink's recent WiFi improvements, which he believes will make the facility's bandwidth one of the most robust in the league. McLoughlin: "I think it's just the beginning of a dialogue, and invariably if you go into these things with an open mind, I think we'll all learn things that we can do better." He added, "All of us in the business of sports are in this because we love it, and are fans, and we've been fans all our life. But giving your customer a voice is really important, and I think that's true in all business." McLoughlin, who also is President of the MLS Sounders, said the soccer club's emphasis on giving a voice to its supporters had a direct impact on the decision to form the Seahawks' panel. He said, "Having the direct dialogue with representatives of our different supporter groups is both good for our fans and good for our team and the ownership group. We all have different points of view about how we want to do things, but really the customer comes first."
Fans attending the Bobcats’ free NBA Draft party on Thursday night were “underwhelmed” when the team picked Indiana F Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick, according to Scott Fowler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. As the pick approached, the crowd “mostly wanted” Kansas G Ben McLemore or Kentucky C Nerlens Noel. After Zeller was announced, the “immediate reaction from the Bobcat fans was a stunned ‘OOOOOHHHH’ of disbelief, followed by a lot of booing, followed by at least one chant” of “Bull----, Bull----.” The Bobcats “certainly didn’t win the public-relations war Thursday night” (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 6/27). In Charlotte, Jacob Feldman notes “hands went on heads in disbelief, thumbs went down in disapproval, and people headed for the doors in disgust.” Fans of “all ages came to watch Thursday, wearing a near-even split of Bobcats and Hornets gear” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/28). ADVANCE PUBLICATION's Scott Branson names the Bobcats one of the “losers” of the Draft. Zeller is “certainly a great player in his own right, but he just isn't the type of player that brings a spark to a team or lights a fire under a lackadaisical fan base.” Branson: “Maybe Zeller is underrated and the Bobcats will prove their doubters wrong, but it's more likely Charlotte fumbled their draft. Again” (NJ.com, 6/28). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes if the Bobcats “are right and Zeller is a name-taking, court-running, jumper-hitting and tougher-than-we-think big man, Charlotte’s decision-makers ought to have a job for life.” But if “they’re wrong, they might be looking for work in 2014” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/28).
NOT HAVING THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT: SPORTING NEWS’ Mike DeCourcy writes Bobcats fans “have no particular reason to trust the Charlotte management.” In team Owner Michael Jordan’s "time as an executive, they’ve drafted Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright, Alexis Ajinca and D.J. Augustin.” None of the those picks are still with the team. It “wasn’t Zeller that Charlotte fans were booing,” rather it was “the absence of Noel” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/28).
In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski writes it is "wise at times to disregard public clamor," but the Pistons not selecting Michigan G Trey Burke with the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft "looks crazy and amazingly risky." The team instead selected Georgia G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars "didn't make a move to please or appease Thursday night." Dumars may have "lost some luster in the final year of his contract, but he doesn't appear to have lost power under" Owner Tom Gores. He "made the pick he wanted to fit his team, not the pick fans may have craved" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/28). Also in Detroit, Drew Sharp writes the "easy decision" would have been Burke. He would "sell tickets, lessening the cricket chirping heard on far too many nights at the Palace last season." Fans would have patted Dumars "on the back for taking whom they wanted." But the Pistons "wouldn't have been any better" for it (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/28).
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: In New Jersey, Jordan Raanan writes the 76ers in one night "went from being a laughingstock to becoming relevant and respected, even though the expectation is that they're going to lose a lot of games this upcoming season." They made "bold moves that better positioned them for the future." The team traded G Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for the rights to Kentucky C Nerlens Noel and a '14 first-round pick. The 76ers "were going to be bad with Holiday," and now they are "just going to be a tad bit worse." But at this point, their record in '13-14 "is irrelevant." The team is rebuilding, and what "better to restock the cupboard than to trade our best asset when his value is at its highest?" (NJ.com, 6/28). ESPN's Bill Simmons said the 76ers were his "big winner" from the Draft, as they got Noel and a draft pick "that's pretty lightly protected from New Orleans next year" ("2013 NBA Draft, ESPN, 6/27).
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: In Sacramento, Joe Davidson writes the Kings' Draft party inside Sleep Train Arena was "a stark contrast to the morbid feeling during the April 17 season finale" against the Clippers. This setting featured "fans decked in Kings garb, munching popcorn, cheering every time NBA Commissioner David Stern announced a pick." They "erupted" when the Kings selected Kansas G Ben McLemore with the No. 7 pick, despite the fact that "many of the estimated 2,300 on hand" were unfamiliar with McLemore. The "loudest ovation" Thursday night was for new Kings Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/28).
FLIPPING OUT: In St. Paul, Tom Powers writes under the header, "At First Whiff, Flip Saunders' Draft Debut Stinks." As part of a trade, the T'Wolves had the Jazz select UCLA F Shabazz Muhammad with the No. 14 pick, and Powers writes this is a selection that will "be roundly panned." Even if he "had a first-class temperament and a perfect attitude, which he reportedly doesn't, Muhammad would remain a limited player -- one dimensional, not particularly athletic, poorly suited to a team game." Saunders later Thursday evening said, "It's not a popular pick." Powers writes this was "supposed to be a fresh start" and Saunders was "going to lift the Timberwolves out of their draft malaise." But "nothing good happened" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 6/28).
In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes the Pacers starting Monday “will speak again with one voice, which is the best news that comes" from Larry Bird’s return as team President. Bird on Thursday said Pacers Owner Herb Simon called him a couple weeks ago and said, "You either want to do this or you don’t." Bird: "I understand. Because whether they’re going to go get someone else, they were going to move [GM] Kevin Pritchard in there or have Donnie [Walsh] stay, they had to have an answer.” He added, “My interest got real when other teams (including Sacramento) started calling. And one team in particular, looking at their books, looking at their numbers, and I said, ‘What am I doing? I’ve got an opportunity to go back home.'” Kravitz notes Bird “made it clear, though, that he never got too deeply into discussions with other franchises” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/28).
TRUE TO HIS WORD: The Nets have agreed to acquire Fs Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and G Jason Terry from the Celtics for a package of players and draft picks, and ESPN N.Y.’s Ian O’Connor wrote under the header, “Prokhorov Turns Nets Into Contenders.” It turns out Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov “wasn't kidding" when he stated after buying the team in '10 he expected the Nets to win a title in five years. With the trade, the Nets “blew past the Knicks” (ESPNNY.com, 6/27).
LEAVING A LEGACY? With Raptors President Bryan Colangelo stepping down from his role, SPORTSNET.ca's Paul Jones wondered how the "Colangelo era and tenure as general manager be remembered in Toronto.” Colangelo initially “brought the shine back to the team that was applied at the start of the new millennium.” He showed the “same boldness he did in Phoenix by going against the grain with a team that played unconventionally while winning and were thoroughly entertaining.” But Colangelo’s “strength turned out to be his weakness as he continued to tweak and tinker -- maybe too much, and possibly to a fault.” Some personnel moves “looked good on paper but when players don’t perform, everything turns out bad” (SPORTSNET.ca, 6/27).
MAKE IT SNAPPY: ESPN L.A.'s Dave McMenamin cites a source as saying that C Dwight Howard "expects to be ready to choose his team as soon as the NBA's moratorium on new business is lifted July 10." Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who hopes to re-sign Howard, said, "I don't think it's Dwight's goal to drag it out. Whether he's with us or with another team, everybody this time of year has business to take care of" (ESPNLA.com, 6/28). Meanwhile, ESPN Radio's Mike Golic said the Lakers' billboard campaign to convince Howard to stay with the team is "desperate." Golic: "You see it slipping away and you try anything. ... It was a desperate move that doesn't look like it's going to work" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 6/28).