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Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels said that RF Nelson Cruz' 50-game suspension "does not rule out a return" to the team after his current contract expires in the offseason, but Daniels added that the Rangers "would take a wait-and-see approach," according to a front-page piece by Grant & Fraley of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Cruz, who will lose $3.02M in salary during the ban, can "use club facilities during the suspension but cannot be in uniform when ballpark gates open." Daniels said the club will wait a few days “to let the dust settle” before talking with Cruz to determine a course of action. Daniels added that the team is "'open-minded' to bringing back Cruz for postseason play but wants to gauge player reaction before making a decision." Grant & Fraley report Cruz on Sunday night "informed the club of his decision to not appeal" his 50-game suspension. Daniels had several "discussions with Cruz leading up to that in an attempt to find out which way he was leaning but did not attempt to influence him" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/6). USA TODAY's David Leon Moore notes Cruz yesterday afternoon "traveled with his teammates to Anaheim and he spoke to them in the clubhouse." Teammates called it an "emotional, apologetic, sincere talk that echoed a statement he issued to the news media" earlier yesterday (USA TODAY, 8/6). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson notes not a "single player condoned what Cruz admitted to them that he had done ... and each one said he had to pay with a 50-game ban." But the players said that they will "gladly welcome him back to the team in two months should the Rangers qualify for the playoffs" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/6). However, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale said, “If the Rangers miss the playoffs, Ranger fans are going to remember this forever about a guy letting everybody down, and we missed the playoffs because of him" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 8/5).
RETURN TO MOTOWN IN THE CARDS? In Detroit, Lynn Henning writes Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta "likely has played his last game for Detroit" after being given a 50-game suspension. Although he is "eligible to join the team 50 games from now, the regular season will be in its waning days." The minor-league season will have "ceased and tuning up to rejoin a big-league team will be difficult" (DETROIT NEWS, 8/6). But also in Detroit, Mitch Albom believes the Tigers would activate Peralta "when his suspension is up ... if they need him and think he’ll be effective." The Tigers "used him right through Sunday afternoon ... knowing full well his suspension was coming." If the Tigers had a "moral stance, they wouldn’t have done that." But "then, for most teams, holes in the lineup trump moral stances" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/6).
WORTHY OF A SECOND CHANCE: Padres SS Everth Cabrera also was suspended 50 games, and in San Diego, Matt Calkins writes, "Instinct said to bury the man the way he perpetually buried the truth." But after "giving the most heart-felt sports apology I've ever seen, he also deserves a second chance." Cabrera spent the "first 13 minutes or so" of a press conference "explaining his actions in Spanish while a member of the Padres public relations staff translated." Calkins: "To be perfectly honest, it was all pretty weak." But then Cabrera "switched to English for one last statement, and ... changed the entire narrative of his day." While observers could "see the emotion building beforehand, it burst through the dam when he vowed to work harder than ever to make it up to his supporters." At one point, a "tearful Cabrera needed a full minute to compose himself." Once he did, he "went on to warn fellow Latin players about the people they associate themselves with" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/6).
WINNING IS THE ONLY THING: MLB Network's Chris Rose discussed whether the suspended players should be cut from their teams, and he said, "As much as we all want to do the right thing, it’s about winning ball games in the end. If you have a chance to win a championship and you think Jhonny Peralta and/or Nelson Cruz can help your team win, those guys will be back in uniform sometime this year” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 8/5). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes despite MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "fight for his game's honor and his personal legacy, baseball teams will quietly live with the juicers as long as those teams can benefit from them." The PED business will "continue to thrive as long as the reward for both the players and teams is much greater than the risk" (L.A. TIMES, 8/6).
Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez made his season debut last night against the White Sox as he appeals the 211-game suspension given to him by MLB, and while people have questioned whether the team should play Rodriguez during the process, the Steinbrenner family has a "fiduciary responsibility" to attempt to "win every game" they can, according to ESPN's Tony Kornheiser. ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the Steinbrenners are "competitive people ... and they want to win" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/5). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said the Yankees should "not be playing him." Paige: "I don't think that you sit there and support his decision to want to play." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said the Yankees "have the big picture, which is to get rid" of Rodriguez and "try to avoid paying as much money that's left on this contract." However, in the short-term, they "need him desperately" to produce on the field. The team currently sits in fourth place in the AL East, 9.5 games out of first ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/5). Meanwhile, MLB Network's Tom Verducci wondered if the team wants Rodriguez "back in a Yankee uniform" after he serves his suspension. Verducci: "If he’s out for a year and in ’15, if I’m the Yankees, I seriously have to consider about paying out the rest of his contract just to be done with him and move on from this" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 8/5).
COMPARING APPLES AND ORANGES: MLB Network’s Jon Heyman said the 65-game suspension of Brewers LF Ryan Braun handed down two weeks ago by MLB was a “monstrous blow” to the Brewers and it has “affected the franchise.” Comparing the suspension of Braun to Rodriguez, Heyman said, “This is a much bigger blow to the Milwaukee Brewers to have this incredible talent and this incredible player, and now he’s tainted and he’s under contract for who knows how many more years.” Verducci added that Braun “was the face of the franchise, and still will be” when he returns next season. It is up to the Brewers to “see if they can get over the stain, the taint now with Ryan Braun” ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 8/5).
The NHL yesterday completed the sale of the Coyotes to IceArizona, led by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, "ending a four-year saga during which the league operated the team as an ever-changing cast of potential buyers came and went," according to a front-page piece Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. IceArizona's managing partner Renaissance Sports & Entertainment previously "reached a 15-year agreement with Glendale to keep the team at Jobing.com Arena." The $170M sale, which was approved by the NHL BOG, "brought to conclusion a fluctuating story line that featured politics, financial hurdles and constant threats of relocation." Gosbee will serve as Coyotes Chair & Governor, and LeBlanc will "serve as alternate governor and chief executive." The new owners plan to "leave the hockey operations in the hands of the team executives who managed the club under the NHL's ownership." Gosbee and LeBlanc "vowed to take a more hands-on approach to the business side of the franchise" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/6). LeBlanc yesterday said, "This was an incredibly complicated deal that didn't get wrapped up quite literally until 8 o'clock this morning after pretty much a full weekend of working on it going through the night." The CP's Stephen Whyno noted LeBlanc, Gosbee and nine other investors are "jumping in to a long process that includes adding staff on the business side and trying to sell tickets to grow the Coyotes' reach." Part of the effort includes a "name change to the Arizona Coyotes, likely effective" for the '14-15 season. LeBlanc: "Unfortunately it’s very difficult for people to accept that hockey can be successful in a non-traditional market. But we like to point to markets like San Jose and Dallas, even in the Carolinas, where hockey has really thrived. We feel that the same will happen here." Gosbee said, "There’s a strong, tight-knit ownership group here. Everybody really knows of each other" (CP, 8/5).COYOTES INVESTORS
NAME TITLE Anthony LeBlanc RSE Principal George Gosbee AltaCorp Capital Chair & CEO Scott Saxberg Crescent Point Energy President & CEO Craig Stewart RMP Energy Exec Chair W. David Duckett Plains Midtsream Canada President Gary Drummond Pine Cliff Energy Corporate Dir Bill Dutton Former Upton Resources Chair Avik Dey Remvest Energy Partners President & CEO Robert Gwin Anadarko Petroleum Corp. CFO, Exec President Daryl Jones Hedgeye Risk Management Dir Of research Richard Walter
CRYSTAL BALL: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes the sale "came in the nick of time for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was getting heat from some governors to get a deal done." Bettman was "bound and determined to keep the franchise in Arizona" because of the large Phoenix TV market. The new owners yesterday posted a video on the team's website with the words “Here to Stay," which may be due to the fanbase "having [a] hard time believing the Coyotes will last in Phoenix" (OTTAWA SUN, 8/6). SPORTING NEWS' Sean Gentille wrote under the header, "Phoenix Coyotes Have Owners -- Now, Do They Have Fans?" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/5). In New Jersey, Andrew Gross writes yesterday was a "good day for the NHL" as the Coyotes "finally know where they’ll be playing for the foreseeable future." While the deal keeps the Coyotes from relocating, "the time is right for the NHL to expand, something it hasn't done since 2000." Seattle "shouldn't have to wait much longer" (Bergen RECORD, 8/6).
MLS Sounders Majority Owner Joe Roth said it was important for Clint Dempsey to sign with an MLS team other than the Galaxy "because from a perception standpoint it would make MLS look essentially like a one-team league when it came to important international players," according to Grant Wahl of SI.com, who wrote under the header, "How Seattle's Stunning Clint Dempsey Deal Got Done." Roth said, "I think it was important that (Dempsey) ended up ... how do I say this politely? ... not in Los Angeles." He added, "I've wanted Clint Dempsey since the day we started, but there's only one Clint Dempsey. I just resigned myself to thinking we probably wouldn't get a Clint Dempsey until he was 35 years old, and I didn't want to add to the perception, which is mostly right, that we don't get European (club) stars when they're in their prime." But Wahl noted Dempsey's "perspective had changed by July 18," and he was "up for coming back to MLS." The only teams Dempsey was "interested in playing for" were the Sounders, the Galaxy and Toronto FC. Dempsey's side initially was "asking for a huge financial commitment" of $40M. A source said that the Sounders "countered with a first offer" of $30M. Sources said that the Galaxy and Toronto FC also had interest, but Toronto FC "accepted that it was better for the league if Dempsey were playing in a U.S. city." Roth "wants other MLS owners to step up to the plate" in regard to paying for elite players. Roth: "Our (national) television ratings are not good. ... The only two things that can drive the ratings are overall better play and star power. If you can get both, then our ratings will go up." He added, "I think this signing will be helpful to everybody in the league" (SI.com, 8/5).
SEATTLE'S BEST: Sounders GM & minority Owner Adrian Hanauer said of Dempsey, "I know he'll connect with the community and a be a great ambassador for our team." But he added, "We're not counting on this being a profitable move. This is for soccer. This is to win a championship." Hanauer said of the Sounders potentially opening additional seats at CenturyLink Field, "We’ll take it day by day, kind of see and get through this initial period and go into a deep dive with the business group and figure out the best way to monetize this, but because the reality is that generating some additional revenue would be good to defray some of the costs. But we’re a little too close to know exactly how we’ll do it" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 8/5). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes the Dempsey deal makes a "statement about Seattle's relevance and clout in the soccer world." The team's "wild success as an infant franchise, just added another chapter to its preposterously riveting narrative." The deal is the team's "most eye-popping, belief-defying achievement." It is "a landmark moment for both the Sounders and all of MLS." Since Roth joined the league he has had the "audacity to declare he wants to make the Sounders an internationally renowned team, not just the king of the MLS." At every "critical point along this five-year journey, he has lived up to his big talk" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/6). In DC, Steven Goff wrote the move is a "massive acquisition for the league and particularly" for the Sounders, who have "set the attendance bar so high." The Sounders with Dempsey "will continue to grow their audience." Several cities "stake claim to Soccer City USA," but the argument "begins and ends with Seattle" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/5).
MORE TO COME? Whitecaps MF Nigel Reo-Coker said of the Dempsey signing, "I think it’s going to make other organizations look and go, 'You know what, the league is really kicking on.' It’s about getting players in their prime, or going into their prime" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/6). But YAHOO SPORTS' Kyle McCarthy wrote the move "may spark an idea in one or two boardrooms around the league, but it won't start a trend." MLS "grows markedly with each passing year, but it is not the sort of league where clubs can spend wantonly without suffering considerable consequences." As MLS enters the final year of its CBA, "expect MLSPU officials to highlight the disparity between the Dempsey move and the comparably paltry sums expended on a team-by-team basis as they push for a substantial, across the board increase in the salary budget in time" for the '15 season (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/5). Meanwhile, NBCSPORTS.com's Liviu Bird examined MLS' often criticized player allocation process, and wrote team owners "appear happy to have fans and media in the dark." Hanauer: "We have a decent level of transparency in some areas. In others, maybe we have less transparency, but we’re just trying to build the game and do what we need to do to run a healthy enterprise" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/5).
A dispute between the MLS Earthquakes and a fan group has "escalated after management revoked the 1906 Ultras' rights to display banners at home games," according to Elliott Almond of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The fans who sit behind the north goal at Buck Shaw Stadium "were silent" in response during the Earthquakes' Saturday night home game against Chivas USA. The Ultras "usually sing, chant and pound drums for all 90 minutes of home games." But they "vow to remain silent until the team lifts the sanctions, including one issued Friday that indefinitely revoked the Ultras' rights to display homemade banners, known as tifa." At a time when the Earthquakes are "trying to build a strong fan base to help fill" their new 18,000-seat stadium, team management is "struggling with a minority of passionate supporters who bring a European flavor to games that's not seen in other U.S. sports leagues." The Ultras have an arrangement with the team to "sit together, unfurl banners and sing and chant." Aside from some "lewd chants, questionable banners and drunkenness, the Quakes have had few problems with their fans in the five-plus seasons since they have re-entered MLS." The current issue has been "building since the Ultras were placed on indefinite probation in April after a melee in Portland" before a game against the Timbers. Earthquakes President Dave Kaval said, "We don't want to be part of violence in any way" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/6).
Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said the team recently commissioned an economic impact study ahead of their Turner Field lease negotiations with the city of Atlanta because they "wanted to show what we do to drive the economy in our region," according to Saporta & Wenk of the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE. The Braves' current Turner Field lease expires Dec. 31, 2006, and the study found that the Braves have an "annual economic impact of more than" $100M, and that the team pays $8.6M in "state and local taxes each year." It also shows that the Braves "generate the employment of 1,648 full-time (or full-time equivalent) jobs in the local economy." Visiting Braves fans "stay 110,000 nights each year in local hotels and motels," and the team spends $10.5M "on Atlanta-based companies." A total of 32.3% of all seats sold per game are "sold to fans who are from outside the state -- 7.4 percent coming from Alabama; 5.6 percent from Tennessee; 4.4 percent from South Carolina; 4 percent from North Carolina and 3.1 percent from Florida." Georgia State Univ. economist Bruce Seaman, who conducted the study, in an e-mail wrote the Braves "'were relatively unique' for having a genuine regional fan base that generated significant local economic benefits in what he called 'baseball-related tourism for entire weekends.'" Seaman in a brochure that the Braves will soon release is quoted as saying: "The Braves more than double the economic impact of Georgia’s other major sports franchises combined." Saporta & Wenk note the data "will be helpful as the Braves enter into negotiations for another 20-year lease." The study also included research by program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 8/2 issue).BRAVES' CURRENT ANNUAL ECONOMIC IMPACT
State and local taxes paid by the Braves -- $8.6M Full-time jobs generated by the Braves -- 1,648 Hotel night stays with an average of 2.5 nights by visiting Braves fans -- 110,000 Spent by the Braves with Atlanta-based companies -- $10.5MBRAVES' PROJECTED 20-YEAR ECONOMIC IMPACT Economic impact for the state of Georgia -- $1.68B Direct fiscal impact and tax revenues for the state of Georgia -- $105M Direct fiscal impact and tax revenues for the city of Atlanta -- $60.8M Approximate Braves' annual revenue from visiting fans -- $100M Annual number of out-of-state attendees at Braves games -- 300,000 Amount contributed by visiting teams to Georgia -- $2M
Serie A club AS Roma has "taken steps to create a brand name that is recognized worldwide" under team Owner and Celtics investor James Pallotta, according to Julian Cardillo of BOSTON.com. This summer has "been of particular importance to Roma as they've unveiled a new logo, which according to Pallotta, will help the club generate more worldwide recognition." The new club crest "still depicts the Roman wolf feeding the twins Remus and Romulus, as goes the legend of Rome's founding." But it "simply states 'Roma 1927' instead of the acronym 'ASR' as in years past." The "ASR" acronym was "taken out because it stands for 'Associazone Sportiva Roma' (Rome Sports Association) which few fans outside Italy knew." Pallotta said of the changes, "It's not just 'ok we want to change the logo.' It's intellectual property. How many teams are in Rome that have ASR? The swim team? The crew team? It's ASR. We don't own that. Building the brand, a lot of people don't know what 'AS' is." Cardillo noted Roma also "unveiled a new jersey to go with their new crest earlier this summer." The club also could "further develop their relationship with American fans by continuing to travel to the U.S." Pallotta said of a visit to the MLS All-Star game, "Kansas City's Park is unbelievable. ... I spoke to [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] about that while I was out there, that we'd want to have a relationship with the entire league. What'll come out of it, I don't know, but I'm sure they would like to do something too, especially after the All-Star game" (BOSTON.com, 8/2).
SBD and SBJ next Monday will unveil our biennial ranking of the country’s top minor league markets among more than 225 communities nationwide. It is a project that takes into consideration more than 400 teams and close to 50 leagues as well as almost 250 million fans in total minor league attendance over the past five seasons. This week, the countdown to No. 1 begins.
5. Springfield, Mass. TEAMFIRST SEASONVENUEYEAR OPENED AHL Springfield Falcons1954MassMutual Center1972 (renovated 2005) NBA D-League Springfield Armor2009MassMutual Center1972 (renovated 2005)
NOT TALKIN' BASEBALL: Springfield is the only market in the top 50 in our survey that is not home to a professional baseball team. Additionally, the market does have room for movement -- up or down -- in our rankings: Springfield’s two clubs combined to fill exactly half the seats available to them over the past five seasons, the lowest rate among our top 10 markets. Falcons Owner Charles Pompea earlier this year said the club needs to average 4,000 fans per game to break even financially, an attendance mark it has not hit since topping that mark annually from '95-96 through '02-03. Pompea did not indicate what would happen if the team did not hit that mark soon, but the Falcons averaged 3,906 fans per game this season and did make the playoffs for the first time in a decade, so the possibility of momentum for attendance gains does exist for seasons to come.
ON DECK: Tomorrow: Our #4 market: A market that keeps seeing fans pass through the turnstiles despite three-and-a-half years with a double-digit unemployment rate.