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The 76ers ownership group headed by Josh Harris is "now involved in the bidding" for the Devils, according to sources cited by Tom Gulitti of the Bergen RECORD. A source said that Harris' group "became involved after a sale agreement with a group headed by attorney Andrew Barroway technically expired last month without a deal being completed." The source added that Barroway’s group is "still heavily involved in attempting to buy the Devils ... and already has gone far down the road in reaching deals with the NHL and lenders." Another source indicated that Barroway was "to incrementally invest more money in the Devils until the sale was completed, with current owner Jeff Vanderbeek still maintaining a minority stake in the team -- the percentage of which was still to be determined." Whether Vanderbeek would "continue to own some stake if Harris' group were to follow through with its bid is unknown." Harris' group has owned the 76ers since '11, and is "believed to be interested in getting into the New Jersey/New York sports market" (Bergen RECORD, 8/8). In Newark, Eliot Shorr-Parks wrote it is "doubtful a move by Harris to buy the Devils would go over well with Sixers fans," as the Flyers are rivals with the Devils. Harris owning both the Devils and the 76ers also would "be very similar" to former 76ers Owner Ed Snider, who was "accused by many of ignoring the Sixers and focusing solely on the Flyers" (NJ.com, 8/7). SB NATION's Derek Bodner wrote the "provincial Philadelphia fans may have a *slight* issue embracing an owner who also owns the hated rival of their favorite hockey team" (SBNATION.com, 8/7).
The Colts could break their "single-game and even season attendance mark" at Lucas Oil Stadium this season, as expectations for the team under coach Chuck Pagano and QB Andrew Luck "are sky high," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Colts averaged 65,189 fans per game last year, and after selling "standing room only seats and putting people in portable seating, Lucas Oil Stadium was filled to 103.5 percent of capacity." Colts COO Pete Ward said the team’s regular-season home games this year are "basically sold out." Schoettle wrote the Colts are in a "much better position than they were a year ago, when they still had 1,600 tickets to sell for the regular-season home opener just a month before the season." But Ward said, "There are actually some good seats left." Schoettle noted the Colts are "prepared to erect 3,000 or so temporary, folding chairs to accommodate rising demand for tickets." The current home attendance record of 67,650 was set during the '10 AFC Championship game against the Jets. The Colts' single-season attendance mark was "set during the 2010 season, when 535,802 packed" Lucas Oil Stadium (IBJ.com, 8/7).
The Wizards will play a preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 17 at Baltimore Arena, and facility GM Frank Remesch said that the success of a Predators-Capitals preseason game in '11 "helped sway" Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis to make an NBA game happen, according to Edward Lee of the Baltimore SUN. The Capitals will "take part in a second Baltimore Hockey Classic" against the Bruins on Sept. 17. Remesch said, "It used to irritate me so much when I would hear that Baltimore is a tertiary market. It's a primary market, and we've proven that over and over again." Lee notes the game against the Knicks "marks the first time the Wizards will play in Baltimore since 1999." The franchise played in Baltimore from '63-73 as the Bullets "before moving to Landover" (Baltimore SUN, 8/8). Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake yesterday on area radio station WIYY-FM said that she "wants an NBA team back in Baltimore." When asked about the possibility of pro basketball returning to the city, she said, "I would love it." Rawlings-Blake: "It is not out of the realm of possibility. There would be obstacles but I have hope." A spokesperson for the mayor said that she "has not had any formal conversations with the NBA or NBA franchises about bringing a team to town" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/7).
Braves Exec VP & GM Frank Wren "issued an apology on his team's behalf" yesterday after the team's Twitter account on Tuesday poked fun at Nationals CF Bryce Harper, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Harper caused the benches to empty after he was hit by a pitch from Braves P Julio Teheran in Tuesday's game, prompting the Braves' Twitter account to post, "Clown move bro." Wren said, "It was simply an inappropriate attempt at humor from our social media department. It doesn't reflect how we feel or how we want to do business or who we are. You shouldn't be directing anything unless it's positive or uplifting to another team or an opponent. I think that is plain and simple" (MLB.com, 8/7). The Nationals' Twitter account responded to the Braves' post, and ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said the tweets are "overtaking a really minor dust-up." MacMullan: "I'm not a Twitter fan ... but I think these PR guys must get bonuses in their contracts for being clever because it's happening all over the place." ESPN's Bomani Jones said he was "not accustomed" to the Braves "doing something like that in a public way." The team has personified "professionalism to the point of being boring, and then you see this from the Twitter account there." Jones: "We're in a whole new world with that franchise" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/7).
In S.F., Bruce Jenkins notes the A's are "winning big" despite the "ongoing conflict" between A's Owner Lew Wolff and MLB over the team's proposed move to San Jose. Tailgaters filled the O.co Coliseum parking lot "well before" Saturday's victory over the Rangers. With the first two decks "largely occupied, the announced attendance (28,304) actually seemed a few thousand short." The place "looked, felt and smelled like baseball." As the A's "jack up the coolness factor, we find a burgeoning, hard-core fan base with few complaints." Jenkins: "Would these folks prefer a spiffy new ballpark in downtown Oakland? Undoubtedly" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/8).
SELIG STICKS UP FOR TWINS: In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman notes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was not concerned "if there might be a big loss in attendance" for the Twins at Target Field after the team's poor record the last three seasons. Selig said, "I have a lot of faith in (Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan. Every year you’re going to have some teams struggle, but I have faith. ... I wouldn’t bet against Terry Ryan." Meanwhile, Selig said of awarding the '14 All-Star Game to Target Field, "Oftentimes I struggle with making that decision, but given the struggle that [late Owner] Carl and the Pohlads took getting a ballpark and getting everything else, given the support of the fans here, this is like a second home to me and it was a pleasure to do it" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 8/8).
LORIA STILL DEFIANT: MLB reporter Peter Gammons noted Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria is a "somewhat controversial figure" in South Florida after trading away some top players over the years. However, Loria said, "I do not run scared, and because of the very good, talented baseball people we have in the organization, I am very happy with where we are." He added, "I feel very good about what we are building, and what it will be for the long haul." Gammons noted if the Marlins are "really going to be something more permanent than snowbirds, they are going to have to convince" their fans that RF Giancarlo Stanton, P Jose Fernandez and LF Christian Yelich are "long-term residents of Marlins Park, not building blocks for the next round of dreams out on the horizon" (GAMMONSDAILY.com, 8/7).
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. The countdown to No. 1 is underway, and today we look at the No. 3 market -- Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.
TEAMFIRST YEAR VENUEYEAR OPENED AHL Hershey Bears1932 Giant Center2002 Double-A Eastern League
Metro Bank Park1987 (renovated 2010) USL Pro Harrisburg City Islanders2004 Skyline Sports Complex1987 (renovated 2008) AIF Harrisburg Stampede2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center1966 (renovated 2001) PASL Harrisburg Heat2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center1966 (renovated 2001)
STAYING STRONG: The No. 1 market in our survey in both '09 and '11, the area’s sports scene continues to thrive. The market’s attendance-to-population ratio is the highest of any multiple-team market in our study, with fans outnumbering residents more than 2.5-to-1 (attendance of 3.21 million vs. population of 1.23 million). The AHL Hershey Bears, founded more than 80 years ago by chocolate magnate Milton Hershey as the Hershey B’ars, are the oldest minor league hockey franchise in the country. The team averaged a franchise-record 10,046 fans per game last season, extending what is now a nine-year streak of year-over-year attendance growth. The market was further buoyed in November by the return of the PASL Heat, an indoor soccer team that during its '91-'03 existence regularly averaged more than 5,000 fans per game. The new team enjoyed similar success in its inaugural season, filling 70% of the seats at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center. Fifteen miles to the west, though, in the state capital of Harrisburg, the Double-A Eastern League Senators have seen their attendance drop slightly in each of the last two seasons, although last year’s average was still 74% higher than it was in '08, prior to Metro Bank Park’s two-year, $45M upgrade. Additionally, the AIF Stampede and USL Pro Islanders have filled just one-third of the seats at their respective venues, pulling the market’s score down slightly.
ON DECK: Tomorrow will feature our No. 2 market -- another former top-ranked market that can boast of recent successes at the rink.