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SBD/January 20, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
Cubs execs at this past weekend's annual Cubs Convention "took an optimistic and aggressive view" of the big issues facing the organization, according to Mark Gonzales of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney on Saturday said that team execs "hope to finalize the status of their radio deal with WGN-AM for 2015 and beyond and part of their television deals with WGN-TV before opening day." But the Cubs will not start the $500M Wrigley Field renovations project "until rooftop owners assure them that they won't be sued over blocked views or contest construction of an adjacent plaza." Kenney: "(Rooftop owners) basically want to delay the project unless there's an accommodation made, and we're willing to make reasonable accommodations. We're hopeful." He added that thousands of jobs "are at stake with the overall project and the team is willing to absorb an extra expense" of less than 10% of the total cost to "complete it all in four years" as opposed to five. Team Chair Tom Ricketts and Kenney "professed a willingness to extend their contracts with WGN radio and television, but they have been negotiating with other outlets in hopes of enhancing their total package" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19).
PROJECT OUTLINES: Ricketts said of the renovation plans, "We may have found a way to shorten that. I think we can get it done in four now if we just switch some things around." Kenney said that the Cubs "met with city officials and a bloc of rooftop owners last week, trying to resolve several issues." He "outlined the team’s demands -- enforcing capacity limits at the rooftop clubs, protection against 'ambush marketing' and a clear understanding of how the Cubs can expand the bleachers and put up advertising signage 'without their interference.'" Ricketts said that he "doesn’t see the Cubs buying up all those neighborhood properties" to end the rooftop issues. Ricketts: "There’s a whole bunch of different owners. They all have different goals and different timelines. ... They enjoy the lifestyle. They enjoy growing their business. It’s not like you can just write a check" (CSNCHICAGO.com, 1/18). Kenney said that a left-field video board "would be erected in time" for the '15 season (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer noted Kenney "touted the Cubs’ fifth-highest revenue stream in the majors without effectively explaining why there’s apparently not enough to fund a more aggressive, big-market approach to rebuilding at the minor-and major-league levels." Ricketts said of the team's reportedly high level of debt, "Almost every single team has some debt. It’s a factor. It’s something that’s a piece of the puzzle. But it’s not as big a piece of the puzzle as people think" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19).
EPSTEIN WEIGHS IN: Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said of the Ricketts family, "They know they’re doing the right things to lay the foundation to get this right, to turn this into a franchise they can be proud of for generations and generations. I’m more proud of them for their willingness to take that heat and stick to their plan than I would be if they panicked the first time their name was dragged through the mud publicly and said, 'we can’t do this.'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19). Epstein on Friday said, "We're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes: We're a last-place team" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/18). Epstein, regarding high season-ticket prices, said to a fan, "I would never tell you how to spend your money. I think there is something special about being part of it the entire way" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/18).
WARY FANS: In N.Y., Ben Strauss wrote fans at the Cubs convention had "eagerness in their eyes and perpetual hope in their hearts, alternated between wide-eyed optimism for the future Epstein has promised and apprehension over a 2014 season that will probably resemble the previous two." A fan said that he "had never had more difficulty writing a check than when he paid $11,000 for his season tickets this year." The fan said, "What I’m paying for and what I’m seeing are two different things." That comment was "greeted with a round of applause" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). Cubs co-Owner Laura Ricketts said to attending fans, "We feel your pain. Your pain is our pain" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/19). In Chicago, Wittenmyer writes a "picture emerges of a wealthy team pinching baseball pennies to compete" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/20).
SKEPTICAL PRESS: The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES' Wittenmyer wrote the track record for the Ricketts family with the Cubs "includes some of the worst baseball of any ownership tenure in the history of the franchise." Sources questioned the "fitness of the family to operate a big-market franchise" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote the team's new mascot is "not just a mascot," but rather a "symbol of all the things over the years that have had nothing to do with winning, whatever that is." Morrissey: "It’s just a mascot? No, it’s a breathtaking disconnect that allows a team to think it’s a good idea to loudly introduce a mascot after a combined 197 losses the last two seasons and that of course everyone will love a fluffy cartoon character." It is the "excruciating stab at logic that says a mascot is a way of growing a fan base and filling the empty seats abandoned by all the fans who have seen too much losing" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19). Also in Chicago, David Haugh wrote Epstein "can't promise a great season." But it "should be a better one for the Cubs, mostly because it would be hard to fathom things getting much worse" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19).
The Warriors were the big winners at the NBA marketing meetings held last week in Miami. The team announced that it collected a league-high seven awards at the meetings held on Jan. 13-14. The Warriors' awards included recognition for selling 10,000-plus full-season tickets, with the team this year capping season-ticket sales at 14,500. The Warriors also were recognized for selling 2,000 or more full season tickets and for having a 90% full season-ticket renewal rate. The team also won an award for having a 85% or more service representative satisfaction rate and for having one of the highest growth rates in sponsorships. Other awards included a digital innovator award and a social media engagement award.
The Vikings’ hire of Mike Zimmer as head coach marks the first time the Wilf family, which owns the team, has “hired a coach with the current power structure already established,” according to Mark Craig of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. GM Rick Spielman has “final say on personnel and Zimmer has final say on his coaching staff, schemes and who plays.” Co-Owner Mark Wilf said, “We feel this is the winning structure in the NFL” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/19). ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling wrote if the Spielman-Zimmer partnership is “going to work, the two will have to work well together.” The Vikings “haven't had a true coach-GM partnership for years, thanks to an odd power structure that often created confusion about who was really in charge, and the stakes will be high for both Zimmer and Spielman to make this one work” (ESPN.com, 1/17). In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote Zimmer “doesn’t fit the corporate image many owners are looking for in a head coach these days.” Zimmer is “noted for his profanity-laced tirades, which have been captured" in his three appearances on HBO's "Hard Knocks." His hiring “went against the grain this year because of his lack of head coaching experience” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/19).
TIME TO START FROM SCRATCH? CBS Sports Network's Amy Trask said the system for hiring coaches "really needs to be evaluated, perhaps, torn apart and re-done." Trask: "The system doesn’t work for the assistants with the teams that advance the furthest, and it doesn’t work for the teams that advance the furthest. ... The more success you have at the club level, the less the system works for you” ("That Other Pregame Show," CBSSN, 1/19).
In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde offers the Dolphins his “Ten Commandments on what this franchise needs to follow.” Included on the list is “Thou Shalt Consider A Role For Dan Marino.” People did not need to see Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway celebrating his team’s win yesterday in the AFC Championship to “see his value to Denver.” Hyde: “He links Denver's yesterday to today. He bonds fans.” Marino “can't jump to the front of the class inside the Dolphins," but Owner Stephen Ross “should meet with him to explore a role” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/20). Hyde also suggested the Dolphins bring former NFLer Jason Taylor "aboard.” Taylor and Marino “would show potential free agents around the campus, talk of their demand that this franchise succeeds again” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/19).
HERE’S JOHNNY! In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote if the Jaguars “decide to invest" the No. 3 pick in Johnny Manziel, then it “should be for one reason only: believing the Texas A&M quarterback can lead the franchise to sustained winning.” GM Dave Caldwell “can't be swayed" by Manziel's "box-office appeal.” Frenette: "There's no question that Johnny Football would create the biggest buzz and potentially sell more tickets. It's just a bad reason to pick Manziel or move him up a draft board.” Teams "should draft players because they think it'll help them win long-term." That is the "best ticket-seller there is” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/17). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora cited sources as saying that the Browns are "willing to trade up to land" Manziel in the draft (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/19). In Akron, Nate Ulrich noted Browns CEO Joe Banner is “known to wheel and deal, and the team certainly has ammunition if it wants to maneuver,” as it has 10 draft picks, including seven in the first four rounds (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/20).
SOARING HIGH: In Philadelphia, Jeff McLane wrote under the header, “Eagles’ Roseman Has Been Effective Since Gaining Power From Banner.” The changes implemented by GM Howie Roseman had a “direct effect on this season's 10-6 mark and the promise the future holds.” It is “difficult to not envision” Roseman and Owner Jeffrey Lurie “relishing their turnaround while Banner struggled during his first full season in Cleveland” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/19).