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SBD Global/September 5, 2013/Franchises

N.Y. Yankees President Levine Calls Partnership With Man City 'A Good Combination'

N.Y. Yankees President Levine says NYC FC has many venue locations to choose from.
N.Y. Yankees President Randy Levine told SBD Global that the partnership between the MLB franchise and Premier League side Man City is close to naming someone to run NYC FC's business operations, as the Yankees work "collaboratively" with Man City on the business side. The two partnered in May as co-owners of newly founded Major League Soccer club NYC FC, which will begin play in '15. Levine: "It has been, and it is, a real good partnership. Obviously, Man City [is] going to run the whole football operations, and we are working collaboratively with them on the business side.” He said the team is working to build its business staff, adding, "We will be in a position pretty shortly to name an individual who will be in charge of running NYC FC’s business operations." Levine: "Like with any successful sports franchise, you got to build from the bottom up. All the fundamentals, marketing operation, ticketing operation and premium-sales operation, and so on, all of that is going on right now."

REAL ESTATE SHOPPING: Levine also said that the partners are currently hunting for a stadium site. They are looking at several sites across the city, from Flushing Meadows in Queens to a site near Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx. However, Levine ruled out a stadium at Pier 40 on Manhattan's West Side. He said, "Together we are looking at four or five sites. The Flushing site is still a possibility. There’s a site nearby Yankee Stadium that’s a possibility. Pier 40 is not a possibility; we don’t view that as a possibility. There are a couple other sites in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. We are making progress, it’s all preliminary, we are not ready to select a site." Levine said that he does not believe the stadium will be ready in time for the team's inaugural MLS season. Until a stadium is completed in '16 or '17 at the earliest, NYC FC will have to find a temporary home. Levine said the possibilities for a temporary home range from Yankee Stadium over Citi Field to MetLife Stadium, among others. While finding a suitable stadium site is the priority, the Yankees and Man City are also teaming up in the departments of ticketing and sponsorships. Levine: "We are putting together and working with them to help build their ticketing and sponsorship and other essentials that a professional sports team needs. There’s a lot of synergy and a lot of cooperation going forward. They are the football experts, and we know how to operate in this market. They are also very good in selling their brand. So it’s a good combination." Having the Yankees and Man City brands in the background will be a significant help in attracting sponsorship deals for NYC FC. Levine said, "You always look to provide opportunities for present sponsors. I think New York City FC is going to be very popular. We are getting tremendous feedback from people who want to buy premium regular seats and from sponsors." He added, "This is a stand-alone entity, although it is owned by the Yankees and Man City. We are all of one mind to get them the best available deals possible.” Another goal, Levine said, is securing media deals.

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS:
The partnership between the Yankees and Man City started when Yankees co-owned Legends Hospitality entered an agreement with British chef Jamie Oliver to provide food, beverage and merchandise at Man City's Etihad Stadium. While playing a friendly against Chelsea at Yankee Stadium over Memorial Day, Man City and the Yankees got to know each other. Levine said, "We got to know the Manchester City people well, we like them very much; they have the same values that we at the Yankees have -- a commitment to winning, fielding a championship team and providing first-rate experience for fans." In the midst of purchasing the N.Y. MLS franchise, Man City realized that it needed a local partner that knew the market, and based on the previous projects, the two reached an agreement rather quickly. The partnership will also provide the Yankees with an opportunity to increase their brand in the U.K. Levine said that there will be some cross-promotion in the U.S. and the U.K. He said, "We haven’t done any yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out." However, it is not the first time the Yankees have partnered with an EPL club from Manchester. Several years back, the Yankees had a partnership with ManU that did not pan out as planned. Asked why the partnership with Man City is different, Levine said, "It wasn’t a partnership. There was a joint-marketing agreement with Man United and it basically went on for a little bit. We sold some of their merchandise in our stores and they sold some of ours at their stores, but it was just a pilot program and then when the ownership of Man United changed, the agreement went by the boards. Here it is much different. Here you have a real partnership, where people put their money into a franchise and building a substantial asset together."
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