SBJ/January 28 - February 3, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

 Thrashers in YoungStars Game

Two Atlanta Thrashers were chosen to play in the inaugural Topps/NHL YoungStars game on Friday. Forwards Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk are among the 26 NHL players 25 or younger who will face off. Heatley is 20, Kovalchuk 18. They led the Thrashers with eight multiple-point games each as of Jan. 18.

BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

 U.S. gets friendly with Ecuador

The U.S. Men's National Team will continue its World Cup preparations with an international soccer friendly against fellow 2002 World Cup qualifier Ecuador on March 10 at Legion Field Stadium, to be broadcast live on ABC at 4 p.m. Eastern. Ecuador holds a 4-0-4 record against the United States, including a 0-0 draw last June 7 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus.

CHARLOTTE

 Promotion seeks to save Hornets

All-sports radio station WFNZ-AM launched a promotion encouraging fans to fill Charlotte Coliseum for a Feb. 15 Hornets-Indiana Pacers game. Station talk-show host Mark Packer says the idea is to show the NBA that it shouldn't allow the Hornets to move to New Orleans. NBC affiliate WCNC-TV has joined the promotion.

 IRL sets office on NASCAR turf

The Indy Racing League opened a Charlotte office with public relations staffer Kimberly Miller. The league says the move puts it closer to Charlotte's growing hub of motorsports media, including ESPN's "RPM 2Night," Fox's Speed Channel and others. Miller will also represent the Indianapolis Speedway, which hosts NASCAR's Brickyard 400, at racing-related events in Charlotte.

CINCINNATI

 Reds price tickets at new ballpark

The Cincinnati Reds announced ticket prices for their Great American Ball Park, which will open in 2003. Prices range from $5 to $175. There will be 23,500 seats, or 56 percent of the ballpark, that will cost from $5 to $16. Those include the outer view level, view level, bleachers, view level infield, mezzanine, view level box, terrace outfield, mezzanine outfield and view level infield box seats. Terrace infield box seats will cost $30, which is $2 less than a similar seat at Cinergy Field next season. The most expensive seats, the diamond seats, are $175 each, and scout seats will set fans back $60.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH

 Cuban serves up cones, free advertising

Dairy Queen got an estimated $5 million of free advertising from a public spat with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, according to a research estimate by Joyce Julius & Associates reported in the Dallas Morning News. While griping about the performance of NBA referees, Cuban on Jan. 6 said he wouldn’t hire Ed Rush, league director of officiating, “to manage a Dairy Queen.” At the chain’s behest, Cuban spent Jan. 16 managing a Dairy Queen outlet in the Dallas suburb of Coppell.

DENVER

 Rockies bump single-game prices

Single-game tickets to Colorado Rockies games are going up, while season-ticket prices will remain the same. The Rockies are introducing a multiprice structure that depends on the game. An outfield box seat that would have gone for $22 last year, for example, will now cost as much as $32.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 Visual Data Corp. sells Golf Society

Visual Data Corp., a full-service broadband media company that specializes in Webcasting, networking solutions for the entertainment industry and marketing solutions for the travel industry, sold its wholly owned Golf Society of the U.S. subsidiary. Under the terms of a stock purchase agreement with Golf Society International, a new private company, Visual Data sold all of the outstanding capital stock in the Golf Society of the U.S. in exchange for a five-year, $6.5 million, 6 percent convertible debenture.

FORT MITCHELL, KY.

 Racetrack debuts new ticket drive

Kentucky Speedway took its multimarket single-event and season-ticket advertising campaign “off the racetrack” Jan. 6 with billboards and print advertisements featuring national and local personalities not commonly associated with race events. Ads primarily target the Cincinnati and Dayton markets in Ohio, as well as the Kentucky markets of Louisville and Lexington. Advertising appearing in Cincinnati and extended Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia markets features former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver and current Fox/HBO television personality Cris Collinsworth. A Cincinnati print ad showcases Bertrand Bouquin, head chef at the Maisonette Restaurant. Kentucky ads will feature University of Kentucky head basketball coach Tubby Smith and University of Louisville head football coach John L. Smith in their respective cities. The concept was developed and executed by Cincinnati-based Powers Agency.

HOUSTON

 Compaq behind marathon for third year

Compaq Computer Corp. says it will honor its deal to sponsor the Houston marathon in 2003, the third year of its three-year commitment. Compaq's sponsorship beyond the 30th annual race on Jan. 20 was uncertain because of the proposed acquisition of the Houston firm by Hewlett-Packard Co. Compaq executives say almost 10,000 runners participated in marathon weekend events.

INDIANAPOLIS

 IRL tries to lower costs for teams

The Indy Racing League announced a new participant incentive program designed to improve team participation at all races. The Leaders Circle program, similar to one used in NASCAR, will give up to 24 full-time teams significant price breaks on equipment and services, including tires, in-car electronic systems, welding and fuel. The program should save each entrant more than $100,000, said IRL officials.

 Economic development unit broadens reach

The Indy Partnership, a quasi-governmental body to aid economic development, is taking the economic development formula it used to grow the motorsports industry in central Indiana and applying it to the area's wide range of sports businesses. As members of Indy Partnership worked to attract motorsports businesses, from sanctioning bodies and teams to parts manufacturers and suppliers, they decided that the city's location, work force and other factors also would be attractive to a wider group of sports-minded companies. Chief among those factors are the headquarters and major operations of some of the country's highest-profile sports-governing and -organizing bodies, and businesses such as The Finish Line, Gatorade and Reebok. "It seemed like an opportune time to grow that cluster," said Brad King, who formerly headed Indy Partnership's motorsports initiative.

JACKSONVILLE

 PGA tourney lands 4-year extension

The PGA Tour, ESPN, Mercedes-Benz USA and Kapalua Land Co. agreed to a four-year contract extension for the Mercedes Championships at Plantation Course. Terms include keeping the tournament as the tour's season-opening event with its exclusive winners-only format.

 Tomcats name official merchandiser

The Jacksonville Tomcats named Football Fanatics the team's official merchandise supplier under a new two-year deal. Football Fanatics, also the official sports apparel store of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has two Jacksonville locations and will sell merchandise at all home games of the Arena Football 2 Tomcats.

KANSAS CITY

 Royals owner bumps payroll to $50M-plus

Kansas City Royals owner David Glass hiked his club’s anticipated payroll for the coming season by more than $5 million to beyond $50 million. The increase is necessary for the Royals to field a competitive team, Glass said.

MILWAUKEE

 Flagship station schedules ‘Talkin’ Brewers’

The Milwaukee Brewers’ flagship radio station, WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, has scheduled seven “Talkin’ Brewers” programs between January and Opening Day. WTMJ, owned by Journal Broadcast Group, is in the final year of its contract with the Brewers with an option for 2003. Negotiations have yet to start in earnest on continuing the relationship, which has lasted nearly two decades. The show is hosted by Brewers radio announcer Jim Powell and WTMJ sportscaster Len Kasper.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Boxing on its way back to town

Minnesota Sports and Entertainment has announced plans to bring boxing back to prominence at Roy Wilkins Auditorium inside the River Centre in St. Paul. Chris Hansen, former executive director of the River Centre, St. Paul-based Brunette Boxing and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Team Freedom Promotions Inc. will present the “River City Rumble” card on Thursday.

 Green joins with group to field NASCAR team

Former Vikings coach Dennis Green has formed a partnership with a group that hopes to field a NASCAR team that would start racing in May, according to media reports. Green and Darwin Oordt, who owns the Ford Taurus Galaxy Motorsports Winston Cup team, announced the partnership Jan. 17. The company will be called Denny Green Racing. No announcements were made about who would drive for the team.

PHILADELPHIA

 Work under way on new ballpark

Excavation work on the Philadelphia Phillies’ new 43,000-seat ballpark began earlier this month. On. Jan. 17, several team members and manager Larry Bowa visited the construction site in south Phillly to get a look at where home plate will be positioned in the new stadium. The stadium is expected to be completed before the 2004 season.

 All-Star Game ticket deal ticks Snider off

Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider, upset over the lack of tickets provided to the host city for the NBA All-Star Game, said he has no interest in applying to host it ever again. Snider said the team received 3,000 tickets to divvy up among its 15,000 season-ticket holders. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the game is a “wonderful thing for the city,” but not worth the “public relations nightmare” caused by people who don’t realize the event is controlled by the NBA and not the 76ers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

 Cities’ ports to host ‘Around Alone’

Two Rhode Island cities, Newport and Providence, have been selected the host ports for “Around Alone,” a global solo sailing competition. Some 25 world-class sailors representing 12 countries are expected to gather in late September to start a nine-month, 28,800-mile solo sailing odyssey around the world. The fleet will begin the race off the coast of Newport, crossing the Atlantic to England’s southern coast, proceeding to Cape Town, South Africa; New Zealand; and Salvador, Brazil. The first competitors are expected to return to the finish line in Newport in the spring of 2003.

RALEIGH-DURHAM

 Hurricanes put fans on mobile phones

The NHL Carolina Hurricanes have introduced a slate of wireless interactive games. Using mobile phones from virtually anywhere, fans can cast Most Valuable Player votes, predict how their three favorite players will perform or answer Hurricanes trivia questions. To develop the games, the team partnered with Verrus, a Vancouver company that specializes in entertainment and services for mobile devices. AT&T Wireless, another partner in the deal, is providing 50 Internet-ready phones with PocketNet service for fans without mobile phones to borrow during home games at Raleigh’s Entertainment and Sports Arena. Terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.

SACRAMENTO

 Fury becomes Gold Sox

The Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox is the new name for the city of Marysville’s baseball team. North of Sacramento, Marysville found itself the owner of an independent Western Baseball League team after the team it lent nearly $1 million to for stadium improvements, the Feather River Fury, entered bankruptcy proceedings in early 2001. The team previously was known as the Feather River Mudcats. It was changed to the Fury as part of a settlement with the Carolina Mudcats of the Class AA Southern League, which alleged trademark infringement. The city of Marysville has chosen a green gecko with gold feet and a fielder’s mitt on its tail for the team mascot.

SAN DIEGO

 New AF2 team will be Riptide

The new local Arena Football 2 franchise that begins play in April will be known as the San Diego Riptide. Former San Diego State quarterback Cree Morris will coach the team, which will play home games at the San Diego Sports Arena. The Riptide is one of 10 expansion franchises in the 35-member offshoot of the Arena Football League.

SAN FRANCISCO

 Pac Bell name to stay on Giants’ home

SBC, the parent company of Pacific Bell, said the Pac Bell name will stay on the San Francisco Giants’ stadium even as SBC begins emphasizing the phone company’s corporate name in local advertising. SBC Pacific Bell has changed some signs inside Pac Bell Park, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. SBC is based in San Antonio.

ST. LOUIS

 KMOX seeking new radio host

KMOX Radio, the flagship station of the St. Louis Cardinals, is conducting a national search for a new radio voice for the team’s 81 away games. Those believed to be in the hunt include former St. Louis residents Joel Meyers, now a CBS broadcaster, and Steve Stewart, who works at Baltimore’s WBAL-AM. Former Cardinals broadcasters, including Bob Carpenter, who was the TV voice of the team last year on KPLR-TV, and Bob Ramsey, who filled in on Cardinals radio duties in the mid-1990s, are both believed to be long shots for the position — one broadcasters said should pay roughly $200,000 a season.

 Economist ranks teams on financials

The St. Louis Rams would not win a championship if the team’s stats were based on financials instead of points scored, according to a St. Louis sports economist. Patrick Rishe, an assistant professor of economics at Webster University, said in a report that Tampa Bay is the most financially successful of all the teams that made this year’s NFL playoffs. Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium brings the team $3.1 million a year, and the team is fourth in total revenue, fourth in franchise value and sixth in operating profits, according to Rishe. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the runners-up but have yet to capitalize on revenue deals from their new Heinz Stadium, he said. Rishe’s ranking is based on a combination of reports from various sports economic studies, including SportsBusiness Journal.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 Rays take ad campaign in-house

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have launched their first preseason advertising campaign developed in-house. The 2002 campaign’s theme, “Heart and Hustle,” focuses on the club’s younger stars such as pitcher Joe Kennedy, outfielder Jason Tyner and catcher Toby Hall. Ads for an eight-game Extreme Rays Pack also plug opposing stars from the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians. The Rays worked with the Leffler Agency in Baltimore the past two seasons.

TRENTON, N.J.

 Team takes new logo from Norse mythology

The Trenton Thunder, the Class AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will feature a new logo starting with the 2002 season. The season gets under way as the Thunder hosts the New Haven Ravens on April 4. The new logo pays homage to Thor, the Norse god of thunder. In mythology, Thor was said to control the weather, and delivered lightning and thunder by throwing his hammer.

VANCOUVER

 NLL Ravens set attendance record

The Vancouver Ravens of the National Lacrosse League set a new league attendance record for inaugural home games when they played in front of 13,772 fans at the General Motors Place on Dec. 1. The game, which was shown live across Canada on Sportsnet as the “NLL Game of the Week,” saw the Ravens defeat the Toronto Rock 13-12. So far this season the team is rated second in overall league average attendance.

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