SBJ/February 4 - 10, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

  Awards tout leagues, companies
 
Nearly a dozen companies were recognized Jan. 26 for leadership and innovation in sports business. The winners of the second annual Horizon Awards were Sportvision (Sports Technology of the Year), SportsLine.com (Sports Impact Partnership of the Year and Sports Web Site of the Year), the NFL (Sports League Web Site of the Year and Sports League/Association of the Year), NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (Sports Business Executive of the Year), UPS Inc. (Sports-Theme Advertising Campaign of the Year), ESPN (Sports Media Company of the Year). The Horizon Awards are given by the Atlanta Sports Council.

CHARLOTTE

 Shinn already bragging
  That stings: Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn is already crowing over a proposed relocation to New Orleans. According to The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, he told a group of Crescent City business and political leaders that he's adamant about leaving Charlotte behind. "If you want me to come back to Charlotte, you can kiss my grits," Shinn said in a fit of diplomacy.

  Speedway to move seats
  Lowe's Motor Speedway will remove the first two rows of seats on the front stretch — 1,200 in all — to protect fans from flying debris. The track will also widen entrance walkways, doubling the size in time for May races. The projects will cost $1.5 million. The moves are part of an emphasis on safety since the death of three spectators at the track during a 1999 IRL race.

  Heels offered look at glory days
  For weary Tar Heels fans suffering through an atypically miserable ACC hoops season, producer Rick Willenzik offers relief. Willenzik's Much More Media has released "Jerseys in the Rafters: Carolina's Greatest Stars," a highlight film of UNC stars Michael Jordan, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Antawn Jamison and more. The video sells for $19.95, the DVD $22.95. Details: jerseysintherafters.com.

CHICAGO

  White Sox ‘ready to play’
 
The Chicago White Sox planned to launch the club's 2002 advertising campaign Sunday, inviting fans and players alike to "Come Ready to Play" at Comiskey Park this summer. The print and radio spots were designed by Hoffman York & Reilly of Chicago. Television spots are scheduled to begin in March. "The idea for this year's campaign comes from a conversation with White Sox manager Jerry Manuel," said Tom Reilly of Hoffman York & Reilly. "When we asked about the team's approach in 2002, Manuel said, 'We need to take this to the next level through our intensity and our enthusiasm. When teams come to our park, they had better be ready to play.' That's a great team theme for the White Sox."

CINCINNATI

  Season-ticket sales jump
 
Although the team didn't provide details, the Cincinnati Reds said they saw a jump in season-ticket requests at Great American Ball Park after the Reds announced ticket prices for the park, which will open at the beginning of the 2003 season. The Reds kept ticket prices at the new park lower than many people had expected, from $5 to $170, with most seats below $25.

DALLAS

  HDNet gets Olympics deal
 
HDNet, a Dallas television network that broadcasts exclusively in high-definition format, will carry some taped events from the Winter Olympics under a deal with NBC. Financial terms weren't disclosed. HDNet, which is run by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, will run replays of the opening and closing ceremonies and four sporting events: figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating and ski jumping. HDNet is carried on channel 199 of DirecTV.

DENVER

  Old Mile High catches fire
 
A fire broke out Jan. 26 at the old Mile High Stadium, which is being demolished. A spark from a cutting torch caused the fire, which destroyed a section about 100 feet square. Fighting the fire proved challenging; the automatic sprinkler system already had been removed. Firefighters spent an hour extinguishing the blaze.

DETROIT

  Red Wings link with Griffins
 
The Detroit Red Wings, who have been without a minor league affiliate of their own for three seasons, signed a five-year deal with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. For the last three seasons, the Red Wings' best prospects have played for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, Anaheim's AHL affiliate, while others were placed with various teams in several leagues. The Griffins, in the last year of an affiliation agreement with the Ottawa Senators, expect to gain a greater regional following as a Red Wings farm team from cities like Lansing, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Holland and Battle Creek, all within an hour's drive.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

  Sports Authority to remodel stores
 
The Sports Authority plans to remodel 33 stores this year and all 198 outlets within the next three years. CEO Martin Hanaka called many of the stores "old and tired." The company said it believes the move will boost sales.

HOUSTON

  Astros switch to Tickets.com
 
The Houston Astros are putting the finishing touches on a six-month computer conversion that will shift the team's individual ticket sales from Ticketmaster to rival Tickets.com. The move is part of an exclusive arrangement between Major League Baseball and Tickets.com, which went into effect last year and will eventually make tickets available on each team's Web site. When individual tickets go on sale Thursday for Astros games, fans will be able to buy at www.astros.com or by calling a new toll-free phone number — 877-9-ASTROS. As always, tickets will be on sale at the Astros' Enron Field box office. But they will no longer be available at Ticketmaster outlets.

INDIANAPOLIS

  Attendance drop could cost Purdue
 
As the on-court performance of the Purdue University men's basketball team has slipped, so have its fortunes at the ticket office. During the 1990s, Purdue sold out the 14,123-seat Mackey Arena for about 16 home games a season. But after the Boilermakers' on-court performance started to decline during the 1999-2000 season, attendance also started to slide. During that year, average attendance at Mackey Arena dropped to 13,857. It fell the next season to 11,958, and even further this year, to 11,404. With the loss of ticket, parking and concession revenue, Purdue athletic department officials said the drop in attendance — if it stays at its current level — will cost the school about $500,000.

JACKSONVILLE

  Golf Management gets new course
 
Golf Management Inc. of Jacksonville was tapped to oversee operations at Maryland National Golf Club, an Arthur Hills-designed championship course slated to open in July. GMI named golf management veteran Michael McGillicuddy general manager of Maryland National, located near Frederick, Md.

KANSAS CITY

  Knights hope to boost attendance
 
Kansas City Knights owner Jim Clark hopes to boost the ABA team's average attendance to 3,000 a game by the end of the season and double that number next season. The team drew 2,437 fans, its second-largest crowd of the season, on Jan. 25 to its first "$5 for Friday" promotion, which sells lower-level seats behind each goal for $5. The team also is staging giveaways.

MIAMI

  Dolphins checking into playoff ticket sales
 
Miami Dolphins officials plan to question season-ticket holders to find out why nearly 22,000 seats bought by season-ticket holders during the regular season weren't purchased for the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.

MILWAUKEE

  ScheerGame hired for Georgia arena project
  ScheerGame Sports Development of Milwaukee was hired to create a development plan for a sports and entertainment arena proposed for Augusta, Ga. A group of businessmen, city officials and other local government leaders want to build a 10,000- to 12,000-seat facility. ScheerGame will work with business leaders, the city of Augusta and public sector administrators from several neighboring Georgia and South Carolina cities and counties to develop a plan for what could be a $75 million project.

  Hank Aaron featured on Wheaties
  Baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron will be featured on a special-edition Black History Month Wheaties package this month. The boxes will be available nationwide. This marks the second time that Aaron will appear on the box. In 1970, he was pictured with Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench and professional golfer Tom Weiskopf. Aaron, who holds baseball's all-time record with 755 career home runs, played in the Braves organization in Milwaukee and Atlanta from 1954 to 1974.

MINNEAPOLIS

 Wild opens season-ticket campaign
  The Minnesota Wild has opened its season-ticket campaign for the 2002-03 season. The team has more than 16,000 season-ticket holders and 2,100 people on its waiting list. The "Warming House" waiting list will be capped at 4,500. To get on the waiting list, fans pay a $100 deposit for each ticket. They get priority for tickets when spots open up. Last year, more than 500 people on the waiting list got season tickets.

  Statue honors Mikan, hook shot
  A life-sized statue honoring former Minneapolis Lakers great George Mikan was installed Jan. 26 in the main lobby of the Target Center. Mikan was honored with the statue by the Minnesota Timberwolves last year during a "Celebration at Center Court." The statue shows Mikan taking his famous hook shot.

  Wizards game breaks attendance record
  The attendance of 20,320 for the Minnesota Timberwolves game against the Washington Wizards at Target Center on Martin Luther King Day broke the team's previous record of 20,214. The previous record was set Feb. 16, 1996, when the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls played in Minneapolis. Scalpers were asking $700 for tickets, according to media reports.

NEW YORK

 NYRR sponsors college invitational
 
As part of its yearlong sponsorship of track events, the New York Road Runners will be title sponsor of the New York Road Runners Collegiate Invitational at the Armory in upper Manhattan on Friday and Saturday. The two-day meet with 50 teams is the largest indoor collegiate meet in the country. The NYRR stages and owns the New York City Marathon.

OAKLAND

  Raiders' Gruden on the way out
  Jon Gruden will honor the final year of his contract as head coach of the Oakland Raiders but won't return after next season. Gruden, 38, joined the team in 1998 and has coached the Raiders to back-to-back AFC divisional titles. But, the San Francisco Chronicle said, his potential salary demands and power could make Raiders owner Al Davis uncomfortable. Gruden said in his season-ending news conference Jan. 21 that he would not sign another contract with Oakland.

  Card case set for Feb. 27 hearing
  An Alameda County Superior Court judge will hear arguments Feb. 27 in a lawsuit against sports card manufacturers. The case, filed last August in Oakland, centers on card makers' "insert cards," special sets randomly slipped into packs of regular card sets. Opponents of inserts say card makers such as Carlsbad, Calif.-based Upper Deck Co. commit fraud by selling packs with insert cards and are in violation of state and federal anti-gambling laws and state consumer laws. On the back of packs of regular card sets, card makers print the odds of buying a pack with an insert card.

ORLANDO

  Braves invade Disney for spring training
 
For the fifth consecutive year, the Atlanta Braves are making the trek to Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports for spring training. The training season begins Feb. 15, with an exhibition game against the University of Georgia Bulldogs Feb. 28 and the first major league spring training game against the Florida Marlins March 1. Disney hopes attendance at this year's spring training season will bounce back from 2001's low figures. Bad weather and three rained-out games made for empty bleachers last year.

PHILADELPHIA

  Eagles sell out suites, plan more
  Philadelphia Eagles have sold all 125 suites in their new $512 million stadium, scheduled to open before the 2003 season, and now are planning to add an undisclosed number of additional suites at the facility. When designing the 66,000-seat stadium, the Eagles included the flexibility to add more suites if they so desired. The average price for the suites was in the $120,000 to $140,000 range. Eagles officials also said the demand for the top-priced seat licenses, called stadium builder licenses, exceeded the supply. The team is now offering lower-priced licenses to season-ticket holders who didn't get their first choice of the best seats in the new stadium. About 40 percent of the seats in the new stadium carry license fees ranging from $1,530 to $3,145.

  Aramark's Red Sox stake: $50M
  Aramark, a Philadelphia-based concessionaire and facilities manager, expects to receive after-tax cash proceeds of $50 million for selling its minority stake in the Boston Red Sox to New England Sports Ventures LLC. Although never one of the top potential buyers for the franchise, Aramark was among those groups that had their applications to bid for the Boston Red Sox approved by Major League Baseball last year. Clients of Aramark's food services division include 70 sports stadiums and arenas.

SAN DIEGO

 Lawsuit dismissal puts ballpark on track
  The latest lawsuit holding up construction on the downtown ballpark was dismissed by a judge Jan. 28, giving the Padres renewed hope that they can open the 2004 season in their new home. After Judge Frederic L. Link denied a continuance to the plaintiffs in the case, retired law professor Robert Simmons and his attorney, Stanley Zubel, walked out of the courtroom, complaining they were not given enough time to prepare. After about 30 minutes, Link announced that "I have to make decisions. It's fish or cut bait. Mr. Simmons is gone and his complaint is gone." Link also dismissed the allegations of tax preparer Gardner Osborne, who joined the suit as an "interested party" on Jan. 25. The ruling means the city will be able to sell $166 million in bonds by mid-February and resume ballpark construction as early as March, city officials said. "To say the judge was unfair is too mild," Simmons told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "My rights as a citizen, plaintiff and taxpayer have just been trashed."

  Spirit launching billboard campaign
  The San Diego Spirit of the Women's United Soccer Association will begin its new billboard ad campaign in February throughout San Diego County. The ads, designed in-house by marketing manager Paige Jackson, will appear over San Diego highways in February through April. The billboard ads will coincide with the team's marketing push in newspapers, magazines and an infomercial.

SAN JOSE

  XpressBet licensed to accept phone wagers
 
The California Horse Racing Board has granted licenses to XpressBet, owned by Magna Entertainment and Television Games Network, to accept wagers over the telephone. Magna also owns Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows horse tracks in the San Francisco Bay area and the Santa Anita track in Southern California. TVG owns a horse-racing broadcasting and wager channel that is offered on some cable outlets. Separate advance deposits are required for betting on either system. Some state horse-racing advocates were hoping the racing board would establish a single deposit system that would work for all telephone and Internet betting systems.

SEATTLE

  Mariners' ticket sales up
 
Tickets sales to the Seattle Mariners' games are brisk. With Opening Day still two months away, the Mariners have sold 21,404 season tickets, up nearly 10 percent from last year's record of 19,700. The defending American League West champions have seen a 96 percent renewal rate for existing season-ticket holders. Sales of the team's weekend ticket package, which includes tickets to all games on Friday through Sunday and Opening Day, have increased by 50 percent, the team said. Box seats and infield terrace club seats are sold out.

SONOMA, CALIF.

  Raceway tunnels finished
 
Construction work is complete on two underground pedestrian tunnels at Sears Point Raceway, and both will be operational for the 2002 main-event season. The tunnels, part of Sears Point Raceway's $50 million modernization plan, will expedite pedestrian traffic flow around the property during major events.

ST. LOUIS

  Retailers work late to cash in on Rams
 
The Rams victory Jan. 28 kept local retailers working late. The May Department Stores' Famous-Barr unit here kept six of its stores open until 9 p.m. to sell Rams NFC Championship merchandise. Dillard's kept four stores open to capitalize on requests for Rams fleeces, long-sleeve T-shirts, short-sleeve T-shirts and hats, said Mark Gastman, vice president of marketing and sales promotion for Dillard's Inc. Gastman said Dillard's purchased a limited amount of NFC Championship merchandise on a risk the Rams would win.

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