SBJ/20100308/This Week's News

Nets, IMG team up to bring college hoops to Barclays

IMG has signed a deal with the New Jersey Nets to lure major collegiate sports into the planned Barclays Center as the team looks to boost the number of events in its $800 million new arena.

The deal calls for IMG College to focus on booking top college basketball games into the facility, which is scheduled to open in Brooklyn by late 2012.

“We are looking at 25-plus major college matches while developing a collegiate franchise” at the Barclays Center, said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment. “We are looking at IMG to leverage their relationships from a content perspective.”

Yormark is promising more than 200 events in the new arena and hopes that IMG College will be able to convince top basketball schools to play neutral site games in Brooklyn. IMG College sells marketing, sponsorship and media rights for 23 major programs, including basketball powerhouses such as Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida.

This is the first time that IMG College has signed a booking deal directly with an arena.

“We have worked with different venues, but this is the first time under IMG College that we have gone out and represented an arena for these type of events,” said Tom Stultz, senior vice president and managing director of IMG College.

Both IMG and the Nets believe that schools would trade a home date to play in the Barclays Center in order to gain media coverage while using an appearance in the New York area as a recruiting tool.

“The Nets need content and the schools like to have the media and recruiting exposure in the large New York market with a tournament feel,” Stultz said. “Our deal with the Nets is to try to leverage our relationships that we have with top-tier programs. If it evolves that our partners are interested, we would work with the Nets on how to get the most out of sponsorship opportunities.”

IMG College would also likely broker title sponsorships for any college events it brings to the facility. The Nets and IMG face stiff competition with Madison Square Garden, an arena considered the mecca of basketball and host of the NIT and the Big East tournament.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Yormark is hoping the lure of hosting big-time college basketball will help sell 104 suites in the Barclays Center in an already crowded New York premium seating market.

“As we sell our suites, it is critical that our programming is aligned with IMG,” Yormark said. “We are looking to develop a collegiate franchise and IMG has the relationships.”

Yormark has a relationship with IMG, as, prior to joining the Nets in 2005, he worked for IMG President George Pyne at NASCAR.

The Nets will hold a Barclays Center groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, giving IMG College and the Nets two years to develop arena content.

“We still have to sit down and map out a timetable,” Stultz said. “Part of our role is to help the Barclays Center navigate through NCAA compliance and it takes time to make the scheduling and financial arrangements. The lead time is a benefit.”

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