SBJ/October 29-November 4, 2012/Facilities

Packing the Mansion: Churchill Downs space filling up quickly

Don Muret
The Mansion is nearing 100 percent occupancy at Churchill Downs, three months after the track announced the development of the new ultra-premium space at the historic racetrack.

Legends Sales and Marketing, the firm selling the Mansion, has five of 32 tables remaining to sell for the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, the only two races for which the new club will be open, said Mike Ondrejko, Legends’ chief operating officer.

The tables, packaged with four, eight and 16 seats, are priced at $9,000 to $12,000 annually tied to multiple-year commitments. The tables remaining to sell all have four seats, Ondrejko said.

Project officials did not have to stray far from the Louisville track to find a major buyer for about half the property in the Mansion. Local businessman Junior Bridgeman, the former NBA player and the owner of about 300 Wendy’s and Chili’s franchises, bought 150 of the 322 total seats in a $1.5 million transaction, said a source familiar with the deal. Bridgeman was recently appointed to the Churchill Downs board of directors.

Both Ondrejko and Churchill Downs officials declined to discuss the Bridgeman deal and whether it was tied to his board appointment.

“We, as a matter of policy, don’t discuss issues involving patrons,” track spokesman John Asher said.

In Arlington, Texas, Legends, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, set up a cocktail reception as a sales event at Cowboys Stadium’s Crown Royal Club before a “Monday Night Football” game there in early October.
It produced about $250,000 in seat sales for the Mansion from a group of 45 local residents, including some Cowboys season-ticket holders, Ondrejko said.

In New York, Legends sent 500 direct-mail pieces to officials at the city’s top companies, along with a “key” to the Mansion. It served as a catalyst for setting up face-to-face presentations with key decision makers in New York, Ondrejko said.

> NATIONAL DEAL: The Potomac Nationals have signed Front Row Marketing to sell naming rights for a proposed 7,000-seat ballpark. The stadium would anchor a $70 million public-private development with retail, office and residential components built adjacent to Interstate 95 in Woodbridge, Va.

Team owner Art Silber has committed to privately financing the $25 million ballpark. The project was announced in July and requires local approvals before construction starts.

The Nationals play at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, a 28-year-old facility damaged by fire in June as a result of a gas leak.

Potomac is a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals and a member of the Carolina League.

About half of the 59 Class A parks in Minor League Baseball have naming rights, with an average annual value of $212,000, according to SportsBusiness Journal research.

BROADCAST NEWS: The Florida Panthers have developed several grassroots programs to keep their fans engaged during the NHL lockout.

One initiative is a broadcasting school reserved for the children of Panthers’ season-ticket holders and corporate partners, said Michael Yormark, president of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the team and BB&T Center, its arena.

Panthers broadcasters Randy Moller, Steve Goldstein, Bill Lindsay and Kevin Rogers will serve as instructors Nov. 7 for a two-hour night class at the arena’s Chairman’s Club.

Students ages 12 and up are eligible to participate in the class, covering Panthers television and radio productions, social media and game presentation. The free class is limited to 30 students. Depending on the demand, a second class could be added, Panthers officials said.

They will have opportunities to direct simulated live broadcasts on FS Florida and WQAM, the club’s television and radio partners, and interview a former Panthers player.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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