• TV Timeout: United We Stand

    On the heels of the U.S. defeating Ghana last night in their World Cup opener, ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" featured a lot of soccer talk this morning. Mike Golic said, “When I was growing up, kids went into soccer who weren’t playing the other sports. It's not the case now. Some of our better athletes are staying in soccer and they do it year-round. Now coaches want you year-round in sports, that's what's happening with soccer in the academies and such.” Mike Greenberg added, "There is one reason soccer has grown enormously amongst younger people and there's no doubt about it. If you dispute this, you just don't know, and that is the popularity of the FIFA video game. Every kid plays that game” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 6/17).

    SOCCER FOR BREAKFAST: Last night's win was a featured topic on each of the major TV networks' morning shows as well, with CBS' Elaine Quijano saying, “The American faithful made their presence felt in Natal. An estimated 20,000 fans showed up in support" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 6/17). NBC's Bill Neely: "It was a game and a victory savored throughout America" ("Today," NBC, 6/17). ABC's Robin Roberts called it a "dramatic game that had the whole nation cheering" ("GMA," ABC, 6/17).

    TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS: ESPN2's "World Cup Tonight" addressed the ongoing protests in Brazil during the World Cup, and aired a taped segment with analyst and former U.S. women's soccer player Julie Foudy. She journeyed into the favela, or slums, to speak with Brazilians and to discover if the "joy had returned from the 'beautiful game' with that first opening match victory for Brazil." Foudy said the "anger runs so deep right now that you don’t have to search when you're walking down the streets for these people, they're coming up. They're telling their story and it's everywhere." ESPN's Bob Ley: "We have not seen the size of the demonstrations as much as we saw last summer, but those that we have seen and there is a lot of security on occasion have turned violent" ("World Cup Tonight," ESPN2, 6/17).

  • The USTA comes to Charlotte

    Lewis Sherr (left) and Gordon Smith discuss the USTA’s plans during their Charlotte visit.
    Photo by: TIFFIN WARNOCK / STAFF
    The U.S. Tennis Association’s Gordon Smith and Lewis Sherr visited SBJ/SBD headquarters in Charlotte on Monday, updating staff members on improvements at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and plans for the “new home of American tennis” in Florida.

    Smith, the organization’s executive director and chief operating officer, and Sherr, chief revenue officer, detailed the $500 million renovation plan for the National Tennis Center, home to the U.S. Open. It includes a retractable roof for Arthur Ashe Stadium and a new Louis Armstrong Stadium and Grandstand. The project is scheduled to continue through 2018.

    The new training center in Florida is part of the Lake Nona development in Orlando. It is scheduled to have more than 100 courts when it opens in 2016 and will be home to the organization’s community tennis and player development divisions. It is to cost about $50 million.

    The USTA’s managing director of corporate communications, Chris Widmaier, was also among those visiting.

    Tags: On the Ground
  • TV Timeout: Remember The Alamo

    The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said of the historical significance of the Spurs five NBA Championships in the last 15 years, "You go every other year to win three (titles) and then suddenly there's a gap of seven (years) and now they show up again with the same core group. I would have to say that's unprecedented. It testifies to their resilience and longevity and also the front office” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 6/16).

    ALL ROADS LEAD HOME: ESPN’s Rusty Wallace, on this past weekend's NASCAR races at Michigan Int'l Speedway: "This is really important for Chevrolet and Ford. In my opinion, this is the second most important race in the whole year, Daytona being number one. The manufacturers don’t want to lose in their backyard, they want to win." ESPN’s Ricky Craven added, "For the guys that are paying the bills, the car owners, it is very important. Take Jack Roush for example, he has 4,500 employees at Roush Industries here in Michigan" (“NASCAR Countdown,” ESPN, 6/14).

    BRAZIL'S BLACK EYE? CBS' Charlie Rose said yesterday featured "some of the worst violence" of the World Cup as protesters "fought with police near the stadium in Rio de Janeiro." CBS' Elaine Quijano: "Soccer's shining moment continues to be overshadowed by violent protests across Brazil" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 6/16).

  • SBJ Podcast: Analyzing ESPN's role in soccer

    Staff writers John Ourand and Tripp Mickle analyze World Cup rights holder ESPN's commitment to soccer and what the network means to the sport, which is featured on the front page of this week's SportsBusiness Journal.

    Tags: ESPN, Soccer, SBJSBD Podcast
  • TV Timeout: We're Not Gonna Protest?

    ESPN's Tommy Smyth said, "Normally when you come to a World Cup, you hear all these horror stories beforehand, but when the World Cup starts to play everything goes away, everything just happens to disappear. I think in Brazil it's going to be different. I think what happens on the street is going to have an effect on what happens on the field, and I think what happens on the field is also going to have an effect on what happens on the street. If Brazil is to lose at some point, the people are going to be really, really mad at them. They've spent a lot of money to host this World Cup and a lot of people in Brazil feel -- rightly or wrongly -- that it's not money well spent and they have a lot of gripes. So if Brazil starts winning, people will forget about it. If Brazil starts losing, I'm afraid" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/11).

    NO SKINS IN THE GAME? ESPN's Chris Mortensen said there has not been "much reaction from league or league executives or team executive" on the anti-Redskins TV ad. Mortensen added, "You're hearing more players speak up, but in terms of the whole issue from the league perspective (and from Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder) … there's no indication that they would change. They see this very much as a political matter and we do know these things don't go away." Mortensen said a name change is "not going to happen overnight, I don't know if it's going to happen next year" and Snyder has "no inclination whatsoever to change the team moniker" ("NFL Live," ESPN2, 6/11).

    DONALD DUCKED: CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, on the Donald Sterling lawsuit: “I think ultimately that lawsuit will never see the light of day and he will have no legal choice but to drop it. Until that lawsuit goes away, I think that is part of an inflated market price for that franchise” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 6/11). But NBA.com’s David Aldridge said, "The Clippers are a team that a lot of free agents will be interested signing with, but not if Donald Sterling is owning the team. That’s going to be a major problem for this franchise going forward, if he’s still the owner” (“NBA Gametime,” NBA TV, 6/11).

  • 2014 SFF: Featured interview with Penguins CEO David Morehouse

    Pittsburgh Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse sat today for a special one-on-one interview to close out the 2014 Veritix Sports Facilities and Franchises Conference, and said the club's recent and hotly debated dismissal of GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma was driven not strictly by the lack of a Stanley Cup title since ’09, but by recent, repeated failures in the playoffs.

    "Management felt like we've unperformed over the last five years," Morehouse said. "It's not just not winning Stanley Cups - we know it's the hardest trophy in sports to win - but how we've lost in the playoffs the last five years...It just didn't work in the playoffs the way we thought it should with the talent we had, and we owed it to our fans to try a different way."

    Morehouse, however, did acknowledge that missteps may have been made in how the information surrounding the change was disclosed, marked by several erroneous press reports, and suggested the furor around the moves highlighted a fast-changing media landscape.

    "There is a blurring of the lines between print media, individual blogs and Twitter,” he said. “There used to be a distinction...But the people consuming the information, they don't distinguish between the three mediums.”

    The Pittsburgh native is often in the crosshairs of local media scrutiny, as Penguins owners Mario Lemeiux and Ron Burkle typically do not speak to the press. Morehouse said that strategy predates his arrival. "This has nothing to do with me," he said. "Mario had his time in the spotlight. He doesn't like to be in the spotlight now. Ron is a businessman, and has not been one to want to be in the spotlight. Frankly, I try not to do a lot of press either.”

    Morehouse boasts a unique and diverse background compared to most senior sports industry executives, previously working as a boilermaker and adviser to former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. But he relishes his current role. "My worst day is better than my best day as a boilermaker," he said. "But I still have a trade to fall back on. I'm still a certified welder."

    Morehouse said of Clinton, "He was the smartest person I've ever worked for. You can disagree with his politics or personal choices, but he deeply cares about the American people." And of Gore, he said, "Al was very detail oriented, you couldn't bluff anything. I had to be very prepared, because he's thinking about more than what you're telling him. I learned that I needed to do my homework."

    With the Penguins essentially maxed out on traditional revenue lines, the club under Morehouse is eagerly seeking out alternate income streams, such as a planned mixed use development across the street from Consol Energy Center on the site of the former Mellon Arena. The club is aiming to begin construction on the site early next year. "In a market the size of Pittsburgh, we have to make more money [in other ways] because we can't just raise ticket prices," Morehouse said.

    Morehouse also discussed the development and refinement of the Penguins brand, and how it differs from the Steelers, even as he expressed deep reverence for the Rooney family and the Steelers' accomplishments. "The essence of this brand is energy, drive and innovation,” he said. “We've embraced being different. The Penguins are the future of Pittsburgh, and we've built our whole business plan around it.”

  • 2014 SFF: The Presidents' POV, with an eye toward the future

    The Presidents' POV


    Frank Coonelly, Pittsburgh Pirates
    Tim Hinchey, Colorado Rapids
    Len Komoroski, Cleveland Cavaliers
    Anthony LeBlanc, Phoenix Coyotes
    Don Smolenski, Philadelphia Eagles

    Improved connectivity, designing more communal spaces and reducing traditional suite inventory are among the things teams are focusing on when it comes to upgrading their facilities, according to five team presidents speaking at the 2014 Veritix Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Frank Coonelly (Pirates), Tim Hinchey (Rapids), Len Komoroski (Cavaliers), Anthony LeBlanc (Coyotes) and Don Smolenski (Eagles) all weighed in on the one aspect they feel needs to be addressed to improve the fan experience in their arenas and stadiums. For most, the answer was improving their WiFi and distributed antenna systems (DAS).

    Hinchey: "It's WiFi. We don't have it. We need it. We need to be more connected ... making sure that we're pushing out the most important data, the most important content, to our fans, but also to connect with people and learn who they are. It's going to cost a lot."

    Komoroski: "Our DAS and WiFi was $5 million" at Quicken Loans Arena.

    Coonelly: "We're going through it. The younger fan, they need to be connected. I have four [children], and it’s like their lifeblood. That's a must. Fortunately, in baseball, it's taken some time, but this was so important that MLBAM has funded this initiative. Our ballpark is now being wired. It was supposed to be wired by Opening Day. It's taking a while, but we will be completely wired by August. You will be amazed how many wires it takes to become wireless. I walk the ballpark and the number of antennas and wires and trays that have to be put through your ballpark to be both WiFi and DAS fully enabled is stunning, but it is critical."

    Komoroski: "Our building is 20 years old. We're the third oldest arena in the NBA that isn't either new or hasn't had major structural renovations. It has a good operational footprint, but from a fan experience end we lack what I would say are neighborhoods, spaces where people can be communal. We lack spaces for interactivity, which are really more commonplace, which you would see at newer generation venues. That's something we're looking at: How do we enable our fans to have a quality experience at the venue beyond their seat? It's rethinking your space as a whole. We think we're fortunate – we have good bones. Now, How do we build on that?”

    Smolenski: "We are in the second phase of a $125 million [renovation], so I hope we got it all. Otherwise, I'm going to be in trouble. Last year, we added WiFi, and our DAS network went in a couple years prior. We've done complete audio-visual in terms of new HD video boards with Panasonic, 10-meter SMT. New ribbon boards. We expanded the gate entry points, so hopefully ingress can go quicker. We've added points-of-sale with Aramark to speed up service and provide a better food experience, as well as a full renovation of all the club lounges. We added 1,600 seats to further enclose the space and make the environment that much more vibrant and exciting."

    LeBlanc: "In our building, it's only 10 years old, but really nothing has happened in those 10 years, in particular the last four years. So really everything needs to be refreshed. This offseason, we're working closely with Levy Restaurants, our F&B partner, adding 15 new points of [sale] through portables, refreshing seven of our permanent stands. We are putting in DAS this offseason, as well. We won't get to WiFi quite yet. That will happen next year. There's so much we have to do. We have too much suite inventory, 87 in the building. We want to do what we've seen in a lot of buildings, convert some of those into clubs and theater-style suites. The list is literally pages and it's a prioritization exercise."

    Other highlights from the panel:

    Hinchey, on the business impact for the Rapids from the 2014 World Cup: "We definitely expect a nice lift. When our sport is amplified like it is in a World Cup year, we have to take advantage of it. I think the league and the U.S. Soccer Federation did a great job by going to each of the franchises and ensuring all of us are doing some kind of massive interactive celebration in our cities. We're hosting a four-day festival starting this Friday at a park in downtown Denver. ESPN gave us approval to have outdoor boards for free viewing."

    Connelly, on whether he is interested in becoming the next MLB commissioner: "No, although that is an issue I'm watching. I'm not a candidate. I've got a very good friend and former colleague in Rob Manfred who is in the COO position. I know he is a candidate. I'm concentrated on finishing the job here in Pittsburgh and we're far from finished."

    Smolenski, on whether Thursday Night Football will outrate Monday Night Football: "I think it has a chance. Thursday night has been a destination night on TV for a while as a lead-in to the weekend. It has a chance to certainly post results that are on par with MNF. Our partner in CBS is really putting a tremendous amount of assets to promote it and to make it a destination night and we're excited about what that's going to bring to the NFL."

    LeBlanc, on rebranding to the Arizona Coyotes: "We're trying to enhance our brand. We don't want to be just a Phoenix team. It's interesting, we were the Phoenix Coyotes when we've played in Glendale. We want to be more than Phoenix and expand our footprint throughout the entire state. The Cardinals have done it. The Diamondbacks have done it. It just makes sense."

  • 2014 SFF: Building value with sports sponsorships

    Building value with sponsorships


    Rob Borella, Giant Eagle
    Brian Goerke, PNC Financial Services Group
    Steven Nelson, Highmark
    Mark Rooks, Dick's Sporting Goods

    A quartet of brand-side marketers discussed developing activation elements that connect the brand to the sport in a discussion titled, “Building Value with Corporate Partners,” at the 2014 Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Pittsburgh.

    Each of the four marketers had different requirements for their sponsorship deals in sports. For Rob Borella, senior director of marketing and corporate communications for the $10 billion food, fuel and pharmacy retailer Giant Eagle Supermarkets, “It’s mostly about driving traffic into stores.” Borella and Giant Eagle have sponsorships with several pro and collegiate sports teams within Giant Eagle’s five-state footprint. With the Pirates, Giant Eagle sponsors an Advantage card that provides a ticket package deal for Sunday games.

    “We prefer full team rights, and we leverage as much of that as possible,” said Borella. “We want to be the official supermarket for our teams. We’ll also have apparel, shirts, hats in a dedicated space in our supermarkets for our hometown teams.” Borella added that Giant Eagle is in the process of finalizing some big deals now. “When we look at a new deal, we want to know what the b-to-b opportunities are for Giant Eagle,” he said.
    Brian Goerke, the senior vice president of strategic partnerships for PNC Financial Services Group, manages the company’s naming-rights agreements in many markets where PNC operates, including partnerships with the Steelers, Penguins, Penn State, Arnold Palmer, the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Goerke explained why the naming-rights deal for PNC Park has been beneficial. “The ballpark has the reputation of being one of the best in the league,” said Goerke. “Particularly for a bank, you’ve got to give yourself a personality. The stadium sponsorship has really helped us with that.”

    Otherwise, Goerke noted, “The PNC Park deal still has six years left, so we’re not going to spend much time evaluating it.” With the Penguins, PNC sponsors the Legends (club) Level at Consol Energy Center, which includes displays featuring the top ten moments in Penguins history. “(Penguins senior vice president of sales and service) David Peart is great to work with there,” said Goerke. “That’s a sponsorship that’s really working for us.”

    Asked by moderator Terry Lefton about the most common sticking points when trying to finalize a deal, Goerke responded, “Back in the day, you always wanted exclusivity. But in the real world of budgets today, you have to be more open about what works best for both parties.” Goerke shared the news that PNC is close to announcing a renewal of its agreement with the PGA.

    Steven Nelson, the senior vice president of health plan strategy, product and marketing for Highmark, was complimentary of his company’s partnership with the Pirates. “For us, it’s about activating in the venues,” said Nelson, a former marketing executive with GNC, Disney, Notre Dame and Miller Brewing. “The Pirates work really well with us. They have a lot of good approaches to finding what our needs are. If someone wants to show me their data, as the Pirates have, I’ll meet with them for as long as they want.”

    That’s essential in this era of high-priced sponsorships, everyone on the panel agreed. “At the end of the day, it’s a big budget line item,” said Nelson. “How you spend those dollars is really well critiqued.”

    Nelson was also appreciative of Highmark’s relationship with the Penguins as the hockey club started designing its arena, Consol Energy Center. “We actually sat down with the architects about what might work for us with inventory assets,” said Nelson. “It was a real partnership.”

    For Mark Rooks, vice president of sports and community marketing for Dick’s Sporting Goods, community activation is vital. Dick’s, the naming rights sponsor of the Colorado Rapids stadium outside Denver, sponsors several youth soccer programs through the MLS club. It does the same thorugh its sponsorship of the Penguins. “Building an authentic and meaningful relationship in the community is important for us,” said Rooks, who was formerly with Pepsico, where he worked with the NFL, NHL, MLS, MLB and numerous sports venues. “It builds up a tremendous amount of good will.”

    The marketers also agreed that flexibility in a potential deal is important for sponsors. “When you have the opportunity to write a new deal, it’s an opportunity to look to get some of the things you really need,” said Rooks. “I like flexibility in deals. There’s always going to be a sponsorship fee, but you want the flexibility when your needs change.”

  • 2014 SFF: Featured interview with Pirates chairman Bob Nutting

    Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting sat for a 30-minute interview with SBJ's MLB writer, Eric Fisher, at the 2014 Veritix Sports Facilities and Franchises conference. Among the highlights:

    On the Pirates' approach to building through the draft and investing in a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic: "I'm not a patient person, particularly. You can ask people who work with me. But we needed to do the right thing for the long haul. ... We began to see an impact about two years ago, when we saw a team that was playing better baseball with the right building blocks. Last year, we saw it develop in a big way, our first winning season in 21 years. To see the passion of Pittsburgh light up was a confirmation that some of the rocky travel we took was worth it."

    On building upon last year's success: "The most important thing will be to earn the trust of this community and the fans.  We need to reward their commitment with our own commitment that we are going to do everything we can to make the Pirates better. We need to earn their respect and trust."


    On the revenue challenges facing some MLB franchises: "We will never use the landscape as an excuse, as a reason we can't succeed. We have a certain hand we are dealt and it includes market size and the way revenue is handled within the league.  Our responsibility is to be realistic and be as efficient as possible in utilizing our assets. We need to use the resources we have as effectively as we can. We can't have a scapegoat mentality."

    On establishing a master plan for PNC Park for the next decade: "We have been in PNC Park for 14 seasons, and we need to continue to invest in and improve the fan experience. We have had good incremental improvements in the ballpark.  But the process we are going through now is really a 30,000-foot deep dive into what our vision for the ballpark is 15 years from now, trying to find what the best ballpark in 2030 is going to look like. It's not crystal clear to me what it's going to look like. It's going to be very different. I think PNC Park has sustaining legs as one of those iconic ballparks, like a Wrigley, like a Fenway, that has iconic sustainability."

    On media criticism facing him in his early ownership of the Pirates and being the face of the franchise: "It doesn't do any good to complain about the reality of the setting. What I greatly worry about the perception - or misperception - about the opinion is the degree that it reflects on the franchise. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a vibrant and critical part of the fabric of Pittsburgh, and I take it as a real responsibility to shepherd that organization. To the extent that criticisms were out there, it bothered me that it could paint the franchise in a negative brush. I believe we are doing the right thing for the franchise, for the organization and for the city every day. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning, and that makes it easier to sleep."

    On being named to serve on the search committee to select the next MLB commissioner: "I won't say much about that, because the search process needs to be confidential. But I was really pleased to serve. The next commissioner will help steer the direction of the game for the next decade and it's a critical time for baseball. It's a critical time in how we engage youth, how we grow internationally and how we work with labor.  What struck me is the diverse face of the committee. We have such a diverse group on the committee that is really working hard to run a real process, a broad process and an open process. We are going to make sure we're getting feedback from all teams and all stakeholders in the game. It will be a process that is robust and serious, and since Commissioner Selig selected the committee, he really has stepped back."

    Whether Commissioner Selig will step down in January 2015: "Absolutely. He is committed to stepping down on a high note."

    The biggest challenge facing baseball: "Now that we put some of the ethical issues and performance-enhancing drugs behind us, I think a main focus is engagement with youth and building that next generation of passionate fans. Part of that goes to young people playing the game and loving it.  ... Not enough young people are playing the game."

    On weighing character versus talent when deliberating whether to sign a player: "We will always overweigh character.  I think culture is the single most important thing we can get right. There is no substitute for character."

  • 2014 SFF: Featured interview with Art Rooney II

    Steelers co-owner/president Art Rooney II
    Renee Rosensteel

    Pittsburgh Steelers Co-Owner and President Art Rooney II was candid and direct in the first featured one-on-one interview this morning at the Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Rooney was named Steelers president in 2003 when his father, Dan, passed the torch to him. He was principally responsible for the design, development and financing plan for Heinz Field, which opened in 2001.

    Here is Rooney on a number of topics from his discussion today with Executive Editor Abe Madkour:

    The NFL in Los Angeles: “It’s all about a stadium. If they build it, [a team] will come. Maybe more than one. I believe we will have one, maybe two teams there in the next ten years. The league just wants to make sure it works this time. LA is a great market. It’s just making sure there’s a great venue there.”


    The NFL in London: “We’re still a little ways away from deciding whether we can locate a team there, but so far so good. I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that we need to have a team there to be successful.” Rooney said travel is a hurdle: “Unless someone brings back the Concorde.”

    The Thursday night TV package: “It will be successful. The partnership with CBS is key to it. Thursday night is a great night for NFL football.” Asked what the coaches think, Rooney said. “Coaches like to play at 1 o’clock on Sunday. Everything else is a distraction.”

    Other possible TV broadcast windows: “You never know. I wouldn’t say we’re done, but there won’t be many significant changes in the regular season.”

    Cold weather Super Bowls: “Everyone was asking Roger Goodell (at Met Life Stadium) where he went to church that weekend. This winter was one of the coldest ever in New York, but not that day. We’ll see more cold weather Super Bowls. I hope we see one in my lifetime in Pittsburgh.”

    NFL-NFLPA relationship: “’Strained’ might be one way to say it.”

    Lack of agreement on HGH testing: “It’s been a thorn in everyone’s side. We feel very strongly about it. It’s not something we can compromise on. The Players Association has made it a bone of contention that they will not let go. It’s taken much longer than any of us would have liked.”

    Expansion of playoffs: “We’re interested in looking at it. From the Pittsburgh perspective, we have an open mind about it. One more playoff game in the opening round would allow more fans to be alive in the competing cities.”

    18-game regular season: “Not in the near future. The truth is, we haven’t had any meaningful discussion about expanding the regular season since the early days of negotiating the recent CBA.”

     What’s next for the NFL: “You don’t want to be complacent, that’s for darn sure. The broadcasting landscape is changing dramatically. There are a lot more ways to reach fans, and that’s a good thing. It’s up to the league and the clubs to provide the kind of content fans want.”

    A typical game day at Heinz Field for him: “I arrive about three hours before the game and meet with the staff. I walk the building with (stadium manager) Jimmy Sacco. I enjoy those hours before the game, speaking with fans, with people who work in the stadium, with people from the visiting team. After kickoff, I’m not much of a socializer. I focus on the game.” Rooney added that he watches home games with his father, Dan, and GM Kevin Colbert.

    Balancing tradition with new things: “We consider our history our foundation – something we want to build on. But there’s a new generation of sports fan that expects different things. You’re constantly trying to improve your stadium, but not to the point where it’s a distraction from the game. We’re not trying to re-create someone’s living room at Heinz Field. We want a great in-stadium experience. The little things count – the convenient things, like access to the stadium and parking.”

    Tags: Pittsburgh Steelers, Facilities, Franchises, Heinz Field, NFL
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