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Volume 24 No. 157


Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, when asked why the team is requiring season-ticket renewals "for 2011 to be paid in full by March 31 even though there is a lockout," yesterday said the team has always "had March 31 as our deadline since we moved to" Gillette Stadium, according to Shalise Manza Young of the BOSTON GLOBE. Kraft: "In order to get the renewal process done and then to handle the upgrades as well as moving people off the season-ticket waiting list, and then print the tickets that are personalized by account, and to have it in people’s hands by the beginning of July, we actually needed to stay with that date. It’s not something where you can just decide in the middle of August, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a season,’ and send out an invoice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). The Steelers also decided to keep "the same routine of requesting deposits of season-ticket holders," and team President Art Rooney II said, "We just decided we were going to go business as usual with tickets. The only thing we did different is we said with our renewal that if a game gets canceled we'll give you a refund. Everything is the same as we've always done it. We have to prepare as if the season's going to happen. There's no other way to do it" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/22). In San Diego, Kevin Acee notes the Chargers also "will not alter" their "payment policy for season tickets in the face of games potentially being lost to a lockout." Chargers Exec VP A.G. Spanos: "We worked hard ... coming up with a plan that would be fair to season ticket holders" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/22).

: Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross yesterday said the issues being discussed at the ongoing owners' meetings in New Orleans are not his "idea of ownership." Ross said, "Obviously the worst situation is no season at all, but as you push it back, even now people aren’t buying tickets at the same rate they were in the past, people are waiting to see, a lot of people are, so it has an impact. It will have an impact with sponsors" Ross added, "You cannot have a business where you pay players, as a percentage of the gross income. Anyone who has been in business who has worked for everybody, you don’t pay players a percentage of the gross. ... You can’t pay them a percentage of the revenue, 'hey you get 60% and we get all the expenses,' and then try to make money from that, I mean, it wouldn’t work" (, 3/21). In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly noted Ross "spen roughly 20 minutes talking with Commissioner Roger Goodell on Sunday, discussing the numerous issues one-on-one" (, 3/21).

EXECS SPEAK OUT:'s Pat Yasinskas noted Buccaneers co-Chair Joel Glazer was "animated and happy" and "almost effervescent" during a 20-minute one-on-one interview on Sunday. Glazer said, "I couldn't be more excited about where this team is at. When we set out on this path two years ago, there was a plan in place." Glazer noted the team's new ticket sales in January, February and March "have been stronger than I ever remember them being." The Buccaneers won 10 games last season after only winning 3 the season before, and Glazer said, "Renewals are extremely high. The sense you get is that the community is reacting to what they saw last year." He added, "Even before the season ended, we sat down and we started to change our pricing to reflect the economy and what's going on and trying to find ways to make something available for everybody. The one thing that hasn't been lost on us is Florida has been hit very hard" (, 3/21). Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes there has been speculation that Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "will hire a team president, or similarly titled executive, to oversee operations at Rams Park on a daily basis." However, Kroenke yesterday said that "any changes in the front office at Rams Park are on hold for obvious reasons." Kroenke: "Right now we're not hiring because we're in this lockout" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/22).

Mets Owners Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz "aren't putting up a specific percentage of the team for sale, as has been widely reported," according to a source cited by Michael O'Keeffe of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Instead, they are "seeking a specific price to join the club -- a price that will not give the new partners anything close to a controlling interest in the embattled franchise." The Wilpons and Katz "will review financial documents with prospective owners to determine the overall value of the team." The source said that if the owners "are seeking a $200 million investment and the parties agree the team is worth $800 million, the new partner would control 25% of the team." The source added that the "only thing certain about the deal" is that the Wilpons "will continue to call the shots." The source said that "about a dozen investment groups that have expressed interest in buying a minority stake in the Mets have been vetted, or will soon be vetted," by MLB. A deal is "expected to be approved by MLB no later than July and possibly as early as May." An MLB source familiar with some of the groups said that they "appear to be 'stalking horses' who don't have the money to purchase a serious stake in the team but may be fronting for investors who have the kind of money the Wilpons and Katz are looking for" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22).

The Raptors are averaging 16,350 fans per game this season at Air Canada Centre, the "lowest in the franchise's 15-year history," according to Hayley Mick of the GLOBE & MAIL. The Raptors currently stand 18th out of 30 NBA clubs in attendance rankings; "not horrendous considering the team is faring better at selling tickets than 10 other franchises with superior win-loss records." But Toronto is a "much larger sports market than franchises saddled with the same attendance problems." Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo in an e-mail said, "The current trend is not entirely unexpected given our plan to rebuild and the volume of losses we are experiencing." But Mick noted, "Concerned officials at Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment now have the daunting task of luring fans back." One strategy is to "appeal to their budgets," as season-ticket prices "will drop by about" 10-15% across the board for the '11-12 season. The Raptors also are "increasing the number of price points to give buyers more options." MLSE Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Beth Robertson: "The best way that we can respond is through team performance and also offering value to our fans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/19).

UNFAMILIAR SIGHT: In Toronto, Gareth Wheeler reports there are a "surprising number of tickets available" for MLS Toronto FC's home opener against the Timbers on Saturday, which "has to be alarming to a club coming off four consecutive years of announced sell-outs for their home opener." Sources said that ticket sales "have been a massive struggle for the 2011 season," and it "appears the inferior on-field product and steep ticket price increases have finally caught up with them." Toronto FC "has long bragged about having a substantial waiting list in the thousands for season tickets," yet it "appears the 'list' may have been more smoke and mirrors than anything else, or those waiting for tickets have also soured on the team and the price tag." For the "first time since its inception, there has been a real push by Toronto FC to sell tickets this off-season," as marketing dollars "have been spent advertising half-season and single-match tickets" (TORONTO SUN, 3/22).

There is "real evidence the Lightning, after three seasons of declining attendance, is reversing the trend," according to Damian Cristodero of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. The team is averaging 17,216 fans at St. Pete Times Forum, up from 15,497 last season. More meaningful is the "turnstile count, which Hillsborough County reports was an average 13,443 in 31 games through February," up from 11,081 at the same point last season. Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier: "Of course we notice. The crowds are into it, definitely louder. It's been fun." Cristodero noted the organization is "rebuilding community ties torched by the previous owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie." Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke said, "It's encouraging how the market has reacted." Leiweke added the "priority is to rebuild our season-ticket base." The Lightning "sold only about 8,000 season tickets this season," but Leiweke said that 900 new subscribers "signed up in the past month" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21).

FEELING BLUE: In Columbus, Tom Reed reported the Blue Jackets are "destined to finish the season with their lowest home attendance in franchise history." The team as of Saturday was averaging 13,285 fans with just six games remaining in Nationwide Arena, a "2,000-plus drop from a season ago." The team "lost nearly 25 percent of its season-ticket base for this season." But Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said that season-ticket renewals are "coming in at three times the pace of a year ago" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/19).

BUSINESS IS GOOD: Capitals and Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis on his blog noted the Caps "reached 96% renewals for our season ticket holder base" last Thursday night. Leonsis: "Our business is quite strong and we are ranked in the top half dozen teams in the entire NHL in terms of paid admissions." Meanwhile, Leonsis noted the Wizards "will reach better than 80% renewals of our season ticket holder base at the end of our renewal process," which means the team "will meet the NBA average for this most important metric." He added, "We also believe we will sell thousands of new season tickets and will enter the next season with more than double the number of STH than [when] we acquired the team" (, 3/18). In DC, Dan Steinberg notes the Capitals "e-mailed existing season-ticket holders this week with a new offer: standing-room only season tickets." The SRO season tickets cost $60 per game, meaning the "season-long price-tag would be $2,550" (, 3/22).