The Bears are "raising season ticket prices" for 85% of the seats at Soldier Field, though the increase does not impact club seats, according to Brad Biggs of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Prices will increase $2-10 per seat in the affected sections. Non-club seats will range from $76-150, while club seats remain between $265-385. Invoices to season-ticket holders were sent yesterday, and "full payments are due" April 9. Team Marketing Report indicated that the Bears had the fifth-highest average ticket price in the NFL last season at $101.55. Bears President Ted Phillips said, "What we tried to do was look at how do we remain economically competitive and at the same time be fair to our season ticket holders." Biggs reports single-game tickets will be $25 "more than the equivalent seat purchased by a season ticket holder, an increase Phillips said affects the 'few thousand' seats the Bears don't sell as season tickets." Soldier Field has been "outfitted with HD televisions, but Phillips said no definitive plans are in the works when asked if the team is seeking to upgrade the smallish video boards in the stadium or make other upgrades" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/29). This marks the ninth price increase in 10 years "since the opening of new Soldier Field" in '03 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/29). In Illinois, Mike Imrem writes professional sports "is a supply-and-demand business, so normally I don’t address the disease of teams gouging consumers," but this "particular instance qualifies as insane." Imrem: "Actually it has to be viewed as a race between the Bears and Bears fans to determine who is more insane. Are the Bears for demanding that customers pay more despite a precarious economy, last season’s .500 finish and widespread public dissatisfaction over the way the franchise is run? Or are Bears fans for blindly anteing up year after year and decade after decade, heading toward century after century?" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/29).
TITANS ALSO RAISING SOME TICKETS: In Nashville, Jim Wyatt reported the Titans are “raising ticket prices by $6 in the lower bowl at LP Field, but prices in the upper deck will remain unchanged” for the ’12 season. It is the first price increase “in three years, and the Titans expect their average season ticket price to remain among the lowest in the NFL.” Overall, tickets will “range from $45 to $91 per game.” Prices on “club-section seats also will remain unchanged” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/25).
EPL club Aston Villa announced that it lost $86.1M (all figures U.S.) in the year from June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011, which is a "record loss" since Randy Lerner bought the club in '06, according to David Conn of the GUARDIAN. Under Lerner's ownership, the team's losses "have deepened every year." Lerner himself "continues to fund the club, via an ultimate holding company," called Reform Acquisitions, and Aston Villa said that Lerner has "invested a further" $39.9M into the club. Documents indicate that the total Lerner has invested in return for shares is now $212M. He has "also put money in as loans, but Villa did not release full figures, only the headlines of their financial results, so the total Lerner has invested is not yet known." However, the club "pointed to a slight increase in the club's annual income to a record" $146.6M (GUARDIAN, 2/29). In London, Peter Lansley notes the deficit of $86.1M -- up from $59.9M-- "explains the urgency with which Villa have moved to address their financial plight." With "average crowds dropping, the team facing their lowest league finish" since '06 and F Darren Bent "ruled out for the rest of the season, Villa are countenancing a new and harsh reality" (LONDON TIMES, 2/29).
RISING PROFITS: The BBC reported EPL club Arsenal has seen a "huge rise in profits" to $78.9M following the sale of several key players. The profit from May-November '11 compares with a loss of $9.7M for the same period in '10. Some $66.3M of the club's profits "came from player trading." The figures "saw Arsenal's cash reserves rise" to $183.6M, up from $176M. Turnover from soccer rose to $180.9M from $155.6M (BBC.co.uk, 2/27). In London, Rory Smith noted Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis was "quick to warn that, contrary to speculation, not all of that money is theoretically available to be spent on players," as much of it is "earmarked for wages, running costs and a 'rainy day' fund designed to improve a cushion should Arsenal miss out on the Champions League" (LONDON TIMES, 2/28).
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at his team's Spring Training facility yesterday, and was "a bit more positive about the entire picture" for the franchise compared to last season, according to Tom Korun of WFTS-ABC. This year, the Rays are "increasing payroll from $41-million to the neighborhood of $65-million." Sternberg said, "It shows the faith we have in this area." He conceded that the team is "still sustaining losses." And he added that has "to end." Sternberg indicated that despite MLB officials "growing restless with the lack of progress for a new Rays stadium, there will be no ultimatums or threats forthcoming." He said, "I believe brighter, more sensible minds will prevail" (ABCACTIONNEWS.com, 2/28). Sternberg said of keeping his team in the Tampa Bay area, "If I didn't think it would work, we wouldn't be spending what we're spending here to win. I think the winning and the continued winning and the continued success gives us the best chance to ultimately put us in a position to have this sustainable." In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Sternberg has "resigned himself to a stadium resolution taking years, but, locked into a lease at Tropicana Field through 2027, warns 'this can't go on' for decades" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/29). The AP's Fred Goodall noted Sternberg is "encouraged that there has been dialogue among region politicians and business leaders about the need for a new stadium." But Sternberg added, "I also think it's going slower than it can be." Meanwhile, Sternberg said, "Everybody knows the challenges in the division. ... If I was spending three-X what we are now, I would tell you I have an expectation to make the playoffs. But to be in the American League East and spend 60 some odd million, which is still a 50 percent bump from last year, I have no right ... to expect we'll make the playoffs. I do expect we're going to win a lot of baseball games." Sternberg: "We're competing without the revenue. That is not an endless cycle" (AP, 2/28).
Moores said he is ready to move
on and "sit in the cheap seats"
Padres outgoing Chair John Moores said he has "no clue" as to why the team's sale to Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad has yet to be approved by MLB, according to Nick Canepa of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Moores for more than a month "has been ready for closure on the sale of his 51-percent share of the team," and he was "known to be pretty much ticked off in January when his fellow owners shelved what was thought to be an 'imminent' deal to pass full ownership" to Moorad. Moores said of the hold-up, "You got me, bud. You probably know more about what’s going on than I do. There are lots of things I understand; this is not one of them. At some point, it has to be dealt with, but it’s nothing I have control over. I don’t understand all the issues and don’t know the time line." He added, “I don’t know what people are thinking. I don’t even know a lot of the owners. I don’t know how the vote will go. I do know [MLB Commissioner Bud] Selig likes unanimous votes.” Canepa notes there are "all kinds of storylines here, one being that a block of owners doesn't want Moorad in total control of a team." Reports have also indicated that MLB "doesn’t want to approve the Padres’ new, all-important TV deal with Fox until ownership is resolved." But Canepa writes of MLB, "It wants the ownership thing finished so the lucrative TV package can get done, but it won’t OK the ownership deal because it fears Moorad will use TV dough to pay off his investors instead of shoving it back into the team." Moores said of TV money being passed on to investors, "I can only speculate, but I don’t think that would be accepted by Major League Baseball. I don’t think that’s (the TV deal’s) an issue. If it is an issue, I don’t think it’s keeping the deal from getting done." However, he said, "I’m ready to move on. After 17 years, I’m ready to close the door. I’m ready to sit in the cheap seats" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/29).
In DC, Adam Kilgore noted the Nationals have "limited group sales for the May 4-6 series at Nationals Park against the Phillies, an extension of their Take Back the Park campaign" that allows only people with DC, Maryland or Virginia addresses to buy single-game tickets "until a yet-to-be-specified date." Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said, "If we lock a few Phillies fans out, so be it. They can be angry all they want." The lack of group sales has "upset some Phillies fans, particularly tour operators who generated income by packaging bus trips with tickets to Nationals games." Feffer said that those operators "can buy as many tickets as they want -- at a non-discount rate -- once single-game tickets go on sale at the conclusion of the Take Back the Park promotion." Feffer: "We’re going to make it a little more difficult for the Phillies fans. I want to be consistent with that" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/28). HEY NINETEEN: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes the Pirates' 19 consecutive losing seasons have "left many fans bitter." The Pirates, while a "private business, are a long-standing and once often successful Pittsburgh institution and, at times, a civic treasure." Fans see their team, the one they "rooted for most of their lives, taken from them and they are angry." That is "all quite understandable." Pirates President Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington "have been with the team" since '07, and they are "not responsible for all 19 years of losing." They inherited "a terrible situation," but they have "not made it much better, which is why they are open for criticism" (POST-GAZETTE.com, 2/29).
ALL AROUND THE WORLD: In Jacksonville, David Bauerlein wrote business leaders “are keen" on using Jaguars Owner Shahid Kahn’s global connections "to gain more attention and jobs from international firms.” Khan’s ideas include “flying a Northeast Florida delegation to London if the Jaguars can play a game in England.” He plans to “host international executives in Jacksonville for football games so they can see the city firsthand.” JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot, whose agency is the regional economic development division of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, said that city officials “are on board with Khan’s goals.” Mallot: “That is a great help because we constantly fight the battle of where is Jacksonville or who is Jacksonville when we’re in other countries, whether it’s Europe or Asia" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/26).
BLITZ PACKAGE: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reported the NFL Panthers have “launched a sales blitz offering 48 months of no-interest payments on seat licenses ranging from $2,000 to $7,500 each.” The one-time fee is “required before fans can buy season tickets.” About 2,100 PSLs are available (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/24 issue).