New Blues Owner Tom Stillman in a "heartfelt and passionate delivery" during his introductory press conference Thursday stressed that each member of the team's new ownership group is "seeking a title more meaningful than owner," according to Jeremy Rutherford of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Stillman said, "We are going to make sure that we are respectful of that legacy and that we enhance our connections to it, to the alumni and to Blues' history. We see ourselves more as stewards of the Blues than owners." He added, "We aim to put the Blues on solid financial footing. We need to make the franchise stable and sustainable." Stillman noted that Thursday was a day he "couldn't envision materializing in his 'wildest dreams.'" As the eighth owner of the franchise, Stillman's group is "paying an estimated $130 million for the Blues, the Peoria Rivermen farm club, the lease on Scottrade Center and a significant interest in the neighboring Peabody Opera House." In searching for investors in his ownership group, Stillman "attracted a host of area business leaders." Blues investor and former Stifel Nicolaus President Scott McCuaig said, "I think it was Tom's commitment to going out to the community, asking for business people to get involved." (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/11). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts noted Blues investor David Steward represents the "second significant investment in an NHL team by an African-American, although he is not expected to take an active role in the Blues' operations." The NHL's other African-American investor is Capitals Vice Chair Sheila Johnson (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/10).
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT: In St. Louis, Dan O'Neill writes it would "be an embellishment to say [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman was a driving force for Tom Stillman in negotiations," but Bettman "recognized hockey passion when he saw it, and he saw it in Stillman." Bettman said Thursday, "It was passion, perseverance and patience. This was not a simple, easy process. And Tom hung in there, more than hung in there. He was committed to getting it done. The fact that we're here today speaks volumes about what he can accomplish in difficult standards." O'Neill writes, "Maybe Stillman and his local group would not have prevailed without the support, non-partisan as it must be, of the league's commish. The city and its Blues had a friend in Bettman." Stillman said Thursday, "Gary has just been great to us, great to me. I think he's very clearly recognized the importance of local ownership and, as of several months ago, he really took on our cause and really helped to make it happen." O'Neill writes there is a "provincial flavor to the Blues that Bettman recognizes, a flavor best served by local ownership." Bettman said, "I don't think anybody should be concerned about this franchise's stability going forward because of the people that now own it" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/11). Bettman said, "We know the future is extraordinarily bright. The balance sheet looks much, much better, much, much stronger" (AP, 5/10).
The Orioles are tied for first place in the AL East heading into the weekend and if there "ever was a time for Orioles fans to get excited again, this should be it," according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. After 14 straight losing seasons, the Orioles "no longer merit the benefit of the doubt." But for Monday night's home game against the Rangers, the crowd "was only 11,938." The crowd on Tuesday, a night that "began with a threat of rain and ended with four runs by the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, was 11,263." Rosenthal noted it is "difficult to remember now, but the Orioles led the AL in attendance for four straight seasons" from '95-98. Since then, the team has "effectively lost a generation." Their average attendance "dropped from 38,686 in 2001 to 21,395 in 2010 before rebounding slightly last season." Orioles CF Adam Jones said, "You can't just give 'em a little taste of it. You've got to show 'em it's not a fluke." Rosenthal: "Do that, and the fans will come rushing back." When the Ravens arrived in '96, they "became one of the best-run franchises in the NFL and eclipsed the Orioles in popularity." The Nationals moved to DC in '05 and "also chipped away at the Baltimore fan base." The Orioles, when they "opposed the relocation of a team to DC, contended that almost a quarter of their fans came from Washington and northern Virginia." Whether that was "true or not, the excuse goes only so far. [Owner Peter] Angelos' shoddy leadership damaged the franchise far more than the Nats ever could" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/9).
ROOTING FOR THE HOME TEAM: Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said of the team's "Take Back the Park" campaign, initiated for last weekend's series against the Phillies, "To me, it couldn’t have gone any better. I had a strong feeling our fans would show up this weekend, and as I looked at the crowd, I was proud to be a Washingtonian. Our fans understood how important these games were, and our fans rose to the challenge. ... I see this as a preview of what [is] to come. It doesn’t end this weekend; this was just the beginning." Feffer added, "Over 106,000 showed up for the weekend. Of those 106,000, the story before had always been that there were more Phillies fans than Nats fans. I thought our fans took back the park. The overwhelming majority of the fans all three nights made a statement that was certainly strong" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/8).
The Redskins kicked off their 80th anniversary campaign Thursday by “introducing their new throwback jerseys, paying tribute to their 1937 D.C. debut with ‘a rich, darker color palate,’ a patch from the early years, and a helmet that has ‘a unique, leather-like finish,’” according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The uniforms will be “worn at two as-yet undisclosed home games.” The season-long campaign will feature “an 80th anniversary bus that will tour D.C., Maryland and Virginia; a poll (involving fans and dignitaries) to add 10 names to the list of 70 greatest Redskins; an 80th anniversary gala; and special anniversary programming” on WRC-NBC and Comcast SportsNet. Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder said, “It’s really about the fans, it’s about the alumni, and it’s about the great tradition of the Redskins. It’s gonna be a special year for us.” Steinberg notes the team also has “the new practice bubble to admire.” Redskins GM Bruce Allen said that the roof of the practice facility “was 12 feet higher than the bottom of the Dallas Cowboys’ scoreboard.” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said, “You can kick off, you can punt, you can do anything you’d want to do. To have a facility like this is something you need, and something we’re looking forward to” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11). Allen said Thursday that “team management is looking for ways to improve the Ashburn, VA., headquarters, and the completion of a practice bubble is only the first step of that project.” In DC, Mike Jones noted the new facility “houses a 120-yard field and has a ceiling high enough for punters and kickers to kick the ball without problems.” Allen said that “the upgrades to the entire complex remain incomplete, however.” Jones noted the team “has explored options of moving headquarters" to either Prince George’s County in Maryland or DC, but just "how realistic those prospects are remain unclear” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/10).
Five A's supporters took out a full-page ad in Tuesday's Oakland Tribune in which they wrote an open letter to A's investor John Fisher asking him to either keep the team in Oakland or sell the club. The letter reads, "After five years of failed efforts to move the A’s out of Oakland, the time has come for you to sit down with Oakland and Alameda County officials to negotiate to keep the team in a world-class ballpark in Oakland. If you won’t do this, then, as long-time Oakland A’s fans, we’d ask that you please sell this once proud franchise to someone who will own and operate it as both a successful team and as a civic asset for our community. ... Your very public campaign to leave Oakland has taken a serious toll on the team’s ability to draw fans. Annual attendance has dropped 25% (from 1.9 to 1.4 million) in the five years since your management team proclaimed, 'it’s out of the question' that the A’s will remain in Oakland." The letter asks that Fisher adhere to "three basic principles" of commitment: to actively work with the effort to build a new ballpark in Oakland, to win by investing in the team and to show respect to the people of Oakland and the East Bay. The letter is signed by Oakland Jobs & Housing Coalition President Greg McConnell, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Joseph Haraburda, Green Stampede fan club President Jorge Leon, BaseballOakland.com Founder Mike Davie, and A's season-ticket holder Sara Somers (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/8). CSNBayArea.com’s Ann Killion said fans have been "driven away" by Owner Lew Wolff and Fisher. Killion: "You have to look at the big picture. They have been told, ‘We don’t want to play for you, we don’t care about you our fans, we would like to get the hell out of here, and if you get attached to our players, they’re going to be gone." KGMZ-FM’s Dan Dibley said, “It’s hard to support an ownership group that’s blatantly told you, ‘We want to leave and there’s no way we’re staying.’” He said it is not “ancient history that the community of Oakland and the greater East Bay communities supported this club” but “you just need to give the fans a reason to go” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/10).
The NHL Kings have built up a passionate fan base in L.A. thanks in part to its “under-the-radar Hollywood Advisory Board,” according to Mike Barnes of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The group was “formed four years ago” by Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille. Members include producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jason Reitman, CAA Managing Partner David O’Connor, Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice Chair Jeff Blake and “South Park” Supervising Producer Frank Agnone. They meet “for a casual dinner before games two or three times a season” during which Kings execs “present marketing ideas, in-game footage, music and more for feedback.” Robitaille said of the board, “They’ve helped us build something special.” He added that the Kings “would not have changed their uniforms (eliminating purple, going full time with an ‘LA’ logo) for this season without consulting them.” Barnes notes it was Bruckheimer who “suggested bringing a cameraman onto the ice for shootouts,” and Reitman’s idea “to videotape player profiles so fans get to know the ‘guys behind the helmets.’” Agnone is behind scoreboard videos that feature “South Park” character Eric Cartman “mocking the opponent and exhorting fans to yell, ‘Go Kings Go!’” The Comedy Central show has “created about 40 spots since 1999 and receives six season tickets in a barter deal” (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/18 issue).
One week into his new job, Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said that he is "still in assessment mode, for the most part," according to J.P Hoornstra of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. But some "significant assessments have already taken place." The team's "most pressing needs are obvious," as Vice Chair Jeff Ingram, Senior VP/Public Affairs Howard Sunkin and CFO Peter Wilhelm "have all resigned since the beginning of the month." Kasten also wants to hire a PR Dir "soon." Kasten said of the timetable for hiring a PR Dir, "As soon as we can -- but it's going to take a while. It's not going to happen today or tomorrow. It's going to take weeks. Hopefully not months." The first enhancements Kasten wants to make at Dodger Stadium "are also neither sexy nor obvious: Power, water and information systems." He said, "We're in need of major upgrades there." Orioles VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith "visited Dodger Stadium on Tuesday," though Kasten "wouldn't divulge what they discussed during her visit." However, he indicated that the meeting "was the first of many." Kasten: "I'm going to be meeting with other people all along the next few weeks and months to try to figure out a plan." Meanwhile, Kasten said that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and "everyone else in the department...are safe." He said of Colletti, "I think he's doing a fine job. I'm impressed with everyone I've met but it's still early. It's May" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/11).