NBA Commissioner David Stern confirmed that Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen "is not looking to sell the team," according to Jason Quick of the Portland OREGONIAN. Stern: "To the contrary. [We] know all the investment bankers, all the prospective purchasers, because many of them come through us. And I have been definitively told by Paul 'Do not send any to us.'" Stern estimated that "half" of the NBA's 30 teams "have been approached by prospective buyers." Stern said, "We are in a very strong market." He added, however, that none of the NBA teams are "openly" for sale. Stern said that Allen "today is as engaged and competitive as he has seen him in his 23 years as an owner." Stern: "Anyone who knows Paul knows he is a competitor. And I see that more so now than ever before." Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said that he "wouldn't discount the notion" people would want to buy the team. Miller: "It wouldn't surprise me if there were people interested in buying a small-market team or push Paul to sell. But he has made it clear he is not selling." He added, "Paul doesn't have any desire right now to sell the team. And the other thing is -- it's not like he is somebody who needs the money. So look, Paul is as committed today as he has ever been to owning the Trail Blazers and in trying to bring a winning team here to Portland." Stern said, "I know for a fact that no teams are currently for sale. My guess is that Paul will own this asset for many years to come" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/16).
BIG EASY: In New Orleans, John Reid writes Hornets Owner Tom Benson yesterday "cleared another step toward his final approval" as team owner when the FTC cleared his $338M purchase of the franchise from the NBA. Reid notes approval by the NBA BOG is the "final hurdle Benson must clear before he assumes ownership of the Hornets." That is "expected to happen once a new lease" with the state of Louisiana is finalized (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/16).
Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt yesterday announced several initiatives to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary in K.C. As part of the campaign, all season-ticket holders will receive a personalized Chiefs Nike jersey with a Season Ticket Holder patch. The team also announced it will introduce new ticketing technology. All season-ticket holders will receive a membership card for each seat on their account and the cards will serve as their game tickets for all Chiefs home games. Benefits of using the card include a 15% discount on merchandise and discounts on select concession stand items. In addition, ticket forwarding and printing will be complimentary, in an effort to make the transfer of tickets easier and more cost effective (Chiefs). Hunt yesterday said, “We really wanted to celebrate our history in Kansas City as the Chiefs. The celebration today is about 50 years in Kansas City. It’s not about the team or the league. It’s about Kansas City.” In K.C., Randy Covitz notes 10 original season-ticket holders from ‘63, who “have maintained their seats for 50 years, attended Tuesday’s announcement.” Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said that it is “incumbent on the organization [to] make sure the current players understand the rich tradition of the franchise.” The club last weekend “brought in several of its Hall of Famers to have lunch with the players attending the rookie minicamp just for that purpose” (K.C. STAR, 5/16). Meanwhile, Hunt said in regards to concussions in football that he “believes the issue is being handled appropriately by the NFL.” Hunt: "We're lucky to have Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner), who from day one when he came in, made player health and safety the number one priority. He has pushed rule changes to try and protect the players" (KSHB.com, 5/15).
The White Sox' announced attendance at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night's game against the Tigers was 23,358, and that is "a problem," according to Jon Greenberg of ESPN CHICAGO. That figure also marked the White Sox' "fourth-best gate in 19 home games" this season to date. The only three better "came in the opening series of the season." Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brooks Boyer said, "You have to ask yourself, is price the biggest factor? I don't think price is the biggest factor on a value Monday. ... Maybe we need to do more to get the trust of our fans." Boyer "wouldn't reveal season ticket numbers, but admitted they are their lowest since the 2005 season." He thinks that the drop "has as much to do with fans reticence as it does with the team's performance, which hasn't been good." Boyer said, "Baseball is a commitment of time. The other thing is, how easily can you get rid of tickets you're not using?" Boyer said that the White Sox "planned for a slow start after a drop in season ticket renewals, even as they cut season ticket prices by nearly 29 percent." He added, "The biggest telltale sign will be in June when school is out. We'll see how the team is performing and see what walk-ups look like." Meanwhile, the Cubs' "biggest problem is informing fans that higher-priced seats are still available" for this weekend's White Sox-Cubs BP Crosstown Cup series. Cubs VP/Ticket Sales & Service Colin Faulkner said the team is battling the perception that tickets are "sold out." He added, "It's easy to take a quick look at the secondary market and see the bulk of tickets are selling above face value" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 5/15).
The Devils have “launched an online campaign to try to convince fans not to sell their tickets to their Rangers counterparts,” according to Justin Terranova of the N.Y. POST. The team's plan “concentrates on stopping Rangers fans from infiltrating" the arena by purchasing tickets on the secondary market. The Devils' statement on their website reads in part, “If you own seats and have to sell for any of the home games because of conflicts, do NOT list your seats on the secondary market. Blogs such as Fire and Ice, In Lou We Trust, and HFBoards provide you with outlets to speak directly with other Devils fans who are looking for seats.” The statement also urges Devils fans to call the Devils Fan Experience Team line, and "they will help you sell your seats you can’t use to other Devils fans.” Terranova noted the “#noblue” campaign is “trending on Twitter and drawing some support and some taunts from Rangers fans” (NYPOST.com, 5/15).
GETTING A LIFT: In N.Y., Ken Belson noted the Devils "may be on shaky ice financially, but they are getting a lift from their deep playoff run." The extra income "should give the team a lift in the coming months as it continues to restructure its debt and search for investors" to buy the 47% stake in the team controlled by Devils co-Owner Michael Gilfillan. Fans who attend playoff games "don’t necessarily spend more than fans during the regular season." But the team "makes more from tickets, concessions and merchandise sales because Prudential Center in Newark almost always sells out for playoff games" (NYTIMES.com, 5/10).
In Pittsburgh, Gene Collier notes the Penguins' local ratings on Root Sports Pittsburgh during the regular season "amplified the region's enduring embrace" of the team, as the 8.03 rating was "not only higher this season than those for any American NHL team, but for any NBA team as well." Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse said, "It shows what we've become in Pittsburgh." Collier notes the rating is "validation of what the current Penguins administration has accomplished over the past five-plus years." Morehouse: "It validates a lot of things we've been talking about; we've grown our base, broadened our base. A lot of stuff we've done in the community has had an impact. Our focus on youth hockey has had an impact, and I think our on-ice talent and our ownership's commitment of trying to win has had an impact" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/16).
RETURN OF THE KINGS: FS ARIZONA's Craig Morgan noted the Kings are "experiencing the love" in practical terms. Kings COO Chris McGowan said, "Our TV ratings have doubled, our web traffic is close to doubling, we've already sold 1,500 new season tickets for next year and renewals are well into the 90th percentile." The team "sold out all but two games" this season. McGowan added, "When [GM Dean Lombardi] took over and started that rebuilding process, we saw some dipping in terms of interest. We were still very respectable from an attendance standpoint, where we would sell out 18 to 20 games a year and average between 16,500 and 17,000, but now we're getting a lot more attention." McGowan: "Winning has played a big role, but [a] lot of that is also due to a dedicated focus on building our season-ticket base and having the right staff in position to take advantage of our success" (FOXSPORTSARIZONA.com, 5/14).
PROCEED WITH CAUTION: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes the Coyotes and the City of Glendale both “sound encouraged by the progress made” in former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison's attempt to purchase the team. When the sale takes shape, Coyotes fans “finally can be judged accurately as a hockey market. The condemnation from outside was never fair. It was hard to get fans to commit when the potential of being jilted was always there.” Phoenix “can be a hockey town,” and with “proper ownership and more money to spend, it can be a gifted team” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/16). In N.Y., Klein & Hackel noted the sale "could be scuttled by the same threat of legal challenges that sank earlier deals." Goldwater Institute VP/Litigation Clint Bolick, whose taxpayer watchdog group brought pressure sufficient to collapse a previous sale effort, said, "The scrutiny would be on whether the city is vastly overpaying for the arena management. That can only be determined when we see the actual figures" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13). An ARIZONA REPUBLIC op-ed piece stated, "The Phoenix Coyotes story is critical to Glendale residents and we shouldn't be handing out a rose to Jamison just yet. Let's get to know him and his investors. Better yet, let's get to know exactly what any proposed lease agreement means for the taxpayers" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/14).
Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert said yesterday that he plans to approach the NBA about “bringing its annual All-Star Game back to Cleveland.” Gilbert: “That is something definitely that we are interested in.” The AP's Tom Withers noted Gilbert's Horseshoe Casino Cleveland "opened Monday night to rave reviews.” Its arrival along with a new convention center, medical mart and hotels has “re-energized the city's downtown.” Gilbert believes that an entertainment district “centered around the casino and Quicken Loans Arena could be enough to entice the NBA to consider Cleveland for a future NBA All-Star weekend” (AP, 5/15).
DODGE BALL: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck writes coming off the heels of an interview with the L.A. Times’ T.J. Simers, the “disturbing thing is less that” new Dodgers ownership “didn’t understand the deep-rooted animosity in ‘that community’ toward [former Owner] Frank McCourt than that they still don’t get it.” Guggenheim Baseball Management execs are “off to an awful start,” in part because they “act like they’re hiding something, and all that’s going to do is make people nervous and suspicious.” Dilbeck adds, “Certainly there is an element of fans so tired of the McCourt fiasco, they just want to turn the corner; but new ownership best not count on that. The vast majority feels scarred and is angry McCourt remains.” Dilbeck: “It’s not too late for Guggenheim to come clean, get it all out there and ask for a do-over” (L.A. TIMES, 5/16).
TWO-MINUTE WARNING: SI.com’s Peter King wrote, “I think you should watch the machinations between St. Louis and the local government about fixes to the Edward Jones Dome and to the lease closely, and you should watch the Raiders' poor stadium situation in Oakland as well. Though I think the Rams will eventually work things out in St. Louis, it's not a sure thing, and they're nearing the end of their lease” (SI.com, 5/15).
FRIAR PLUCKED? In San Diego, Kevin Acee writes Baseball HOFer Tony Gwynn “met for two hours on Tuesday morning with Thomas Tull, movie mogul and prospective Padres purchaser, at a downtown hotel.” Whether Gwynn is “being wooed as a partner and/or PR man by Tull or anyone else interested in taking the Padres off [Owner] John Moores’ hands, we can only surmise. And hope” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/16).