The Hornets's ticket sales staff “had their hands full” when they returned to the team's offices Wednesday night following the announcement that the team had won the first overall pick in the June 28 draft, according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Hornets Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service Bill Bailey said, “The phones have been brisk ever since. It happened immediately.” The team “could not offer exact sales figures because sales are on-going.” Bailey said, "We shut the phones down about 11 o'clock (Wednesday night), and we came into sporadic e-mails and voice mails waiting for us (Thursday) and at 8:30, the phones were ringing again.” He added, "I've been trying to figure out how to describe (the number of calls) and maybe percentage is the best. I'm looking at the inbound call reports and things like that. And we were up 500 percent in inbound calls, which is awesome for us.” Bailey said, “Most who are calling at this point are getting information about season tickets” (NOLA.com, 5/31). The AP reported the Hornets’ new union with the Saints “is taking shape in the area of ticket promotions.” Saints season-ticket holders “are being offered a chance to select season seats for Hornets games before they are offered to the general public.” The NFL club made the announcement Thursday “in an email to its approximately 70,000 season ticket holders” (AP, 5/31).
AWAITING APPROVAL: In New Orleans, Smith cites a source as saying that the NBA BOG “is poised to formally approve the sale” of the Hornets to Tom Benson “shortly after the Louisiana legislature ratifies the state's capital outlay bill which is expected to include monies for improvements to New Orleans Arena.” Approval of the capital outlay bill “is the last impediment before the NBA endorses Benson's purchase.” By law, the legislature “must conclude its business for this session by 6 p.m. Monday.” The NBA “would likely then convene a conference call of its governors, possibly on Tuesday, to approve the Hornets' sale” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 6/1).
The Bobcats are offering a season-ticket plan where fans can “buy next season’s games and get the 2013-14 season for free,” according to Rick Bonnell of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The team has made a "couple hundred of upper-level seats at Time Warner Cable Arena available with this offer." The cost is $752.50 for next season, which "works out to $17.50 per game” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/1). BUSINESSINSIDER.com's Nicholas Schwartz noted even if a fan only went to "marquee games against the top four teams in each conference, over the course of two years you would be paying" less than $30 per game. Schwartz: "For some perspective, fans have to put down a $100 deposit just to get on the waiting list for Los Angeles Lakers season tickets, with no guarantee of actually getting them" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 5/31). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “This is a Jos. A. Bank suit deal. I’ve never heard of this in pro sports.” Kornheiser asked, “How do they pay the salaries of their players if they have no income coming in the door?” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “I don’t get it. If you get Anthony Davis, you get the hope of people rushing to buy tickets, you get sponsorship deals, your media rights are worth more.” Wilbon said of giving free tickets, “Can’t be good. Never heard of it” (“PTI,” ESPN, 5/31).
DC United Owner Will Chang said that he "would retain a ‘significant part’ of the MLS club if, as expected, a deal with new backers is finalized this summer,” according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. Chang said, “I love this team, I’m not getting out and I will continue to own a significant part of this team.” Chang "declined to discuss the negotiations or possible investors," but sources said that 76ers investor Erick Thohir is "close to purchasing the majority share" of the MLS club. The sources added that a "second new investor, an American with sports connections, is also planning to invest in the club." Goff noted the identity of the second investor "couldn’t be ascertained.” Chang said, “I don’t have an agreement. We’re talking to several parties, I am getting a lot of interest, and that’s where we are. I don’t have anything concrete right now.” Goff noted Chang “has been United’s lone investor for three years after buying out Bay Area partner Victor MacFarlane and, later, other backers.” Chang said that additional investment is needed “to help us get a stadium” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/31).
The White Sox currently have the best record in the AL Central, but the team is "selling barely half its 40,615 seats and attendance is running behind last year's pace," when the team had a sub-.500 record, according to David Roeder of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The club's average attendance ranks 27th among the 30 MLB teams. The Cubs, currently in last place in the NL Central standings, are "running about even with their ticket sales from a year ago and selling 90 percent of their seats." The White Sox "must win to have a chance of drawing a full house, while the Cubs prosper from a quaint landmark in an attractive, thriving neighborhood." The problem is that "fans can have a delayed reaction to a winner." As in years past, the club is "trying to boost patronage with special events and giveaways." White Sox Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brooks Boyer said that the club is "using 'dynamic pricing' of tickets to spur interest." Roeder notes when it "comes to attendance, winning might not be everything." Surrounding U.S. Cellular Field are "parking lots, railroad tracks, industry, an expressway and minority neighborhoods that some fans equate with high crime." Without a "high concentration of wealth, the neighborhood is thought to be unable to support the year-round operation of bars and stores" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/1).
ACROSS TOWN: Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein appeared on Bloomberg TV’s “Sportfolio” Wednesday, with host Rick Horrow noting one of the "most fascinating sports business stories of 2012" is the "the front office reboot” of the Cubs. Epstein said he left the Red Sox because “I knew I probably didn’t want to be in one place forever, it's just the way I’m wired.” He noted he is trying to create an "environment where there’s a lot of discourse, a lot of dissent, almost like a law school classroom, to question each other.” Epstein: "We need to have patience and discipline and build something that can last." Epstein said of changing the culture with the Cubs, “Culture change, to me, doesn’t involve a lot of data. It involves values and properly communicating them. I think you have to set out a vision for what you want to stand for” (“Sportfolio,” Bloomberg TV, 5/30).
The NFL Panthers announced Thursday they will leave town when the Democratic National Convention comes to Charlotte Sept. 3-6 and “plan to practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., prior to their regular-season opener at Tampa Bay on Sept. 9,” according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. President Barack Obama is scheduled to give his acceptance speech the evening of Sept. 6 at Bank of America Stadium.That means "extra scrutiny of vehicles and people entering the perimeter, and likely delays.” If the Panthers stayed in Charlotte, “players, coaches and team officials would be subjected to an array of security checks any time they entered or left the stadium or the adjacent practice fields, which are likely to be within the security perimeter.” Panthers GM Marty Hurney said that the team “could have stayed in Charlotte, but team officials thought it would be easier to clear out of the facility.” He indicated the Panthers “would be at IMG for most of the week before playing the Bucs” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/1).
76ers CEO Adam Aron said on his Twitter account Thursday, "Sixers fans, a few days after season end, I wanted to reach out and THANK YOU once more for your embracing new owners and team this year. Another thank you to all our sixers players this year. Some incredible highs, and lows, in a roller coaster but fun exciting season." He continued, "So much progress was made this year. Winning record in regular season. 'One and done' in the playoffs No More! Sixers fanbase growing. … NBA rules do not allow me to talk about our interest in players by name, but work well underway to think about draft, trades, free agency. Far from easy in NBA to land right free agent or consummate great trade. It will be interesting to see how much progress is made offseason" (PHILLY.com, 6/1).
BIG PLANS: In Phoenix, Bob McManaman reports Coyotes GM Don Maloney plans to sit down next week with prospective team Owner Greg Jamison "to discuss the team's budget for next season, its future operating plans, and to map out a strategy for re-signing key players and coaches." Jamison and Glendale city officials "are in the midst of finalizing paperwork on a new building management agreement." Jamison has told NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that once that agreement is in place he will "ramp up the remainder of his equity funding and be ready to close on the purchase of the team" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/1).
OUT OF THE WOODS: On Long Island, Anthony DeStefano notes the legal battle between the Mets ownership group and the trustee in the Bernard Madoff case "ended Thursday when a Manhattan federal judge signed off on a settlement that had been hammered out in March on the eve of the trial." Under the terms of the settlement approved by Judge Jed Rakoff, trustee Irving Picard "agreed to drop" his $303M lawsuit against Mets Owner Fred Wilpon, team President Saul Katz and their partners in Sterling Equities "in exchange for their paying back" $162M in profits received though Madoff's Ponzi scheme (NEWSDAY, 6/1).
LEAGUE OF NATIONS: In Dallas, Jeff Mosier reported a Japanese youth baseball team this summer "will get a close look" at the MLB Rangers as they "will fly to the U.S., attend a Rangers game and tour the field and dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington." The trip is part of the '12 Japan-America Grassroots Summit. The cultural exchange event "alternates each year between the two countries and is being held in North Texas for the first time." The team's trip is funded by the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, P Yu Darvish and Japanese mobile gaming company gloops. The Rangers also announced Tuesday that the summit will open Aug. 28 with "Japan America Friendship Night" at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. The event "runs through Sept. 3" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/30).