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Volume 24 No. 159


Dolphins CEO Mike Dee on Thursday said that the team “hasn’t decided if it will take advantage of the NFL’s new sellout policy, which allows teams to declare a sellout with as little as 85 percent of the stadium’s non-premium seats filled to capacity,” according to Ben Volin of the PALM BEACH POST. But Dee “made one thing clear” -- the Dolphins “once again will do what it takes to ensure that no home games will be blacked out in South Florida in 2012.” Dee said that the Dolphins “hope to sell out all eight home games ‘organically,’ but also want to make sure the games are aired in local homes and bars.” The team and its top sponsors last year bought their “own tickets to prevent blackouts in five of eight home games, though for one-third of their face value.” Attendance figures show that the Dolphins were “second-lowest in the NFL in percentage of stadium capacity filled last year, at 81 percent.” Dee declined to say “how many season tickets the Dolphins have sold for 2012 -- it is believed to be in the 30,000s or low 40,000s -- but said the team has sold 6,000 new season tickets since the NFL Draft in late April” (PALM BEACH POST, 7/13). In Miami, Barry Jackson noted Dee “stopped short of saying every game would definitely be on local TV.” Dee said every season "brings a different dynamic" but the team will "work tirelessly" in its marketing efforts to try to make it happen (, 7/12).

MAKING A SPLASH: The PALM BEACH POST's Volin reported the Dolphins are “already well into discussions with the league about a fresh new look for next season.” A league source said that the team and the NFL “have been trading emails for several weeks, with various mock-ups of a new Dolphins logo being designed and tweaked by the two sides.” Dee on Thursday said, “It’s not 100 percent that we’re going to make a change.” But he added that the team “has gotten feedback from the fans and is looking to ‘freshen up’ the logo, which has been in its current form since 1997.” The Dolphins “tweaked the original 1966 logo significantly in 1997 but kept many of the traditional elements.” Dee said that the team is “looking to do the same this time.” The Dolphins have “until November to submit a new logo to the league office for the 2013 season.” Dee: “It’s not going to be like when Tampa Bay changed from orange to pewter gray” (, 7/12).

Colts Owner Jim Irsay is "defending the team's decision to allow home games that don't attract sellout crowds to be blacked out," according to WRTV-ABC. In a letter to season-ticket holders, Irsay said that he "doesn't believe artificially lowering the capacity of Lucas Oil Stadium in order to broadcast games on TV would be a wise move." Irsay: "Our players and coaches need a full stadium. A capacity crowd is a significant competitive factor (home field advantage), as well as a big contributor to a strong game day experience for our fans. Artificially lowering our capacity does not promote a full stadium." Irsay also cited the organization's "obligation to its ticket holders and the need for the team to sell its product for adhering to the blackout" (, 7/12).

WORTH THE RISK? In Indianapolis, Phil Richards noted the Colts' decision to stick with the old blackout policy "had at least one welcome consequence Wednesday in the team's ticket office: It got phones ringing." Colts VP/Ticket Operations & Guest Services Larry Hall said, "There were three times the number of calls this morning as opposed to the last couple days." Richards noted Colts home games "are 97 percent sold out," and the team has "fewer than 2,000 available season tickets with more than a month before its Aug. 12 preseason opener." Hall and Colts COO Pete Ward said that they "fully expect the team to sell out and blackouts to become a nonissue" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/12). However,'s Paul Kuharsky wrote the Colts "are making a big mistake by risking blackouts at Lucas Oil Stadium this season." Games on local TV "are the single best marketing tool a team has" (, 7/11).

Astros Owner Jim Crane touched on several issues, including the team’s on-field struggles this season and its attendance woes in a Q&A with Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE’s. Below is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: Is it frustrating for you to watch all the losses as an owner/fan?
Crane: I’ve never done anything when I’ve lost this much. It’s painful. I’d be lying to tell you that it wasn’t. Sometimes you’re going to get beat. It’s when you beat yourself. I watched one game last week where they made like three blunders in a row, and it’s very painful to watch. I’m not used to losing, so that’s not something we’re going to stomach, hopefully, for a long period of time. Because it’s just not acceptable. ... It’s no fun watching them lose that many games.

Q: What are your goals off the field in the second half?
Crane: I think (the new sign space in left field for the community leaders program) is going to be a nice plus for the city. Starting on July 28, we’ll roll out one sign. We’ve got seven, hopefully eight here soon, on the sponsorships. We’re still working on them. My goal is to finish up all the sponsors and get to work on renovating the city fields. ...We’re preparing for the changes for next year. We’re going to renovate the Diamond Club area. It needs freshening up. Hopefully, if the uniforms get approved, the color schemes change, and inside of the facility, the signage will change to match up. So we’ve got work to do there between now and next year.

Q: You’ve spent most of the first half of the year last in the NL in attendance. Are there things you can do to fix that beyond winning more games?
Crane: It’s not good. But my feeling is that we really hit an inflection point when we were close to .500 (22-23 on May 25). I felt if we could have kept that moving along -- you know we hit that big skid -- we would have done much better in attendance than we’ve done. ...Truly, we’re right where we thought we might be, but we’re going to continue to try to do things to get the fans out. We’ve got some big events coming up.

Q: Is there anything you feel you misjudged about the fan base when you took over?
Crane: Well, other than the name change? We kind of threw that out there, and it hit us in the head, and we got off of that pretty quick. ...The two things that get asked about the most now are the train and the center field (Tal’s Hill). So we’re doing some work on that and seeing if there’s any changes coming there or not (, 7/12).

The Indians Friday are announcing a series of new parking and concession promotions designed to boost attendance for the club, which currently ranks 30th in MLB average home gate. Among the new offers are free parking, rail service or city shuttle service for the Indians' July 20-22 games, and discounted rail and city shuttle service for the remainder of the '12 season. The club also has partnered with concessionaire Delaware North Cos. to offer a new series of combo deals, including a hot dog, large popcorn and soda for $8, and another package of a bratwurst and 12 oz. beer for $8. The moves arrive after club research showed concession pricing and access to Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland from the city's suburbs are impediments to ticket sales. The Indians' home average attendance of 19,256 is more than 1,000 less than any other team, despite a 44-41 record that has the club in second place in the AL Central and in the postseason chase. "Transportation and food have been recurring themes in our conversations with fans," said Indians President Mark Shapiro. "In response to those conversations, our main goal is to provide convenience and value, so that these concerns don't interfere with the ability for our fans to have memorable experiences at Progressive Field."

In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the Nationals have the fourth-biggest attendance increase in MLB, averaging nearly 30,000 fans a game, and "seem likely to finish in the top half of MLB attendance for the first time since 2005.” Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, in an interview on MASN, said, “I’ve said all along, when we got to the point where we deserved the fans to come out -- when we were winning, and winning consistently -- they would be here. It’s proved out. That’s starting to happen. … I only anticipate it’ll get tougher to get tickets as the season goes on, as we get closer and closer to September and hopefully playoffs” (, 7/12).

BUC-ING A TREND: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes, “As someone who has been a frequent critic of [Pirates GM Neal] Huntington, I have no choice but to reconsider my opinion" with the team currently in first place in the NL Central with a 48-37 record. To do otherwise "would be to deny the 2012 season." This is "not to suggest Huntington should be viewed as some baseball genius, but rather that it might be time to stop viewing him as some doddering fool.” Although one "winning season -- out of five -- does not make a man a success, a significant improvement in 2011 and a likely even greater one in 2012 must, at least, peel away some of the layers of failure that have surrounded Huntington” (, 7/13).

MONEY MAKERS: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote under the header, “Are The San Francisco Giants Ready To Step Up To Yankees-Red Sox Territory?” Kawakami asked, "What are the Giants going to do with this new economic and popular might? Can this burgeoning economic powerhouse turn into a perennial baseball powerhouse?” There is no reason to “be so bashful now, not with this fan base, that park and all the cash that is gushing into the coffers.” The rest of this season “could be the first stage of a titanic Dodgers-Giants struggle -- on the field, in free agency, and in the broad marketplace.” That would be “entertaining, it would be expensive, and it's exactly what the Giants wanted” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/12).

REPORT CARD: In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten in a letter to fans declared, “Dodger pride is back.” In his Wednesday letter, Kasten "lists ownership’s claim of early accomplishments -- lowering parking back to $10, making players more accessible to autographs, more aggressively signing international players, and with the new Andre Ethier contract, demonstrating the ‘resources to assure the Dodgers are contenders year in and year out.’” Dilbeck noted it seems like “a lot of back slapping for a group that has been around for less than three months” (, 7/11).

In Phoenix, Lisa Halverstadt reports organizers behind an effort to "refer Glendale's Phoenix Coyotes deal to the ballot delivered their signatures on Thursday, although the city has said that is three days after the deadline." As another "stumbling block for referendum supporters, the group was about 300 signatures short." At the same time, Coyotes fans "formed a political action committee to persuade residents the deal is best for the city in the long run." Glendale officials have said that the city "would review the signatures but is unlikely to support placing the measure on the November ballot." The city review "should be completed by early next week" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/13).

TO MARKET, TO MARKET: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote if the Stars are going to rejoin the Dallas-Ft. Worth market "as real players, they would be wise to take advantage of what could be their best opportunity to be relevant since the mid-'90s." In what may be the "first time since the Mavericks and Stars relocated to the American Airlines Center, the ticket-buying audience may be more enticed to watch hockey than basketball." Engel: "That is if the Stars can finally put a real winner on the ice, and the NHL doesn't shoot itself in the foot in the next couple of months with a labor dispute that could delay the start of the season." Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said, "It does feel a little like 1999 when Tom Hicks took over and got the ball rolling. We have the ball rolling here now" (, 7/11).

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: In Buffalo, Aaron Mansfield notes the Sabres on Thursday "announced plans to honor the team’s legendary French Connection by erecting a bronze statue outside of First Niagara Center." The 10-foot statue of Hockey HOFer Gilbert Perreault and former NHLers Rene Robert and Rick Martin "will be unveiled Oct. 12, the day before the Sabres host Pittsburgh in the season opener." The Sabres also are "creating their own 'Alumni Plaza' with the sculpture as its centerpiece." The plaza will "honor every Sabre." All 401 players "will be put on plaques, which will go in brick columns that support a walkway above the plaza." Sabres fans can also "purchase for $100 and reserve custom plaques to be placed among those of the players" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/13). 

GETTING WILD: The Wild announced that 6,500 fans "attended Thursday's scrimmage, which featured two squads of the team's best prospects." In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes the team gave away 1,000 D Ryan Suter T-shirts, but those "were gone within minutes after bigger-than-expected crowds forced the Wild to open the gates early" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/13).