Entertainer Justin Timberlake, a Memphis native, “has committed to joining” prospective Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera's team of minority partners as the sale of the franchise nears completion, according to sources cited by Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Sources said that Timberlake and Pera have “quickly struck up a friendship.” One source said Timberlake is making "a meaningful investment into the team" and "plans to be active" with the Grizzlies. Stein noted last month it emerged that Pera “already has agreed to terms with five other local partners to purchase up to one-third of the franchise.” Sources said that “the fact that Pera is committed to Memphis...was one of the key factors that triggered Timberlake's desire to get involved.” Sources added that Pera and Timberlake “have bonded over the star's keen interest in technology” (ESPN.com, 9/6). In Memphis, Kyle Veazey reports “Pera representatives have been in Memphis recently on what was called a ‘listening tour’ and an effort to secure local minority owners.” Pera is “believed to have agreed" to a $350M purchase price for the team (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 9/7).
The Mets are "expected to cut their 2012 season loss by two-thirds from last year, to roughly $23 million -- in line with expectations but not enough to support anything but a modest uptick in payroll in 2013," according to sources cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. A source said that the loss "could continue to shrink next year." The source "estimated the red ink may drop" to about $15M. The source said that even with the losses "at that level, cash-strapped owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz appear to have just over $21 million in free cash -- from their profitable SportsNet New York cable operation -- to sink into the club." Kosman noted that would "suggest, unless SNY profits soar, that the expected $8 million decline in 2013’s projected loss would give the Mets just that much more money to add to payroll." The Mets "cut their 2012 payroll" by $50M from last season to about $100M (N.Y. POST, 9/6). ESPN N.Y.'s Adam Rubin noted the Mets received a $240M "equity infusion earlier this year from new minority investors, including political commentator Bill Maher." But that money "was earmarked to pay off debt, including an emergency" $40M loan from Bank of America and $25M loan from MLB. The Mets "have struggled at the gate this season." They are "averaging 29,023 fans per game, 17th in the majors and a decrease of 1,085 per game from 2011." September attendance at Citi Field "is projected to be dismal with the Mets out of the race, so the size of the decrease is expected to grow by season's end." As an indication "of their desperation to get fans in the seats, the Mets are offering free admission to up to three children for every adult ticket purchased during the final month of this season" (ESPNNY.com, 9/6).
HONOR & REMEMBRANCE: On Long Island, Marc Carig notes to mark Tuesday's 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Mets "will continue their long-standing tradition of wearing first responder caps, though only during batting practice and the national anthem." The Mets will "don their regular uniform caps for their game" against the Nationals. The "compromise comes a year after MLB, citing its uniform guidelines, shut down the team's plans to wear first responder caps to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11." This year, the Mets "asked to wear the first responder caps only before the game, a request granted by MLB" (NEWSDAY, 9/7).
The Sabres Friday are concluding a two-day "goodwill tour" in Southern Ontario in which "management, players and alumni will ride across the border together to reconnect with the Sabres' fans in Canada," according to John Vogl of the BUFFALO NEWS. The team estimates 10% of season-ticket holders live in the region, but trips to Canada "have dwindled through the years." The Sabres "haven't held training camp in St. Catharines, Ont., since 2003, and increased border-crossing regulations can make short visits difficult." Sabres President Ted Black said, "Engaging Southern Ontario, the Niagara Frontier is really, really important to us for the future of the Buffalo Sabres. In years past we went there to try and sell tickets. Here, we just want to sell ourselves on enlisting new fans and connecting with the fans that maybe haven't seen us over there physically for a while." Vogl noted Black, C Ville Leino, former Sabres Danny Gare and Jay McKee and broadcaster Harry Neale, among others, are making "several stops in Fort Erie and St. Catharines" during the trip. Black also "reiterated his commitment to getting the Sabres on basic television in Southern Ontario." Vogl noted it has been "more than 15 years since the Sabres were a TV staple north of the border because of the contracts with cable providers MSG and Empire Sports Network" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/6).
WELCOME TO PEGULA-VILLE: The CP's John Wawrow noted the Sabres last week won the rights to build a $123M multi-purpose complex across the street from First Niagara Center, and construction is set to begin in March on a 614,000 square-foot building featuring a "200-room hotel, two ice rinks (including one with an 1,800-seating capacity), retail/restaurant space and parking garage." Sabres Owner Terry Pegula said, "We're excited to bring this thing together. When we get this thing done, hopefully, we'll make Buffalo part of a hockey destination in the U.S. It'll be a magnet and it'll help everybody in the area." Wawrow noted the Sabres "estimate the new facility will annually attract 500,000 visitors." The ice rinks will be open to the public and "double as the team's practice facility." With two more rinks downtown, the team sees this as an "opportunity to lure national and international hockey tournaments" (CP, 9/6).