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Volume 24 No. 114


The Browns yesterday announced a "five-point plan to enhance the game-day experience" at FirstEnergy Stadium, a proposal that includes "improvements to stadium access, cell-phone service, the team stores, the guest experience and pre-game rituals," according to Tom Reed of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Browns President Alec Scheiner said that one of biggest goals is "getting fans into the stadium more quickly." The club will "add 44 security screening stations and 20 turnstiles," which it believes will "enable 4,000 more fans to enter the stadium every 15 minutes as compared with last season." The NFL’s new policy "requiring fans to use transparent bags will help with turnstile traffic flow." The Browns are "mailing clear bags to season-ticket holders." Express lanes for "fans not carrying bags also will be opened." Many of the improvements will "be rolled out for the regular-season opener on Sept. 8, but fans should see a difference in traffic flow into the stadium starting with the first preseason game on Aug. 8 against" the Rams. Another priority has been "enhanced cell-phone service." Scheiner said that a "new Distributed Antenna System tower from Verizon will be installed and the AT&T tower is to be upgraded." He believes "all cell service will benefit." The Browns "aren't sure if they will add Wi-Fi service." The team also announced that they have "hired CSC as their new security service." Meanwhile, fans will "notice a renovated team shop and new kiosks throughout the stadium." There also are "major changes coming to the pre-game presentation." The Browns will "employ a deejay on the field before kickoff and another in a booth during games" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/30). Scheiner said that the organization "interviewed more than 30 people before choosing" Kevin Griffin as its VP/Fan Experience & Marketing in May. Since then, Scheiner and Griffin have been "communicating with the public via phone, Twitter, email and surveys, gathering ideas about how to enhance the experience at the stadium" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/30).

CARRYING THE BANNER: THE MMQB’s Greg Bedard notes the Browns will “follow the same collaborative decision-making process” as CEO Joe Banner used while with the Eagles, but “the buck stops with Banner.” Banner said, “I do have a little more power in the sense that in Philly the head coach worked with me closely but was not a direct report to me, and he is here. In the execution, that’s really not as big a difference as it sounds, but it is a difference.” The difference can be seen “in the way Banner went about filling out the organization: The depth of the challenge in Cleveland became a recruitment tool.” Banner: “Off-the-field business, on-field performance, all of it -- there’s a lot of room for growth.” Bedard notes Banner’s first hire was Scheiner, who is the “point man on renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium.” But Scheiner also has been “at Banner’s side throughout the reshuffling and restocking of the Browns.” Banner “saved his most daring hire for last, when he pulled [GM] Michael Lombardi from the NFL Network studios.” Lombardi was a Browns personnel exec “when Art Modell relocated the franchise to Baltimore, so the mere mention of him as a candidate -- let alone his actual hiring -- stoked criticism from fans and the Cleveland media.” Banner said of the hiring, “I’m not sure trepidation is the right word; it was certainly something I had to think through. But my job is to try to do what I think in the end is what the fans want and what we all want -- to win as many games as we can” (, 7/30).

Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio yesterday announced that all fans "attending any of the 12 Brewers home games in August will receive a $10 voucher for free concessions, merchandise and game tickets at Miller Park," according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Attanasio said, "We wanted to do something meaningful to show our appreciation, and we will strive to provide the best fan experience possible." Vouchers "may be combined and used at any remaining" '13 home game. With attendance "expected to average over 30,000 per game in August, the Brewers expect to distribute more than $3.6 million worth of vouchers." Haudricourt wrote "coincidentally," suspended Brewers LF Ryan Braun is "forfeiting about $3.1 million in pay while suspended." The Brewers are "giving that savings back to their fans, it would appear." Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said, "We thought it was important to do something. It was Mark's concept, and we are implementing it. It's a recognition by the organization that we feel the fans' pain. We all had high expectations for this year which haven't been met, due to a whole range of things." This is the "first in a series of special fan appreciation initiatives they will unveil during the final two months of the season under an umbrella program known as 'Fans First'" (, 7/29). Schlesinger said that the "aim of the promotion is to be completely transparent with fans," and added that the Brewers "will not raise any prices and are allowing fans to combine vouchers that they accumulate throughout the month" (, 7/29).

SHORT-TERM IMPACT: In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen reported, "Most experts believe the Brewers will avoid a major hit to revenue" due to Braun's suspension. Sports business experts believe that, despite Braun's "previous popularity with fans, most people who attend games are there for the overall experience of the Brewers and Miller Park rather than one star player." AHL Milwaukee Admirals President Jon Greenberg, who formerly was a PR exec with the Brewers, said, "You can't blame the Brewers for what is happening with Ryan Braun at the moment. You can blame Ryan Braun." Greenberg added that because Brewers merchandise featuring Braun's name was a "top seller, the team also will sustain short-term losses in retail sales." However, Greenberg and others predict that fans will "start buying merchandise with the names of emerging stars" such as CF Carlos Gomez, SS Jean Segura and C Jonathan Lucroy (, 7/26).

RIPPLE EFFECT:'s Buster Olney wrote Braun was "the guy they had on marketing campaigns, on signage, on season-ticket drives." Now his "usefulness to them in this capacity may well be compromised through the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2020 -- and it's not like the Brewers can easily acquire or develop another player to be the face of their franchise." Braun is, for "better and worse, currently locked in as the centerpiece of their business." An MLB exec said, "It's a killer for them. Forget the baseball -- it hurts them in a lot of ways" (, 7/29).'s Kevin Nielsen reported Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke in a meeting with the Toronto Star’s editorial board on Friday "apologized to" former Raptors President Bryan Colangelo. Leiweke said, "I mean no ill will to Bryan, he did a good job here and I’ve been unduly harsh on him. ... Bryan was a good man and he did the best he could and he did many good things here and it was time to make a change. That’s all. ... He’s going to go on and do great things in the NBA again. It got too personal and it shouldn’t" (, 7/29).

LAP OF LUXURY: In Oklahoma City, Anthony Slater reported Thunder management "isn't opposed to dipping into" the NBA luxury tax, but they are "just concerned about avoiding it this year." Starting next season and "for the foreseeable future, with the escalating contracts of its star players," the team is "all but guaranteed to violate that threshold." If the Thunder "can find a way to escape it" in '13-14, and "despite being about $500,000 away it seems like they are desperately determined to do so, the franchise's 'repeat offender' clock will be pushed back a year." That means "a tax bill three years from now" that could have cost them $10M will only cost $6M (, 7/28).

THE LOONIE STOPS HERE: In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote the "key figure" in the Canucks’ "various dramas" has been co-Owner & Chair Francesco Aquilini. He "played an instrumental role in the decision to hire" coach John Tortorella, the decision to keep G Roberto Luongo and, "by extension, the decision to deal" G Cory Schneider. It is "interesting, in fact, to note the change at the top of the organization." President & GM Mike Gillis for his first four years was "basically given a blank cheque to run things as he saw fit." It now is "fair to say the honeymoon is over." Ownership "will always have the final say, but it’s not often ownership makes their involvement this public." Willes: "Don’t know if that’s the best thing for the franchise. But, no matter how things turn out, we do know who’s responsible" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 7/29).

TAKING POTLUCK: In Pittsburgh, Chris Harlan reported the Pirates are "holding charity raffles at each game this season at PNC Park, and five-figure jackpots have become common." The winning ticket-holder "takes half of the money, and Pirates Charities keeps the other half." As crowds have "grown this summer, so have the jackpots." The pot "totaled less than $3,000 on some early-April nights, but it reached a season-high $23,146 on July 13, the Saturday before the All-Star break." More than $51,000 was "spent on raffle tickets during that three-game series with the Mets" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/29).