Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek today officially sold the team and Prudential Center to 76ers Owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer. 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil now will take on the additional role of CEO of the Devils and Prudential Center. Vanderbeek will remain with the team as a senior advisor to the new ownership group (Devils). In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti in a front-page piece cites a source as saying Harris' group will pay more than $320M for the team and arena. That is a "stunning price for a team that has been mired in debt." A source said that the "last remaining hurdle" in the Devils’ sale was cleared yesterday when the NHL BOG approved the ownership transfer. Gulitti reports Vanderbeek will "retain a small ownership stake." Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello, who has been with the team since '87, is "expected to remain" in his role. The sale price will cover the approximately $200M in debt accumulated by the Devils and Devils Arena Entertainment, and "still leave Vanderbeek with a significant surplus." When Vanderbeek's efforts to "bring in new minority partners didn't pan out, the team’s growing debt forced him into selling a controlling stake." A group headed by Philadelphia attorney Andrew Barroway "came close to purchasing the Devils last month" after lending the franchise $30M to cover pension and escrow payments and getting approval from the league's BOG. But Barroway’s group "was unable to complete the sale with Vanderbeek" (Bergen RECORD, 8/15). In N.Y., Josh Kosman cites a source as saying that Vanderbeek "will collect roughly" $80M from the sale of the Devils, "covering much of his personal investment" (N.Y. POST, 8/15).
76ERS NOT LIKELY TO LEAVE PHILLY: The AP's Tom Canavan noted there has been a "little concern in Philadelphia that Harris might consider moving the 76ers from Philadelphia, which is the league's fourth largest market." But NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver "downplayed that suggestion." Silver in a statement said, "Josh Harris and his Sixers partners, like the NBA, love and are committed to Philadelphia" (AP, 8/14).
The Royals as of last night "remained behind last year's pace" in terms of attendance at Kauffman Stadium, despite the fact that the team is "enjoying its best season in a decade," according to Blair Kerkhoff of the K.C. STAR. Through 61 games, the Royals' "average attendance of 22,128 is 278 fewer" than at the same point last season. Royals Senior VP/Business Operations Kevin Uhlich said of interest in the team, "It happens on TV first. It’s a low-cost sneak peak. For the fringe fan, somebody who isn't out here nightly, it’s a great way to taste baseball." But while the Royals rank 12th in the AL in average attendance this year, there "are positive attendance trends." Counting full- and partial-season packages, the Royals "started this year having sold 170,000 fewer tickets before the season." The team "averaged some 1,300 more fans during this home stand than the entire season, including the best-non opening day crowd when 38,742 saw the Royals-Red Sox last Saturday." Uhlich said that no-shows, or "people who have purchased but don’t use their tickets," were at 6% for the 10-game home stand that ended last night. Team data shows that in recent years, when the team "wasn't competing for a playoff spot," no-shows have been in the 15-20% range. Meanwhile, the team "set another ratings record Tuesday" on FS K.C., with a 12.3 local rating for its home game against the Marlins. The telecast was the "most-watched program" in the market that evening. Kerkhoff: "Now, can the Royals’ parlay the interest into a better television deal?" The Royals’ deal with FS K.C. runs through '19 and pays the team about $20M annually, "among the lowest in baseball" (K.C. STAR, 8/15).
After the "suffering the Dodgers endured during the Frank McCourt administration, their success is being celebrated" by many around MLB, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg said, "What the Dodgers are doing is good for baseball. I'd like to think that when small-market teams do well, it's good for baseball, too, but this is special.'' A's Owner Lew Wolff: "The Dodgers' success is good for the game. You can't argue that. We've all been talking about it.'' Angels Owner Arte Moreno predicted that the Dodgers "could draw 4 million fans by the year's end." Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said, "I do think a good team in Los Angeles is good for baseball. Just like a good team in New York is good for baseball. ... When you have the media centers of New York and Los Angeles doing well, that's good for everyone." He added, "We have an owner (Mark Walter) who believes in our market, believes in our fans, and believes in doing everything the right way, and making sure the team is built the right way" (USA TODAY, 8/15). Kasten said, "From a fan base that has been this loyal and this supportive for 50 years, as of this day, this minute, we lead baseball in not only home attendance, but in road attendance. I don't know the last National League team to do that, if ever" (MLB.com, 8/14).
SWING AND A WHIFF: In L.A., Chris Erskine reports a "posse of wild skunks" has begun showing up at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers staffers said that they have "run across at least three of the critters, all on the reserve level near the top of the stadium." A skunk on Monday "scurried under the souvenir kiosk at Section 20" an hour before game time, and the "telltale musk lingered into the third inning and reached as far as the field-level seats in left field." But the team "denies having a skunk 'problem,' and says that Monday's capture was an isolated incident" (L.A. TIMES, 8/15).
A recent Blue Jackets marketing campaign features President of Hockey Operations John Davidson in a series of TV ads, and "in large part because of Davidson's skills as a broadcaster, the marketing campaign is already working," according to Tim Feran of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The team has "sold almost 1,600 new full-season tickets or their equivalent, compared with a little more than 600 two years ago at the same time." Blue Jackets Senior VP & CMO John Browne said that total full-season tickets or equivalents this year "number almost 8,100 compared with almost 7,300 at this time" in '11. Browne said, "John speaks with such credibility, such honesty, the way he connects with people is wonderful. He’s money.” Feran notes the Blue Jackets' new marketing campaign "came about when the team made a run at the playoffs last season, falling just short." Management "sensed an opportunity to connect with fans and contacted local marketing agency treetree." The agency's Chief Creative Officer Tiffany Wise said, "As we talked to some key stakeholders, some insights came up. They wanted a more image-based, more emotional campaign -- emotional, where in the past it was a promotional campaign.” Davidson came to the team in October, and treetree agreed that having him "talk about his passion for the game could set the tone for the image they wanted to present." The marketing campaign "started in April and will evolve, with some commercials using coach Todd Richards and others using players as the season goes on." Browne said the team has "done a series of events with smaller groups," and when the players, Richards, or Davidson talk to fans it is "very authentic" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/15).
NOW HIRING: In Columbus, Michael Arace writes recently hired Blue Jackets Assistant GM Bill Zito and Broadcast Associate & Team Ambassador Jody Shelley are "important assets and hiring them comes off as organically smart." It is an "indication that the garden is increasingly well-tended." Hiring Shelley was "a no-brainer, really, given his popularity and quality of character." The team "created a position that plays to Shelley's strengths." The best NHL organizations are "top-heavy with smart people," and the Blue Jackets' front office is now "stacked as compared with a year ago." Zito will bring "another wise and cultured voice to hockey ops" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/14).
The Predators have adjusted the way tickets for games against the Blackhawks are "purchased next season in order to limit" the number of Blackhawks fans in Bridgestone Arena, according to Scott Powers of ESPN CHICAGO. The Predators recently announced that they "will not sell single-game tickets" to their three home games against the Blackhawks, and to attend those games, fans will "have to purchase tickets to a second game as well." Predators Senior VP/Hockey Communications & PR Gerry Helper yesterday said, "Our objective is to give our team the best home-ice advantage each and every game." Helper said that the plan "didn't have a specific name, but 'Keep the Red Out' has created some traction following an interview" Predators President & COO Sean Henry recently did with Section303.com about the ticket initiative. Blackhawks fans have "developed a reputation for attending road games, especially those in Nashville, in large numbers in recent years" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/14). Henry said, "In the end, we’re building something pretty special. If we have to do it off the backs of their fans a little bit, I’m not apologizing for it. We don’t want to build those ticket grosses off of our core -- our lifeblood -- the season ticket holders. We want to build it off the single game buyers who only want to buy those games.” SECTION303.com's Jeremy Gover noted if some fans are "not able to go" to the second game, the Predators "have that covered." Henry said, “We’ve built in a plan where they can donate the ticket back to members of the military" (SECTION303.com, 8/13).
RISKY MOVE: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote this is "no different than variable pricing plans: It’s a way to gouge the invading fans and profit from them." But "just like variable pricing, the home fans take some damage too" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Chris Peters wrote it is a "risky play for the Predators business side." Even though Blackhawks fans may "take over the building, they're still contributing money" to the Predators by buying a ticket. If this package "turns many of them away, there's no guarantee the team will be able to make up the ticket sales with locals" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14).
For the second time in four months, a former employee of MLS Chivas USA "has filed suit against the club, accusing team officials of flouting employment laws, temporarily hiring undocumented coaches and discriminating against non-Latino employees," according to a front-page piece by Brian Sumers of the Torrance DAILY BREEZE. Former Chivas USA HR & Administrative Manager Cynthia Craig, who is African-American, in court papers said that she was "harassed by team owner Jorge Vergara and team President Jose David because she was not Latino and could not speak Spanish." The complaint states that Craig "left the team in July after a period of prolonged harassment." Her suit also charges that, "starting in January, Chivas hired four coaches from Mexico even though they were not authorized to work" in the U.S. The suit states that Craig was "told to add the coaches to the payroll but she refused, and team executives instead routed them money through other means." It also alleges that the practice of discrimination "began when Vergara, a former part owner, gained full control of the team in November 2012 and began harassing non-Latino employees" (Torrance DAILY BREEZE, 8/15).
CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore noted the Pistons yesterday revealed a new alternate uniform as part of a "Motor City" branding effort, "complete with photos and an Instagram vid." The adidas jerseys, to be worn in 10 games during the '13-14 season, are navy blue and red with "Motor City" across the front. They represent the club's "first alternate look" since '04-05 (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14). SI.com's Ben Golliver wrote the "City" theme is "one we've seen before in the NBA, most famously with the Warriors' iconic 'The City' jerseys but also with the Trail Blazers' recent 'Rip City' uniforms" (SI.com, 8/14).
SORRY FOR PARQUET ROCKING: ESPN BOSTON's Chris Forsberg reported new Celtics coach Brad Stevens sent letters to former players encouraging them to "remain in contact with the franchise." The letter read in part, "Please know that you are cordially welcome to attend our practice sessions, home games at the TD Garden, games when we are on the road and Celtics events in our community." Forsberg wrote it is a "thoughtful gesture" that helps Stevens "connect to the team's past." Stevens "appears to be trying to form relationships with those players that laid the foundation for the franchise" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/14).
BROOKLYN BRIDGES THE GAP: In N.Y., Tim Bontemps wrote Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has brought about "dramatic change" since purchasing the team. Free agents are "choosing to play for the Nets over going other places." If all other things are equal, the Nets "now have the ability to tip the scales in their favor because they have become a desirable franchise to play for." The team has "seen their standing around the league soar to heights the franchise has never reached" (NYPOST.com, 8/13).