NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent yesterday afternoon touring Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium with Wild Owner Craig Leipold, who continued his "lengthy effort to bring Minnesota an outdoor game," according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Bettman said, "It's something we know the club wants, that Craig wants and the fans want, and we'll be responsive. I can't give you a date or a venue yet." He added Minnesota "absolutely" deserves an outdoor game, and called both outdoor stadiums "very, very attractive." Bettman said that it is "not an exaggeration to say Leipold ends every e-mail exchange between the two hinting that he wants an outdoor game" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/4). In St. Paul, Chad Graff notes the Univ. of Minnesota on Jan. 18 "drew more than 45,000 to TCF Bank Stadium for an outdoor college game against Ohio State, and Bettman acknowledged Minnesota would be a natural fit." Other NHL execs would "play a bigger role" than Bettman in "determining a venue for an outdoor game the Wild hosted." But Bettman said that he was "impressed with both Target Field and the Bank." He added, "Whether or not one is more suitable, or one makes more sense and the like, I need some more input" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/4).
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: The STAR TRIBUNE's Russo noted there has been "a lot of chatter that one reason the Wild hasn’t gotten the Winter Classic is because NBC hasn’t felt the Wild can draw a national audience." Bettman "didn’t confirm that." However, he said of whether NBC and HBO have a say in the venues and opponents, "We consult with them in terms of getting their input as to what makes sense from a television standpoint.” Meanwhile, the NHL has "indicated the league will have fewer outdoor games next season" after staging six in '13-14. There has been "much debate that there have been too many in a short amount of time and it takes the uniqueness away." Bettman: “Despite all of the debate about what the right number is, you can’t really overdo these" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/3). The NHL said that more than 375,000 people "attended its six outdoor games this season, including 54,194 at Vancouver's BC Place on Sunday for the Heritage Classic." In L.A., Helene Elliott notes strong attendance is why the league scheduled six games, "even at the risk of ruining the novelty" (L.A. TIMES, 3/4).
The CIAA and the city of Charlotte yesterday agreed to exclusively negotiate a broadened partnership to keep the NCAA Division II conference's men's and women's basketball tournaments in the city. The new six-year deal begins in '15. The conference also will move its HQs to Charlotte, with timing and location TBD (CIAA). In Charlotte, Steve Harrison in a front-page piece reports the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority "agreed to increase its payment to the athletic association" from $1M to $1.4M annually, "as well as other increased financial benefits." The CIAA had previously said that it "wanted to issue a formal request for proposals to cities interested in hosting the event," but Charlotte’s "more lucrative financial package helped persuade the CIAA to stay." Charlotte and Mecklenburg County each "paid $200,000 a year to help the CRVA" with the $1M commitment. The two governments "pay for the tournament out of general revenues, which can be used for services such as roads and schools." It is "likely the CRVA will ask the city and county to increase their financial commitment." In addition to the $1.4M and free use of the Charlotte Convention Center, the CRVA could "contribute more money to the CIAA to help it pay for staffing Time Warner Cable Arena" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/4). CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter last week said that "as many as 10 cities showed interest," and that Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Greensboro, Raleigh and DC "indicated they would submit bids" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 3/4).
A group backed by Tony Ponturo and Andy Dolich yesterday announced the launch of a nationwide, five-on-five, winner-take-all basketball tournament with a payout of $500,000. The event is being called The Basketball Tournament. It will feature 32, 7- to 9-player teams that are selected based on the size of their fan base. Teams will need a minimum of 100 fans to be selected. There are no rules about who can play. It could be former NBA players, college players or amateurs. Octagon is helping manage the event. It was created by Jonathan Mugar, a TV producer, and Vin Martelli, a Boston-based business consultant. The tournament will take place in Philadelphia June 6-8. A final game will be played on June 28 at a location selected by “fans” who sign up online to support the teams in the tournament. The long term plan is to secure media coverage and sponsorships to support the event, but the inaugural competition will not have that.