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Volume 24 No. 155


The Bills this morning announced they are postponing their scheduled regular-season home game in Toronto this year and moving it back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills and Rogers Media plan to use this year to evaluate opportunities to enhance future games played in Toronto. Both parties said they remain committed to the partnership. The Bills annually have played a game at Rogers Centre since '08, and the team began a new five-year extension of the deal last year (Bills). Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon this morning said, "We’re going to review everything, from the gameday experience and ticket pricing and all other facets of the project. And we’ll make determinations of the series moving forward after we go through a lengthy review, and see where it takes us from there." Brandon noted the team has had "great success with the regionalization process in Toronto," adding the "biggest positive has been the significant increase in our Southern Ontario fans coming back to games here at Ralph Wilson Stadium." The greater Toronto area currently is the team's "largest regional market," having "inched past Rochester a couple of years ago." Brandon: "So it certainly has worked. The 1-5 record (at the Rogers Centre) has not. We’ve been very open about that." He added, "This year was a setback. We had made some strides since the start of the series. We’ve made a lot of different tweaks in the past. But we just felt that we had to look at this in greater detail moving forward" ("The Howard Simon Show," WGR-AM, 3/5). In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan notes the initial five-year deal "was a financial windfall for the Bills," though terms of the extension have not been made public. However, sources said that the terms "are not nearly as tilted in the Bills’ favor, and that the team is not grossing much more than it would take in at The Ralph" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/5).

NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS...: In Buffalo, Tim Graham cites a source as saying that skipping a game in Toronto "was not an easy sell" for some Bills execs, but Brandon and coach Doug Marrone "won them over." Graham writes, "We all know outsourcing a precious home game to Toronto put the Bills at a competitive disadvantage." Marrone "valiantly tried to mask his frustrations over the Toronto series when asked about it last year, but contempt bubbled below the surface." The source said that Brandon "faced a long, uphill battle to reach an internal consensus for drastic amendments to the Toronto deal." But Brandon "got it done, and that's a good sign for Bills fans who are tired of financial decisions getting in the way of football decisions" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/5).

Browns President Alec Scheiner said the team for the sixth straight season will not raise ticket prices after a 3-13 campaign last year. Scheiner, appearing on WKRK-FM's "Bull & Fox" show, said, "After the season we had, and some of the changes, we huddled up as a group and we just looked at it. We understood that with the (stadium) renovation and where everyone else in the league was, we could raise the prices. But we just thought that it would be better this year not to. It was kind of a message to our fans that we understand last year didn’t go as planned.” He said the renovations are "right on target" despite a harsher-than-usual winter. He noted the upgrades that should be ready for the '14 season include new videoboards, an updated audio system and several of the planned escalators. Scheiner: "Our group is doing a great job getting this in before the preseason." Meanwhile, he noted the Browns will have new "cutting-edge uniforms that link back to our history” for the '15 season. Scheiner: “We’ve been working with the NFL and Nike for almost a year now. ... I’d be very surprised if our fans don’t love our new-look uniforms. I think we’re headed down a really cool path.”

GETTING THROUGH AN "INCREDIBLE" YEAR: Scheiner said he "could not have imagined" the number of organizational changes that have been made during the offseason, including Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi leaving the team and Ray Farmer being promoted to GM. He said, "It’s been an incredible year. But these are the years where you learn more than any other years.” Scheiner: “I’ve learned a lot here, and I also think that because I’m in the building, I can’t say that I’m totally surprised. I think Jimmy (Haslam) made a decision that was consistent with how other NFL teams are run. If you look at the successful NFL teams right now, they have a very similar structure to the one we have." He said his current role with the team is to "run the business side of the organization." Scheiner: "I like to think that at times, just in terms of structure and the parameters of what we do, I might be able to add some value. But I don’t think we’re any different than some of these really successful organizations that have people in business roles who can sit in the room and might add value at some point.”

HASLAM NOT CHANGING HIS INVOLVEMENT: Haslam is entering his third season as owner of the Browns, but Scheiner does not think Haslam will increase his day-to-day involvement. Scheiner said, "Jimmy has been really clear with what kind of owner he is going to be. He’s going to ask the right questions. He’s going to hold us accountable. He’s going to put people in jobs where they can do those jobs. So I look at him as somewhere in-between. If you look at the spectrum of NFL owners ... I think Jimmy is right in-between someone like Bob Kraft or Bob McNair, where he’s asking the right questions, he’s holding us accountable, but he doesn’t go beyond that” ("Bull & Fox," WKRK-FM, 3/4). 

The Raptors to celebrate the team's 20th season in '14-15 "will wear a patch evoking memories of the early days of the franchise," according to Ryan Wolstat of the TORONTO SUN. Purple, the primary color for the team's first 11 years, "is back, as is the original Raptors font." The purple, font and "jagged pinstripe elements from the original jersey will be combined with the current secondary claw logo." The "much-reviled red dinosaur is nowhere to be seen." Various 20th-anniversary events "will both celebrate the past and serve as a bridge to the future." An "eventual redesign is scheduled to be revealed" for the '15-16 season (TORONTO SUN, 3/5). The CP reported the new logo "will be featured prominently in team marketing and advertising next season, while a variation of it will be worn as a patch on the team’s home uniforms" (CP, 3/4). The TORONTO STAR writes those "anticipating the Raptors rebrand shouldn’t look too closely for clues in the anniversary logo." MLSE Senior Dir of Communications Dave Haggith said, "This logo is separate from the rebranding for the Raptors" (TORONTO STAR, 3/5).

The Tigers can "expect to pocket" more than $1M in new "single-game ticket sales revenue because of a switch to dynamic pricing" for the '14 season, according to Bill Shea of CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS. Dynamic ticket pricing firm Qcue CEO Barry Kahn said, "There's a significant boost in that revenue for teams. It's typically a double-digit percentage increase." Kahn said that $1-1.5M is a "common revenue increase for teams." Shea notes single-game tickets at 41,681-seat Comerica Park "will range in starting price" from $9-95. Those were the "base prices when tickets went on sale March 1," as dynamic pricing began Monday. Kahn said, "Goal No. 1 for the Tigers is making sure they sell 3 million tickets. Our conversation with the Tigers is repeatedly to help make sure they maintain that" (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 3/2 issue).

FIELD OF DREAMS: Shea noted the NHL, Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment are "splitting the cost of the new grass field that will be installed at Comerica Park" in time for the Tigers' season-opener March 31. The NHL "agreed to pick up costs at Comerica Park as part of the deal it swung with Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to host its Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium instead of Comerica Park." The league built a "temporary ice rink on Comerica Park's infield for the Hockeytown Winter Festival games at the end of December" as part of the Winter Classic festivities in Ann Arbor. For the Winter Festival, "all of the Comerica Park grass was removed." A "woven barrier was put over the bare dirt to protect it until the sod is installed -- once the snow clears." The ice rink was "removed last month." The Tigers "haven't disclosed a timeline for the new turf to be put down" (, 3/3).

MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark yesterday said that the union is “continuing to monitor the Mets' payroll situation, which remains unusually low” for a major-market team. The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jared Diamond noted Clark “stayed away from specifics, declining to say if the union has spoken with the Mets' ownership or front office about the team's payroll, which will likely land” at around $87M in ‘14. Clark said that he is “‘not aware’ of any external bodies, such as banks, dictating how much the Mets can spend.” Clark: “Is New York one of the marquee franchises? Yes. Will they always be? Yes. Are we paying attention in general? Yes” (, 3/4).

:’s Doug Padilla reported the White Sox’ expected Opening Day payroll of approximately $90M "represents an astronomical savings" from the $118M-plus Opening Day total last year. While “undergoing the process of getting those finances in line," the White Sox have created "hope for a brighter future by bringing aboard new faces” such as RF Avisail Garcia, LF Adam Eaton, 3B Matt Davidson and 1B Jose Abreu (, 3/4).

NATIONAL LANDSCAPE: In DC, Adam Kilgore noted the Nationals will soon have a choice -- either their "payroll will skyrocket more than it already has and push past $150 million," or their young core "will begin to break apart.” The Nationals will have about $90M “committed to eight players” in ‘15, depending on which team options they pick up. By that time, the Nationals “will be facing steep raises and potential extension negotiations” with P Stephen Strasburg, CF Bryce Harper and C Wilson Ramos (, 3/4).

TIME TO MOVE FORWARD: A Cleveland PLAIN DEALER editorial stated it is “time to acknowledge once and for all that the caricature” of the Indians’ Chief Wahoo “represents a racially insensitive stereotype of Native Americans.” It is “time for a clean break.” The editorial: “Take the heat. Deal with the backlash. Move on. It can be done thoughtfully, by simply acknowledging the mixed emotions of all involved” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/1).

In K.C., Sam McDowell reports "about 2,000 people" attended MLS Sporting KC's Sporting Takeoff event last night, where the unveiling of the club's new secondary jerseys took place. The jerseys "feature horizontal stripes across the chest" (K.C. STAR, 3/5). Also in K.C., Lisa Gutierrez writes of the jerseys, "This was one of the first snarky reactions: They kinda look like prison uniforms." The jerseys, unveiled as part of MLS' annual Jersey Week, "were well-received by the avid supporters there, who scooped up team merchandise in a heartbeat." Though the adidas jerseys "may look black-and-white in some photos, they are actually in the team’s Sporting Blue and dark indigo colors" (K.C. STAR, 3/5).

DOUBLE THE FUN: In DC, Steven Goff noted the Spain men's national soccer team "will play a friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field as part of a June 7 doubleheader" that also features a Crew-DC United game. Kickoff times "have not been finalized, but in order to accommodate European TV, the Spain game will begin mid- to late-afternoon." Several World Cup-bound teams have chosen the U.S. for final preparations "because of a similar time zone to Brazil, abundant training facilities and the opportunity to play competitive matches" (, 2/28).

PATRIOT GAMES: Patriots President Jonathan Kraft on Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference said, "We’ll be launching a cloud based scouting app that I think is light years ahead of anything else in the league. That was something that was pushed by us that I think will allow us to collect more data real time in the field, have the draft evaluation process done quicker and sooner, and allow the coaches, if they want to in season, because they’re trying to evaluate a position now and thinking about the next year, (find out) are there going to be guys in the draft?" Kraft added of his family's ownership of the team, "For us, I think we'll check out if the family isn't driven that way, we'll check out of the business. ... Because it's a lousy business to be in if you're not winning. In this business, it's all about winning. If you're not winning, there's plenty of other ways to make money" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/1).

COUGARS STAYING PUT: In British Columbia, Ted Clarke cited sources as saying that the WHL Prince George Cougars "have been sold to local businessman Greg Pocock and a group of investors that includes NHL players" and former WHLers Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. Sources said that the team "was purchased" for close to $7M, and added that the new ownership group "plans to keep the team based in Prince George for at least the next two seasons" (PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN, 3/3).