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Volume 24 No. 115

Events and Attractions

Around 650 tickets for the night session of Friday's NCAA tournament action at Scottrade Center, which includes Wichita State-Cal Poly and Kentucky-Kansas State, "were still listed on" as of Thursday evening, "starting at around $61 for the nosebleed sections and going up to $1,050," according to Denise Neil of the WICHITA EAGLE. Remaining tickets on the NCAA ticket exchange website "started at $59.40 and went up to $202.50." WSU is joined at the St. Louis site by "two other even closer Kansas teams" in the Univ. of Kansas and Kansas State, as well as Kentucky. Fans of the three Kansas teams "like to travel," and "evidence that Scottrade would be hogged by basketball fans from Kansas this weekend was apparent during Thursday’s practice sessions." KU practiced first, at 2:15pm CT, and the stands "were filled with hundreds cheering and wearing crimson and blue," along with "several curious K-State and Wichita State fans." By the time Wichita State took started practicing at 4:25pm, KSU purple was "beginning to appear in larger splotches, too" in advance of KSU's 6:40pm timeslot (WICHITA EAGLE, 3/21). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen noted the BMO Harris Bradley Center "hosted the men’s tournament for the first time" since '10, and the "packed house Thursday was a welcome sight." The crowd for Wisconsin-American "predominantly was pro-Badger as a sea of red filled the lower and upper decks" (, 3/20).

ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Stetson Univ. AD Jeff Altier said that the school "could earn as much as $200,000 for its months of behind-the-scenes work to put on the three-day" slate of second- and third-round games at the Amway Center. He added, "But it's the TV exposure that we get that's really big." In Daytona Beach, Sean Kernan reports Stetson for serving as a tournament host "gets two 4-by-5-foot Hatters logos on the baseline of the court, two banners hanging from the rafters, one regular courtside banner and its name on a rotating, digital half-court sign that is in prime position." Univ. of South Florida Sport & Entertainment Business Management MBA Founding Dir Bill Sutton said, "Every time the teams run past the digital banner and people watching on TV see Stetson University, some of them are going to ask, 'Where's Stetson?' I'd love to see the number of Google searches on Stetson on Thursday and Saturday." Stetson, which is "hosting its fifth NCAA tournament, has been working with its partners -- the Central Florida Sports Commission and Amway Center -- to bring the NCAA tourney back to Orlando for the first time" since '04 (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 3/21). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi reports the Amway Center on Thursday was "mostly filled to the rafters" with Univ. of Florida fans, who made up most of the 16,074 in attendance. Central Florida Sports Commission President & CEO John Bisignano said, "The Gators have made the NCAA Tournament in Orlando a resounding success" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/21).

The Missouri Valley Conference has sent out RFPs to four cities to "hold its men’s basketball tournament" beginning in '16, according to Blair Kerkhoff of the K.C. STAR. The cities "invited to bid for the tournament" are St. Louis, the site of the event since '91; K.C.; Chicago and Las Vegas. The conference is "looking for sites" through '20 and "could make an announcement by June 30." K.C. is "contracted to hold the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament" at Sprint Center through '16. Scottrade Center, which has hosted the MVC tourney since '06, "is a concern." One MVC semifinal games this year "was delayed by 22 minutes when shot clocks malfunctioned, and one game was played using shot clocks on the ribbon boards, not over the baskets" (K.C. STAR, 3/21).

The future of sports business was the focus of the opening panel on day two of the '14 IMG World Congress of Sports on Thursday, with topics that included attracting millennials, improving the at-venue experience, evolving technology and foreign ownership. Panelists included Yahoo VP/Sports & Games Ken Fuchs, Twitter Head of Sports Partnerships Geoff Reiss, IMG College President Ben Sutton, WMG Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman and 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center CEO Scott O’Neil. The following are some highlights from the session

* O’Neil said of millennials: “I love this group. I love working with them. I love them as players. They do have a distrust and a distaste for institutions and authority. And I have some of that myself. But they’re driven. They’re entitled. They think they should be the CEO on their second day. Or as a player, the coach or the GM. But despite thinking there is an entitled path, they have a tremendous work ethic. They’re very smart and very connected.”

* Sutton, on ways to make a better fan experience: “In the college space, we start with a competitive advantage. There is a predisposition for a college student and alumni to carry that sense of community with them in all that they do the rest of their lives. That loyalty exists. People spend more time immersed in media today than they do sleeping. And something like three hours of that time for the average American is around sports. We need to do a better job bringing that experience to college stadiums and arenas. We just haven’t adjusted quickly enough to the world as it is.”

* O’Neil, on technologies that have been tried and failed: “I love 3D sports. Hockey, basketball. It’s just spectacular. You can actually feel the speed and power. The camera angles are lower. You have a much better look at the puck. The basketball experience is as if you’re sitting in the front row, which is the best seat in sports. I’m disappointed that companies cannot figure out a way to get around the glasses. I know something will come back, whether it’s a 4D or 5D, that has a great immersive experience. I’m really disappointed that it didn’t catch on because it could transform the sports experience.”

* Wasserman, on resistance to change: “It’s like with the NFL extra point. People are upset about possibly getting rid of a play that has no value? The NBA talks about changing how the draft works and it’s like Armageddon. Really stable revenue streams over a long period of time, combined with a product that fundamentally never changes, creates an industry that is not used to having to change to sustain itself. Whereas if Twitter doesn’t evolve, it won’t exist in five years. As crazy as that may sound. In a tech-based world, you have to change or you die. That’s not the case with sports. It’s an industry that has lived on in much the same form it has for 100 years.”

* Reiss said of the length of games, “Look at baseball. It took 30 years for the conversation on replay on the field. If that took 30 years, how long is the conversation going to be on getting games done in under four hours? Another 30 years? I think this ties into the question of how you maintain relevance. The reality is, and baseball is the perfect sport to pick on, people don’t have four hours to watch 162 games. And one of two things has to change. We know it isn’t going to be the 162 games because of the economic models. So being able to push that game into a more consumable form becomes essential.”

* O’Neil, on making changes to improve game experiences: “Length of games is not as much an issue locally as it is nationally. Nationally, to clear the TV windows, it’s more important. But all politics are local. Different teams have different agendas. But looking at leagues, I think the NHL used the lockout as a way to move the game forward. They really made some dramatic changes. The NBA also has moved the game from a hand checking, physical league that you saw in the ‘90s to one where it is a lot more fluid and lets the guys be athletic.”

* Fuchs, on younger fans adopting soccer: “We look at soccer and it’s the second biggest fan sport, not participatory, among 12-24 year-olds. It’s just behind the NFL and ahead of NBA and MLB. Here is a game that is about as simplistic as you can get. I have an 8-year-old son and I sit there having to explain all the rules of baseball and technical rules of football. Soccer is so simple. You can play it on EA FIFA. You can access the best players in the world through Yahoo games or watching the World Cup or EPL. The simplicity of that is a draw.”

* Wasserman, on foreign ownership in the future: “At these levels of prices, there are only so many people who can buy. Groups of people in a community coming together to buy a team continues to be important. But even MLS teams are selling at over $100 million. These are big assets that require a lot of attention, a lot of focus. Foreign investors see franchises as valuable assets and opportunities for diversification, both geographically and financially. These assets have shown an ability to sustain themselves through all sorts of economic environments over a long period of time.”