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Volume 24 No. 112

Franchises

The NFL may have "overestimated the appetite for professional football" in L.A, as empty seats in L.A. Memorial Coliseum during yesterday's Redskins-Rams game was "not a great look," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. There also was the Chargers' "inability to sell out their first regular-season game" in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center. It is "by far the smallest facility in the league," and yesterday's Dolphins-Chargers game "drew only 25,381." Adding that number to the "official attendance figure of 56,612 tickets distributed for the Rams' game, you get a total of less than 82,000" (AP, 9/17). But CBS Sports Network's Amy Trask noted critics should not "conclude too much from attendance right now in the Coliseum." She said, "L.A. hasn’t had a new football stadium since 1923 when the Coliseum was completed. The Rose Bowl, a year earlier in 1922. ... If the stadium that [Rams Owner] Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood is as magnificent as expected, I think we’re going to see something different.” Trask: "If the teams play well, the buildings are going to fill up” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 9/17). In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore notes the Rams and Chargers are taking a "long-play approach" in L.A. Upon relocating, both teams "understood the challenges they faced finding their long-term place among a crowded sports landscape." And they understood that "three factors would ultimately play the biggest role: Creating an L.A. identity, moving into the state-of-the-art" $2.6B venue being built by Kroenke and "consistently fielding compelling, entertaining football teams." Chargers Chair Dean Spanos: "It’s not something that will happen in a year or two. It’s a process that will take years. And we understand that" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/17). NBC's Mike Florio said, "I just feel like L.A. didn't want the Chargers and nobody bothered to realize it until the Chargers moved to L.A." ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/18).

HOME-FIELD DISADVANTAGE? In California, Jeff Miller notes StubHub Center "featured an abundance" of Dolphins fans who, in this case, "lustily chanted 'DE-fense' when the Chargers had the ball late and 'Let’s Go, DOL-phins' all afternoon." The stadium was "evenly divided" among Chargers and Dolphins fans, "at least vocally" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/17). ESPN.com's Arash Markazi notes there were "approximately 12 moments in the game in which the noise level at StubHub Center broke 100 dBA." But Dolphins fans accounted for "five of them," including Dolphins K Cody Parkey's "go-ahead 54-yard field goal with 1:05 left" (ESPN.com, 9/18). Meanwhile, in DC, Scott Allen notes the Redskins yesterday had "thousands of burgundy-and-gold-clad fans in the stands" at L.A. Coliseum. By the end of the game, the "loudest cheers were from the Redskins fans in attendance, some of whom sang 'Hail to the Redskins.'" Allen: "Judging by Sunday’s showing, the Redskins should expect a similarly warm reception when they make a second trip out to Southern California to play the Chargers in Week 14" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).

TWITTER REAXSports Illustrated's official feed tweeted, "Need fans in L.A.? The NFL may want to look into the cost of Hollywood extras." ESPN's "SportsCenter" feed: "The attendance for the USC game was more than the Chargers and Rams' attendances combined." L.A. Times' Lindsey Thiry: "The optics at the Coliseum are not good when it comes to attendance. ... Really thought more fans would come out this week after the Rams routed the Colts, and looked exciting, last week." SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber: "L.A. went from zero NFL teams to two NFL teams that nobody cares about." ESPN's Markazi: "I would say the crowds are appropriate for the product on the field although StubHub Center was about 95% full after halftime to be fair. ... LA was without the NFL for 21 years. Is it expected that bad teams sell out stadiums regardless of how they do?"

CAN'T FIND A FRIEND: In L.A., Bill Plaschke notes the Spanos family was "publicly thanked" during Pro Football HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson’s "brief but emotional halftime speech, and the place erupted in boos." During the game, Chargers fans were "just as loud, just as often" as Dolphins fans. But Plaschke asks, "Should it even be a contest?" The Chargers "just don’t belong" in L.A. yet. They "stormed the town last winter without warning and, just as many predicted, the town has mostly sighed and shrugged and turned its back." The Chargers are "hemmed in by anger from the south and apathy from the north." Before yesterday's game, a plane "flew above the neighborhood with an attached banner reading, 'Worst owner in sports? Dean Spanos, pay your rent.'" And nearby, there was a "digital billboard purchased by a San Diego fan that displays messages ripping the NFL and Spanos" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18). In San Diego, Kevin Acee noted every 62 seconds, one of five different images is "shown on the digital board, where it can be seen for six to eight seconds." Altogether, the images will be "shown 1,000 times a day through Oct. 3" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/17). 

GONE FOR GOOD: The UNION-TRIBUNE's Acee wrote the Chargers are "not coming back." Whatever the "optics of a less-than-full toy stadium, however disgusted other owners might be, however embarrassing the start of this new era is to the country’s biggest professional sports league, the Los Angeles Chargers are for the long haul." Acee noted if the Spanos family "sold the Chargers" before '21, they would have to give 20% of the revenue from the sale "to their fellow owners." But if Spanos "waited until after" '20 to sell, the penalty "drops" to 10%. After five years, it "begins a deescalation" of 1% a year for 10 years. One thing "people around the league do acknowledge -- even marvel at -- is the amount of money the Spanos family will be putting out over the next decade." The Chargers have "spent tens of millions moving costs, building a new facility and upgrading StubHub Center -- and have to pay off the relocation fee" at $65M a year beginning in '19. Acee: "The Chargers will be fine in Los Angeles. Maybe embarrassed. Maybe derided. Maybe mostly ignored. But in Los Angeles nonetheless" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/16).

Atlanta United on Saturday "set a new MLS attendance record," as 70,425 tickets were sold for a game against Orlando City at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, according to Doug Roberson of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. That broke the previous record of 69,255 fans in '96 at the Rose Bowl for a N.Y./N.J. MetroStars-Galaxy matchup. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "It’s proving that it’s defying everybody’s expectations as to what soccer can be in this market" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/17). Garber: "This is a great testament to Arthur (Blank’s) vision, his execution because I think you need to be able to deliver on your plan, not just have a great plan. He’s got a terrific organization." Roberson noted Atlanta United leads MLS in attendance this season and is "on pace to set the league record for highest average home attendance of 44,247" set by the Sounders in '15 (AJC.com, 9/16). Garber: "It’s a good moment for all of us in MLS. I think it says that there are really no limits. We never expected this to happen." Garber: "It’s a great statement about what’s going on in this part of the country. These are cities that have become incredibly diverse, very millennial driven. There’s lots of companies moving down here. There’s just a demographic shift happening and a new energy that you feel in the southeast that’s exciting" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 9/16). ESPN's Alejandro Moreno said, "The excitement that they’ve been able to generate around that city is outstanding. But it’s a success specific to Atlanta. A lot of people are saying, ‘This is a new MLS.’ It’s a new MLS in Atlanta -- it doesn’t translate into people showing up for New York Red Bulls games" ("ESPN FC, ESPNews, 9/17).

THE DON WILL SEE YOU NOW: The AJC's Roberson noted Garber "seemed to enjoy every minute of the experience." He "did the 'A-T-L' Viking clap" and "walked around the concourse to feel the energy of the crowd." Garber said of M-B Stadium, "It’s awe-inspiring. It’s absolutely spectacular. ... I got in here early. Fans were in here an hour before the game. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s an exciting day for me and for the league." He said of soccer in the Atlanta market, "I have to tell you we were skeptical at first. Arthur kind of looked at us all and said [Atlanta] is going to be a great city, it’s going to be a great soccer market. My city will turn out for a great team with a great brand. He’s over-delivered." As far as M-B Stadium hosting the '18 MLS All-Star Game, Garber said, "Possibly. We have some work to do. We are spending a lot of time thinking about that. It would be a great market to host the all-star game. We sold out Soldier Field in Chicago over the summer. If we were going to hold it here, I would imagine we would break the (attendance) record." He said as to whether Atlanta United is the story of the year in MLS, "It is. It’s the story in pro sports. I’m proud to say that" (AJC.com, 9/17).

ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL: In Orlando, Alicia DelGallo wrote under the header, "MLS Commissioner Don Garber Open To Modifying Soccer-Specific Stadium Mandate." Garber said of Atlanta's success, "I don’t know that that changes our point of view in any other market, but certainly when I see what’s happening here and in Seattle I’m happy that we have stadiums that can have 70,000 people in ’em." DelGallo noted MLS in recent years has pushed for teams to have soccer-specific venues to provide a "sense of community for the team and fans." The strategy also was to "help teams control revenue and create a better game-day atmosphere." But if ownership groups, like that of Atlanta United, "present a different, viable option, MLS will make exceptions." Building a new venue can be expensive and it "can be "difficult to maneuver the various political hurdles that stand between concept and creation, among other obstacles." Garber: "The good thing about being new and trying to figure it out as you go along is you have a specific plan and then there are times when you have to modify that plan. I think good business leaders and good businesses, ya know, don’t just get stuck in their previous strategies but try to evolve and see how things develop" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/17).

The Indians clinched the AL Central on Saturday night when the Twins lost to the Blue Jays, and then "drew a crowd of 32,313" yesterday to mark the team's "12th sellout of the season," according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Twelve sellouts is the most for the team since 34 in '01, when the team won 91 games. The recent four-game Royals-Indians series at Progressive Field also "drew 130,900." The Indians also now have won 24 of their last 25 games (CLEVELAND.com, 9/17). In Cleveland, Joe Noga noted the Indians' team shop at Progressive Field was "set to open late Saturday" with AL Central championship merchandise for sale. The shop prior to Saturday also had been "selling T-shirts and sweatshirts bearing the phrases 'Take 17' and 'Rally Together' after the team locked up a postseason berth on Thursday" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/16).

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: Indians Chair & CEO Paul Dolan said of the team's recent record winning streak, "That was sort of immaterial compared to our larger goals. But then the streak began to take on a life of its own. We're not just setting franchise records, we're setting Major League records. And that brought us national ... even international attention." In Cleveland, Terry Pluto noted the Indians last season had a $97M payroll and are "now close" to $130M. Pluto: "So is the statute of limitations finally up on the 'Dolans are cheap' narrative? Can ownership receive some credit for being patient and building a consistent winner?" Dolan is "pleased the Indians haven't suffered from 'World Series hangover.'" Dolan: "After you go to the World Series, people can start fighting to take credit. That hasn't happened here. ... We were clearly on a path to win our division, but this streak has affirmed we are one of best teams in baseball" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/17).

A sellout crowd of 13,917 turned out to Nassau Coliseum yesterday for an Islanders preseason game, and it felt "like a playoff game," according to Arthur Staple of NEWSDAY. The game, which is the team's only one on Long Island this season, also could have "felt like a dry run for a possible return." Islanders co-Owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin are "awaiting the Sept. 28 deadline set by New York State for proposals to be submitted for the development of land at Belmont Park racetrack and a decision on the winning proposal after that." The Islanders also are "negotiating with their Barclays Center landlords on the current lease and will need a place to play on a temporary basis should the team and its partners win the right to develop an arena at Belmont." Ledecky "deflected any discussion of the team’s proposal to New York State and the future home of the team." He said, "We’re continuing to study the RFP process. There’s a deadline, Sept. 28, and it’s very interesting what they’re doing with that" (NEWSDAY, 9/18). In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis wrote how to keep the passion from last night's game going is the "question at the feet" of Ledecky and Malkin. They want to "stay in touch with the franchise’s history and still move into the present, likely culminating in their forthcoming bid to develop a new arena at Belmont Park." But it was "clear from the overcrowded corridors and long bathroom lines," the $165M renovation of the Coliseum was like "putting lipstick on a pig" (N.Y. POST, 9/18).

TIP OFF: On Long Island, Steven Marcus noted the G League Long Island Nets will debut Nov. 4 at Nassau Coliseum and "play 24 of the league's 50-game schedule" at the facility, with "individual game tickets starting at $10." The Coliseum "holds 13,500 for basketball" (NEWSDAY, 9/17).

In Tampa, Joe Smith reported Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik wants to bring an outdoor game "to the area, something that would likely involve Raymond James Stadium." Vinik said that he "likes the Lightning's chances." Vinik: "We're having a lot of conversations about it. Some people's immediate reaction is the climate is not good for an (outdoor) game. If you look at some of the conditions in Denver where they had some games, the weather in Tampa Bay is really close to that in February that time of year. We're going to keep pushing hard for it. I feel pretty good about our chances." Vinik said he will ask NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility "every time" he sees him (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/17).

MURKY WATERS: In Boston, Nick Cafardo reported there are "still financial issues with the new Marlins ownership." This "isn’t going to be a smooth transition, and exactly where team payroll will be in the future is unresolved." A source said, "It’s not a mess, but it’s far from smooth" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/17).

RICKEY APPROVES: In Oakland, Jon Becker noted a 17-foot statue of Baseball HOFer Rickey Henderson will be "built and on display at the Oakland Coliseum at some point next season." There was "no word on exactly where the Rickey statue will be placed at the Coliseum" (EAST BAY TIMES, 9/16).

ENGLISH CHANNEL
: In N.Y., Rory Smith wrote under the header, "Love The Club. Loathe The American Owner." Few "would count" the Glazer family's tenure as EPL club Manchester United Owner as an "unqualified success." The Glazers "faced protests almost from the start; even now, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust believes no owner has 'ever taken so much money from a single club.'" Meanwhile, Stan Kroenke is "blamed for Arsenal’s inertia" and John Henry is "hardly universally popular in Liverpool." Chris Anderson, who has consulted on a number of completed and putative takeovers, said of American owners in Britain, “It is unfair to say they have all been complete failures. But many do struggle with the dynamics of the game, and the industry. They find it hard to understand the nature of the beast" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17).