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Volume 24 No. 116

Franchises

Fans attending the Oct. 1 Bengals-Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium will "receive a free ticket" to the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, and the pass "will be good" for any day the park is open in '18, according to Kevin Kleps of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. Each fan "will get a boarding pass that has a code that can be redeemed at cedarpoint.com/Browns following the game." Once fans enter the code, they will "receive an e-ticket that is valid" for the entire '18 season. However, fans must redeem their code between 5:00pm ET on Oct. 1 and 11:59pm on Oct. 4 to get the pass. Kleps: "It shows that even the Browns -- who used to be able to sell out every game, no matter how poorly the season went -- can struggle to fill every seat." An attendance number of 67,431 is needed for a sellout at FirstEnergy Stadium. Last season, the Browns "sold out their first five games, but the announced gatherings" for the final three games were 60,034, 60,028 and 57,272. As a result, the "final attendance average of 64,311 was the lowest" in the stadium's 18-year history" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 9/21).

The NFL is "living with a situation much more troubling in the short term than any it escaped in fleeing St. Louis and San Diego the past two offseasons," as the league is "shocked at how far south things have gone already for the relocated Chargers," according to sources cited by Don Banks of THE ATHLETIC. A source said of the Chargers, “It just doesn’t feel like we’ve created any forward momentum there, instead we’ve created negative momentum. There should be some novelty to the whole thing, but it doesn’t feel like that." Combined with the Rams' attendance (56,612) for their loss to the Redskins at L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Week 2, the NFL’s "collective draw on the first day that both L.A. teams played at home simultaneously was an underwhelming 81,993 -- about 3,000 fewer fans" than attended Texas-USC at the Coliseum on Saturday. A source said, "The optics are miserable with the Coliseum holding 56,000 for the Rams the day after USC plays to 84,000. That’s never a spot the NFL wants to be in." Banks noted while the league remains convinced L.A. has "tremendous long-term potential" once the new Inglewood stadium is "up and running, given how much it will increase the projected value of both teams and the league itself, the short term is painful." Banks: "Can anything be done to change the equation while the countdown to 2020 continues? Are there any short-term fixes for what looks to be an untenable situation for the Chargers, whose plight risks doing damage to the Rams’ effort to re-introduce the market to NFL football?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/19). THE MMQB's Albert Breer wrote the Rams' and Chargers' low attendance figures were not a "good look in the NFL’s second year back in L.A., or for its first Sunday with two games there" since '94 (MMQB.SI.com, 9/21).

MARKET SHARE: Showtime’s Boomer Esiason said, “The San Diego Chargers are the San Diego Chargers, not the L.A. Chargers, I don't care what anybody says. I think there’s blowback, I think there's disgust by San Diegans. ... I don't think they're going to fit in there right away. The only way they will fit in and get something going is if they start winning.” Showtime’s Phil Simms said, “They have to hang in there. When they build that new stadium, they will come. The stadium will be unbelievable. ... I'm convinced in this L.A. market with these two teams out there, it will work out.” Esiason: “If you put a winning team in that sexy stadium, they will come see it” (“Inside the NFL,” Showtime, 9/19). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the national narrative is "not about the Rams and Chargers, but about the empty seats surrounding them," and whether L.A. is a "good sports town." But L.A. "didn’t ask for the Rams." It "refused to pay" for them. L.A.'s sports landscape "survived 22 years just fine without the Rams," so when the team spent its first season "accruing only four wins and firing their coach while playing dull football, potential fans turned their backs." Plaschke: "It’s not about the fans, it’s about the Rams. And, of course, it’s not about the fans, it’s about the Chargers." L.A. has "scant historical or geographical connection to the Chargers." They are a team of "strangers from another market who can only sell one thing, and that’s winning, and so far they are 0-2" (L.A. TIMES, 9/20).

SunTrust Park's inaugural season will conclude Sunday, and attendance is on pace to "increase about 500,000 from last year," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Braves Chair & CEO Terry McGuirk said of the park's first season, "It has gone by in a blink, flown by. ... It has gone smoothly. It has gone positively. And we’re all about the future." Meanwhile, Braves President of Business Derek Schiller said that only 30% of The Battery Atlanta's square footage "is open." McGuirk: "We've got 10 or 11 restaurants open. We'll have 20 when we're done." Team execs said that inside the ballpark, the Braves made "operational adjustments throughout the season as they learned the building, but no major alterations are planned in the offseason." Schiller said, "We all feel very good about how the ballpark has operated, the experience it provides" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/22). Tucker notes when the gates close Sunday, the Braves will likely have a '17 attendance of "about 2.5 million, up from 2.02 million last year." That would mark about a 25% "increase, slightly below the average increase" of 28% by 14 other MLB teams in their first year in new ballparks since '00. But the new-ballpark bounce "probably has been mitigated by the drag of a fourth consecutive losing season." Still, the Braves will "finish with their highest attendance" since '13, their last winning season (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/22).

FOND FAREWELL: In Orlando, George Diaz notes the Braves and ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney are "breaking up after two decades," as the Braves have "found a new home on Florida's west coast in North Port." And so the Braves will "turn off the porch light after they come here one last time" for '18 Spring Training and become the last MLB team to "have a spring fling in Central Florida." Diaz: "But no regrets. The Braves were good to Central Florida and vice-versa" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/22).

To celebrate the team's 20th anniversary, the Fire's independent supporters' association, Section 8 Chicago, is "pooling efforts to throw a killer birthday bash and inviting former players and coaches to return for the celebration," according to Dan Santaromita of CSNCHICAGO.com. The celebration will "take place Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center." It will mark "20 years to the day" since the team's first GM, Peter Wilt, "announced the name of the then-MLS expansion team at Navy Pier." Wilt will be "among the star-studded list of attendees." Section 8 BOD Chair Scott Greene was at the Fire's anniversary party five years ago, and the plan is to "continue them every five years." Five players from the original '98 team are "already confirmed to be attending." In order to get the former players to come to Chicago, Section 8 has "worked to raise funds to fly the players in." Greene said that ticket sales are the "main revenue portion, but they are also accepting donations and there is a silent auction" (CSNCHICAGO.com, 9/20).