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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

The Saints and Pelicans have signed multiyear partnerships with SeatGeek that will see the N.Y.-based ticket platform become the teams’ primary ticketing provider beginning with the ’18 NFL and ’18-19 NBA seasons. The agreement will also cover secondary ticketing for the Pelicans. The deals represent the first move for SeatGeek into NFL and NBA ticketing after previously signing several MLS team and league deals for its mobile-focused SeatGeek Enterprise platform, which contemplates selling tickets across a wide range of ecommerce platforms. Financial terms were not disclosed. “SeatGeek allows our fans to explore new, innovative and flexible ways to purchase tickets with full ticket authentication,” said Saints and Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha. The deal follows a separate distribution pact SeatGeek recently struck with Facebook allowing SeatGeek Enterprise clients to sell tickets directly through the social media platform. “We’re confident this is just the beginning of a movement across the industry,” said SeatGeek co-Founder Russ D’Souza.

Cubs tickets will rise an average of less than 1% next season after "two consecutive years of double-digit hikes," according to Tim Bannon of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Cubs VP/Ticket Sales Cale Vennum said that prices in some sections of Wrigley Field, including the "bleachers, some outfield field boxes as well as some terrace box seating," will decrease by as much as 5.6%. Prices will rise as much as 9% for "some upper deck reserved seats, some field boxes and terrace reserved 'preferred' box seats." Outside of the team's American Airlines 1914 Club tickets, the "most expensive will be $299 for a bullpen box seat for one of the 'diamond' games." The "lowest-priced tickets will be $8 for a seat in the upper deck outfield reserved section for one of the nine 'bronze' games." The Cubs in '17 "had 20 games in lowest pricing categories (silver and bronze)," while next season, there "will be 30 games at those pricing levels." The Cubs drew 3.199 million fans in '17, the "seventh highest attendance in team history" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/17). THE ATHLETIC's Jon Greenberg noted the Cubs "sort tickets through a six-tiered system, which changes every season." Last year, there were, "from cheapest to most expensive tiers, nine bronze games, 12 silver, 24 gold, 14 platinum, 19 marquee and three diamond games, the latter of which was a new addition to the mix." This year there are "nine more silver games, nine fewer gold ones, one fewer platinum and one more diamond," meaning the new formula is a "little more fan-friendly" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/16).

Real Salt Lake Owner Dell Loy Hansen on Thursday formally announced that a "Utah-based NWSL franchise would begin play" in April, according to Maddie Lee of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The club will be "owned and operated by RSL" and will "play its home games at Rio Tinto Stadium." Hansen said that his bid for an NWSL team "really began in earnest" when Timbers and NWSL Thorns Owner Merritt Paulson "reached out to him." Hansen said Paulson "really felt that we could add true value” to the NWSL. RSL officials "flew to Portland to meet with Paulson and his team" and spent "seven hours discussing how RSL could launch a NWSL team." The name of RSL’s NWSL team will be announced at a later date. RSL "expects some overlap between the women’s and men’s sides, but the club will also add new positions to operate the new team." Meanwhile, a source confirmed NWSL FC K.C "will cease operations for next season." NWSL Managing Dir of Operations Amanda Duffy "would not confirm the demise" of the franchise, but she Duffy confirmed the league "will remain in its current 10-team configuration next season" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 11/17). In Utah, Jody Genessy writes RSL has "long wanted to bring a top-tier women’s team to the state, and a golden opportunity presented itself" when FC K.C. ownership two weeks ago "decided to sell its women’s team." Even though RSL is "neck-deep in a massive project" to get the $73M Real Academy "up and running this winter, Hansen decided to pursue purchasing the NWSL franchise." He had originally "planned on beginning this process two years from now." The club "isn't sure whether it's assuming" FC K.C.'s players or if it "will be starting from scratch to build a roster" (DESERET NEWS, 11/17). Hansen said that he has "no plans to build a smaller stadium for the women’s team because the women will fill Rio Tinto" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 11/17). He also indicated that ticket prices "will be affordable because salaries aren’t astronomical" (DESERET NEWS, 11/17).

ADDING TO THE FOLD: In Barcelona, Joan Poquí reported the Barcelona women's team that will compete in the NWSL "is expected to make its debut in '19." Santa Monica "is likely to be where the team is based" (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 11/16).

The MLL Rochester Rattlers are relocating and "will play in Frisco, Texas," at the Ford Center at The Star beginning next year, according to Jeff DiVeronica of the ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE. MLL in August "held its championship game" at The Star "as a way to test the market." The Rattlers last season "were operated" by USL Rhinos Owners David and Wendy Dworkin and played at the Rhinos' facility, Capelli Sport Stadium. The Rattlers debuted in '01 and "played at a few different venues locally." The Rattlers won the '08 MLL title, but issues with the Rochester Sports Group, "coupled with poor support by fans, led to the club moving to Toronto." The Rattlers returned to Rochester in '11 and "were owned and run" by former Rhinos Owner Rob Clark. MLL Commissioner David Gross last month said that the Rattlers "haven't had local ownership for at least a couple seasons." MLL co-Founder and New Balance Chair Jim Davis had most recently owned the team, but "had no ties to Rochester" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 11/17). INSIDELACROSSE.com's Kyle Devitte noted the Rattlers are "expected to retain" their current name and logo in Dallas. MLL over the past few months "has been taking increasingly serious steps to either move -- or shutter completely" -- the franchise. Reports of the team moving to Dallas "were rampant last year, but that deal was rumored to have fallen through at the last moment" (INSIDELACROSSE.com, 11/16).

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST? DiVeronica noted the Dworkins on Wednesday indicated that they have "set a Nov. 30 deadline to raise" $1.3M or the Rhinos "will cease operations" after 22 years. The owners "termed a 'call to action,' as they seek help from community and business leaders to reach an ambitious goal before a league deadline on player contracts arrives on Nov. 30." The team had a "bleak outlook after averaging the lowest attendance in Rhinos history" in '17. The Dworkins, who took over in March '16, said that "they've invested" $3M in the Rhinos (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 11/16).

Tigers Exec VP/Baseball Operations & GM Al Avila said that it is "overly simplistic to say the Tigers ... are modeling themselves on the Astros' strategy," according to Evan Woodberry of MLIVE.com. The Astros lost at least 100 games from '11-13 before winning the World Series earlier this month. The Tigers finished last season tied with the worst record in MLB at 64-98, and Avila said, "We're not losing on purpose." However, he added, "The fact that we're making this transition and rebuilding the organization, losing is a product of that. It's not that you're trying to lose. It's just that the process will cause you to lose. So you have to handle it in the best way you can. You can't just say, 'We're going to lose and we're going to pick No. 1 for the next four years and that's going to do it.' If that's all you do, you're not going to get there." Avila said of potentially signing players to maintain fan interest while rebuilding, "It's hard to say we're going to make a signing for a p.r. deal. If it happens to be a really good situation where fans are excited about it, that's great. But we can't make trades that will make us weaker down the road just to be happy today. You really have to have the big picture in front of you. You have to have patience, discipline. You've got to really be thick-skinned in some cases" (MLIVE,com, 11/15).

In Atlanta, Gabriel Burns reports Braves Senior Advisor John Hart is "resigning" from his role to "pursue other opportunities outside" the organization. Hart "relinquished his role" as President of Baseball Operations "upon the hiring" of new GM Alex Anthopoulos on Monday (AJC.com, 11/17).

UNDER THE TABLE: THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal cited sources as saying that the Pirates dismissed Dir of Latin American Scouting Rene Gayo after an investigation by MLB "revealed that he had received an improper payment from a Mexican Summer League team." Sources said that the investigation "showed that the Mexican team paid Gayo a form of a kickback several years ago for the sale of at least one player to the Pirates." The Pirates on Monday, after learning the results of MLB's probe, informed Gayo that they "would not renew his contract." Gayo still faces "possible discipline from MLB" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/16).

WINTER UPGRADES: In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen noted the Brewers have "modest projects" planned this offseason at Miller Park, including "refurbishing the Club Level, renovating a team store and creating a baby-nursing station." The Club Level refurbish "will include new graphics, colors, lighting and signage." A bar area in Loge Level office space near "The Selig Experience" exhibit "will be converted to offices for Brewers employees" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/15).

ENDANGERED SPECIES? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond wrote the role of MLB managers is "rapidly evolving -- and in some ways diminishing." Experience "means little nowadays." Gruff, surly personalities "need not apply." The modern manager, "once the heartbeat of a team who controlled virtually everything that happened in the dugout, now exists as a cog in a much larger machine where the real authority comes from above." Today’s organizations "want younger, gentler leaders prepared to collaborate with increasingly powerful front offices." Managers must "embrace analytics and demonstrate the willingness to rely on data -- typically provided by their superiors -- in their decision-making process" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/16).