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Volume 24 No. 219

Franchises

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter yesterday said that ownership has "added new investors" since taking over the team, but "refused to offer specifics as to the number, their identities, or the amount of their contributions," according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. Jeter maintained that the organization is "not cash-poor." He said, “This is a well-capitalized ownership group. If we don’t add another investor, everyone is fine. So don’t think this is not a well-capitalized ownership group” (MIAMI HERALD, 2/14). Jeter added, "We are doing exactly what we set out to do." He said, "We've gotten a very warm welcome from individuals and corporations who have reached out and said they want to be a part of this journey. People understand that there needed to be some change here" (AP, 2/13). Jeter said he is "optimistic" about the team's future. Jeter: "The fans are frustrated because it's a complicated history. But the bottom line is we're not changing something here that's been working." He added of what young fans will say about the ownership group in 20 years, "That we made this a fun place to come, that we built ... something that's sustainable over time. I didn't get into this to have an exit strategy" ("Evening News," CBS, 2/13).

BALLPARK NUMBER: Jeter said that he "hopes to leave" the retractable roof at Marlins Park "open more often, though he knows South Florida’s climate doesn’t lend itself to that for much of baseball season." In Ft. Lauderdale, Tim Healey notes the roof in '17 was "open for six home games." Jeter said, “There’s an opportunity to open it more” (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 2/14). Healey also notes "renaming Marlins Park to increase revenue is again a priority." Newly hired President of Business Operations Chip Bowers yesterday said, “My belief is we will get a naming rights partner.” But Bowers "didn’t offer a timeline on when a naming-rights deal might be reached" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 2/14).

TAKE A DEEP BREATH: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the "knee-jerk analysis" to offseason moves made by the Marlins is "so toxic a deep, breath of perspective would be good for everyone now." Jeter said, “I’m learning patience. One thing when you’re competing, especially in sports, it’s instant gratification or disappointment. But I’m learning that you need to have patience when you’re building something.” Hyde notes Jeter has "made errors. Loud errors of presentation more than deed, if you study it." But new owners "always make errors." Jeter’s prime error was "not seeming to realize his voice matters in a way it never did as a player." He has "made mistakes" and "learned patience." The question remains if Jeter can "clear the air enough to breathe in the coming season" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 2/14).

Crew President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane on Monday "painted a picture" of a franchise in "dire need of assistance," according to Chris Bils of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Loughnane spoke to season-ticket members at a private event at Mapfre Stadium, and at the "center of the discussion was the ownership’s desire to build a new stadium." Loughnane said, "There’s a significant amount of challenges in doing a deal in Columbus." He said Mapfre Stadium is "nostalgic in many ways, but it also needs to serve a function which is a long-term growth of the club." Loughane: "We think that’s elsewhere, not here.” He also said that the Crew need to show $350M in "guaranteed revenue to go toward building" a stadium (estimated $175M to build) and a training facility ($25M). Loughnane said, “Today we have $13 million of contractually obligated income as a club. It’s going to require having a committed capital stack of $350 million plus another $100 million. A bank won’t lend you the money unless you have it.” Loughnane placed the blame for the Crew’s financial troubles "squarely on the shoulders of the Columbus corporate community." He said that the "average sponsorship" for the team is 42% of the league’s average (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 2/14). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes under the header, "Andy Loughnane’s Message Not Much For Crew Fans To Cheer." Loughnane "deserves credit" for facing a "tough crowd." But Loughnane’s job was to "darken an outlook that has been bleak" since Crew Chair Anthony Precourt officially announced that he was "exploring a move to Austin." Arace: "We’ve already heard all of this. Now, at least, somebody is saying something in public" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/14).

FC Cincinnati averaged 21,199 fans per match last season, breaking its league record of 17,296 set in '16
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

USL club FC Cincinnati has "topped its goal of 15,000 season tickets sold and surpassed the 16,000 mark," breaking its own league record of 11,739 season tickets set last year, according to Steve Watkins of the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. The club is on a "likely pace to also break its own USL season attendance record, which was set last year." FC Cincinnati "averaged 21,199 fans per regular-season USL match last season." That "broke its league record of 17,296" set in '16. Soaring more than 35% past last year’s season-ticket sales total makes it a "strong bet that FC Cincinnati will set a third-straight USL record for attendance." That has to "help its cause in the competition" for an MLS expansion franchise. Season-ticket holders "snapped up an extra 2,000 single-game tickets on Monday, the first day they were on sale." Those single-game tickets went "on sale to the public" at 9:00am ET this morning (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/13).

STAYING SKEPTICAL: In Cincinnati, Jason Williams wrote FC Cincinnati's West End stadium plan "doesn't sound all that bad." FC Cincinnati President & GM Jeff Berding promised that "no houses will be torn down" and the club will build Taft High School a "spiffy new football stadium." He also promised that the club will be "open with the public, certainly refreshing after months of secrecy." Williams: "Will FC Cincinnati pay the full amount of property taxes on its proposed $250 million stadium?" School board members "raised concerns about that." All Berding could promise is the school district "would be held 'harmless.'" He "didn't explain what 'harmless' meant." FC Cincinnati could "pay the same property taxes being paid currently on the site of Stargel Stadium and the 30-some other properties that are part of the proposed soccer venue footprint." Technically, that "would be harmless." However, it "wouldn't be anywhere near the taxes generated" by a $250M soccer venue. Williams: "It's still hard to fully believe until we see the whole, elaborate plan in writing" (CINCINNATI.com, 2/13). 

In Phoenix, Nick Piecoro reports the D-backs "officially will unveil a humidor" for the '18 season. The humidor -- a "climate-controlled chamber in which baseballs are stored -- could drastically impact how hard balls are hit and, as a result, how far they travel." The D-backs have been "kicking around the idea of implementing a humidor off and on" since '10. The D-backs will "become the second team to employ a humidor," following the Rockies (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/14).

STAYING FOCUSED: In Houston, Hunter Atkins notes the Astros are so "intent on concentrating attention toward the months ahead" that they "prohibited media access when pitchers and catchers officially reported to camp" yesterday. Some teams "allowed reporters at their spring training facilities last week." Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said of limiting access, "Don't take it personal. It's going to be because we have to stay focused" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/14).

GOOD TIMING: In Detroit, Bill Shea wrote the Tigers' 50th anniversary of the '68 championship team is a "centerpiece" of their marketing efforts this season. The milestone is "particularly important for the Tigers because they're deep into a rebuilding effort." While the Tigers have a "full season of various promotions scheduled," the 50th anniversary plans are the the "most significant and so far include giveaways such as tote bags, jerseys, socks and pennants." The Tigers will also "give away 40,000 bobbleheads of still-living 1968 stars this season" (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 2/12 issue).