The Rays claim their "surprising and curious deal" to buy the USL Tampa Bay Rowdies was made only to "get into the soccer business and has no connection to the effort to find [a] new home for their baseball team," according to a front-page piece by Topkin, Johnston & Frago of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The deal includes at least "short-term control of downtown waterfront Al Lang Stadium." The Rays tried a decade ago to get a new ballpark built there and "never fully let go of the idea -- which is why there was immediate speculation there was more to the Rays-Rowdies deal than just control of a soccer team." Among the speculation was that the Rays were "seeking an alternative St. Petersburg stadium site to their proposed new home in Ybor City" or that the team was "considering moving their spring training base back to St. Petersburg from Port Charlotte." Rays President Brian Auld indicated that neither idea was the reason for the move, saying that it was just an "opportunity to buy the soccer team" from Rowdies Chair & CEO Bill Edwards and "grow their overall business." Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi, a co-Founder of the nonprofit Tampa Bay Rays 2020, said that the Rowdies purchase was "actually a good sign the Rays want to make the Ybor deal work." He added that team officials reiterated to him that a Ybor ballpark was their "'highest and only focus' after word of the soccer deal got out." The price tag of the Rowdies purchase was not disclosed, but Edwards said that he has been "looking to sell for a while." He indicated that he has had "several offers for the soccer team." The deal "won't become official until Oct. 11 at the earliest." St. Petersburg City Council member Charlie Gerdes said that Auld told him the Rays were "interested in buying the Rowdies last year, when Edwards expressed interest in selling the team." The Rays "looked into that option again and decided it made sense from a business standpoint, citing, for example, the potential to package sponsorships together for both teams" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/2).
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: In Tampa, John Romano notes it is possible this was a deal the Rays "simply could not pass up." No one is "talking publicly about the purchase price, but there are whispers the Rowdies were sold dirt cheap." If that is the case, the purchase "makes more sense." The Rays have experience "running a sports franchise, and already have infrastructure in place for marketing, ticketing, training staff and other departments." That would seemingly "give them a better shot at turning a profit" than Edwards (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/2).
The Reds' attendance this season at Great American Ball Park dropped 11.3% from '17 and resulted in the team's "lowest season attendance total" since '84, according to Bobby Nightengale of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. The team, which finished with a 67-95 record and a last-place finish in the NL Central, drew 1,629,356 fans "throughout their 81 home games, averaging 20,116 fans per game." This year marked the "first time the Reds failed to draw at least 1.8 million fans in a season" since '09. The Reds last made the playoffs in '13, and attendance has "declined at Great American Ball Park in each of the following five seasons." The Reds "ranked 24th in the Majors in total attendance." Despite the low attendance, Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said that the team was "planning to 'significantly' increase payroll" in the future (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 10/2). In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins noted in addition to the poor record, bad weather "also held down crowds." Reds VP/Ticketing & Business Development Aaron Eisel noted that 18 home games "were impacted by weather" -- 14 games had rain delays, while two start times were altered and two games were postponed. Eisel: "Attendance would have met our expectations if not for the amount of games we had negatively affected by weather" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/1).
Capitals players, coaches and staff "got their first look at their names engraved on the Stanley Cup and received their championship rings" at a private gathering yesterday, according to Scott Allen of the WASHINGTON POST. The 14-karat white and yellow gold rings "feature 230 round diamonds, 22 princess-cut diamonds, 28 taper-cut rubies, seven star-shaped rubies and a star-shaped sapphire." The top of the ring "features the Capitals' wordmark surrounded by 27 pavé-set diamonds and encircled by 28 taper-cut rubies." When viewed from the top, the player’s name "appears on the left side of the ring above a 14-karat white gold Capitol building flanked by a star-shaped ruby and star-shaped sapphire." The player’s number, which is "set with seven to 18 diamonds, appears to the right of the Capitol building." The right side of the ring features the year, "set with 26 diamonds, the Stanley Cup, set with 20 diamonds, and a star-shaped ruby on the trophy" to represent the team’s first championship. Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis pledged to give "every full-time employee" who worked for Monumental Sports & Entertainment on June 7 a "less lavish championship ring."The team has also "made 145 gold championship rings featuring 'approximately 258 round diamonds' available to the public at a cost of $12,018" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/2).
The Titans are 3-1 to start this season after making the playoffs last year, but it remains to be seen whether the club can captivate their fan base the "way they once did," according to Joe Rexrode of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Titans coach Mike Vrabel "gently pleaded last week for Titans fans to show up against the Eagles" on Sunday, as he "knew Eagles fans would" make a big appearance at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won the game 26-23 in OT, but the atmosphere "felt more like a bowl game than an NFL home game at times, with loud cheering for both teams." Eagles fans "made up maybe one-third of the crowd of 69,013." That is "a lot" of opposing fans, though Titans fans "overwhelmed Eagles fans in the end." Vrabel after the game said, “We’re hopeful that one day everything is two-toned blue in our stadium. That wasn’t the case. We knew that wasn’t going to be the case. We appreciate every Titan fan that came out today to try to cheer us on." Titans OT Taylor Lewan said, “I’m not saying the fans not being here is unjustified. Because the reality is, fan bases want to be fans of winners. And in the past we haven't been that." He noted the Eagles had "just as many fans" in the stadium as the Titans did, which meant there was "no home-field advantage." Lewan: "Hopefully we keep playing ball, the fans will keep coming, man, and I think we have a huge opportunity" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/2).
The Hornets announced "fan-friendly" concession pricing at Spectrum Center this season, to be used through the team's mobile app. In Charlotte, Katherine Peralta notes prices on the "six most popular concession items at the arena" will be 35-45% lower than normal menu prices. Hornets Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli said that the team had conversations with concessionaire Levy "soon after the Hawks announced their new pricing." Guelli said that the decision to lower prices on popular menu items "came from feedback from fans." Guelli added that lower food prices and the team's performance are "what fans ask about most" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/2).
CAPTURE THE FLAG: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman noted the Packers used of a "patriotic banner instead of an American flag during the national anthem" prior to their game against the Bills on Sunday. Packers Dir of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey said that the team "used banners before when other pregame activities take up part of the field." On Sunday, the Univ. of Wisconsin Marching Band played the national anthem and "occupied half the field." Popkey said, "To avoid causing confusion, we will not be using such displays in the future" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 10/2).
FOLLOW THE MONEY: In S.F., Scott Ostler writes the A's are the "best story in baseball." However, the team's "phenomenal success" this season does not prove it is possible to "win without spending money." Of the bottom 12 teams in payroll size, "only one team made the playoffs," the A's. Conversely, the teams "ranked No. 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9 on the payroll list" all made the playoffs. Despite this, the A's are not "pounding the money-doesn't-matter drum." President Dave Kaval, in "cheerleading efforts for a new ballpark," said that the team would "use revenue generated by a new Oakland ballpark to pump up the payroll to a level necessary to compete with the top teams" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/2).