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Volume 26 No. 111

Franchises

Alex Meruelo indicated he would explore playing in parts of town other than Glendale
Photo: coyotes
Alex Meruelo indicated he would explore playing in parts of town other than Glendale
Photo: coyotes
Alex Meruelo indicated he would explore playing in parts of town other than Glendale
Photo: coyotes

New Coyotes Owner Alex Meruelo was officially introduced Thursday, and he "sounded determined to end the financial troubles that have defined" the franchise's tenure in Glendale, creating a "revolving door of majority ownership," according to Craig Morgan of THE ATHLETIC. Meruelo's actions will "define his ownership, but it is hard to ignore the word 'billionaire' that precedes his name." It is also "hard to ignore his array of successful businesses that include gaming, media and real estate holdings." There is a "sense from the top reaches of the league all the way down to the team executives that Meruelo could be a game-changer for the Coyotes in the same way" that Jeff Vinik turned around the Lightning or Tom Dundon "may be doing" with the Hurricanes. That "clearly begins with solving the team's arena situation." Meruelo "understands the foundational importance of stable ownership with legitimate financial backing" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/1). In Phoenix, Brandon Brown noted Meruelo "acknowledged that the team loses money being in Glendale and that he would explore playing in other parts of town." He said, "It's difficult because our fan base is more in the (other side of the) Valley, not so much here. Corporate sponsors aren't really out here. We don't have a long-term lease. All of those are really big challenges I have to address" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/1).

HAS A DIFFERENT FEEL: In Phoenix, Kent Somers writes it "might be naïve" to believe Meruelo "will be any different" than previous Coyotes owners. But "all indications are that Meruelo is different than anyone else who has owned the Coyotes." He is reportedly a billionaire, and that "comes in handy when trying to secure a new arena and improve a team that hasn't been to the playoffs the last seven seasons." Meruelo said Thursday in his opening remarks, "I sure as s**t want to win." It is the "kind of comment that can make PR types cringe." But it is a "passionate statement that will play well with Coyotes fans, who for years have suffered through ownership that either couldn't afford to try to win, or didn't care to" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/2).

The '19-20 cap number is technically above the $60.2M league floor, but actual salary expenses are lower
Photo: getty images
The '19-20 cap number is technically above the $60.2M league floor, but actual salary expenses are lower
Photo: getty images
The '19-20 cap number is technically above the $60.2M league floor, but actual salary expenses are lower
Photo: getty images

The Senators are "circumventing 'the spirit'" of the NHL salary cap "using a combination of healthy rostered players, 'dead' cap space from injured players and buyouts to crest over the cap floor," according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. The Senators currently have a "projected cap number of $65,859,999," which is "snugly above the lower limit" of the '19-20 salary cap, which was set at $60.2M. Without injured RWs Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik and LW Clarke MacArthur, the Senators have a "total cap number of $50,534,999." But according to Cap Friendly, the Senators' "actual NHL salary expense" will be $47.5M. Wyshynski wrote once again, the "victims of this farce" are Senators fans. There is a "youth movement afoot," but there is a "world of difference between embracing a rebuild and icing a product" that is nearly $20M cheaper than its inflated cap figure, and only a few dollars above the minimum amount the NHL expects its teams to pay players. But that is the "norm in Owner Eugene Melnyk's world" (ESPN.com, 8/1).

CASH CUTBACK: YAHOO SPORTS' Ryan Lambert wrote Melnyk’s "cash-poor approach to running the organization is in evidence everywhere on this roster." It is "likely that nine players at a minimum will be earning less than a million against the cap before rookie performance bonuses." On the one hand, this "maneuvering is admirable because if you’re gonna bottom out, you might as well bottom all the way out and maximize your opportunity to get as many high-end picks as you can." But on the other, this has to be "troublesome" for Senators and NHL fans. Melnyk "seemingly isn’t doing anything" with the $25M he is "saving by not pushing this team to the cap ceiling." Lambert: "It’s only going back to Melnyk" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/31). SPORTSNET.ca's Wayne Scanlan noted the Senators "don’t make moves without taking their bottom line into consideration." So much for the salary cap structure "ensuring league parity" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/31).

Henderson, Nev., officials last year "quietly began a push" to lure the D-backs to their city, and although discussions have "stalled, the move signals Henderson's desire to grow as a professional sports-caliber city," according to Blake Apgar of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The city "nicknamed the effort 'Project Marble,'" and in a slideshow submitted to the D-backs, Henderson officials "highlighted what they thought could come of a major league ballpark and surrounding development." Renderings show a retractable-roof ballpark in "rapidly growing West Henderson, which city officials envision as a hub for sports and entertainment." The proposed ballpark "would have 32,000 seats and space for 4,000 standing-room-only ticket holders." The D-backs would "serve as the primary tenant for a 30-year term," and the ballpark would be "publicly owned and exempt from property tax." D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall and Henderson City Manager Richard Derrick "exchanged emails" over the course of months about the plan. The D-backs "expressed interest in creating a development at a potential new home, pointing to" The Battery Atlanta near SunTrust Park as inspiration. Talks with Henderson came months after the D-backs "struck an agreement with Maricopa County in Arizona to resolve issues" surrounding the aging Chase Field (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/1).

OUT OF LEFT FIELD: In Phoenix, Greg Moore notes the D-backs are "reiterating [their] desire" to remain in Arizona, but this news "represents the latest in a string of negative developments that are certain to test loyalties." The D-backs are "downplaying the report." Team officials said that they have "not reached out to MLB for permission to pursue relocation talks." It is "entirely possible that the news leaked because talks didn't progress as well as Nevada officials had hoped, and they wanted to make" the D-backs look bad. Moore: "But until we know more, we should keep watching and asking questions" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/2).

In Philadelphia, Ed Barkowitz noted the 76ers will wear jerseys from '70-71 with "Seventy Sixers" printed on the front. The team said that they will "wear those obscure jerseys 'several times'" next season. Barkowitz noted the jerseys are "another chance for the club to ring the cash register." But Sixers President of Business Operations Chris Heck said that it is a "way to pay tribute to one of its all-time greats," Basketball HOFer Billy Cunningham. The jerseys will "go on sale Oct. 1 on the team’s website and at stores inside the Wells Fargo Center" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/1). 

THROWING IT BACK: The Grizzlies "will play in throwback uniforms and on a newly designed court for select games over the next two seasons." The jerseys and court "commemorate the 25th season of the franchise this upcoming season and the 20th year in Memphis the following season." The throwback look is an "ode to the Vancouver Grizzlies," as the two jersey designs are "similar to the uniforms the team played in during its time" in British Columbia (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/2).

Photo: grizzlies
Photo: grizzlies
Photo: grizzlies

LEAKED LOOK: CBS SPORTS' Shanna McCarriston noted the latest Warriors uniforms have "reportedly been leaked on social media." The team "planned to unveil new uniforms with a slightly new look" for the '19-20 season, but the surprise "may have been spoiled" on the team's Reddit page. The links are "no longer live, but fans were quick to grab a screenshot of the new looks" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/30).

Schooners Sports & Entertainment has "yet to deliver a promised business plan" for a stadium and an expansion CFL team to Halifax council representatives, but neither Atlantic Schooners Principal Owner Anthony LeBlanc nor CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie "view it as a death knell for the proposed franchise," according to Francis Campbell of the Halifax CHRONICLE-HERALD. LeBlanc said, "We continue to do our work in the background. The reality is these things take time to do them correctly and we really have one shot." LeBlanc had "hoped to provide the business plan to the municipality last December and then by Canada Day" on July 1. Ambrosie said, "We would rather take this amount of time to get the right outcome than to impose some kind of timetable that leaves us unsatisfied." Campbell noted "unanswered questions surround the construction of a stadium to house a team." SSE has proposed a C$130M stadium with 12,000 "permanent seats and a capability of adding 12,000 more temporary seats." LeBlanc said that the stadium would be "built on an undefined public-private partnership arrangement with Schooners Sports taking on the operational costs" (Halifax CHRONICLE-HERALD, 7/30). Ambrosie said he wants the Schooners franchise to "be here when they're ready to be here and they don't have to do that a day sooner." He added that while things "aren't moving as quick as everyone would like," the league is "fully committed to the management group" (GLOBALNEWS.ca, 7/31).

The MLL Atlanta Blaze will "play the rest of its home games this season at Atlanta Silverbacks Park," with the move coming "just months after the team relocated to Grady Stadium in Midtown Atlanta following a three-year stint at Fifth Third Bank Stadium near Kennesaw State," according to Eric Jackson of the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE. The midseason switch was "prompted by the resurfacing of the running track at Grady Stadium." Another "deciding factor to switch venues was a clash in schedule as the Blaze's final home game coincides with Music Midtown," which will be held across the street from Grady Stadium. After a "solid turnout" during the Blaze's inaugural season in '16, the team has "ranked toward the bottom of the league in attendance." The Blaze for now are "temporary tenants" at Atlanta Silverbacks Park, a 5,000-seat soccer stadium (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/2).

In light of the report that 40 employees in the Redskins' business department have left since the end of last season, ESPN's Pablo Torre said, "This is a fallen empire, and now we're excavating and finding out, 'Wait a minute, there is dysfunction on every level here." ESPN's Bomani Jones: "I have never seen a team that was once more beloved have a fan base gradually start to turn on it in this way. It's not like there's been some inflection point that happened. ... They just got tired of it year after year after year" ("High Noon," ESPN, 8/1).

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Raiders coach Jon Gruden is entering the second year of his 10-year contract with the team, and ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth noted the unique length of that deal has "made it so Gruden’s timeline is different.” Foxworth: "Not very many teams get the opportunity to align their best interests of the team with the best interests of the coach because the turnover is so fast” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 8/2).

REDEMPTION SONG: Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer made headlines recently when he said he would consider changing the team's name, but ESPN's Dave McMenamin believes such a change in identity "would lessen the whole redemption story" if they are able to win an NBA title. McMenamin: "If Paul George and Kawhi Leonard deliver the first championship in franchise history, I want the Clippers to win" ("The Jump," ESPN, 8/1).