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Volume 20 No. 42


Don Muret
Madison Square Garden’s hiring of Alex Diaz as senior vice president and general manager has opened up a lucrative opportunity for a veteran facility operator to take over across town at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Nets’ new arena opening in September 2012.

Diaz held the same position for the Nets and played a key role in developing the $1 billion facility after joining the team six years ago. Now that MSG has snatched Diaz to take charge of the Garden’s $977 million restoration over the next three years — a move some may see as a shot fired across the bow by the Garden to keep its new competitor at bay in the nation’s biggest market — the Nets are turning to New York executive search firm James & Co. to find his replacement in the next 45 to 60 days.

For Barclays Center, the ideal candidate has experience opening a major league facility in an urban market and a keen understanding for building operations and the issues tied to moving people in and out of the arena in a community of 2.7 million residents, said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment, the team’s arena operations division.

In addition, the new Barclays Center hire will embrace customer service and have experience working with unions, an important part of managing a big league building in a city where organized labor pulls the strings on many facets of arena and stadium operations.

James & Co. officials know the Barclays Center project well. The NBA club used the same headhunter to hire Diaz and Yormark, and most recently Sean Saadeh, the Nets’ new vice president of programming. Saadeh arrived in February from Arena in Glendale, Ariz., where he worked for AEG Facilities to book events at the NHL arena.

Barclays Center’s grand opening is set for Sept. 28, 2012, capping a three-week run of soft openings tied to open houses and community events, Yormark said. The event that day should be announced in the next 30 days.

As of last week, Nets Sports and Entertainment had 149 dates confirmed for Barclays Center’s first year of operation.

The D Shop Presented by Majestic is a 6,000-square-foot store behind home plate at Comerica Park in Detroit.
TIGER TOWN: Delaware North Sportservice, in partnership with the Detroit Tigers, has opened a newly expanded retail store at Comerica Park called The D Shop Presented by Majestic.

The 6,000-square-foot store is behind home plate to the left of the big tiger sculpture sitting outside the park. It was previously an unfinished warehouse space that opened only to sell merchandise for some of the Tigers’ bigger games, team spokesman Ron Colangelo said.

The D Shop will go heavy on Majestic’s line of Gameday Authentics apparel in addition to selling high-end Tigers-branded items, such as reclining chairs and barbecue grills.

“The Old English D logo still resonates throughout the state of Michigan and globally,” Colangelo said. “Our merchandise sells. It’s a tribute to Sportservice. They keep it fresh. There are over 100 new items coming into that store alone.”

The new store is Comerica Park’s seventh walk-in retail location and its first new permanent one since 2007.

WINNERS: American Airlines Center’s booking of the Charlie Sheen tour is a direct result of the actor’s relationship with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Cuban has had conversations with Sheen about developing a new show for HDNet, the television channel Cuban owns. Knowing that was the case, arena officials decided to schedule Sheen’s “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option Show” tour in the building’s 6,000-seat theater setup.

As of last week, the arena had sold about 3,800 tickets for the April 27 event, including 30 VIP packages priced at $750, said Dave Brown, American Airlines Center’s vice president and general manager.

Regular ticket prices in Dallas are $49.50, $69.50 and $89.50. A sellout would generate $410,000 in gross ticket sales, Brown said.

The Sheen tour, produced by Live Nation, is also booked for the St. Pete Times Forum and BankAtlantic Center, two NHL arenas; the Chicago Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, both owned by Madison Square Garden; and Detroit’s Fox Theatre, owned by Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.

In Tampa, the Lightning had sold fewer than 2,000 tickets for its 6,000-seat Blue Line Theatre configuration, team officials said.&;

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BreakGround.

Count one more victim of the NFL lockout: getting FanVision, the interactive, hand-held media device company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, into every league stadium any time soon.

The company, which added its first 12 NFL teams as customers last season, projected in November that all 32 clubs would use the device in 2011. Now, given the lockout, the company has put its NFL expansion plans on hold.

“At this particular time right now, we are in a holding pattern because, candidly, teams are cutting back and furloughing people,” said Carl Peterson, the former NFL general manager who markets the devices in football for Ross. “We think it is best suited to hold off.”

In March 2010, the NFL gave Ross a platform at the annual owners meeting to promote FanVision, which he had recently acquired. It fit into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s mission to enhance the in-game experience. The devices allow users to view replays, find stats and watch other games.

Teams pay no startup cost for the devices. Those expenses, paid by FanVision, include infrastructure installation in-stadium. FanVision then shares in advertising fees.

Peterson said the 12 teams that used the devices last year signed three-year deals.

Instead of pushing forward with the NFL, Peterson now is busy in college football. He has met with officials and athletic directors from the ACC, SEC and Pac-10 Conference, and he is setting up meetings with the Big Ten.

Last season, FanVision devices were used at three BCS games, including the national championship game. FanVision also has been active in NASCAR and Formula One.

Ross last week at the IMG World Congress of Sports talked about the devices being used in each of the big four sports. Peterson said talks were ongoing with baseball but he declined to elaborate.

The Florida Marlins are in a strong position for selling premium seats at their new ballpark opening in April 2012.

The team has sold all 379 Diamond Club seats behind home plate and as of last week had 80 of 296 Dugout Club seats left to sell next to the first and third base dugouts.

In addition, the Marlins have seen strong demand for the two Championship Suites named after the club’s two World Series titles in 1997 and 2003. It is a hybrid premium seat product designed for individuals to buy into a suite experience. The team had eight seats remaining to sell among the 102 total seats available among the two rooms, said David Samson, the team’s president.

The $150 ticket price for the Championship Suites covers the cost of food, beer, wine and soft drinks. Hard liquor is an additional cost.

“We looked at our market with a lot of midsize companies and thought this might be attractive and we ended up being right,” Samson said.

In fact, with 15 of 40 regular suites remaining to sell, the Marlins could convert some of those skyboxes into a third Championship Suite space, if necessary. Twelve months before the park opens, the team still has some time before having to make that decision, Samson said.

The group suite offering falls in line with what teams in all sports have done to meet the changing needs of premium-seat holders. Flexibility is key and the all-inclusive food and drink package is now a standard amenity to provide fans with cost certainty they need in an economy that’s still shaky.

“Here, the intimacy and scale of the building is such that the Championship Suite location and view is as good as any [regular] suite location in another ballpark,” said Earl Santee, a senior principal at Populous and principal-in-charge of the project. “That’s the beauty of what’s going on here. It’s a shared experience, but you still haven’t really compromised anything.”

The 23 suites sold to date range in price from $150,000 to $250,000 annually. The 40 total suites are the fewest in the majors, and the 37,000-seat park is MLB’s smallest. That fits the trend for MLB parks built in the past five to 10 years, Santee said.

The Marlins continue to have discussions with three serious candidates for naming rights and could have a deal done in three to four weeks, Samson said.

The team is also pitching naming rights for the four ballpark quadrants/entrances and could go to market for a sixth deal for the ballpark plaza, he said.