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Volume 20 No. 46

Events and Attractions

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $2.36 million in 2010, according to its recently filed tax return, its seventh such loss in nine years as the baseball shrine continues to show a slow, steady attendance decline.

The loss for the Cooperstown, N.Y., hall during the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2010, was narrowed by 45 percent compared with the $4.3 million loss posted in 2009. Total revenue during the year grew 25 percent to $8.6 million, thanks in large part to a sizable increase in charitable contributions and grants.

But admissions continue to show weakness. Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Hall executives, however, said the institution’s overall financial outlook is stronger than what appears in the tax return. Nonprofit accounting guidelines call for multiyear, charitable contributions to be recorded in the year they are pledged. As a result, there are differences between the apparent financial health of the museum, and what is actually happening in terms of operating cash flow.

For example, the hall reported record revenue of $20.79 million in 2007, in part due to the pledging of some large planned donations with multiyear distributions.

“We feel we are still in good shape and continue to plan aggressively,” said Brad Horn, the hall’s senior director of communications and education.

Among recent initiatives, hall executives last month packed up the plaques of four hall of famers from Puerto Rico and took them to several cities on the island as part of an outreach tour. The institution this past summer also opened a new archival center devoted to researching the office of MLB commissioners and named it for Bud Selig, the current commissioner.

On the personnel side, Jeff Idelson, hall president since early 2008, earned $354,673 in total compensation during 2010, essentially flat from $353,711 the year before.

MLB is still negotiating with New York City officials to hold the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, baseball sources said, nearly six months after league Commissioner Bud Selig strongly hinted that the New York Mets would be awarded the game and well past normal schedules for announcing future host cities.

MLB is in talks with NYC officials for Citi Field to host the 2013 game.
The league typically names its coming All-Star Game venues anywhere from 23 to 31 months ahead of the event. Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, the 2012 All-Star Game site, was officially announced in June 2010. The 2013 game, still without a publicly named site, is, by comparison, just 18 months away.

But just as the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was not announced until January 2007, industry sources said MLB is once again dealing with the complex logistics of staging its midsummer jewel event in the country’s largest market.

MLB and Mets executives declined to comment, but league sources said the delay owes to these logistics and planning concerns, and not the continuing financial woes of the Mets. Still grappling with the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal, the Mets last month took out a $40 million bridge loan from Bank of America to cover operational expenses, adding to an unpaid $25 million emergency loan from the league in November 2010. Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz are seeking to sell minority shares in the club.

League sources said there is no news conference on the 2013 All-Star Game imminently planned for the new year, meaning it will likely be at least late January before the matter is resolved.

The 2013 All-Star Game could be the first to shift from its usual placement on the second Tuesday of July by one day, to Wednesday. The new labor deal between MLB and the MLB Players Association contemplates that potential change, and beginning in 2012, the length of the All-Star break will extend by one day to four.

Speed will stream video from the overnight hours of Rolex 24 on for the first time, supplementing its live broadcast programming.

The additional coverage is just one in a series of initiatives that partners are undertaking to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Grand Am event Jan. 28.

Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said hospitality sales are up 10 percent, pre-sale tickets are double what they were this time last year, and there will be twice as many corporate displays as previous years.

“Right now, we’re looking at what else we can fit in the infield,” Chitwood said.

Manufacturer support has been key to the buzz around the event. Chevrolet announced Corvette will make its competitive debut at the event, Ferrari plans to put cars in the field and Audi also is participating.

The speedway leveraged those three manufacturers’ participation into business opportunities. General Motors and Audi will both have displays in the infield, and the Ferrari Club of Florida bought a four-day hospitality package that culminates with the chance to drive the speedway’s road course.

Title sponsor Rolex is increasing its participation. The company signed on as the presenting sponsor of a charity fundraiser that Daytona will host this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 race. The event will be held at the Daytona Beach convention center and will feature as many as 35 winning cars from the past 50 Rolex 24 races. Several of the 106 living drivers are expected to attend as well, including Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti. The speedway hopes to raise $30,000 to $50,000 for the Halifax Health Foundation, the area’s largest health care provider.

Additionally, Rolex paid for special advertorials celebrating the 50th anniversary in key motorsports magazines such as Vintage Motorsport and Autoweek.

For race week, Rolex plans to double the size of its grand marshal dinner. More than 300 guests are expected to attend the event.

“We’re trying to make it a very special gala this year,” said Colette Bennett, Rolex’s national sports marketing manager.

InterContinental Hotels Group, Allstate Roadside Services and Paul Reed Smith Guitars signed on as new official partners for 2012, the last moving up from promotional partner.

Chitwood said the challenge for the speedway will be to maintain the same level of interest in the event among manufacturers, sponsors and fans next year.

“Everything is working right now, but we don’t want this to be a one-year anniversary spike,” Chitwood said.
“We have to maintain that year-over-year lift.”