Brave new world
|John Schuerholz outlines what the Braves have in store.
The Atlanta Braves, led at the negotiating table by senior club executives John Schuerholz, Derek Schiller and Mike Plant, stunned Greater Atlanta and the sports industry at large with their plans to leave Turner Field and build a new ballpark and mixed-use development in suburban Cobb County. The team’s bold plan, valued at more than $1 billion, seeks to take advantage of both population and economic migration patterns, as well as ancillary development projects that have become increasingly important in baseball.
A slip of the wrist sent Clint Bowyer’s car spinning just before the end of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race at Richmond. The intentional move changed the outcome of the race and put Bowyer’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., into the Chase. But it proved costly. NASCAR penalized the team $300,000, Napa dropped its sponsorship of the team, and Waltrip, who appeared complicit in the scheme, was left apologizing and seeking to regain the trust of fans.
Jay-Z entered the sports agent business with a splash by launching Roc Nation Sports and signing free agent first baseman Robinson Cano in a partnership with CAA Sports. Since then, the rap mogul has become certified to represent players in the NBA and Major League Baseball, and added Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith as clients.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas used Twitter to become the loudest critic of the NCAA and its amateurism model. The former Duke basketball player exposed how the NCAA used student-athlete names in its search function for jerseys. That spurred a flurry of stories about whether college athletes should be compensated and made Bilas the primary spokesman for the athletes.
Madison Square Garden completed a three-year, $1 billion renovation to bring a fresh look to the 45-year-old arena. MSG President Hank Ratner spearheaded the massive redevelopment, topped off by the Chase Bridges, the project’s signature feature. Architect Murray Beynon designed the bridges, which hold 430 seats at the top of the arena and provide spectacular views of the action on the court and on the ice.
The Sacramento Kings faced an uncertain future, and a possible move to Seattle, until a group led by Vivek Ranadivé stepped forward and purchased the franchise for $534 million. Ranadivé’s commitment to Sacramento, with plans for a new downtown arena and adjoining mixed-use development, fired up the fan base and brought new hope to the Kings faithful.
A change at the NBPA
Billy Hunter’s 16-year reign as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association ended in February when player representatives voted to fire him. A union-commissioned investigation had alleged that Hunter acted in his own interests and against those of players. Hunter is now suing the NBPA while the union conducts a search for a new executive director.
International Speedway Corp. announced a $400 million makeover of Daytona International Speedway that rethinks the track experience. Under the watch of track President Joie Chitwood, Daytona will be largely rebuilt, resulting in big league amenities and a fresh approach to hospitality and premium areas. With other tracks looking to attract more fans, Daytona’s moves will be watched closely.
Directing the NFL’s media moves
The eyes of sports media were trained on Brian Rolapp in July, when the NFL announced that he would be replacing Steve Bornstein as the league’s top media executive in the spring. One of Rolapp’s first responsibilities will be to figure out what to do with the NFL’s Thursday night package. Given his background with digital media, Rolapp also will be looking into how the league deals with over-the-top providers and social media companies.
After four years under league ownership, the Phoenix Coyotes were purchased in August by George Gosbee and his partners. Gosbee immediately committed to keeping the franchise in Glendale, Ariz., long-term and the news seemed to give the team’s players some extra pep: After the first third of this season, the Coyotes were one of the best clubs in the stacked Western Conference.