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Volume 21 No. 2
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Plugged In: Michael Rowe, Positive Impact

Michael Rowe knows development through sports. The former executive vice president and COO of the Meadowlands Sports Complex has also been president and a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets, where he helped launch the YES Network. For the past 16 years, he’s led sports consulting firm Positive Impact. The company has worked to help potential owners of sports teams form business plans and has advised in the negotiations of those properties. It also has sold sponsorships for promoters and managed special events, including the North Carolina-Michigan State college basketball game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego in 2011.

One of the marks of success for towns [in the past] was to acquire a sports franchise and arenas and major events. I think that worked fine in the ’80s and ’90s, but our clients are really looking to have the events or brands or sponsorships be much more effective and have ROI. People aren’t building arenas and buying teams just for the heck of it anymore.

What’s new with Positive Impact: We’ve been doing a lot of asset management and advisory services. [We] participated down in Orlando for the city on lease negotiations for the prospective MLS team; just finished a Super Bowl assignment with MainGate [where] we handled retail sales in the New Jersey hotels for them. We’re still in the middle of representing a party examining an NBA team, going through due diligence and building pro formas that will need to form the basis for investment.

Hoops and aircraft carriers: Everybody seems to be taking another look at whether basketball should be played outdoors and on water, where there might be wind and moisture. The one two years ago [in San Diego] in particular is one of the coolest events I have worked on. A lot of people think that it was a convergence of one-of-a-kind things: unique battleship, the one bin Laden was buried from at sea; the president was available to come to the game; first time ever an NCAA game was played outdoors on an aircraft carrier. It might have been just the stars lining up. If it doesn’t happen again, we understand.

The current state of sports team ownership: There are teams losing $20 million to $40 million a year, and you wonder, What are they in the game for? You better have a good plan if you want to get in this business and succeed. Sports is becoming a very expensive business. It’s not a hobby anymore. These things have to work. For prospective team owners, people buying in don’t just want to sit in the owner’s suite anymore. They’ve made money in their other businesses and they don’t want to lose money on a sports team.

— Don Muret