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Volume 21 No. 13
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Two decades of firsts

March 1998

Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) opens with a swimming pool beyond the outfield wall, the first major sports facility to incorporate the element.

April 1999

The USL Charleston (S.C.) Battery debuts the team’s new, privately funded, $5.7 million Blackbaud Stadium (now MUSC Health Stadium), the country’s first professional soccer-only stadium.

February 2000

The Women’s United Soccer Association, the first professional women’s soccer league, announces plans to launch in the U.S.

Photo: getty images

March 2001

Brett Favre becomes the first $100 million player in the NFL after agreeing to a 10-year deal with the Green Bay Packers. 

April 2001

Wang Zhizhi becomes the first China-born player to play in the NBA, scoring six points for the Dallas Mavericks.

December 2002

ESPN2 airs a high school basketball game with future No. 1 draft pick LeBron James of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, the first regular-season prep game the network has shown since 1989.

Photo: getty images

February 2003

Annika Sorenstam accepts an invitation to play in the Bank of America Colonial, becoming the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play a PGA Tour event. 

April 2003

Raley Field, home to the Class AAA Sacramento (Calif.) River Cats, becomes the first ballpark with Wi-Fi. The following season, SBC Park (now AT&T Park) becomes the first big league venue in the world to offer Wi-Fi access throughout the entire site.

February 2004

NASCAR this season implements a new “Chase” format to determine the champion for its premier series. That same season, Nextel takes over as series title sponsor, resulting in the first change in the series since Winston began its decades-long title sponsorship in 1971.

Photo: getty images

August 2004

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps wins his sixth gold medal to go along with his two bronze medals, becoming the first Olympian since 1980 to win eight medals in a single Olympics.

December 2004

MLS and the MLS Players Union reach a deal on the first collective-bargaining agreement in league history.

Photo: getty images

April 2005

MLB returns to Washington, D.C., and RFK Stadium with the Nationals’ sold-out home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, marking the first time since the 1971 season that baseball is played in the nation’s capital. 

October 2005

The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers play at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, the NFL’s first regular-season game outside the U.S.

January 2006

Google makes its first entry into sports through a video download deal with the NBA.

February 2006

For the first time, an American rights holder (NBC) streams live action from the Olympics — the men’s gold medal hockey game in Turin.

May 2006

University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt signs a six-year contract that makes her the first women’s basketball coach to reach the $1 million mark.

August 2006

University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., opens as the first venue in North America to have a retractable field and retractable roof.

September 2006

For the first time in the team’s 40-year history, the New Orleans Saints sell out every season ticket.

February 2007

The Chicago Cubs sign a three-year sponsorship with Under Armour to place two signs on the Wrigley Field outfield doors, the first corporate advertising to be placed among the famed brick-and-ivy outfield wall in the ballpark’s 93-year history.

April 2007

Toronto FC begins the season as MLS’s first Canadian franchise.

Photo: getty images

October 2007

The Miami Dolphins and New York Giants play in London, marking the NFL’s first regular-season game held overseas.

March 2008

The IndyCar Series season debuts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, marking the first event following the unification of the IRL and Champ Car World Series.

July 2008

The NFL and NBC announce that during the upcoming season, the network’s 17 regular-season games will be streamed live on NFL.com and NBCSports.com, the first time regular-season action will be broadly streamed in real time in the U.S.

April 2009

The Chicago Blackhawks announce they will locally broadcast all 82 regular-season games in the upcoming season for the first time in franchise history.

April 2009

AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami and Philips Arena in Atlanta become the first venues in the NBA and NHL to earn the LEED certification for their sustainability efforts.

September 2009

Mikhail Prokhorov acquires the New Jersey Nets in a $200 million deal, becoming the first foreign owner in the NBA and the first in major U.S. stick-and-ball sports since the chairman of Nintendo bought the Seattle Mariners in 1992.

October 2009

Staples extends its naming-rights agreement for the AEG-owned Staples Center in perpetuity, marking the first lifetime naming-rights extension for a major-market arena.

April 2010

The NBA signs a three-year sponsorship with Bacardi, making it the first of the big four professional stick-and-ball sports to sign a spirits marketer as a corporate patron.

July 2011

MLB.com generates 51 percent of its total traffic from mobile devices, the first time the site and perhaps any other major online sports destination has gained more than half of its overall traffic from mobile.

Photo: getty images

November 2011

North Carolina and Michigan State play in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic in San Diego, the first college basketball game held on a Navy aircraft carrier.

August 2012

Augusta National Golf Club invites former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina-based financier Darla Moore to become the club’s first female members.

February 2013

The University of Texas athletic department reports $103.8 million in football income for its 2011-12 fiscal year, the first time a college has reported $100 million in revenue from one sport.

July 2014

The NBPA makes history by electing Michele Roberts the first female executive director of a sports union in North America.

April 2015

The NFL draft is held in Chicago, the first time it has been held outside New York in 50 years.

Photo: getty images

June 2015

American Pharoah becomes the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed did so in 1978.

August 2016

The U.S. Open uses its new, $150 million retractable roof atop Arthur Ashe Stadium during a match for the first time.

September 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers and venture firm NextEquity buy a majority stake in esports franchises Team Dignitas and Team Apex, making the Sixers the first U.S. sports organization to control a professional gaming outfit.

Photo: getty images

November 2016

UFC stages a bout at Madison Square Garden, its first fight card in New York since the sport was legalized in the state.

October 2017

Carla Williams is named athletic director at the University of Virginia, becoming the first African-American woman to hold such a position among the 64 schools that make up the power five conferences.

February 2018

MLS expansion club LAFC signs a partnership with YouTube TV that makes the team the first among major U.S. pro franchises to air all of its locally televised matches on a live TV streaming provider.