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Volume 21 No. 26

People and Pop Culture

A Royals award

Walz Tetrick Advertising President/CEO Charlie Tetrick and Kansas City Royals VP Mike Bucek pose with the Clio Award won for the franchise’s “Raised Royal” murals campaign on May 21 in New York City.
Photo: KANSAS CITY ROYALS

 

UFC, AirAsia put fight into flight

With AirAsia’s first UFC-branded plane at Sydney Airport on May 27 are AirAsia representatives with Leanne Chu, UFC events and partnership activation director of Asia; UFC lightweight Kevin Lee; Ben Rynjah, AirAsia regional branding manager; and UFC VP Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang. AirAsia is UFC’s official airline in Asia and Australia. The AirAsia Airbus A330-300 will fly in both regions.
Photo: ZUFFA LLC

 

Conversation with Mavericks CEO Marshall

The Black Sports Professionals of North Texas hosted a conversation with Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall at the SMU Cox School of Business. From left: Lundy Marketing Group’s Larry Lundy, Marshall, Learfield’s Nicole Britenriker and the Frisco Rough Riders’ Breon Dennis.
Photo: DEAN DOMINGUEZ PHOTOGRAPHY

 

New on the Block

Good City Brewing is the first anchor tenant of the Entertainment Block opening in spring 2019 next to the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. Milwaukee Bucks SVP Alex Lasry, Good City co-founder Dan Katt, Bucks President Peter Feigin and Good City co-founder David Dupee toast outside the arena on May 31.
Photo: WISCONSIN ENTERTAINMENT and sports CENTER

 

Celebrating Super Bowl nod

Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman David Rousseau, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Cardinals President Michael Bidwill at Sanctuary Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., on May 23 after NFL owners selected Phoenix as the host region for Super Bowl LVII in 2023.
Photo: Arizona Cardinals FOOTBALL CLUB

 

Triathlon ready for LA 2028

At Shoreline Aquatic Park in Long Beach, Calif., the proposed site of the triathlon competitions for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games: IPG360’s Sean Moran, Jeff Marks, Dan Etna and Dave Cogan; USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris; LA 2028 CEO Gene Sykes; USA Triathlon President Barry Siff; and Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.

 

Stepping into their swings 

Colorado professional athletes from the Avalanche, Broncos, Nuggets and Rockies participated in UCHealth’s second annual Healthy Swings: Charity Home Run Derby on May 11 at Coors Field. UCHealth contributed $53,200 to the Gold Crown Foundation based on the hits from each player.
Photo: UCHealth / Jamie Schwaberow, Clarkson Creative
 

LASEC honors L.A.'s Hershiser

Former Dodgers standout and current broadcaster Orel Hershiser received the LASEC Sports & Entertainment Ambassador Award of Excellence on May 7 at the 19th annual L.A. Sports & Entertainment Commission Golf Classic at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. LASEC President Kathy Schloessman and board member Bob Graziano (right) presented the award to Hershiser.
Photo: LASEC

 

Deloitte renews with USGA

Deloitte and the USGA announced the renewal of a multiyear professional-services sponsorship on May 18 when the U.S. Open Trophy was displayed at Deloitte’s Midtown Manhattan office. From left: Sarah Hirshland, chief commercial officer, USGA; Steve Gallucci, Tri-State managing partner, Deloitte; and Pete Giorgio, sports consulting leader, Deloitte.
Photo: DELOITTE

 

Please submit photos for review of industry conferences, parties, product launches and openings showcasing the people and personalities at the event. Include the event date, location, names/titles of those featured along with credit information. The photo specifications are as follows: 300dpi, tiff, jpeg or eps color images. Submit digital photos for review at: photo@sportsbusinessjournal.com or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.

Amy Sprangers is a Seattle native, growing up on Bainbridge Island, attending the University of Washington and then going to work for the event festival Seafair. She did such a good job there, a friend at Budweiser insisted she should work for the Seahawks. She’s been at the NFL team since 2001, rising though the ranks to now overseeing all suites, retail, concessions, sponsorships and local media rights. SportsBusiness Journal caught up with her in what is the team’s first offseason since 2011 in which it was not coming off a playoff appearance.

We pride ourselves on being a consistent championship-caliber team both on the field and off the field. Beyond the success on the football field … we are committed to ensuring our Seahawks organization is a source of pride and leadership throughout the community.
Amy Sprangers
Vice President of Corporate Partnerships & Suites, Seattle Seahawks
 

On ticket renewals being strong: This story holds true there, building off of 130 consecutive home game sellouts. We have had a 97 percent-plus renewal rate, still strong season-ticket wait list, Blue Pride [the team’s wait list] is capped at about that 12,000 number and there is just over 68,000 more that have applied that are waiting to get on the Blue Pride list. So our ticketing base is strong; our suite renewals and our corporate partnership renewals have been strong, too.

 

Photo: Getty Images

On the Atlanta Falcons cutting concession prices: So much of their experience on game day is also food and beverage related. So, we really wanted to focus on local. We spent a ton of time researching how we would do that. There’s a great team of people in place that lead that effort now, so we have looked at that approach in terms of really highlighting the tremendous local food, wine and beer and craft choices across the region. We really wanted to bring that into a stadium environment for our fans, which is difficult to do.

 

Does that mean you have decided not to cut prices? Correct.

 

On a deal you are proud of: What we have been able to do with Delta on [the] 12status [program] is a first of its kind with Delta for SkyMiles. Fans earn one Delta mile for every yard the Seahawks throw on the field at both home and away games during the regular season. What is super cool about this is more than 30,000 fans participated. Delta awarded more than 92 million miles for the 2017 season, and what they really needed to establish was a strong foothold in our region and a strong tie that Delta is the official airline of the Seahawks. To create this program specifically around our fans, specifically around the 12s, that rewarded on-field performance, was something that they had not done before.

 

On how a communications major has helped her career: I really enjoy speaking in front of people, and that is not something I always enjoyed. And so, having that major and focusing on that as well as writing, really serves what I do today in terms of negotiating deals and really thinking strategically about where we need to take our business and being able to have that forward-thinking ability. But more importantly, being able to communicate that very succinctly. That is where that degree has really helped me is the polish, the preparation, to be able to know how to speak in front of a group, large or small, especially in sales to be able to walk into a room and confidently deliver your ideas and your pitch with a positive outcome.

 

— Daniel Kaplan

Brian McKenna has spent the better part of four decades helping to grow the sport of hockey in North America. With stops in the NHL, AHL and ECHL on both the player management and business operations side, as well as coaching at the college, junior and youth levels, McKenna has long had the sport in his blood, dating back to his days growing up on Prince Edward Island, Canada. For the last 16 years, he’s served as the commissioner of the ECHL, the 27-team league that sits just below the NHL and AHL in North America’s professional hockey pyramid. While McKenna was set to deliver the Kelly Cup to the league’s championship team this past weekend, it will be his last — he announced that he would be stepping down from his position after the season. He spoke with staff writer Ian Thomas about his career in hockey and what’s next for him.

Photo: echl

Hockey has always been a part of my life. I started playing as a very young kid but then I got into coaching while I was in college. I had the good fortune of being in Ottawa when the Senators returned to the NHL back in 1991, and as a result of my background in hockey and the sales and marketing career, I was hired as a manager of marketing in 1991.

I had the opportunity to be involved in the NHL, the AHL and then at the ECHL, then the job came open with the ECHL as commissioner. It sounded interesting. It sounded like a new challenge. [I] was fortunate enough to get the job and thought it would be a five- or six-year stint, and here we are 16 years later.

The hockey side of [being commissioner] was the easy side, and it’s probably at the end of the day what you spend 25 percent of our time on. The main focus has been, and I guess always will be, the business itself. 

During my time here we’ve had more than 450 players who got their start in our league that have gone on to play in the NHL, numerous coaches and front office folks as well and about a third of the NHL officials or linesman who are on the ice now, so we’re very proud of that. 

McKenna (at right) joined by Pat Kelly and Barret Ehgoetz of the Cincinnati Cyclones, at the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals. Cincinnati defeated the Idaho Steelheads in five games.
Photo: echl

On the business side, interestingly we have roughly the same number of teams now [as] when I took over 16 years ago, but in the interim, there has been a vast consolidation of leagues. We’re now the only league left at the double-A level in the country and it’s a much stronger foundation and structure.

Our teams are much more entrenched in the community now and much more involved in youth hockey and promotion of the game at the grassroots level than we were 15 or 20 years ago, and I think that is a good thing. 

We’re very pleased to see the growth of the sport, particularly in the South and nontraditional markets. And there’s a number of markets that were former ECHL markets that now have AHL teams. 

In terms of things I will miss — the people, particularly the folks working here in our office. Also, going to see games and interacting with our front office people across the league, interacting with our fans as well. Going to see the games and the product on the ice is really the fun part. 

Handing the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP trophy to goaltender James Reimer, then of the South Carolina Stingrays, currently of the Florida Panthers.
Photo: echl

What I won’t miss is supplementary discipline, and all the conflicts associated with the suspension of players or fines that are brought down on an ongoing basis over the course of the season. That’s a little more of the adversarial side of the job, and I certainly won’t miss that and will be happy to give that to someone else.

Our board of governors is still focused on trying to build the league to at least 30 teams and continue to strengthen the ties to the NHL and the AHL.

First thing will be to take a little time off, so no immediate plans to jump into something else. But certainly, [I] want to continue to be involved in the business.

I want to spend more time with family. I have a daughter who is in Seattle who recently took a job there, so I want to go spend some time with her. My wife and I have a son who is still going to a university that is very close to where we are now so I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time with them and figure out what I’m going to do next.

With the Blue Man Group prior to the Las Vegas Wranglers home opener in 2003.
Photo: echl

If I had to do it all over again I would spend a little more time and effort in terms of communication, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, yearly with all of our stakeholders and try to have a little more time and effort spent on that. For anyone getting into the business now … I would tell them to embrace technology. 

There’s still very much a role for minor league sports and minor league hockey in particular. I think we’re still a well-kept secret. There are probably about 12 million fans a year that attend minor league hockey games across the country, and those numbers stack up very well against any league.

It’s fun entertainment. That’s why we encourage our teams to be part of the fabric of the community and be involved in the community and the teams that do embrace it are still seeing growth. I think we’ll continue to see that across the country. 

It’s still a great way to get away from the day-to-day work and grind to go see a minor league hockey or baseball game, and I think that’ll be there for many more years to come.