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April 30, 2007

Dogs, Yes; Peanuts, No

The Marlins return from their road trip Friday night to Dolphin Stadium, where they will host the San Diego Padres and the sixth annual “Bark at the Park” night.

Marlins fans are invited to bring their four-legged friends to the game for the special doggie night, where they can get photos taken by a professional pet photographer and be entertained by a pregame show featuring a frisbee dog squad called K-Nines in Flight. Fans and dogs are limited to sections 401 – 404 in the stadium's upper deck. Last year, 479 dogs attended.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for dogs. Proceeds benefit the Humane societies of Broward County and Greater Miami/Adopt-A-Pet.

PEANUT-FREE ZONE

Meanwhile, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Minnesota Twins have announced the Skybox section in rightfield at the Metrodome will be peanut-free at four games this season to accommodate fans with peanut allergies. The tickets cost $29 each.

"Peanuts are so symbolic, so connected to baseball," Twins vice president Patrick Klinger told the paper. "But if you're allergic to peanuts and you're trying to enjoy the game and the gentleman next to you is eating that bag of peanuts, it could be fatal. There are parents who are fearful of bringing their kids out to a stadium that is filled with peanuts."

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April 29, 2007

Let’s Go Met…airie….

metairie.jpgI was visiting New Orleans earlier this month, just in time for the 2007 home opener of the Triple A New Orleans Zephyrs.

There’s a lot of excitement about the Zephyrs this year because after a two-year affiliation with the Washington Nationals, the Zephyrs are now a New York Mets’ farm club. Plenty of former or one-time Major Leaguers filled out the roster: Lastings Milledge, Fernando Tatis, Ricky Ledee, Chan Ho Park, Andy Tracy.

Proving there are Mets fans everywhere, Mets T-shirts and jerseys were prevalent among the packed crowd at 10-year-old Zephyr Field, which is actually located just outside New Orleans in the suburb of Metairie.

Best of all, sensing an opportunity for some geographical fun, the souvenir shop features a can’t miss item: a Mets blue T-shirt with the word “Metairie” written in the Mets’ script. And it’s a bargain at $12.

So, let's Geaux Mets!

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April 28, 2007

UM & Dolphin Stadium; More vitaminwater

Dolphin Stadium was all decked out to welcome a group of University of Miami students and administrators this morning: Hurricane flags flew from atop the four corners of the stadium and welcome messages and Hurricanes football game footage played on the giant high definition scoreboards.

According to UM officials, some students expressed interest in visiting the Miami Gardens stadium since the school is contemplating moving its football games from the Orange Bowl stadium to Dolphin Stadium. UM officials said they were happy to oblige with a tour since they want student input as the school makes its decision about a move.

University officials are reviewing proposals from the city of Miami to renovate the Orange Bowl, which do not require a contribution from UM, but the school would need to pay the city more of what it earns at the stadium. No decision has been made, a UM spokeswoman said.

UM's lease at the OB expires after the 2009 football season.

VITAMINWATER

Vitaminwater is getting even more mileage from that $100,000 fine the NFL imposed on Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher for wearing a hat with a vitaminwater logo on it during media day at Super Bowl XLI.

The Glaceau brand drink is not an NFL sponsor – which was the reason for the fine – but it’s getting more publicity than it might as a league sponsor. This time, the hat Urlacher wore was won in a Chicago radio contest, and is now for sale on eBay. As of this writing the bid is up to $15,000.

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April 26, 2007

Marlins Stadium Update No. 17

The House voted 86-24 this afternoon for a $60 million sales tax rebate to help the Marlins build a ballpark in Miami.

The rebate allows the first $2 million collected in sales taxes in the ballpark annually for 30 years to be used to help pay the cost of the venue’s construction. A bill that would provide the rebates to the state’s nine professional franchises – at a potential cost of $540 million – to pay for new construction and improvements is expected to come before the House on Friday.

Today's vote by the House is considered early. The funding request typically hasn’t been considered until the final hours of the session. The Senate passed the rebate measure on the last day of the 2006 session, but it died on the House Floor when time ran out. This year it will be up to the Senate to determine the measure’s fate.

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Jason Taylor Inc.

Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor will hand out smoothies at 6 p.m. today at Juiceblendz in Weston.




He’ll be announcing his partnership and investment in the growing chain, where he will serve as president of franchise development. He’s going to help expand the number of franchisees and grow the business, which he and Juiceblendz CEO Adam Ogden believe has a chance to become a leader in the burgeoning smoothie industry in Florida. With four franchises open and another 20 in production, they hope to sell another 25 by year’s end and have a total of 50 operating by 2010.

If you read my story today about Taylor’s business interests, you’ll see he isn’t just dabbling in business. Taylor is strategically developing his business portfolio in his holding company, The Ninety 9 Group. That includes his yacht charter business, which he launched after realizing that maintaining the 100-foot Katina wasn’t inexpensive. The Sacks Group is chartering the yacht, but Taylor has been involved in overseeing the business, including hiring the crew.

He’s also invested in Sunrise-based Bioheart, a company that is developing a procedure to use healthy cells from other parts of the body to replace damaged ones in the heart so heart patients can avoid surgery.

Taylor says he’s evaluating other opportunities carefully as he plans for his future after football. He hopes to become a businessman on the caliber of Magic Johnson.

“I would love to be Magic Johnson. What he’s done has been phenomenal, taking the whole real estate thing and the theaters and the Starbucks and bringing them into urban areas, growing them and being profitable, I think has been amazing,” said Taylor, who met with Johnson to talk about building businesses. “I’d love to be Magic Johnson, I’d like to be [Dolphins owner] Wayne Huizenga too, I’d like to be the president of the United States, but let’s not get carried away.”

But Taylor quickly and emphatically added he has no political aspirations: “I will not run for office."

Although he clearly wants to be more than just a spokesman, Taylor is willing to entertain those offers as well. His deal with Neutrogena, which put him in commercials for men’s skin care products, has expired. But Taylor is still endorsing McArthur Dairy and is among Michael Jordan’s hand-picked athletes for the Jordan Brand apparel and shoes.

Taylor is also endorsing and investing in Enlyten SportSports, a new electrolyte replacement in an edible strip. That doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in endorsing Gatorade.

“I’m still waiting for Gatorade to call,” Taylor said reaching for his cell phone. “I need to make sure my ringer is on.”

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April 21, 2007

Radio, Radio

While the Dolphins finalize the contract details for their return to former radio flagship station, WQAM (560-AM), officials with 790 The Ticket (WAXY-AM) insist losing the Dolphins doesn’t spell their station’s demise.

In fact, 790 officials say, the move will free up plenty of programming time and give them the opportunity to forge contracts with other teams, such as the Marlins, whose contract at WQAM expires after this season. Officials with 790 said the Dolphins told them Friday afternoon that 790 would no longer be the team’s broadcast partner and the team is working on a deal with WQAM.

The Ticket’s contract with the Dolphins expired on March 1 and station officials said they spent the past two months trying to reach a new agreement, but the price was prohibitive.

The Dolphins said they'll have an announcement soon. “We are working on finalizing the radio partnership,” said George Torres, Dolphins Enterprises spokesman.

The Dolphins’ move back to WQAM is expected to mean the return of Jim Mandich as the Dolphins color commentator, a job he’d held for 13 years until the Dolphins moved to 790 in 2005.

Officials at The Ticket say they aren’t worried. Consider that the station launched in September 2004 as a challenger to WQAM with ESPN programming as a way to establish itself in the market. Five months later, it dropped its affiliation with ESPN and decided to focus on local sports talk and programming. Soon after, it drew the Dolphins – another move aimed at ensuring the station was a serious player in the market.

At the time, I asked station officials why they would pursue the Dolphins, rather than more radio-friendly baseball, particularly since the Marlins have healthy radio ratings. They said, in this market, football and the Dolphins rule and that’s how the station wanted to make its mark.

Mission accomplished, station officials say. Now it’s time to concentrate on other teams and programming.

“This actually allows us to do more stuff, more programming,” said Alan Brown, a 790 spokesman. “We’re not going anywhere. There’s room for us to grow. We’re still a young station.”

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April 20, 2007

Marlins Stadium Update No. 713

Amid political wrangling to determine whether funding for a new stadium for the Marlins has a shot of surviving during this year’s Legislative session, a House committee approved a bill this morning that would provide a $60 million state sale rebate for a ballpark.

The House Economic Expansion & Infrastructure Council voted 13-1 for the bill. The Marlins, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami are hoping for the $60 million to complete a $490 million financing plan for a ballpark to be built somewhere in Miami.

Meanwhile, the House bill that would make $60 million rebates available to all nine of Florida’s professional sports franchises – at a potential cost of $540 million – is ready to be considered by the full House. While the House is expected to pass it, it’s unknown whether the Senate will even consider it. Earlier this week, a Senate committee vote was postponed when squabbling erupted over a plan to provide nearly $32 million each in one-time lump sum cash payments to the Marlins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Orlando Magic, instead of the rebates for all nine teams.

The Legislative session wraps up May 4 and it’s expected this issue won’t be determined until the final days, if not hours, as has been the case in each of the past four tries. This is the sixth time in the past eight years the team and local officials have been trying to secure state money.

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April 19, 2007

Wade’s Playoff Shoe; NBA Attendance Record

wadeplayoff.jpgHeat guard Dwyane Wade will kick of this year’s playoffs on Saturday against the Chicago Bulls in a new version of his Wade 2.0.

The limited edition Converse shoe is black with gold accents. It includes an embossed “Z” for his son Zaire and a repeating “W” pattern. Wade’s signature is on a patch behind the tongue. The shoe will be available at retail April 25.

NBA RECORD

The NBA has broken another attendance record this season, for the third consecutive year.

The league drew a total of 21.8 million fans up 1.13 percent from 21.6 million last year. It also recorded 600 sellouts up 27 percent from the 471 in 2005-06. The Heat saw average attendance drop slightly (1.13 percent) from 19,954 a game in 2005-06 to 19,725 this past season.

Scott O'Neil, NBA senior vice president of team marketing and business operations, attributes the increase to exciting games and skilled, popular players, such as the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.

“This truly is the golden era of the NBA,” O’Neil said. “The fans are speaking with themselves coming to our games. That’s our best barometer ... The fans seem to be responding.”

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Seeking Ink

MarlinsTatnew.jpg So Marlins President David Samson didn't actually get a real "Marlins Ink" baseball tattoo: it's a temporary one the Marlins asked the stars of the television show Miami Ink to design for the team. And the first 5,000 fans at tonight's Marlins-Mets game at Dolphin Stadium will receive a copy of the temporary tattoo.

Miami Ink stars Ami James and Chris Nuñez, who display their tattoo handiwork on the TLC reality show, will help hand out the temporary tattoos and throw out the first pitch. Filming for an upcoming episode will also occur at the game. The Marlins-themed episode is to air next month.

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Dolphin Stadium Renovations Up Close

Dolphin Stadium officials conducted a hard hat tour on Wednesday of the stadium's ongoing $213.5 million construction project, where workers are busy welding, painting and adding glass panels.

Dolphstadiumnew.jpgThe project, which began last year with the addition of 360,000 square feet of concourse space on the stadium's north and south sides, is now fully focused on the club level, where well-heeled fans are expected to find lots more concession areas and restrooms, new bars and lounge areas, American Walnut appointments, carpeting, high definition televisions and lights that can be dimmed.




While the stadium has not entered into contracts with outside restaurants, the stadium's concessionaire, Boston Culinary Group, will be offering up a variety of menus. There will be separate high-end dining areas and display kitchens where fans can watch chefs prepare their food, stadium president Bruce Schulze said.

The club level is expected to be open with its new amenities by Aug. 1, meaning in time for Dolphins' preseason and the last two months of the Marlins' season, Schulze said. The 100 and 400 levels, for fans with the less expensive tickets, will also be outfitted with new extras, but the bulk of the work there will be done in 2008, stadium officials say.

Dolphins and stadium owner H. Wayne Huizenga is paying $63.5 million toward the $213.5 million project, with bonds being issued for the the rest, said Bill Pierce, Dolphins Enterprises chief financial officer.

Schulze said the improvements are aimed at enhancing the experience for fans, whether they come to a Dolphins or Marlins game or a concert. He said there will be 50 percent more concession areas and 50 percent more restrooms. The restrooms will be outfitted by Kohler, the plumbing fixture manufacturer, and will have different designs.

"A lot of what you see our guests have told us they would like to see," said Joe Bailey, CEO of Dolphins Enterprises. "Enhanced restrooms, more space to lounge."Dolphstadium2.jpg

The club level is covered on the outside by a lattice framework and a wall of glass paneling, which Schulze said is to evoke a cruise ship and have a "South Florida feel." The glass, which is currently being installed on the north side and can be seen from Florida's Turnpike, is two-toned - some panels are green, some are blue - and creates a unique view.

Stadium officials said the venue, which turns 20 this year, was among the first of the current wave of new football stadiums, so its structure is sound, but its look and amenities needed updating to keep up with changes in the sports industry and the extras in new stadiums.

They say the 400 level will be the largest in the league and like the plaza level will be outfiited with tiki bars complete with sand - as they were at Super Bowl XLI in February - or beer gardens and other activities. The 400 level will not be covered, but will feature "communities of shade," with umbrellas and awnings, Schulze said.

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April 18, 2007

Big Exposure for vitaminwater

Shaq-stand-up.jpg "Size Matters (When You're Thirsty)."

That's the tagline for advertising to support vitaminwater's new partnership with Heat center Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal, who becomes a company partner and investor, is appearing on special 32-ounce bottles of power-c flavor, which will be available in stores later this month. That's not only a large bottle -- Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, Ladainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers, and David Wright of the New York Mets appear on 20-ounce bottles -- but it also reflects O'Neal's jersey number. Only three other athletes have vitaminwater bottles with their numbers on them: NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, and and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

URLACHER FINED

Meanwhile, the NFL has decided to fine Urlacher $100,000 for wearing a cap with the vitaminwater logo and sipping a bottle of the drink during Media Day at Super Bowl XLI in South Florida in January. The Glaceau brand water is not an official NFL sponsor; Gatorade is the league's sponsor. A fine for the same infraction would be $10,000 during the regular season, but shot up to $100,000 because of the exposure during the Super Bowl.

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April 17, 2007

Marlins Stadium Update No. 571

Just when it seemed the Marlins might have a relatively smooth shot of gaining approval for a $60 million state sales tax rebate to help round out the financing for a $490 million ballpark in Miami, local and state politics are overshadowing the process once again -- for the sixth time in eight years.

A Senate committee vote on a bill to provide the rebate for the Marlins was postponed Tuesday morning after some senators floated the idea of instead making a $32 million lump sum cash payment each to the Marlins, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Our Tallahassee Bureau Chief Linda Kleindienst filed this to explain the latest political wranglings:

Miami-Dade politics and a budget squabble between the House and Senate have stalled a proposal to hand nearly $100 million over to three pro sports teams to build new homes or renovate the venues where they now play.

The plan to give $32 million apiece to the Marlins, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning was scheduled for a vote in the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday morning. But the vote was delayed when it appeared there might not be enough support, even from Miami-Dade senators, to get the measure out of committee and there are signals that the House doesn't like the idea.

Bills that would give all nine of Florida’s professional sports teams a $2 million sales tax rebate over the next 30 years - $60 million apiece or a total of $540 million - have been moving through the House and the Senate this session. Those bills, however, would take recurring revenue from the state’s bank account while a cooled down economy is bringing in less tax revenue than the state had expected. Recurring dollars are used to operate state programs, including the court system, public schools and universities.

“That would have a huge fiscal impact on this state. I don’t think we can afford it,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the committee chairman who helped develop the alternative plan.

The $100 million package would give the teams a single, lump-sum payment out of non-recurring dollars - money the state has this year but doesn’t expect to collect next year. The plan falls in line with the Senate’s vision of pouring several hundred million dollars into economic development projects that will create jobs and presumably boost the state’s economy.

“We need to keep in mind that this is true economic development for the future of Florida, it’s not just a ballpark,” said Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, who has been pushing a bill to help the Marlins build a new ballpark in Miami.


As I always say: Stay tuned.

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April 13, 2007

Marlins Stadium Update No. 234

State funding to help pay for a ballpark for the Marlins inched another step closer to approval Friday when the House Budget & Policy Council voted for a bill that would provide $60 million state sales tax rebates to the state's nine profressional franchises, at a potential cost of $540 million.

Under the bill, the teams would be allowed to keep the first $2 million in sales taxes generated annually for 30 years in their home venues for new construction and improvements. The bill is now headed to the House Floor. A bill that would provide the rebate only for the Marlins is scheduled for hearing before a Senate panel next week.

The Marlins, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami are hoping to secure the state dollars to complete the financing for a $490 million ballpark.

But where the ballpark should be built is still undecided. Some county commissioners objected to comments by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson, who said before the team's home opener at Dolphin Stadium a week ago that they'd prefer the downtown location to the site of the Orange Bowl, should the University of Miami move its football games to Dolphin Stadium.

County commissioners raised the possibility of the Orange Bowl location last month and some worried about needing to find a new location for the planned children's courthouse if the downtown site, north of the county government center, is chosen. During a meeting of the county commission's Governmental Operations and Environment Committee on Tuesday, Commissioner Natacha Seijas called the team's comments "completely unacceptable," and said the Marlins "need to be respectful of the children's court."

Commissioner Joe Martinez, who suggested the OB location, said he didn't think the downtown location would fly with commissioners, who will make the final determination. "I don't think there are seven votes here right now for [the downtown] site," he said.

Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, however, said he believed the issues surrounding the downtown site, such as the location of the children's courthouse, could be resolved.

"I believe [the downtown location] is a better site because of mass transit, the [Metro] mover, it's downtown. It doesn't mean the Orange Bowl isn't a viable site," Gimenez said. "One thing we want to make sure is whereever we put it, it gives us the best opportunity to succeed. We don't want to build a white elephant."

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April 12, 2007

Converse Splits with its Ad Agency; Topps Re-signs Bonds

Converse has split with its ad agency, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, the firm responsible for Heat guard Dwyane Wade's shoe ads. That includes the "All In" spots, which broke earlier this year and the series of ads directed by Spike Lee, in which Wade speaks directly to the camera about aspects of his life and basketball.

BONDS CARDS

Topps, which tweaked the Barry Bonds home run chase at the start of the 2006 baseball season with a teaser billboard outside AT&T Ballpark that initially read "Trade Barry" and later was revealed to say "Trade Barry's Cards with Topps -- The Exclusive Home of Barry's Home Run Chase," is back with the San Francisco slugger.

The company has signed Bonds for the 2007 season and is including cards in its packages commemorating each home run as Bonds makes his way toward the record of 755, held by Hank Aaron. It is also making some cards with pieces of three types of game-used memorabilia.

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April 11, 2007

D-Train and Rail Safety

dtrain.jpgWho better than the D-Train to help kick off a rail safety program with “rolling billboards” on Florida East Coast railway trains?

For the first time since the 1930s, advertising is being allowed on freight trains, thanks to a partnership among Freight Train Media; non-profit railway safety program Operation Lifesaver; and the Marlins. Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis and shortstop Hanley Ramirez are appearing in the ads that are running on the side of freight cars and measure approximately 13 feet long by 7 feet high.

“This is a terrific outreach to our fans and other members of the South Florida community – everyone needs to know about driving safely across rail tracks and not playing or walking near them,” Willis said in a statement.

The program kicked off Tuesday at the FEC railyard in Miami Springs. The train cars with the advertising will run between Miami and Jacksonville for the next two months. Officials say the ads could provide more than three minutes of exposure for the Operation Lifesaver and Marlins messages at one rail crossing.

The Marlins are planning an Operation Lifesaver Day at Dolphin Stadium and will run safety messages on the scoreboards this season.

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April 10, 2007

Pressel's Gems

Last week she became the youngest woman to win a major in LPGA history, picking up the victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Now Boca Raton’s Morgan Pressel, 18, is picking up diamonds. Gemesis, a Sarasota company that produces cultured diamonds announced today that is has signed Pressel to a multi-year endorsement deal.

“I'm really excited about being part of the Gemesis Family,” Pressel said in a company news release. “Gemesis uses breakthrough technology to grow diamonds and as I'm a big fan of both technology and diamonds, it was a perfect match for me. I am looking forward to wearing these beautiful diamonds".

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Donuts and XM Promotions

The chant for "donuts" was so widespread at Dolphin Stadium this weekend when the Marlins scored eight runs Saturday night and six runs Sunday afternoon that Dunkin' Donuts has altered its new promotion with the team. When the Marlins score at least six runs at home this season, fans have 24 hours in which to cash in their ticket stubs (one per customer per visit) for two donuts and a medium coffee.

It seems not all franchises had gotten word of the new promotion over the weekend -- all locations in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties and the Treasure Coast are supposed to honor it. Fans who were turned away can call customer relations at: 1-800-859-5339.

XM MAKES THE CALL

Meanwhile, three baseball stars are pitching XM Satellite Radio's broadcasts of every baseball game, under the $650 million, 11-year deal that began in the 2005 season. Hall of Fame-bound retired Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr., Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and New York Yankees star Derek Jeter lend their voices to customizable messages that fans can send to friends and family via phone call, email or AOL Instant Message.

Called "Call Stars," the program allows fans to address their friends and family by name, and choose their favorite team, profession, preferred vacation spot and other details before sending the message. Ortiz can record messages in English or Spanish. And Ripken even suggests a summer vacation in Cooperstown, where he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.

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April 6, 2007

Doughnuts are back at the Marlins

Sweet chants of “dough-nuts, dough-nuts” could be ringing through Dolphin Stadium again soon, now that the Marlins have signed a promotional deal with Dunkin’ Donuts.

Any time the team scores at least six runs at home this season, fans can cash in their ticket stubs within 24 hours for a free breakfast item and a medium coffee at any Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade or Treasure Coast Dunkin’ Donuts location. Breakfast items are: two donuts, one muffin, a bagel with cream cheese or a breakfast sandwich.

The Marlins scored six runs or more 21 times last season. They fell short Friday in their home opener, which they lost to the Phillies 8-2, but if the first three games of the season had been played at home, rather than in Washington, fans would have been cashing in.

In the 2004 season, fans were treated to a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts if the team got at least a dozen hits at home. The promotion was so popular that fans began yelling “dough-nuts, dough-nuts" when the number of hits approached 12.

With the new promotion, fans could be yelling “do-nuts, do-nuts” or perhaps it’ll be “break-fast, break-fast.”

“I think they’re going to call doughnuts, although it’s really a call for breakfast,” Marlins President David Samson said. “There will be an outcry for doughnuts again and it’s always fun.”

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April 5, 2007

Chompionship Charity

ufball.jpg Nikcosports is honoring the 2007 NCAA men's basketball champion Gators with a limited edition, commemorative "Season to Remember" basketball that is helping raise money for children's hospitals.

The company has produced 5,000 Wilson basketballs featuring the team's road to the championship that it is selling for $99 apiece in the hopes of raising $37,500 for the Children's Miracle Network, an alliance of children's hospitals, to benefit Shands Children's Hospital at UF. The basketballs are available by calling 1-800-345-2868 or at www.nikcosports.com.

Nikco has produced commemorative footballs for the Super Bowl, Dan Marino and a basketball for the 2006 NBA Champion Heat, among others. The company has raised nearly $1.5 million for children's charities around the country.

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MLB Fans Prevail

After a hearing before Congress, Major League Baseball was able to reach an agreement with cable operators, meaning a number of baseball fans can breathe easier: the Extra Innings out-of-market baseball package is no longer exclusive to DirecTV.

InDemand, the consortium of cable operators Comcast, Cox and Time Warner agreed Wednesday to a seven-year deal with MLB to carry the Extra Innings subscription package and put the MLB Channel, expected to launch in 2009, on its basic tiers. InDemand will also offer to make Extra Innings available to other cable companies.

DirecTV signed a seven-year, $700 million deal to carry the subscription package exclusively, but after pressure from fans, MLB agreed to make the package available to other operators at “consistent rates” as DirecTV’s. The DirecTV deal raised the ire of members of Congress, who felt fans, who were previously able to view the package, were being shut out.

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April 4, 2007

State Money for the Marlins

A bill that would provide a $60 million state sales tax rebate to help the Marlins build a $490 million ballpark in Miami passed the House Economic Expansion & Infrastructure Council this afternoon.

The council voted 13-1 for the bill that would provide rebates for all nine of the state’s professional franchises at a potential cost of $540 million. The bill would allow the first $2 million in sales taxes generated annually for 30 years by the teams to be kept in their home venues for new construction and improvements. The bill has one more committee stop before reaching the House floor.

Separate bills that would provide funding just for the Marlins are also making their way through the Legislature.

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UM and the OB

The University of Miami’s finance officials are examining the city of Miami’s proposals to upgrade the Orange Bowl, but it’s pretty clear that even without making an upfront contribution, UM will be on the hook for much higher annual payments. UM is continuing talks with Dolphin Stadium officials about potentially moving its football games to the stadium in Miami Gardens, a move that may look even more enticing if UM can earn more money there.

The city has offered up two scenarios – one for $171.7 million, which it says it can fully fund and a second for $199.9 million, which has a $23 million gap – both of which would require UM to pay more than it does now to play games at the OB. The argument for agreeing to stay at the 70-year-old stadium is that with improvements, fancier seating, new club seats and suites, UM will also earn more revenue.

City documents show both plans include structural repairs across the stadium, but would limit most of the improvements to the stadium's south side. And the majority of the new items and amenities, such as club seats and suites, would be for well-heeled fans. In other words, lots of fans might never get to take advantage of any of the new amenities. Both proposals call for the stadium to include 66,000 seats and 2,000 outdoor club seats and upgrades to the first 18 rows of lower bowl seating. A comparison of the two plans:

$171.7 million plan

30 suites
60-seat president’s suite
400 indoor club seats
Tower containing suites and press box will be renovated

$199.9 million plan

45 suites
100-seat president's suite
AD and visiting AD's suites
600 indoor club seats and lounge with 10,000-square foot dining room
Tower will be replaced

Sources of funding include hotel bed tax, a $50 million Miami-Dade County bond issue, and $45 million in historic tax credits, which would be federal tax credits made available to buildings of historic significance. The OB would need a historic designation.

In addition, UM, which already pays a use fee equivalent to 10 percent of gross ticket revenues per game, would be required to continue paying that use fee along with 50 percent of revenues for indoor and outdoor club seats and 75 percent of suite revenues, city documents show. The $1 per ticket surcharge would rise to $3 and the university would also need to kick in $100 a season for each of the 3,200 parking spaces the city would provide for UM – for a total of $320,000.

That’s a significant increase from what the university pays now. Records show that during the 2006 football season, UM paid $189,572 for parking, along with a $333,768 from the ticket surcharge and $992,654 for the use fee. UM does not get to keep concession revenue, nor would it under the city’s proposals.

The city estimates the school could earn an extra $3.4 million to $3.6 million a year, depending on the renovation plan.

It’s unclear how much UM could earn if it moves to Dolphin Stadium, but sources say a deal would likely include some or most of concession and parking revenues and that it could be far more lucrative for the university than its current deal at the Orange Bowl, which expires after the 2009 football season.

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April 2, 2007

Gator Merchandise Mania

With its third appearance in a national title game in a year’s time, the University of Florida is selling a lot of Gators gear.

The school has climbed into the top 5 in merchandise sales among colleges and has increased sales 250 percent from a year ago, according to SportsOneSource, which tracks retail sales of sporting goods. Florida ranks third behind North Carolina and Texas and ahead of Ohio State, which despite playing UF in the BCS football national championship in January and in the men’s basketball championship game tonight, has seen sales remain flat compared to a year ago, according to Neil Schwartz, SportsOneSource director of marketing and business development.

Schwartz said the numbers are remarkable considering Florida doesn’t have the national fan base of schools like Ohio State or Texas.

“That’s a really good testament to the University of Florida fans. They are very loyal and they’re putting their money where their mouth is,” Schwartz said. “So kudos to them.”

Expect sales to continue to be strong, if Florida wins another the basketball title tonight. Licensees, who capitalized on the school’s basketball and football championships within less than a year, are already planning for the possibility of merchandise with three titles, said Heath Price, director of university services for Collegiate Licensing Company, which helps more than 200 colleges and conferences manage their licenses.

Price said not only would three titles be unprecedented, but so would a basketball and a football title within the same school year. And back-to-back basketball titles are rare these days.

Starting today, UF will get a 10 percent royalty – up from 8.5 percent -- on the wholesale cost -- typically half the retail price -- of everything from shirts and hats to shoes, furniture and key chains that bear the university's name or logo. That royalty jumps to 15 percent for championship gear with UF keeping 12 percent and 3 percent going to the BCS for football merchandise or to the NCAA for basketball merchandise. The royalty rate shot up to 18 percent for dual championship products, with the school receiving 12 percent, and the BCS and the NCAA receiving 3 percent each. Three title gear would also carry an 18 percent royalty, Price said.

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Opening Day Sale

In their effort to increase attendance, the Marlins have brought back their special 25 games for $99 ticket plan for a limited time.

The team offered the special during the winter holiday season and have launched it again for just 72 hours. The sale, which began today, runs through Wednesday. On Tuesday, the team will hold a Select-A-Seat at Dolphin Stadium from 6-10 p.m., during which the 7:05 p.m. Marlins-Washington Nationals game will be broadcast on the stadium scoreboards.

The ticket plan is for all Friday and Saturday games, excluding Friday’s home opener, for seats in the stadium’s upper deck. Fans must purchase a minimum of two plans.

“We’ve got an area of inventory of available seating,” said Sean Flynn, Marlins vice president of marketing. “We’ve created a very low entry point. We wanted to hit [people] over the head with an unbelievable offer.”

MLB PAYROLL

Meanwhile, just in time for Opening Day, the SportsBusiness Journal requested Major League Baseball’s tax return, which shows Commissioner Bud Selig earned $14.5 million in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, 2005, the most recent return available. Check out the article.

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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