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August 29, 2007

Talalay: Selig's visit (Marlins Stadium Update No. 1117)

There was a flurry of activity Tuesday when the media learned MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and President Bob DuPuy would meet with reporters at Dolphin Stadium prior to the Marlins game.

Even Selig acted surprised the Dolphins interview room was packed, saying he thought he was meeting with just a few people.

Yes, his visit was significant: the commissioner doesn’t just show up. The Marlins ballpark IS a priority. But Selig is not the negotiator. There is no stadium deal yet.

Selig wouldn’t reveal what happened in two meetings, first with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Pete Hernandez and then with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro and Manager George Burgess. He would only say the meetings were “productive,” “constructive” and he wants to get a deal done. No talk of site, he said. No financial terms, no deadlines.

But you can be sure each meeting wasn’t a two-hour getting to know you session. You can be sure Selig made it clear a ballpark financing deal needs to get done, once and for all. But everyone was advised to keep the post-meeting discussion vague.

Barreiro said the site was discussed – specifically the Orange Bowl site, which is in his district and which he, along with other county and city commissioners, favors.

The Marlins and MLB would prefer a downtown site. Of course, they can accept the OB site, but they will likely push to lower the team’s contribution from its earlier $207 million commitment since they don’t believe the OB site will be as successful as one downtown. How the financing will work - and if dollars approved to renovate the OB can be shifted now that UM is moving to Dolphin Stadium next year - remains to be seen.

If talks didn’t go well, Selig likely wouldn’t have been so tight-lipped. There were no talks of alternatives outside Florida, as there had been two weeks ago.

“I don’t really want to get into that now,” Selig said of relocation. “I really meant what I said today. I feel good about what happened today. Given the reception I got today from all the parties. I feel very good about where we are … I just don’t want to think about anything else right now.”

Instead Selig waxed about how great a baseball market South Florida will be with a new retractable roof ballpark where the Marlins will generate and control the kind of revenue needed to field a competitive team.

“This is a great market. I’ve never had any doubts about it and I don’t have any doubts today,” Selig said. “They just need to get a new ballpark.”

Selig may have visited to re-set the talks, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.

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August 24, 2007

Talalay: Marlins Stadium Update No. 4,306

To all those assuming that UM’s announcement it will move to Dolphin Stadium next year will mean a quick and painless Marlins ballpark financing deal, I say:

Calm down. Take a deep breath.

I’m not about to suggest that a retractable-roof ballpark won’t be built at the site of the Orange Bowl in Little Havana. All I’m saying is don’t plan the parade on Calle Ocho just yet. Don’t assume, despite what the politicians say, that the $490 million financing deal debated earlier this year only to stall when the state Senate adjourned without considering a $60 million sales tax rebate, can just be moved to the OB site.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, and county commission chairman Bruno Barreiro all spoke this week of their optimism for a new ballpark. Barreiro said dollars are already attached to the project. Diaz and Hernandez agreed.

“I believe we had the financing in place, even six to eight months ago,” Hernandez said. “The only item missing was what we were looking for from the state. At this point, I don’t think it’s insurmountable. We have the funding in the place.”

Added Diaz, “The meat of whatever agreement is there, the adjustment is the site. We’re really modifying the agreement. I’m hoping we can move with all deliberate speed to get a deal done as soon as possible.”

If it were that simple, the deal could have been negotiated while UM was mulling its decision to move.

Consider: It’s not clear a stadium at the OB will cost $490 million – in part because the longer the delay, the more the price goes up. There’s the cost of demolition, the design of a ballpark on the OB site. UM's move frees up $50 million that Miami-Dade voters approved in 2004 as part of a $2.9 billion general obligation bond for parks and recreation facilities. But those dollars were for an OB renovation. It is possible the money could be moved, but according to the county attorney’s office, only if a public hearing on the switch is held.

There’s also the thorny question of whether the Marlins and Major League Baseball, who would prefer a spot downtown, will accept the OB location. They may have to, but it is unlikely they will do so without trying to renegotiate the Marlins’ contribution to the deal. They are concerned a ballpark at the OB won’t be as successful as one downtown, which would be easier to reach, closer to major roadways and public transportation.

The Marlins say time is running short, with their lease at Dolphin Stadium set to expire in 2010. UM’s lease with Dolphin Stadium requires the infield dirt be removed by 2011, but stadium officials say they are exploring options for moving and replacing the dirt, should the Marlins want or need to stay beyond 2010. The Marlins don’t want to stay, not just because of the dirt issue, but because they want to control their own revenue.

A ballpark may eventually be built at the site of the OB. Just don’t expect a financing plan as soon as tomorrow.

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August 22, 2007

Talalay: UM's move -- It’s all about the revenUe

As was anticipated for weeks, UM decided not to take the city of Miami’s offer of a publicly financed $206 million renovation of the crumbling 70-year-old Orange Bowl, but instead will move in 2008 to the swankier environs of 20-year-old Dolphin Stadium, which is undergoing a privately funded $300 million renovation.

The decision was clearly expected even before UM Athletic Director Paul Dee stepped to the podium Tuesday to announce the vote of UM trustees because media packets already included quotes, comparisons of the OB and Dolphin Stadium and frequently asked questions.

The decision is mainly about the revenue - UM's expected to make millions more annually - but it’s also about providing fans a more enjoyable experience, one where they don’t have to worry about the potential for a light stand to fall on them or to brave the unpleasant restrooms. It’s not about abandoning history and traditions – it’s about moving on and creating new ones. Find a comparison of the stadiums here.

While it seems UM was always going to make the move, everybody involved said Tuesday the decision was an agonizing one that most didn’t want to make. It involved lots of study, tours of Dolphin Stadium with students, discussions with FIU and Miami officials about trying to find a partner to make a more thorough overhaul of the OB more financially feasible.

UM student government president Danny Carvajal was among those who needed convincing. He'll miss the tradition of the OB, but is looking forward to good times at the Canes' new home.

"It’s been rundown and it’s not in the best condition, but that’s part of it," Carvajal said of the OB. “Some complained that Dolphin Stadium is a very sterile, generic environment, but I think when you get that stadium packed with 75,000 fans, that sterile-ness is going to disappear.”

Dee pointed out that lots of teams have moved: the University of Pittsburgh now plays in Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “For goodness sake, they’re even building a new Yankee Stadium,” he said.

Other colleges playing in pro stadiums include the University of Minnesota, which is playing at the Metrodome in Minneapolis until its on-campus stadium is complete. The University of South Florida will pay the Tampa Sports Authority $105,000 this year to play its games at Raymond James Stadium, along with a ticket surcharge not to exceed $2.50 per ticket, records show. The school gets to keep most of its revenue and is provided with parking spaces and other benefits.

UM will control the ticket sales at Dolphin Stadium and will share some revenues, including club and suite sales, with its new home.

Ticket prices, which will be announced in January, will rise as they do every year, Dee said. Existing season ticket holders and Hurricane Club members will receive similar seating at Dolphin Stadium. Dee acknowledges the seat relocation process will be difficult, but he promised the university will be reasonable. Fans with questions should visit www.hurricanesports.com or email umfootball@miami.edu for more information about seating.

UM plans to bus students to Dolphin Stadium and drop them off near the student seating area. For those who want to drive, there will be a student parking area. On game days, the stadium will be dressed up to look like it belongs to the Hurricanes.

Dee says the university hopes the fan base will expand with easy access to and plenty of parking at Dolphin Stadium.

“If our fans understand why we made the move to come to Dolphin Stadium, I think if we penetrate Broward and Palm Beach counties, I think there will be more people open to coming to a game than they have in the past,” Dee said. “I think if you’re in Broward and Palm Beach you’ll say now this is accessible to me.”

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August 17, 2007

Talalay: Dolphin Stadium switching from Coke to Pepsi

No coke. Pepsi.

Well, not yet. Dolphin Stadium is in the process of making the switch from Coke to Pepsi products, but this week there was a bit of schizophrenia at the Miami Gardens venue while the change was being made.

Soda taps at concession stands were still dispensing Coca Cola, but bottles of Aquafina, PepsiCo’s bottled water, were for sale. Marlins fans sitting in Founders seats received Pepsi products if they took advantage of in-seat ordering. Pepsi vending machines stood waiting to be installed. A Pepsi ad appeared on the team's Web site.

Dolphin Stadium officials were mum about the switch. “We’re not ready to make an announcement on our beverage partner,” Dolphins Enterprises spokesman George Torres said.

But a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said Coke no longer has the beverage pouring rights at the stadium.


“We chose to our end relationship with the Dolphins,” said Susan Stribling, spokeswoman for Coca-Cola North America. But she quickly added the company still has a partnership with the Marlins, although not for pouring rights.

“Coca-Cola can associate with the Marlins on a local basis, local promotions, on radio stations,” she said.

A source said Pepsi is paying about $1.5 million a year, whereas Coke’s deal at Dolphin Stadium was about $800,000. Pepsi is an NFL sponsor but individual teams can negotiate their own beverage deals.

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August 16, 2007

Talalay: Dolphins Renew with Kangaroo TV

The Dolphins and Kangaroo TV are teaming up again to bring Dolphins fans a chance to watch DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket during home games this season.

The handheld TVs are programmed to broadcast Sunday Ticket, including the Dolphins game so fans can catch replays that are not broadcast on Dolphin Stadium's giant scoreboards. The device was available as part of a pilot program at Dolphin Stadium and the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field last season. This year, the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans have been added.

And the price has dropped nearly 38 percent this year from $39.99 per game to $24.95 a game. A full season rental runs $149.95 or $119.95 for Dolphins season ticket-holders.

The TVs include games, highlights and the Red Zone channel, which gives fans a warning when a team is about to score. The service wil also debut real-time fantasy game statistics from NFL.com. The devices will be available starting at the Dolphins home opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 16.

The technology debuted in motorsports, where fans can watch races and listen to conversations between drivers and their crew chiefs.

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August 14, 2007

Talalay: Prospective Lightning owner shuns the spotlight

I wondered why I couldn’t find any references to Jeff Sherrin, the Coral Springs real estate developer who is part of former Panthers coach Doug MacLean’s group that announced last week it has agreed to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This profile of Sherrin in the St. Petersburg Times explains that’s by design. Although he prefers to be reclusive, the paper reports, it was Sherrin’s phone call to a New York sports broker that led to the deal to buy the NHL team, which wasn’t known to be for sale.

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August 13, 2007

Talalay: NASCAR still attractive to other sports

Now it's an NHL owner joining NASCAR's ranks.

Last week, Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett partnered with Ray Evernham to create Gillett Evernham Motorsports. The partnership is being billed as a business enterprise to take advantage of Evernham’s on-track success and Gillett’s business and marketing savvy. Gillett is also a co-owner of British soccer team Liverpool and other business holdings include Gillett Entertainment Group, which produces sports and entertainment events across North America; ski and golf resorts; and auto dealerships.

In February, Fenway Sports Group purchased 50 percent of Roush Racing to form Roush Fenway Racing. FSG is a subsidiary of New England Sports Ventures, which includes the Red Sox and Fenway Park. The Red Sox held a NASCAR night at Fenway Park in June in conjunction with the NASCAR race in New Hampshire.

And there’s been a long-standing connection between NASCAR and the NFL. Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs began Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman own a NASCAR team. Former quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Terry Bradshaw co-own different Busch Series teams.

For some, the explanation is simply that they love racing and the competition. From a business standpoint, the partnerships offer ways to broaden the audience for the respective owners’ sports.

“I think in some ways it’s a unique form of sports marketing experimentation,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

Even though NASCAR may have reached a plateau in its fan growth, the opportunities for cross-promotion are many, including team logos and sponsorships across both sports' venues.

Swangard said NASCAR’s “proven success in sponsorship activation” alone make it a good bet. “You’ve got to look at the core fundamentals of the business. Do they have a loyal fan base? Yes. Sponsors who think it’s a good value? Yes. I would say those are good fundamentals.”

But it remains to be seen if using NASCAR to promote the NHL will be successful.

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August 10, 2007

Talalay: Dolphin Stadium’s new TVs, elevators, lounge areas and … restrooms

Kohlernew.jpgDolphin Stadium officials unveiled the all-new Club Level this week just in time for Saturday’s exhibition game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Check out a video tour of the new amenities here.

As part of the overall $213 million venue renovation, the vastly expanded club level features dozens of high definition TVs, new lounge areas for drinking and dining, VIP entrances and elevators. Fantasy football players can keep track of their teams in the Sprint Fantasy Lounge, where they can watch the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package or check the latest stats at kiosks equipped with computers.

And then there are the restrooms…

That’s right, after surveying fans about their stadium experience, Dolphin Stadium officials said nicer restrooms were among fans’ requests. The stadium is partnering with Wisconsin-based kitchen and bathroom products manufacturer Kohler Co., this season for “state of the art” restrooms. Among the features are brushed stainless steel, etched glass, and touchless gooseneck faucets and flush toilets, and waterless urinals.

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August 8, 2007

Talalay: Altidore's next stop? Video game box

FIFA08new.jpgBoca Raton’s Jozy Altidore keeps making his mark.

The 17-year-old forward for Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls is the second youngest athlete to appear on the cover of an EA Sports video game. Altidore joins Mexican national team goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and Brazilian International star Ronaldinho on the cover of EA Sports FIFA Soccer 08 in North America, EA announced this week.

“It’s exciting to be on the cover of my favorite videogame and I am really looking forward to playing as myself in FIFA Soccer 08,” Altidore said in a statement. “I can hardly wait to play with my virtual character wearing the Red Bull uniform and taking on the world’s top defenders one-on-one."

Freddy Adu was the youngest at 16 when he appeared on the cover of EA’s FIFA Soccer 06.

Altidore is also currently being featured in adidas’ “Impossible is Nothing” campaign.

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August 7, 2007

Talalay: Former Panthers coach agrees to buy into Tampa Bay Lightning

The most surprising thing about former Panthers coach Doug MacLean leading a group, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning is that it was never made public the team was for sale. Apparently discussions had occurred quietly for several weeks before Tuesday’s press conference.

In addition to MacLean, who led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, the Absolute Hockey group includes Coral Springs real estate developer Jeff Sherrin and Los Angeles TV and movie producer and former minor league hockey player Oren Koules.

Former South Florida Sun-Sentinel Panthers beat writer Michael Russo discusses the deal, which still needs approval of the NHL Board of Governors, on his blog.

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Talalay: Let Fido get back at Michael Vick

A Jacksonville company is trying to stamp out animal abuse and take a playful stab at Michael Vick’s alleged involvement in a dogfighting ring with … a Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy.

Billed as “The Official ‘Vick’ Dog Chew Toy," the approximately 5 inch by 3 inch figurine looks like the embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who pleaded not guilty to federal dogfighting charges, complete with No. 7 jersey and football in hand. A company official responded to an email saying the product is “similar to Nylabone in quality.” Perfect for your dog.

“We are making a statement ZERO TOLERANCE for Animal Abuse,” the email said. The Web site promises proceeds will be donated to organizations that protect animals.

The toys cost $10.99 apiece and $2.99 for shipping and handling and the first orders are being mailed out today. Orders placed now will be shipped next month.

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August 6, 2007

Talalay: Dolphins say tickets are in the (express) mail

With the Dolphins’ first exhibition game of the 2007 season at Dolphin Stadium on Saturday, some season ticket-holders are worried they haven’t yet received their tickets.

Dolphins Enterprises spokesman George Torres says not to fret: the tickets are on their way. He said season ticket-holders should have received an email informing them the tickets were en route. The tickets are being sent out via FedEx.

“They started to go out last week and they continue to go out this week,” Torres said. “All deliveries should be completed by [Tuesday]. Everyone should receive their tickets by Wednesday.”

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August 4, 2007

Talalay: Michael Irvin as Businessman/Philanthropist

FLZirvin27lrBnew.jpgFormer Dallas Cowboys and UM star wide receiver Michael Irvin will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this evening for his legacy on the football field. He’s working to develop a new one off it, by investing in his old neighborhood:

Last month he donated $100,000 to St. Thomas Aquinas for its new athletic complex. Thanks to other donations, youngsters who visit the Michael Irvin Academic Recreation Academy at Joseph C. Carter Park (where he played Pop Warner football) take dance lessons, get to work on computers and this fall will learn about the marine sciences.

“We give them an opportunity to come and get on a computer every day,” Irvin said. “My kids, they have a computer in the upstairs study, they have a computer in the downstairs study and each of them have laptops. Now these kids don’t have any of that, but they are forced to compete with my kids. And it’s unfair, but it’s real.”

In June, the Tetra Companies, a Virginia-based real estate development and management firm, announced it was partnering with Irvin to develop mixed-use housing, commercial and retail projects across the southeast. The TMI Group – which stands for Tetra Michael Irvin – has plans for Playmaker Plaza on the southwest corner of Sistrunk Boulevard and Northwest Seventh Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The project is the early stages: none of the 84 parcels owned by 50 property owners has been purchased, but company partners Gil Holt and Frank Marley say property owners have been consulted and some have agreed to be part of the project.FLZirvin27lrCnew.jpg


TMI hopes to assemble the property by early next year in order to develop a combination of housing and retail, including a much-needed grocery store.

“How hard is it for us to get a grocery store in there?” said Irvin, who majored in Business Management Organization at UM. “I understand you want to make money, but let’s empower people and see that they go and give them a sense of self, a sense of kingliness. I’m a king and my wife’s a queen. I have a nice place to go home to, I have a great grocery store I can go to. And that self-empowerment makes you go out and bring in a king’s ransom. Now I don’t need to drive out these people, I can empower them.”

Although the city of Fort Lauderdale has not yet taken any action on the project, Commissioner Carlton Moore says he’s impressed with Irvin’s plans. “This individual could do investments anywhere,” Moore said. “He’s choosing to come home to where he grew up.”

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August 3, 2007

Talalay: Puck Unites?

The Panthers’ on-ice struggles and revolving door of general managers, coaches and players the past few years have left all but the most ardent fan unclear exactly what the team is about.

That’s why the Panthers hired SME, a New York branding firm with years of experience helping sports teams and companies create brand messages and new logos. After spending the past few months interviewing diehard and casual fans as well as non-sports fans, SME and the Panthers say they learned the community appreciates the Panthers for creating connections among families and season ticket-holders who sit together at BankAtlantic Center; providing chances to meet players at games and other functions; and for the drama of the game itself.

Pucknew.jpgThe Panthers’ new brand positioning statement is meant to encompass those qualities:

“The Florida Panthers: The Puck Unites”

The statement, which is something like a tagline that will be integrated into all aspects of the team’s business, is meant to illustrate what the team is about. SME helped the Boston Bruins become “The Hub of Hockey” and created the “Hard Work Every Night” concept for the Detroit Pistons.

This is a new idea for the Panthers and one team officials hope will endure for years. While it’s not an advertising tagline, it will appear on ads. Think of it as a tagline that stays with a company for years, even when advertising changes, such as Gatorade’s “Is it in you?,” Toyota’s “Moving Forward,” or Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop.”

Meanwhile, Lipof Advertising of Plantation is responsible for this year’s ad or retail message, which will be used to sell tickets. It is “See it. Get it. Love it.” The idea, team officials say, is that you can see games, get tickets and fall in love with the game. It will appear as just that tagline, but also with other ideas, such as “See it. $1.50 Per Day; Get it. 42 Nights; Love it. All Season Long.” Ads should break in the next week or two.

The brand statement by itself isn’t expected to grow the fan base or increase revenue for the team. A brand message, said Ed O’Hara, SME’s chief creative officer, is about an overall picture of the team, not selling tickets.

“That’s the classic question for the advertising agency to worry about a little more,” O’Hara said. “Our goal was to define the brand for the long term.”

So, what do you think? Does “The Puck Unites” say Panthers hockey to you? Do you have a suggestion for a statement you would prefer? Do you like the advertising tagline?

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Talalay: Gulbis Giftcards

Win a tournament, launch a giftcard.

Payment Data Systems has teamed up with the newly minted LPGA Tour champion Natalie Gulbis, who notched her first title win at the Evian Masters in Evian-les-Bains last weekend, to launch a Natalie Gulbis Gift MasterCard. The giftcard, which comes with a variety of designs featuring photos of Gulbis, is available for order online. Later this year, it is expected to be sold at pro shops and golf speciality stores.

“The card program we have developed is a perfect gift for golfers and is an excellent product addition for any golf pro shop or retailer,” Gulbis said in a statement. “It makes for a unique golf tournament award and giveaway. The ability to have a printed gift message on the card is my favorite feature."

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August 1, 2007

Talalay: Caron Butler and NFL stars invest in Burger King

Washington Wizards and former Heat forward Caron Butler is becoming a fast food franchisee. Well, an investor in a group that has purchased 18 Burger King restaurants in Norfolk and Richmond, Va., Miami-based Burger King Corp. announced this week.

Butler, NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards, New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, and New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan have joined a group of mainly minority investors in Ramsell Dining, LLC to buy the restaurants.

“As a teenager, I was a Burger King crewmember, and now I love being a part owner,” Butler said in a statement. “Deciding to invest in the Burger King brand was an easy decision, because it represents not only a great investment opportunity but also a chance to build on the success of minority-owned franchises.”

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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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