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September 30, 2007

Dolphins VIP parking

The renovation of Dolphin Stadium has created another perk for the well-heeled: VIP Parking.

The stadium has added 48 new parking spots that if they were any closer would be inside the stadium. They are located by new club level entrances on the venue’s north and south sides and are being sold first to suite and club seat members and then to season ticket holders. Last year some spots were added at Gate E on the stadium’s east side.

They are sold on a season basis for $250 a game, which includes the prime spot and a sign identifying the buyer or his or her business. That’s $2,250 for the nine regular season and exhibition games this season. You’ll see them if you are attending today’s Dolphins-Oakland Raiders game and enter on the stadium’s north or south sides.

Dolphins Enterprises spokesman George Torres said the spots were created after surveys showed fans wanted parking spots close to the building, and that they are selling well. Although there’s no special access for exiting the lot after the game, Torres said, fans wanted the spots for “the convenience of knowing it’s yours, it has your name or your company’s name. That’s your spot. If you’re running late, you know you always have a spot.”

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September 29, 2007

Shea it isn’t so

Right about now, they’re probably focusing on saving their team from the Marlins and a long winter without a trip to the playoffs, but two Mets fans are working to save a Shea Stadium icon.

Andrew Perlgut and Lonnie Klein want to save the Mets’ Home Run Apple, the goofy, but loveable apple that pops out of a top hat when the Mets score home runs. The team is set to move into its new ballpark, Citi Field, in 2009 -- without the apple.

The pair launched savetheapple.com, which waxes about the wonders of the apple. After all, they say "The Big Apple Loves the Big Apple."

“Our mission and message is simple: the Apple must stay,” reads the mission on the Web site. “ When the Mets move into Citi Field in 2009, the Apple must move with them. We don't want to see a new Apple, an updated Apple, or a modernized Apple. We don't want to see a replica Apple. We don't even want to see a cleaned up and repaired Apple. We want to see the same lumpy, grimy, dented, beat up Apple that's been sitting behind the center field wall in Shea Stadium for 27 years. It may be an ugly 80's relic, but it's our ugly 80's relic, and we want it to stay.”

The Web site also sells savetheapple.com T-shirts and has a petition, which has more than 6,000 signatures.

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September 28, 2007

MLB breaks attendance record; Marlins still last

Major League Baseball announced Monday it had already broken an attendance record for the fourth straight year, with seven games in the regular season still remaining. The 30 teams had already drawn 76.2 million through last Sunday, up from the total 2006 attendance of 76 million.

The Marlins, who closed out the 2007 season completing a sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Dolphin Stadium Thursday afternoon, are still last in attendance, selling 1.37 million tickets or 16,920 per game. On the bright side, that’s up nearly 18 percent from last year’s 1.16 million or 14,372 per game.

That’s in spite of a losing record, but much of the increase can be attributed to the team’s Super Saturdays, which include giveaways, postgame concerts and fireworks.

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Wanna buy a Shaq fan web site?

Allan Duncan has been a fan of Heat center Shaquille O’Neal for years. Such a big fan that he started his shaqattaq.net, a fan web site, in mid-2005, when he was 19 years old.

“There was no Shaquille O’Neal web sites on the Internet,” Duncan, now 21, said via email from his home near Las Vegas. “I hated not being able to go to one website with the latest news.”

Duncan says he’s never met O’Neal, but he did give a "shaqattaq" T-shirt to O'Neal's uncle and bodyguard at a game once and eyeballed the center holding it. Although the site gets questions from readers (including marriage proposals, parents wanting shoes for kids with large feet, and autograph requests), they receive an auto reply that says Duncan doesn’t know Shaq.

But now his labor of love is up for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $5,000. Duncan says he needs the money for the helicopter school where he’s enrolled.

“I’m going to flight school and working two jobs and still have to ask my grandpa for the help each month with rent,” said Duncan, who would be willing to still work on the site, even if he’s not the owner. He said he just can’t devote the time to running it. It has no advertising and so far no bidders.

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September 27, 2007

South Florida figures in BusinessWeek’s 100 Most Powerful People in Sports

It takes a while to get to the first South Florida sports figure on BusinessWeek’s “Power 100” ranking of the most powerful people in sports, but Heat center Shaquille O’Neal comes in at No. 78. Heat owner Micky Arison is at No. 97.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is ranked No. 1, followed by Tiger Woods and NBA Commissioner David Stern. In fact, league commissioners occupy three of the top five slots, with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig ranked fifth. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is still ranked fairly high at No. 27.

If you stretch the definition of South Floridians to include those with ties to the region, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who grew up in Miami, ranks 28th and former Marlins and current Boston Red Sox owner John Henry is No. 65.

BusinessWeek collaborated with ESPN the Magazine on the package of stories that accompany the list, which was compiled with the help of 21 individuals from sports and media and the votes of 160,000 fans who nominated individuals at BusinessWeek.com.

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September 25, 2007

Talalay: Marlins Stadium Update No. 5,066

Despite the public silence, Miami-Dade County commissioners haven’t given up on the idea of a publicly financed baseball stadium for the Marlins in the city of Miami.

The commission’s Airport and Tourism Committee adopted a resolution Tuesday directing County Mayor Carlos Alvarez or his designee to identify non-general fund revenue and negotiate a deal with the city of Miami and the team for a ballpark at the location of the Orange Bowl.

But not everyone agreed the location was the best one for baseball.

“I am not convinced the Orange Bowl is the best site,” Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said. “I’m convinced it’s a viable site. I don't think it's the best site. I would hate for us to say this is it ... I think we need to do more study on the economics, the economic impact of being at the Orange Bowl site.”

Gimenez reminded that when he was Miami city manager the city studied the site and didn’t determine it to be the best for baseball. “I think it’s a viable site, but not something I think we should do right now.”

He questioned what became of the publicly-owned site just north of the county government center, which County Manager George Burgess identified last November as a potential location if another spot could be found for a planned Children’s Courthouse. “We never got a final word from the manager on the subject, at least that I saw,” Gimenez said. “At this point I agree with everything else, except for the site. I think we ought to do more study on it.”

His colleagues on the committee, Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Joe Martinez, however, support the Orange Bowl location.

“We have looked at possibly every situation,” Diaz said. “The problem comes down to the dollars. We would probably have to buy a site, if we were going to do it downtown.”

All three commissioners support using the $50 million in general obligation bond funding county voters agreed in 2004 to put toward the city of Miami’s planned renovation of the Orange Bowl. With the University of Miami Hurricanes moving football games to Dolphin Stadium next year, the OB renovation is off and the money could be put toward a ballpark at the Orange Bowl, but only if a public hearing on the issue is held.

Although officials have expressed interest in putting the bond money toward a Marlins ballpark, it is not yet clear both the county and the city will ultimately agree to move the money.

Martinez, who suggested the OB location back in March, upon learning the Hurricanes might move to Dolphin Stadium, wants to ensure the city contributes to the ballpark plan. “They’ve been backing out of a lot of issues lately,” Martinez said.

Martinez also made a request that the Orange Bowl sign on the stadium somehow be preserved at the site. “I’d like to see if the façade facing west could be included in any architectural or engineering design,” he said.

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September 24, 2007

Talalay: Business persons’ specials

It could be a good week to play hooky.

That is, if you’re interested in a Panthers' exhibition game and the final home game of the Marlins' season.

OK, maybe you’d rather stay at work.

The teams are trying to entice fans. The Panthers will host the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday for the team’s first-ever noon start at BankAtlantic Center, which is being billed as a “Business Persons Special." According to the team, business people can get tickets for $7 and the game will feature buy one-get one free hot dogs. Panthers not playing in the game will sign autographs on the plaza level during the first intermission.

The team was also hoping to attract school kids offering a special group packages to Kindergarten through third graders, but the Broward School Board has added extra testing Tuesday for some of its grades.

Meanwhile, the Marlins are branding their last home game of the season at 4:05 p.m. Thursday as “Closing Day.” Parking gates at Dolphin Stadium open at 1 p.m. for the game against the playoff hopeful Chicago Cubs. The game will feature giveaways, raffles, autograph sessions with former manager Jack McKeon and others, and an appearnace by Pitbull.

And it’s not a business persons special, but even the Dolphins are offering a deal this week: Value Packs for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Oakland Raiders. The packs are $99 each and include two tickets in the 400 level, two hot dogs, two Pepsis, and a program. Supposedly that’s a savings of up to $72.

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September 23, 2007

Talalay: “Equity Seat Rights” – Turning seats into cash

If you could lock in the price of a season ticket to your favorite team for an extended period of time – perhaps even for life – would you do it?

Lou Weisbach is betting a lot of fans will. Weisbach is CEO of Stadium Capital Financing Group, a company backed by Morgan Stanley that has developed a product called “Equity Seat Rights.”

You may have seen the sign that says simply “Equity Seat Rights” on the camera well next to the Marlins’ dugout at Dolphin Stadium. It’s also on the tarp covers at the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium and at the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field. Weisbach hopes you’ve wondered what it means.

The idea is relatively simple: fans lock in their price for an individual seat for a long period and Stadium Capital uses that commitment to turn over potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to the team to use as it wishes: to boost payroll, pay down debt, build a new stadium or arena.

“Our product locks in the price for the fan, who pays that fixed amount for an extended period of years,” Weisbach says. “Our product is so totally beneficial to the fan. We think we’ve found the perfect balance between the team and the fan, while at the same time providing capital for the team in a debt-free fashion.”

The concept differs from a Personal Seat License (PSL) -- where fans put down a fee for the right to buy a seat for a period of years -- because the payment is for the seat and it is fixed for the life of the contract. Weisbach, who calls the idea the "PSLs of the 21st century," wouldn’t disclose the costs or lengths of contracts, but said they would be for “much longer than 10 years,” and that fans could transfer or re-sell their seats and could even re-sell the seats on an individual or annual basis. The fan would buy the actual seat, which Weisbach said would be nicer than your average seat, perhaps with a cushion and built-in access to replays and Internet connections.

Weisbach says pro sports teams would need to turn over no more than 10 percent of their venue’s seats and in turn would receive a debt-free revenue stream that could be worth as much as the value of the team. “We are able to monetize these commitments for the team,” Weisbach said.

The team can use the money to “make improvements, to build a new stadium, to refurbish a stadium, to pay off debt,” Weisbach said. “It could be used to buy out limited partners, it could be in small market situations where they could in order to get greater attendance, perhaps buy some free agent players. The beauty of this is it’s extraordinarily flexible.”

The question is whether teams be willing to give up control of a portion of their seats. While teams have not yet signed a contract with Stadium Capital, Weisbach said he’s close to announcing a deal. He said the company is in talks with teams in all four major sports, as well as with universities and soccer teams in South America and England. He said the concept can also be applied to entertainment venues.

While the product could help the Marlins, who have been seeking a stadium for years, the team has only an advertising deal for the camera well sign.

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September 16, 2007

Talalay: Huizenga the rock star

To watch fans approach Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga on the club level at Dolphin Stadium before Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, you might have thought Zac Efron had entered the building.

They shook his hand. They thanked him for the fancy new amenities on the club level. They asked him to pose for photographs - which he did with a smile. Some even thanked him for his work with the team – this was before Sunday’s 37-20 loss to the Cowboys.

Asked whether he was concerned about turning away fans by increasing ticket prices on the club level, where fans whose club seat contracts expired last year were hit with a steep price hike -- some more than 200 percent, Huizenga explained the philosophy. Club seat members with long-term contracts had been given a break for several years, and then received only small increases, he said.

The price increase has helped the team overcome revenue losses from fans deciding not to renew, Huizenga said. But given fans’ reactions to the wide open concourses with plush seating, fancier food, and hundreds of flat screen TVs, he said the team probably should have given fans a chance to experience the club level before hitting them with the increase.

“We should have extended them a year,” Huizenga said.

While some club seats were empty for much of Sunday’s game, it’s hard to say if that means they went unsold. The concourses were buzzing with fans, many who watched the game on one of the TVs in air conditioned comfort.

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Talalay: Sports fans staying home

For today’s story about fans giving up their increasingly higher-priced season tickets in favor of staying home to watch sports on increasingly affordable high definition television sets, I heard a variety of reasons to stay home from Dolphins games, in particular:

Higher ticket prices (particularly those new contracts for club seats)

Parking (which is now $30 a game unless you buy season parking)

Blazing sun for those early season games

Small seats with cup holders in your knees

Lines for concessions and bathrooms

The investment of an entire day from tailgating to getting out of the parking lot after the game

Dolphins Enterprises CEO Joe Bailey likened attending a game to being in a parade. “People either watch the parade or be in the parade. When you go to the stadium, you are in the parade. You are part of the entire experience. You are in one sense a performer,” Bailey said. “When you’re at home, you can’t necessarily affect the outcome of the game.”

Are you in the parade? Do you prefer to watch the parade? Do you have other reasons for staying home? Post your comments here, or you can email me directly at stalalay@sun-sentinel.com.

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September 14, 2007

Talalay: Shaq Timepiece

High-end watchmaker Audemars Piguet has teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal for a limited edition wristwatch with proceeds to benefit the Heat center’s charity.

The rather large (48 mm in diameter) Royal Oak Offshore Shaquille O’Neal Chronograph comes in two versions: a steel version of 960 pieces and a white gold version with 32 diamonds. In a nod to O’Neal’s jersey number, the 2 and the 3, which are in red, have been inverted so the 3 comes first. There’s also red stitching on the strap.

The company has also made a watch honoring California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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September 10, 2007

Talalay: Marlins stadium? The public’s view

Long-time Miami public relations firm Everett Clay Associates is looking for the public's opinion on a few choice questions (who will be the next president, how long Castro will remain in power) this fall.

The company has produced its 42nd annual Fall/Winter Sports Calendar, a pocket-sized foldout calendar that includes the September through Super Bowl schedules of South Florida’s pro teams, the state’s college teams, college bowl games and annual events, such as Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Along with the calendar, the company has included a four-question survey with the first question being:

“Should a new baseball stadium be built at the Orange Bowl or in Downtown Miami?”

The choices are: Orange Bowl; Downtown Miami; and no stadium should be built.

So, far the no stadium option is leading, according to Amy Baena, an account executive at the firm. Otherwise, the Orange Bowl and downtown are evenly split and among the 50 or so postcards that have been returned, survey takers have added their own comments such as “No stadium should be built with taxpayers’ money,” or “Save the Orange Bowl,” Baena said.

Everett Clay staffers came up with the ideas for the questions, Baena said, just to get a feel for the pulse of the community. The company sent out a similar survey, which also included a question about Castro, a decade ago, Baena said. The survey can also be taken online here. The results will be sent out Nov. 1.

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September 1, 2007

Talalay: What men wear at the U.S. Open

Did you notice how so many men in the U.S. Open got the memo to wear the same top?
maxmirnyi2.jpgfelicianolopeznew.jpgdonaldyoungnew.jpg

Pictured here are Max Mirnyi, Feliciano Lopez and Donald Young all sporting Nike’s men’s Global Power Crewneck shirt from the fall 2007 collection retailing for $55. John Isner and Jesse Levine were wearing it, too.

According to a Nike spokeswoman it's fairly typical for players to choose "key performance products" from the company's line. We just must not have noticed it before.

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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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