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February 29, 2008

Heat, Panthers season ticket renewals underway

It’s renewal time for Heat and Panthers season ticket holders and both teams are offering incentives to entice fans back.

The Heat is lowering or freezing some prices in the upper levels at AmericanAirlines Arena and charging 100 level ticket holders $1 to $5 more per game, although prices could be quite a bit steeper if you had a three-year contract that just expired. The team is still offering one-year and three-year renewal options, with the longer contract including larger savings.

Current season ticket holders must renew by March 21, but if they do so by March 7, they’ll get a limited edition 20th anniversary Heat wristwatch. In addition, the team is scheduling a number of activities for fans who renew, including a “Speak to the Heat: Season Ticket Holder Town Hall Meeting,” during which season ticket holders will get to ask questions of Heat owner Micky Arison, head coach Pat Riley and President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth; a chance to stand with the players on court during the National Anthem; and a series of parties with Arison and Alonzo Mourning in an arena suite.

Those who renew by March 21 will also be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as two free lifetime Heat season tickets; a 42-inch plasma TV; gift cards for gas, groceries, and Dunkin’ Donuts; a chance to be “broadcaster for a game”; your property tax or FPL bills paid; or a one-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are freezing prices for season ticket holders who renew by March 14. Those fans will also get 5 percent of their investment in “Panthers bucks,” which can be used to pay for concessions at BankAtlantic Center. In addition, the Panthers want season ticket holders to be actual “seat owners” with even more of a say in the franchise.

Panthers privileges include personal nameplates on your seats; a team windbreaker; access to an exclusive “season seat owner” section on the team’s Web site; special team road trip travel packages; quarterly shareholder meetings; and priority playoff benefits.

Are you renewing for either team? Do these incentives make a difference? Are you giving up your tickets? If so, why?

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), Miami Heat (174), Tickets (126)

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February 22, 2008

Marlins Stadium Update No. 2011

Random thoughts in the wake of the approvals to build a $515 million ballpark for the Marlins and a $94 million parking garage at the site of the Orange Bowl:

+ Yes, there are still lots of questions to be answered. Among them: How much will the infrastructure – road improvements, utility costs, etc… -- cost and how will it be paid for? Which police force – city of Miami or Miami-Dade County – will patrol the county-owned venue? How much will it cost to make the building environmentally friendly? Why is the team only securing a $20 million line of credit for cost overruns? Will Norman Braman’s lawsuit derail or significantly delay the project?

+ Will a group of people that spent more than seven hours debating the binding agreement really be able to approve future agreements that spell out how the ballpark will be financed, who will oversee the construction and a host of other issues?

+ Miami Commissioners made the process look easy – spending fewer than three hours on the topic. Was it really necessary for Miami-Dade Commissioners to spend more than seven hours on this? I know it’s politics and everyone wants his say, but even if each of the dozen commissioners in attendance has 15 minutes each on the topic, that’s still only three hours of debate. Maybe I’ve just been to too many of these meetings.

+ Major League Baseball won’t contribute to the building of a ballpark for the Marlins, but it should be considered significant that the industry has made a commitment – which could be the first of many -- to helping offset the cost of making the venue environmentally friendly.

MLB President Bob DuPuy told city and county commissioners the Marlins ballpark would be the sport’s first “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” project, and that it would match up to $1 million during the next two years to help achieve that goal.

DuPuy also promised to continue discussions to create a youth baseball academy in Hialeah, which you may recall was one of the locations considered for a ballpark in the past, and to discuss options for the underused Homestead baseball complex.

+ And speaking of DuPuy, when it looked like the stadium agreement might be held up when county commissioners fretted over the issue of patrols for the venue and considered making changes to the document, which would have required it be sent back to the city for another vote, DuPuy went to the podium and forcefully urged a decision: “From Major League Baseball’s standpoint, the failure to move forward today is a death knell for baseball in South Florida.”

+ And finally, for now, there’s still more work to be done, but politicians, Marlins and MLB officials were all smiles after the agreement was approved late Thursday.

Marlins President David Samson called it: "The first day of the rest of our franchise history."

And DuPuy told commissioners they wouldn’t be sorry when the ballpark opens and team changes its name to Miami Marlins: “I can promise you as difficult as these processes are, on Opening Day, when you see the looks on the kids faces as they come through the turnstiles to see the very first Miami Marlins game in the new ballpark, I guarantee you for everybody in this room, it’ll be all worth it.

POSTED IN: Marlins Stadium Updates (112)

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February 20, 2008

Marlins Stadium Update No. 360 million – MIAMI Marlins

If the Florida Marlins do finally get their new ballpark at the Orange Bowl, the team would need to change its name to Miami Marlins by 2011, when the team hopes to open the proposed $515 million ballpark.

The name change is largely symbolic and related to Miami-Dade County’s and the city of Miami’s commitment to put into the deal $360 million derived from a $50 million general obligation bond voters approved to renovate the Orange Bowl, but since moved to the ballpark project, and county tourist taxes.

But many of you seem really turned off by the idea of a name change. Why? The team would remain in South Florida for at least 35 years under the ballpark agreement. And as you’re well aware, the players’ names change on the roster fairly routinely. The Heat and the Dolphins have the Miami moniker. Does a name change really seem like a slap in the face? So much so that you wouldn’t travel to a new ballpark? Or continue to support the team?

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Marlins Stadium Updates (112)

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February 18, 2008

Marlins Stadium Update No. 515 million

I have been asked repeatedly if the new agreement forged by the Marlins, Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami, and Major League Baseball for a ballpark at the site of the Orange Bowl spells the end of the team’s years-long quest for a home of its own.

The simple answer is: I don’t know. As many of you know, I have followed this saga for eight and a half years. I have read numerous Memorandums of Understanding, been at press conferences with smiling officials who proclaimed the day had finally come to build a stadium. I've followed the goings-on in Tallahassee six times in eight years.

So for me to believe that the $515 million, 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark will finally be built, I will need to see the shovel put in the ground -- something team officials hope will happen by year’s end.

That said, here’s why this agreement is different from all previous proposals: On paper the ballpark is fully funded without a gap.

It is a binding 35-year agreement that includes penalties should any side breach its responsibility or terminate the deal. (It’s a complex formula, but it ensures that all sides will essentially be out the same amount of money if the deal fails). It lays out specific time frames for every element of the deal -- from environmental reviews of the Orange Bowl site to definitive financing documents.

City and county commissioners are now being briefed on the deal. Historically, the commissions have supported the ballpark project – although rarely unanimously – and there should be interesting debate at Thursday’s 9 a.m. city meeting and 1 p.m. county meeting.

This is a significant amount of public money, but officials will take pains to stress that the $297 million of county dollars and $13 million of city dollars are derived from tourist taxes that can only be used for convention centers, sports venues and related projects and to attract conventions and tourists -- not schools, roads or social services.

The additional $50 million comes from a general obligation bond that county voters approved in 2004 to renovate the Orange Bowl. With the OB coming down, the county has moved those dollars to the ballpark project.

County lawyers believe they have followed proper procedure to move the money (they had a citizens advisory panel review it and held a public hearing). But a lawsuit by luxury auto dealer Norman Braman challenges the move, among other issues, saying it violates the state constitution.

(Braman is also challenging the city and county’s decision to expand Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agencies to generate millions of property tax dollars to pay for $3 billion worth of city projects. Some CRA dollars are to be used to pay down debt on the performing arts center, freeing up millions in hotel-bed tax dollars for other projects. Braman’s lawsuit says changing the form of the bond repayment breaches the contract with bondholders, of which he is one.)

The city will pay $10 million for demolition of the Orange Bowl and preparation of the site. This figure is not included in the $515 million ballpark project cost because the city will have to do the work regardless of whether a stadium is built there. The city will oversee the building of a $94 million 6,000-space parking garage, but it will get help from the team, which will pay for most of the parking spaces annually and then re-sell them.

The rest of the money is to come from the Marlins -- $155 million the team is mostly privately financing, but $35 million of that is in the form of rent payments of $2.3 million a year for the life of the deal. The rent part has been included so that the team will be able to contribute to the $2 million annual maintenance fund that is also being supported by the county and city. The team has agreed to cover cost overruns, unless delays are caused by the city or county.

At the very least, Braman’s lawsuit could hold up plans for the ballpark. There are any number of other ways to delay and derail the project.

But people close to the project think this is the closest they’ve ever come to realizing a ballpark.

As I always say: stay tuned….

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Marlins Stadium Updates (112), Orange Bowl (45)

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February 15, 2008

New Wade Gatorade ad debuts tonight

The NBA All-Star Game is just as much about showcasing business as it is about the game’s top players. Last year, Heat guard Dwyane Wade was the toast of Las Vegas with his new T-Mobile sidekick, Converse shoes, Topps collectible card with a gambling chip and brand summit with his business partners.

Tonight during the NBA All-Star Rookie Game in New Orleans, Gatorade will debut a new ad featuring Wade for its low-calorie G2 drink. The 30-second ad is in keeping with the theme of the one featuring New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that ran during Super Bowl XLII and showed grass growing under Jeter’s feet even as he walked city streets. The Wade ad will show the pavement under Wade's feet turning into the boards of a basketball court.

Watch a behind the scenes video for the ad:

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Miami Heat (174), NBA (139)

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February 14, 2008

Eli Manning cashing in on Super Bowl XLII

Grab2.jpgLuckily, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s performance in Super Bowl XLII was clutch. Manning, a Gatorade endorser since 2005, is featured in an ad for the sports drink’s new “League of Clutch” campaign that promotes athletes who make the plays that win games, in spectacular fashion.

The new ad, which began airing Wednesday, includes images from the Giants’ final drive that led to the team beating the undefeated New England Patriots and, of course, an image of the Gatorade being dumped on Giants Coach Tom Coughlin. Some expect Manning to continue to be in demand from Madison Avenue.

Gatorade is also auctioning five Giants commemorative Super Bowl bottles autographed by Manning on eBay.com. Proceeds from the auction, which runs through Sunday, will benefit the United Way.

Other League of Clutch athletes include Eli Manning’s brother Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Heat guard Dwyane Wade, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and 2008 Australian Open champion tennis star Maria Sharapova.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Miami Heat (174), Super Bowl (53)

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February 13, 2008

Innovations at Delray Beach ITC

CourtWidelength2.jpgThe court at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships is awash in blue. It’s the centerpiece of a mural that features waves and a graffiti design. It’s the handiwork of Pompano Beach artist Doug Hoekzema along with Angel Mir and Brandon Opalka.

It took six days – three days’ prep and three days’ painting – to be ready in time for this week’s tournament. And that’s not all that makes the Delray ITC unusual.

There are rock concerts and parties. And the VolleyGirls.

Yes, the tournament has its own promotions team – a 12-member troupe of young women, who hail from Germany, Russia, Serbia, Colombia, Jamaica, and the United States. Their job is to promote the tournament off the grounds and encourage crowds during the men's ATP event, which runs through Sunday. The idea started with seven VolleyGirls last year.

“We’re taking this to a whole different level,” said John Butler, executive director of the tournament. “It’s not even tennis anymore. It’s a spectacle.”

After all, this is the tournament that last year began offering a dozen on-court seats that allow fans to get to their seats the same way players walk onto the court. The fans are as close to the action as possible without being in the game. VG-08-Court-shot2.jpg

The idea behind all the innovations, Butler says, is to convince non-tennis fans the tournament is worth attending. He took a page from traditional sports and borrowed liberally from the entertainment that surrounds other sporting events, such as a Heat game. VolleyGirls grew out of watching the Heat dancers. The tournament has DJs patterned on the Heat’s DJ Irie.

The mural was Butler’s idea as a way to differentiate the Delray tournament from any other tennis tournament shown on TV.

“Here we have these big palettes. Let’s make it more fun,” Butler said. “Let’s make it so that when someone’s flipping through the TV channels, they’re going to know at least that it’s different. They might stop and take a look.”

Butler acknowledges that at the center of the event, however, is a tennis tounament. “We still have a field of 32 players that are going to attract the tennis market," he said. "We’re trying to bring in new fans.”


POSTED IN: Tennis (8)

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February 12, 2008

Dwyane Wade and Goldfish crackers

Chew on this: Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish brand is teaming up with the NBA to promote youth fitness and healthful eating through the league’s Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA and NBA FIT program. Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh are serving as the program’s ambassadors.

The partnership rolls out this week in New Orleans at NBA All-Star 2008 with clinics and activities on Friday and Saturday. Pepperidge Farm is also making a donation to the Wade’s World Foundation, which supports programs that promote education, health and social skills for at-risk kids.

Wade will appear in advertising and marketing programs and on a special NBA-themed Goldfish crackers package.

“I’m honored to work with the Goldfish brand in my quest to leave the world a better place than I found it,” Wade said in a statement. “Their long-standing commitment to American youth is inspirational and our mutual interest in helping kids has created a meaningful partnership that will benefit countless children.”

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174), NBA (139)

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February 11, 2008

Paying for concessions gets easier at BankAtlantic Center

BankAtlantic Center is finally equipped with the ability to accept credit cards at all concession stands. Starting at Tuesday night’s Van Halen concert at the Sunrise arena and continuing with the Panthers-Montreal Canadiens game on Wednesday, the credit card systems will be ready to go.

I reported in September that the arena operator and Panthers owner Sunrise Sports & Entertainment was planning the upgrade to credit card systems, as a convenience for fans and to speed up service at concession stands. The Heat has offered fans the opportunity to use credit cards at AmericanAirlines Arena for at least the past five years. Dolphin Stadium also allows fans to use credit cards for concessions at Dolphins and Marlins games.

How do you pay for food and beverages at sporting events when you have the choice of using cash or credit cards? Are you glad BankAtlantic Center is finally allowing the use of credit cards?

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108)

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February 8, 2008

Gator fans in Bulldog country get their plates

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, enough UF fans in Georgia expressed interest in license plates bearing the Gator mascot that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is now offering UF plates.

A thousand Florida fans said they’d be willing to pay the $25 extra for the Gator plates, the paper reported. Apparently they’d tried in the past, but were never able to gain enough support. That changed after the Gators won a national championship in basketball in 2006 and followed that with a football championship.

POSTED IN: UF (18)

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February 7, 2008

Shaq's Suns jersey already for sale

shaq_road2.jpgShaquille O’Neal’s Phoenix Suns jersey is already available for sale online at NBAStore.com and at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. The NBA Store in Manhattan will have them in stock on Friday.

O’Neal’s jersey ranked No. 12 in popularity among NBA players at the end of the 2006-07 season, according to the league. It was No. 1 at the end of the 2004-05 season – his first with the Heat.

POSTED IN: NBA (139)

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February 6, 2008

University of Phoenix scores from Super Bowl

The University of Phoenix has received media exposure worth as much as $20 million from its naming rights sponsorship of the Glendale, Ariz., stadium where Super Bowl XLII unfolded, according to Joyce Julius & Associates.

The Michigan firm that measures the impact of corporate sponsorship figures the actual game broadcast generated a value of $10.2 million from the 1 minute and 33 seconds of time the online university's name appeared on screen and two announcer references to it. That’s measured against the average $2.7 million companies paid for 30-second ads that aired during the game broadcast.

The firm says the university got another $6 million worth of exposure from media stories and another $4.5 million of exposure from hosting the BCS national championship game last year.

The $10.2 million game exposure is down from $13.6 million for Ford when the game was played at Ford Field in Detroit in 2006 and up from the $2.1 million for Alltel, when the game was played at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville in 2005, Joyce Julius reported.

POSTED IN: Sponsorship (101), Super Bowl (53)

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February 4, 2008

Manning’s (and other Giants) marketability

Mannings-licking-off-small2.jpgSo, will Super Bowl XLII Champion New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning challenge his brother Peyton for ad time after pulling off his team’s stunning upset of the New England Patriots on Sunday?

“Eli couldn’t have scripted a better finish for his marketing success,” says Bob Dorfman, of San Francisco-based Baker Street Partners and author of the Super Bowl XLII Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report. Dorfman says the Super Bowl win could be worth as much as $5 million in new endorsement deals. “Though Eli lacks the cachet, charisma and acting chops of big brother Peyton, he shows solid potential as a potent pitchman.”

Dorfman figures Manning, who already has deals with Oreo (you've no doubt seen the Eli and Peyton pitching Oreo's Double Stuff Racing League), DirecTV and ESPN, could do ads for T-Mobile “everyone will want to be in his Fave 5 now,” a car deal, or fast food, where he could promote a “Giant-sized” deal. "As the new toast of New York, Eli could also earn seven figures in regional marketing deals,” Dorfman said.

Other marketable Giants able to capitalize? “Michael Strahan stands to benefit the most after Eli. He’s already a household name and face, has a proven endorsement resume, speaks well, is charismatic on camera, and has that signature gap-tooth smile that might be fun in a Crest toothpaste ad,” Dorfman said. “He also has a solid future in broadcasting.”

And “Plaxico Burress could land a Kleenex deal after his teary post-game interview,” Dorfman said.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), NFL (178), Super Bowl (53)

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 20,408

There won’t be a vote of the Miami-Dade County Commission Tuesday on a financing plan for a $525 million ballpark for the Marlins, but Marlins President David Samson says the sides are still meeting.

“There’s been great cooperation between the city, county and the team and Major League Baseball acting as interested third party mediator,” Samson said Monday. “The problem is we’re trying to negotiate a deal that cannot exist in a vacuum. There’s a lot of other issues to talk about and until everything can be worked out together, there’s no announcement on a completed deal. It’s not as easy as negotiating a contract with a player or an employee.”

Among the outstanding issues are who will pay for a parking garage and maintenance of the venue. But Samson remains optimistic: “This community has never been closer to having a done deal.”

The longer the delay, however, the more difficult it will be to meet the Marlins deadline of opening a stadium by April 2011. The team has a lease at Dolphin Stadium through the 2010 season.

He would not discuss auto dealer Norman Braman’s lawsuit specifically, but said the tourist dollars that would be used for the stadium cannot be used for general fund projects that aid the poor, kids or elderly. Braman is concerned the public has been cut out of the process and wants the overall plan to transform downtown Miami and help fund a ballpark to be considered by the voters.

“We said from day one in 2002, we would not build a stadium using dollars that could be used to help other issues in this community,” Samson said. “This money cannot be used for anything other than to help build professional sports stadiums or to pay for other buildings like the performing arts center.”

POSTED IN: Marlins Stadium Updates (112)

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February 2, 2008

Athletes abound in Super Bowl XLII ads

CarlEdwards2.jpgShaquille O’Neal. Dwyane Wade. Danica Patrick. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Carl Edwards.

Plenty of athletes will be appearing in the most expensive advertising of the year during Fox’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLII on Sunday. The price is averaging $2.7 million for a 30-second spot, up from $2.6 million last year.

O’Neal plays a jockey in a first-ever Super Bowl ad for Glaceau’s vitaminwater. Wade and Charles Barkley are in the latest installment of the T Mobile ad campaign, where we’re supposed to learn if Barkley will finally let Wade into his “Fave 5.” Earnhardt is scheduled to appear in an ad for new sponsor, Pepsi Amp. Patrick will be in another ad for GoDaddy.com.

Under Armour, which is also making its first entry into the Super Bowl ad world, has included more than two dozen athletes for the company’s new line of non-cleat athletic shoes that debut in May. In addition to Edwards, other athletes in the 60-second spot include Ray Lewis, Alfonso Soriano, Garret Atkins, Vernon Davis, Kimmie Meisner and Cat Osterman. Super Bowl XLII participant, Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants also appears.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Super Bowl (53)

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February 1, 2008

Sweet-smelling feet?

Talk about unusual cross-marketing: Reebok is partnering with Kool-Aid for a line of colorful and aromatic shoes. The shoes, branded with both Reebok and Kool-Aid logos, are launching with cherry, grape and strawberry. Other flavors are planned for release later this year.

POSTED IN: Shoes (15)

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 6,590

The public line is the sides are still negotiating a financing plan for a $525 million ballpark for the Marlins at the site of the Orange Bowl, but it won’t be ready in time for Tuesday’s Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, as some had hoped.

A few sticking points remain, including the issue of who will pay for the parking garage and the annual maintenance of the venue. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said he thinks the issues can all be resolved shortly – assuming everyone’s schedule can be freed up – and he’s hoping there will be a vote in the first half of this month. With this project, it’s impossible to predict anymore.

Diaz dismisses those who believe he's behind any delays and says the city is willing to pay for the parking garage – as initially proposed – but is balking at paying for maintenance of a venue that will be owned by the county.

“We don’t have any money and we don’t own the stadium,” Diaz said. “How in the world do we contribute to maintain something we don’t own?”

He also insists he is not holding up the project to wait for Major League Soccer to grant Miami a soccer team, which could be years off, if at all. He said a 25,000-seat soccer stadium next to a ballpark would generate more revenue to help pay for the parking garage, but it isn’t a requirement.

“Listen, the baseball deal is moving forward. It has nothing to do with the soccer deal,” Diaz said. “I’ve fought long and hard to get a baseball deal done. I think we can get a soccer deal done. One is not mutually exclusive of the other.”

Diaz says talks will continue despite auto dealer Norman Braman’s lawsuit, which seeks to derail the $3 billion downtown Miami overhaul and plans for the ballpark. The former Philadelphia Eagles owner is concerned voters have been cut out of the process and their 2004 vote to put $50 million in general obligation bond funding toward renovation of the Orange Bowl has been dismissed in favor of putting those dollars toward a ballpark. His suit also claims a breach of contract for performing arts center bondholders, including himself, if the bond repayment is switched to Community Redevelopment Agency dollars to free up hotel bed tax dollars for the ballpark.

Diaz doesn’t see why voters need to vote.

“The public has never voted on an appropriation of convention [hotel bed tax] dollars or how the CRA dollars have been spent,” Diaz said.

POSTED IN: Marlins Stadium Updates (112)

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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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