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June 27, 2008

Marlins Stadium Update No. 460,701

We’ll have to wait until next week to learn the new start date for the trial in the lawsuit filed by auto dealer Norman Braman that targets the financing for the Marlins new ballpark among other items.

The case was reassigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen Thursday after Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. recused himself at the request of Bob Martinez, one of Braman’s attorneys. Martinez said in court papers that he discovered this week that he has a distant familial relationship with Echarte.

In a status hearing Friday afternoon, Cohen said her calendar was likely full until September. The defendants -- Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the Marlins -- would prefer a trial be held sooner. Cohen has agreed to ask the chief judge about reassigning the case yet again. She promised to have an answer by Tuesday.

As always, stay tuned...

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

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June 26, 2008

Marlins Stadium Update No. 13,471

With the trial in luxury auto dealer Norman Braman's lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the Marlins set to begin Tuesday, the timetable is in flux again.

At the request of Braman's attorney, Bob Martinez, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. recused himself Thursday from the case he has overseen for months, because Martinez said in court papers that he discovered Tuesday he had a distant familial relationship with Echarte. Echarte's mother is related to Martinez's sister-in-law.

Already hampered by the case, which targets the $3 billion downtown redevelopment megaplan that includes a Marlins ballpark at the site of the Orange Bowl, Marlins representatives were none too pleased with the timing of Thursday's decision. Braman has lost on a couple of points in the case in the past week, and Marlins President David Samson accused Braman of trying to deflect attention from a case he can't win.

Samson said he was “flabbergasted” at the timing of the request for the recusal.

“I just think it’s sad. It’s a waste of taxpayers money," Samson said. "It’s the desperate musings of a man who knew he couldn’t prevail."

The timing may seem unusual, but I'm told there's no way Braman's legal team would move forward if there were even an inkling there could be a conflict.

The case has been reassigned to Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who is holding a status hearing in the case on Friday afternoon. Perhaps then we'll learn a new date for the trial.

“Miami-Dade County continues to be confident with its case and hopes the trial can continue moving forward in a timely fashion,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said in a statement. “Important timelines and funding streams are attached to this package of critical public works projects which are designed to improve the quality of life of County residents. In the short-term, these projects can provide an important economic boost in an uncertain economy, and get jobs on the street when they are needed most.”

Samson says plans for the ballpark are proceeding on schedule. The Baseball Stadium Agreement approved in February specified that definitive agreements on specifics such as construction management and financing, must be in place by July 1. But the county, city and Marlins have agreed to wait until after the trial in the Braman case.

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

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ExxonMobil goes green?

Oh the irony.

The Washington Nationals are hosting a “Conversion Day” promotion at their new ballpark on Sunday. The concept is not unusual: bring in a piece of gear from any other Major League Baseball team and trade it in for a National hat featuring the curly W logo.

But for this promotion the hat you get in return is made from organically-grown cotton. The sponsor of this "green" giveaway?

ExxonMobil.

In addition, the promotion says there are hats available for the first 10,000 fans, but it also says one hat per fan, “while supplies last.” Hmmm.

The promotion also seems aimed squarely at fans of the Baltimore Orioles, who are the Nats’ opponent that day. After all, the former Montreal Expos are looking to build their fan base in the Baltimore-Washington Metro area. Conversion Day prompted chatter on an Orioles message board.

POSTED IN: MLB (110), Promotions (120)

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June 23, 2008

Marlins' attendance: your thoughts

My story today comparing the business of the Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays elicited all kinds of thoughts from readers on why attendance at Marlins games isn’t better.

Figured I’d share a few of your thoughts:

You said it’s just too hot to attend games at Dolphin Stadium, a football stadium with no roof, while the Rays play in an air-conditioned dome, Tropicana Field. If the Marlins played in the American League East, like the Rays, they’d sell out games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox routinely.

Tickets are too expensive. So is beer. Ditto, food. The upper deck is rarely open. It costs $10 to park.

Luis Vera of Sunrise suggested the Marlins should follow the example of the Rays by offering free parking for cars carrying four or more people and allowing fans to bring food to the stadium. He also suggested: “Just as they have the mermaids- hire ‘Hunks’ to usher the ladies to the club section.” He also said, “Cash in on the fact that the Marlins have won two World series by making a jersey of the series wins.”

Some also wonder why the Marlins focus only on marketing the weekend games, which have less attractive opponents this season, and essentially ignore weekday games.

Any other thoughts?

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Tickets (126)

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Dolphins ownership and estate taxes

New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross appeared in an ad for First Republic Bank in a recent edition of The New York Times Magazine. The chairman of The Related Cos., is not an endorser, just a customer who appreciates the bank’s services, the bank says.

But the ad and word from St. Louis that the owners of the Rams have even been contemplating the idea of a sale reminded me to re-visit the issue of estate taxes.

H. Wayne Huizenga agreed to sell half the Dolphins, Dolphin Stadium and the developable land around it to Ross in February (the purchase received approval of NFL owners in March) for $550 million. Huizenga is 70 and made the decision in part for estate tax purposes. He knows his children don’t want to be controlling owners of the franchise.

I wondered why Ross at 68 would now be embarking on team ownership.

It’s a choice, of course. And a matter of financial circumstances. Ross has said that even when he looked at buying the Dolphins when Huizenga first invested in the team in 1990, “I wasn’t as financially prepared as I am today.”

Forbes puts Ross’ net worth at $4.5 billion.

“I think Wayne’s been here for 18, 19 years. I think he has a different perspective,” Ross said at the owners meeting. “I think at this stage, as they say, today’s 60s is yesterday’s 40s. I look at the fact I have a lot of energy and I look to be involved for quite a bit of time. So I think it’s just a question it’s something new for me, where Wayne has been doing this for a time. I think that’s probably the main difference.”

Ross is a fitness fanatic, who jogs and plays tennis regularly.

According to Mary Sue Donohue, a partner at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs in Boca Raton, who specializes in wills and estates, says both men get a break by owning less than a majority of the team, even though Huizenga will maintain controlling rights for now.

And Huizenga gets a significant break on his estate taxes and more liquidity.

“He has an extra $550 million he can do something with,” Donohue said. “It’s not part of his estate. That’s cash. He could give that away to charities, that sort of thing.”

In addition, she said the less Huizenga owns of the team, the bigger his tax discount. The Robbies were forced to sell at least part of the Dolphins to pay off the late Joe Robbie’s estate taxs.

“I think Wayne Huizenga learned something significant from Joe Robbie’s experience,” Donohue said.

Ross, meanwhile, has the option of taking the value of his interest and sharing ownership of the stadium and land around it with other business entities, Donohue said.

“I don’t know if he will, [but] he could have those different pieces owned by different entities,” she said. “He could use those as techniques for handing off other pieces to other family members.”

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186)

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June 17, 2008

The fate of spring training in Fort Lauderdale?

Could it be the decision on whether the Baltimore Orioles will continue spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium beyond 2009 is finally near? U.S. Rep. Ron Klein and Fort Lauderdale officials believe so.

The city is hoping to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to exempt it from the fair market value requirement for use of the airport land on which the stadium sits. The FAA told the city it needs $1.3 million a year for use of the property, which is up dramatically from the $70,000 to $120,000 the Orioles typically pay.

The FAA is expected to make a decision quickly. Read more at the Broward Politics blog.

POSTED IN: Spring Training (11)

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June 14, 2008

Looking who’s pitching Macy’s

Baseball-Players-Ad2.jpgJoe Torre. Albert Pujols. Mariano Rivera. Manny Ramirez. Dan Uggla.

Dan Uggla?

The hot-hitting Marlins second baseman is in the center (green shirt) of a group of Major League Baseball players and coaches in Macy’s Father’s Day catalog sent out across the country recently. Titled "The Boys of Summer," the campaign includes 15 baseball stars from around the country.

Uggla was chosen to represent our “hometown.”

“Dan Uggla is one of the most popular ‘hometown’ baseball players who has really become a shining star in South Florida,” Macy’s Central spokeswoman Ellen Fruchtman said via email. “Dan was selected to be part of this campaign as a result of being an All-Star second baseman, a terrific father AND a positive role model.”

Uggla is not a Macy's endorser, but did make an appearance at the department store at the Pembroke Lakes Mall earlier this month.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110)

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June 13, 2008

Heat offers chance to meet draft pick; Nets offer free gas

The Heat is offering fans a chance to meet the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft with its “There Can Only Be One” online sweepstakes. The play on the league’s popular playoff ad campaign is about the hype over who the Heat will draft on June 26.

Fans can log into the team’s Web site through June 25 for a chance to choose who they think the Heat will pick. All fans who are South Florida residents, who make the correct pick, will be entered into a drawing to meet the player at a future event. The team will choose 20 winners for the honor.

Meanwhile, leave it to creative marketer Brett Yormark, CEO of the New Jersey Nets, to come up with a useful way to reward season ticket buyers.

The Nets hope to give away more than $250,000 worth of free gas to season ticket buyers. The team is dangling free gas cards worth 10 percent of the price of full season ticket packages to buyers, who purchase packages through June 26.


POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174), Promotions (120), Tickets (126)

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June 12, 2008

Panthers raise prices for popular opponents

While most Panthers season ticket holders will pay the same as or slightly less than they did this past season for their 2008-09 season tickets, individual game ticket buyers who want to see the league’s most popular teams are being socked with an extra $25 a ticket charge.

That’s up from the $10 per ticket individual game ticket buyers spent last season for games against opponents such as the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and for games that fell on holidays. That’s a 150 percent increase. That means a $17 ticket in the terrace level of BankAtlantic Center will cost $42 for a premium game.

Panthers President Michael Yormark said there was no pushback to the extra $10 fans paid for the “high demand” games last year and so the team is trying to push the value of season tickets even more and “maximize supply and demand.” Interestingly, the team did not publicize the $10 premium last year or put out a ticket pricing press release.

“It’s all about supply and demand. Those are the biggest game on the calendar,” Yormark said. “We saw no price sensitivity last year. We wanted to create more value for our season seat holders. We thought it was very appropriate. Those games sold the best whether it was the Rangers or the day after Thanksgiving.”

Variable pricing – charging higher rates for desirable matchups or weekend games – goes on across sports. And the Panthers are trying to encourage fans to buy season ticket plans – full- or half-season or 13-game plans. The Marlins charge more if you buy your ticket the day of the game and especially if it’s a Saturday. But you get more on Saturdays: the potential for two giveaway items along with postgame fireworks and a concert.

Clearly the idea is to convert casual fans to season ticket buyers. The Panthers sold about 9,500 season tickets last season, Yormark said.

What do you think of the idea of charging so much more for individual game tickets? Will that convince you to buy season tickets? Or go even less?



POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), Tickets (126)

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June 8, 2008

Marlins introduce Lil’ Billy

MAR_lilBilly2RV2.jpgWith a video spoof of Austin Powers as introduction, the Marlins unveiled the latest addition in their "eight-figure" marketing arsenal at Saturday night’s game at Dolphin Stadium: Lil’ Billy.

The mini-Billy the Marlin mascot looks about half the size of the original Billy, but wears a 1/3 on his jersey. He was introduced between innings and the two big-billed fish danced together.

Marlins Marketing VP Sean Flynn says it’s an idea he’s had for a while – not one he borrowed from the Panthers who unveiled mini-Stanley this past season.

“Have been sitting on it for a few years,” Flynn said. “We have added a ton … This fit in finally.”

That’s right: dancing burly Manatees, T-shirt throwing Maniacs, Saturday night post-game concerts and fireworks… and a pint-sized mascot called Lil’ Billy….

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Mascots (16)

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June 4, 2008

NBA Finals memorabilia

Limited edition items from the much-hyped historic matchup of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals that begin Thursday night are being made available for sale to fans.

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and adidas have teamed up to produce a limited edition version of Garnett’s 2008-09 adidas Team Signature Commander Shoe. The KG Commander is to launch in October, but the special edition shoes are being made specifically for the Finals.

Only eight pairs per Finals game will be made available for $1,017 each (in honor of the Celtics going for their 17th championship) at celtics.com; the TD Banknorth Garden Pro Shop and at the NBA Store in Manhattan. The shoes feature the Larry O’Brien Trophy on one side and numbers indicating that particular night’s Finals game on the other.

Meanwhile, the NBA will be auctioning the players’ game-worn jerseys from Finals Games 1 and 3 – giving fans a chance to bid on a home and road jersey for each player. The Game 1 auction will be at NBA.com from June 5-24 and the Game 3 auction from June 10-26. The jerseys will be specially authenticated with coding, tags and security numbers.


POSTED IN: Apparel (55), NBA (139), Shoes (15)

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Two-Minute Drill: An All-Florida World Series?

My colleague, Ethan J. Skolnick, and I came up with this idea for the paper’s Two-Minute Drill when the Marlins were still in first place:


It may be a tad early, but with both of Florida’s baseball teams in first place or flirting with it, dare we speculate on what to call an all-Florida World Series? New York has its Subway Series, Los Angeles its Freeway Series. Here are some possibilities if the Marlins were to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the Fall Classic:

The Sunblock Series
The Early Bird Special Series
The Minimum Payroll Series
The No Name Series
The This Time It Recounts Series
The Subpar Stadiums Series
The SunPass Series
The Ratings Disaster Series
The Good Sections Still Available Series

What would you call an All-Florida World Series?

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110)

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June 3, 2008

The end of spring training in Fort Lauderdale?

So some politicians and tourism officials aren’t ready to give up on keeping the nearly 50-year-old tradition of spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. But are you?

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, Broward County Mayor Lois Wexler, and Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman are all waxing about the lovely afternoons at the intimate 8,340-seat stadium, the tourists who visit every year and pump more than $25 million into the local economy.

It’s been home to the Baltimore Orioles for the past 13 springs and will be again in 2009. Before that, the New York Yankees spent 34 years spring training there.

But that is likely to change now that the Federal Aviation Administration has decided that in order for the team to stay, the annual payment to the airport fund must be $1.3 million. That’s up from the $70,000 to $120,000 the Orioles typically pay. That figure has been based on 5 percent of the gross revenues generated at the stadium.

Now that the Orioles are seeking a long-term lease to go with a $40 million overhaul of the venue (being financed with the help of tourist taxes from Broward county and a state sales tax rebate), the FAA says it must receive fair market value for the property, a figure it places at $1.3 million. If the Orioles were still on a year-to-year lease, this issue would never have surfaced. The stadium sits on airport land that was deeded to the city of Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s.

The Orioles, who are said to have an option agreement to move to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, which is being vacated by the Los Angeles Dodgers, aren’t saying anything publicly other than they are disappointed with the FAA’s decision.

U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, who had helped broker meetings among the FAA, Fort Lauderdale and Orioles officials, wants to make sure the FAA is reading the law governing the lease of airport property accurately and if it’s not, whether the payment can be reduced.

There was a time when spring training was rampant in these parts: the Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, the Orioles in Miami, the Texas Rangers in Pompano Beach, the Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves in West Palm Beach. Those teams have moved on. The bus rides get longer for the Orioles, whose closest spring rivals are now in Jupiter or Fort Myers.

Would you miss it if it were to leave? Do you want to see Fort Lauderdale Stadium preserved? Take our poll here.

POSTED IN: MLB (110), Spring Training (11)

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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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