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January 30, 2009

Goodell on Huizenga, Ross

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual Super Bowl address in Tampa on Friday, where among other things, he got a chance to praise outgoing Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga. Huizenga completed his $1.1 billion sale of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium to New York real estate developer Stephen M. Ross last week.

Huizenga first invested in the Dolphins and the stadium in 1990 and became majority owner in 1994. He is maintaining a 5 percent stake in the team and stadium.

“Wayne has been a terrific owner for the NFL, the Miami Dolphins and that community, not only in football but in multiple sports,” Goodell said acknowledging Huizenga’s previous tenures as owner of the Marlins and Panthers. “I think he's had a huge impact in the Miami area. He’s had a great impact on me personally as well. He's one of those smart guys who knows how to get to the bottom of a problem pretty quick. He’s not afraid to give you his opinion, and he's done that from time to time with me. I think that’s helpful. I think the ownership will miss him at that level.”

Goodell had praise for Ross, too: “On the other hand, in typical fashion, [Huizenga’s] left the franchise in good hands. Steve Ross is a terrific man. He’s a very successful businessman and he’s spent the last year or so learning the business from Wayne. He has good people who he has surrounded himself with and I think that’s the key to everything – surround yourself with good people and put them in a position where they can make the decisions and ultimately, you’ll have a successful franchise.”

Goodell was also asked about the Pro Bowl being moved from Hawaii, where it’s been held since 1980, to South Florida a week before the Super Bowl XLIV next year. Goodell said he expects the game to be on something of a rotation, which will include Hawaii again in the future.

“What we thought, though, would be a very interesting alternative would be to play the game as part of the lead up to the Super Bowl. So we’ll be playing it on Sunday night in Miami in advance of the Super Bowl. That will bring more interest, clearly. It will bring more exposure for our great players, and we think be a positive,” Goodell said.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178)

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UM aims to boost attendance at women’s – and men’s – basketball games

Just in time for Super Bowl XLIII, the University of Miami is offering women’s basketball fans a chance to win a 42-inch plasma television, complete with mounting hardware and installation.

Two TVs will be awarded at halftime of the UM women’s basketball game against Wake Forest at 2 p.m. Sunday at BankUnited Center. All fans will have a chance to fill out an entry form when they arrive at the arena.

Meanwhile, WQAM (560-AM) is offering a “Lucky Charms promotion” that includes the best 100 remaining seats at BankUnited Center for Wednesday’s men’s game against Wake Forest for $56 instead of the usual $75. The promotion gets better if the ‘Canes beat the Demon Deacons. If that happens, you’ll receive a free ticket to the Canes game against Boston College on Feb. 21. Then, if the ‘Canes beat Boston College, that scores you a free ticket to the team’s final home game against NC State on March 7. And there’s more: if the Canes win their final four home games, you’ll get a free season ticket next year. For more information, call 1-800-GO-CANES and mention the “Lucky Charms promotion” or email:

POSTED IN: Miami Hurricanes (32), NCAA (38), Promotions (120), Tickets (126)

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January 29, 2009

In time for the Madden Bowl, playing Madden makes you smarter

And your mom told you to stop playing video games.

Now comes a study from the EA Sports and the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, that says playing Madden makes you smarter.

Smarter about football, anyway.

According to the survey of 15,000 NFL fans and Madden players, those that play Madden are 60 percent more knowledgeable about the NFL than those who don’t play.

Madden players got the answers to 22 of 36 questions correct, compared with only 14 by the non-Madden players.

Is there a better marketing tool for EA and its Madden franchise, now celebrating its 20th year, and the NFL? EA’s challenge is to convince more NFL fans to buy video game consoles.

“We’re making better fans,” EA Sports President Peter Moore said. “We deepen their knowledge.”

That, Moore says, should be good for the NFL: “They’re more likely to buy merchandise, more likely to buy NFL Sunday Ticket.”

Madden Bowl XV is being played in Tampa this evening.


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Panthers giving away a street hockey party, if you’re watching

There are three more chances to enter the Panthers’ “Watch It! Win It!” promotion, for a chance to win a block party, complete with a street hockey game with two Panthers players to serve as coaches.

During the next three Panthers’ game broadcasts on FSN Florida, fans will receive a special code to enter at the team’s Web site, They’ll be entered for a chance to win the block party and nightly prizes that have included free tickets, a $100 shopping spree at Pantherland, and an autographed jersey.

Codes will be given out during tonight’s broadcast of the Panthers game against the Montreal Canadiens; Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders; and Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), Promotions (120), Television (35)

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Doral golf event teams up with charities

The World Golf Championships-CA Championship officially kicked off its Tickets Fore Charity program today.

The program is already under way. The golf tournament, scheduled at Doral Golf Resort & Spa March 9-15, is offering charities a chance to sell reduced price weekly and daily grounds passes and weekly clubhouse passes as a way to benefit their charities. The proceeds from the sales will be split with 75 percent going to the charity and 25 percent to The First Tee, the World Golf Foundation’s charity aimed at providing golf facilities and education for young people.

So, the program helps in two ways: discounted tickets and dollars for charity, both of which are welcome during the recession.

“In these tough economic times, the CA Championship is more committed than ever to assisting local organizations with their fundraising efforts,” WGC CA Championship Executive Director Eddie Carbone said in a statement. “We’d like to invite charities throughout South Florida to join us in enhancing and enriching our local communities by participating in Tickets Fore Charity.”

Already several charities are selling discounted tickets, including Take Stock in Children of Broward, Kids in Distress, American Children’s Orchestra for Peace, and the Florida State Golf Association. There is no limit on the number of charities that can join.

The CA Championship is the first PGA Tour event to feature the program that was first started on the Nationwide Tour at the Albertsons Boise Open in 2001. Expect to see more PGA Tour events adopt the program this year.

POSTED IN: Golf (12), Tickets (126)

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January 28, 2009

Missing D Wade’s first Converse shoe?

Then you’re in luck. In a statement to CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell, Converse confirmed it will re-release a limited number of Wade’s first shoe -- the version he wears on the court -- in April.

Rovell gives a full report here on Wade’s newest shoe, the Wade 4 (pictured), which the Heat guard isn’t even wearing this season.

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174), Shoes (15)

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Tony Stewart strengthens local ties with Office Depot, Burger King

tony-with-car-2.jpgNASCAR Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart appears to have easily made the switch of depots this year. Stewart, who has replaced his longtime primary sponsor Home Depot with a co-primary sponsorship between Office Depot and Old Spice, visited the Boca Raton campus of the office products retailer earlier this month.

He signed autographs, posed for photos with employees and talked about what it’s like to run his own race team. And as he was getting ready to leave the stage, where he’d spoken with employees, he said, “Oh, one more thing,” and then he surprised Office Depot officials by pledging a $100,000 donation to the Office Depot Foundation.

Stewart is so popular that Office Depot, which previously sponsored Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards, has received a number of requests for NASCAR Hero cards featuring the driver, and has sent out about 200 just in the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, Stewart is getting support from another South Florida corporation. Miami-based Burger King signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Stewart last week. It’s also getting the primary paint scheme on Stewart’s car for two races this season: on July 4 at Daytona International Speedway and Sept. 27 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

It just so happens Burger King is also an Office Depot customer.

POSTED IN: Auto Racing (42), Sponsorship (101)

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January 27, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 2012000, Updated

The Marlins are hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be their lucky day. Miami-Dade County Commissioners and Miami City Commissioners are to vote Feb. 13 on the five agreements that spell out the financing, construction and other details to make their ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl a reality.

The five agreements – Construction Administration; Operating; Non-Relocation; Assurance; and City Parking – were released Tuesday. If you want some light reading, take a look at the documents here on the county’s website.

Acknowledging that I haven’t read every page YET, the agreements overall appear to extract more from the team, thereby offering more protections for the public. The budget for the ballpark is to remain the same, the documents show, ($347 million from the county; $155 million from the team; and $13 million from the city), but the team is responsible for any cost overruns incurred on the ballpark AND the public infrastructure. That means if there are overruns on the estimated $21 million in drainage, sewer and road work the city and county will split, the team will be responsible for those.

The team’s rent payment of $2.3 million a year will rise 2 percent a year – meaning more money for the county to cover its debt. The team will provide 81,000 tickets – or 1,000 a game at an “affordable price” starting at $15 in the ballpark’s inaugural year. Another 10,000 – double the original 5,000 – a season will be provided free for youth groups and community organizations.

If the team is sold within seven years, the team would have to pay a higher percentage than initially planned, to the county as a profit share. Under last year’s agreement, the team would pay 10 percent if the team was sold in year one; under the new agreement, that’s shot up to 18 percent. The percentage falls each year, but is significantly more onerous than in the earlier agreement – arguably creating something of a disincentive to sell.

Neither County Manager George Burgess nor Marlins President David Samson would say the changes were made to appease the concerns of county commissioners who have threatened to vote against the ballpark agreements.

“We wanted to get something stronger,” Burgess said.

“You do what you think is right to achieve a goal you have. Our goal from the beginning was to partner with the city and county … through the course of negotiations there were certain provisions that changed,” Samson said. “Our focus has been to get this deal done.”

Even if the commissions sign off on the agreements, there’s still an option for any of the parties to terminate them by June 30. Burgess and Samson said they don’t expect that to happen. They expect construction to begin this summer with the ballpark opening in 2012.

The city commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 13, followed by a 1 p.m. meeting of the county commission. The county commission must approve the agreements by a two-thirds vote -- or 9 -- of the 13 county commissioners. Expect it to be another long day.

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

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January 26, 2009

FedEx’s BCS and Orange Bowl exposure

FedEx isn’t advertising during Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday, but the express shipping company got nearly four hours of television exposure during this month’s FedEx-sponsored Orange Bowl and BCS national championship games at Dolphin Stadium.

That’s exposure valued at $383 million measured against television ad rates during the games – with the value during the BCS game being higher than the Orange Bowl game, naturally. According to Joyce Julius, which measures sponsor exposure, that value was calculated this way: $256 million from the BCS game in which Florida beat Oklahoma, and $126.8 million from the Orange Bowl game in which Virginia Tech beat Cincinnati. Joyce Julius reported FedEx got 51 mentions and an hour and 59 minutes of screen time during the BCS game and 59 mentions and an hour and 56 minutes during the Orange Bowl game.

Two other BCS bowl game sponsors scored higher values than FedEx did for the Orange Bowl game during their traditional bowl games this year. Tostitos received 43 mentions and an hour and 58 minutes of screen time during the Fiesta Bowl for a value of $138 million; Allstate received 45 mentions and an hour and 51 minutes during the Sugar Bowl for a value of $131 million. Citi, meanwhile, got 25 mentions and an hour and 21 minutes airtime during the Rose Bowl for a value of $111.4 million, Joyce Julius reported.

The Michigan firm's research shows other companies that received significant exposure time during the BCS game included Nike with a value of $61 million and Southwest Airlines with a value of $31.3 million.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Dolphin Stadium (31), NCAA (38), Orange Bowl (45), Sponsorship (101), Super Bowl (53), Television (35)

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January 23, 2009

Panthers freeze prices for existing season ticket holders

The Panthers are freezing prices for the 2009-10 season and offering more flexible payment options for existing season-ticket holders.

The team is sending out renewal packages to its roughly 9,500 season-seat holders. Fans who renew by Feb. 21 get extra benefits, including more vouchers good for concessions and the chance to attend renewal parties hosted by five players each. Those who renew by Feb. 5 can attend all four parties at BankAtlantic Center.

Fans can pay in full, in five monthly installments or in 12 monthly payments — a first for the team. The team is also offering four benefits packages to choose from, which include invitations to a cocktail reception with players, a kids' trading pin and holiday skating party, or entry into drawings for special items or experiences.

Team officials have not decided whether prices for new season-ticket holders or individual tickets will rise.

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

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January 22, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 21,309.5

Not much of an update – hence the .5 – but there hasn’t been much to say lately.

The agreements spelling out the details of financing and constructing a Marlins ballpark may finally be headed for a vote. Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Dennis Moss mentioned during today’s county commission meeting that he’d like to hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. on Feb. 13 to consider the ballpark agreements. But that date is contingent upon the county commission getting at least two weeks to review the agreements, which still haven’t been completed.

Moss wants to avoid the criticism the Miami city and Miami-Dade county commissioners received in December 2007 for their hasty votes on an agreement that included plans for the $515 million stadium, which they’d had limited time to review.

Although officials hope the Miami City Commission will vote on the same day as the county commission, a city meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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

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January 21, 2009

Dolphins sale; sports business on the airwaves

The sale of the Dolphins was big news today across the country. I discussed the sale on the morning show on Sports Radio 950 KJR-AM in Seattle. Listen here.

And I was featured on the sports business segment of the Wake-Up Zone on 104.5 The Zone WGFX in Nashville this morning, where we discussed the Dolphins sale, Marlins stadium, UM, the Panthers, among other sports business topics. Listen here.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Florida Marlins (193), Florida Panthers (108), Miami Dolphins (186), Miami Heat (174)

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January 20, 2009

Dolphins: passing the mantle

Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga was serious about wanting to sell his majority share of the team to co-owner Stephen Ross before Barack Obama became president.

Granted the sale didn’t take place during 2008, which means if capital gains taxes do increase this year, Huizenga is likely to be socked with a higher bill. But from what I’m being told, the deal to sell the additional 45 percent of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium was signed before Obama took the oath of office this afternoon.

Ross now owns 95 percent of the team and the stadium and 50 percent of the surrounding land. Huizenga, who maintains his attachment to the team calling the sale “bittersweet,” is hanging onto 5 percent of the team and stadium and half the land. Total value of the deal: $1.1 billion.

But with Tuesday’s deal, Huizenga gave up his last majority ownership in a South Florida sports franchise. In the 1990s, Huizenga owned three teams: the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers. Huizenga brought both baseball and hockey to the region.

Tuesday began a new era. That wasn’t lost in Ross, a New York real estate developer and part-time Palm Beach resident.

“The United States is entering into a new climate, a new opportunity,” Ross said when asked about the sale being completed the same day Obama took office. “And I saw myself, being able to enter into a new opportunity for me that was very exciting, and I’ve always dreamt of.”

Ross wouldn't discuss the financial structure of the deal, but sources say Huizenga is holding a note on the transaction and allowing Ross to owe him a portion of the balance. He says he has been pursuing investors to buy a stake in the team.

"I always wanted to have a few people join me. And in these times, no one has joined me at this point in time," Ross said adding he is still talking with a few potential investors.

Ross didn’t reveal much about how he intends to run the Dolphins, other than he hopes to build on Huizenga’s legacy. He vowed not to increase ticket prices next season, saying now, in a struggling economy, was not the time to raise prices.

He said he plans to alter the game-day experience, but he didn't offer any details. He’ll examine the stadium and business side of the operation and the possibility for additional renovations or development, he said.

“We’re really looking into all of that and seeing the pricing of all of that and how we might put that together, but I’m examining every aspect of the business,” Ross said.

He said he never intended to offer a job to friend and former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, who Ross invited to join him at the Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens playoff game.

He is still talking about former USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian possibly joining the team as a business side executive, but “there is no deal.”

And he offered some welcome news to those of us still in the newspaper business:

“When you love a sport which I do, I love all sports and am constantly reading the sports pages,” he said. “Even today, when I read the paper and I read a couple of them, the first section I go to is the sports section. You can’t get that out of your system no matter what you’re doing. I was brought up always wanting to be involved with sports, it’s always a dream. Since I wasn’t going to make it as a player, it was a dream to become an owner.”

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178)

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January 19, 2009

2010 Super Bowl kickoff event

We’re still two weeks away from Super Bowl XLIII (Arizona Cardinals v. Pittsburgh Steelers) in Tampa but the host committee for next year’s Super Bowl is holding a kickoff event on Wednesday.

The South Florida Super Bowl 2010 Host Committee, the Riverwalk Trust and Junior Achievement are hosting a gathering at 5:30-8 p.m. at the offices of Tribeca Medaesthetics, 1425 W. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

The event, which will include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and raffle drawings, will be an opportunity to express interest in and sign up for volunteer assignments during Super Bowl XLIV. The event is free for Junior Achievement supporters and Riverwalk Trust members, but costs $10 for others and requires advance registration at

POSTED IN: Super Bowl (53)

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January 14, 2009

UM continues player and coach promotional calls

This time it was a call from Hurricanes guard Jack McClinton.

McClinton called my cell phone yesterday with a message about the men’s basketball team’s upcoming ACC games, including tonight’s against the University of Maryland at BankUnited Center.

Of course, it wasn’t really McClinton – just one of those automated calls players and Coach Frank Haith make to season ticket holders to remind them to attend games and to individual ticket buyers to urge them to buy tickets to particular games the school is promoting.

UM places the calls periodically and has been using them for all their sports. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I share basketball season tickets and just happen to be attending tonight’s game. I got messages from voice of the Hurricanes Joe Zagacki last year.)

These calls tend to get my attention. What about you?

POSTED IN: Miami Hurricanes (32), Promotions (120), Tickets (126)

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T Mobile drops Wade-Barkley ads

Heat guard Dwyane Wade made Charles Barkley’s “Fave 5” and their pairing in T Mobile’s humorous ads landed them in Time magazine’s “Top 10 TV ads of 2008.”

But now, according to Advertising Age, T Mobile is pulling the plug on the ads after Barkley’s drunk driving arrest on New Year’s Eve. Barkley, an NBA analyst with TNT Sports, has agreed to take a leave of absence from the network. A T Mobile spokesman told Ad Age the spots featuring Barkely would be replaced with general ads.

Wade told our Heat beat writer Ira Winderman that the latest in the series of ads had already been shot and was slated to break during NBA All-Star Weekend in mid-February.

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

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January 13, 2009

Marlins Manatees, Mermaids tryouts

Want to throw your weight around? Think you have the gift of flab?

The Marlins want you. The team is holding tryouts for the second season of the Marlins Manatees, Major League Baseball’s first all-male dance squad.

Last year’s squad of burly, big men featured members with nicknames such as “Tiny,” “Big Kahuna” and “Mr. Mantastic.” The group performs dance routines between innings at Friday and Saturday night home games at Dolphin Stadium.

Interested in trying out? You must be at least 18 and willing to learn a dance routine. Don Marlins gear and show up at noon on Sunday, Jan. 18 at U.S. Century Bank Arena on the FIU campus, 11310 SW 17th St., Miami. For more information, visit the team's Web site.

Auditions for the Marlins Mermaids female dance team will be held at 8 a.m. the same day at Century Bank Arena. Mermaid hopefuls must be at least 18, dressed in dance attire and shoes and have a resume and head shot. Mermaids who make the first cut will take part in a Mermaid boot camp with final auditions at 9 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. Find more information here.

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Promotions (120)

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January 12, 2009

Heat to unveil innovative video-enabled marquee at AAA

A2aMedia---Miami-HEAT-Media.jpgAmericanAirlines Arena is getting a new look: a giant digital marquee that will front Biscayne Boulevard and be able to broadcast advertising, announcements and video footage.

The Heat is to be the first U.S. sports team to incorporate the MediaMesh technology that is being used at spots in Europe.

The Heat and A2aMedia announced plans for the digital LED screen today and work to install it will begin immediately. The 3,400-square foot screen will cover a dozen window panels on the front of the arena. But the material, which is woven stainless steel mesh that contains linear tubes filled with LED nodes, is up to 70 percent transparent so it will not obstruct views both in and out of the arena. The screen is expected to be operational in March or April.

The screen, called a “Spectacular,” will allow the Heat to showcase upcoming events, sponsor advertising, and even video of Heat games. It will also give the team and arena another source of revenue.

“The new LED Spectacular will provide the official sponsors of the Miami Heat, AmericanAirlines Arena and the events taking place at the arena with an innovative sponsorship platform, and serve as a way to establish a more interactive relationship between the arena and the people and tourists of South Florida," Eric Woolworth, Heat president of business operations, said in a statement. "Most importantly, this installation will solidify the AmericanAirlines Arena as a trendsetting landmark and reinforce its importance in South Florida history.”

Watch a video rendering of the technology:

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Miami Heat (174), Promotions (120), Sponsorship (101)

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January 9, 2009

Disrespect or great deal for the Marlins?

Individual tickets go on sale for Baltimore Orioles spring training games at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Stadium for what could be the team’s last spring in South Florida.

The team has been processing season ticket renewals. In addition to 19-game packages, the team has also been offering three four-game mini-plans. Just like last year, season ticket plans are the only way to secure box and reserved grandstand seats to games against the Boston Red Sox -- on March 2 and 14. General admission tickets to the Red Sox games will go on sale Saturday, if there are any available.

The March 2 Red Sox game is packaged with the Feb. 25 game against the New York Mets, Feb. 26 game against the St. Louis Cardinals and March 6 game against the Washington Nationals. It costs $84 for box seats and $60 for reserved grandstand.

You can pay the same amount for a package including the March 14 Red Sox game with the March 11 game against the Minnesota Twins; March 20 against the Mets and March 31 against the Cardinals.

But if you want to see the Marlins – you can get four Marlins games for the price of three in the Marlins pack. That’s right $60 for box seats and $42 for reserved grandstand for games against the Marlins on Feb. 28, March 5 and 26 and April 1.

Although it has a year-to-year lease in Fort Lauderdale, the team has been exploring its options for other spring training homes, including in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Vero Beach. That’s because the Federal Aviation Administration said last year that the team can only stay in an upgraded complex at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, if it pays $1.3 million annually to help maintain Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport next door.

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Spring Training (11), Tickets (126)

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Panthers celebrate kids

Continuing their commitment to families, the Panthers are hosting Kids Day at Saturday afternoon’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers at BankAtlantic Center.

Tickets for children 12 and younger are $10 and there will be a variety of giveaways, including movie passes and BankAtlantic No. 7 piggy banks, and concession specials, including a $15 buffet at the Chairman’s Club. Kids will also serve in a number of roles around the arena during the 1 p.m. game – singing the national anthem, accompanying Panthers players onto the ice, interviewing players on the scoreboard, performing as ice dancers, sitting in the broadcast booth and reporting from the press box. For more info, visit the team's Web site.

Title sponsor for Kids Day? Boca Raton’s Dr. Larry Kawa, the Panthers official orthodontist. Don’t steer him toward the IT’SUGAR section on the arena concourse where the candy store chain sells sweets by the pound.

Kids Day is just another way the team is reaching out to families. In addition to IT’SUGAR, the team started a Kids Korner last season with kid activities and kid-friendly concession stands, and a pin trading program – in which fans can buy and trade hockey-themed pins – was launched last month.

“We pride ourselves on being one of the most family-friendly franchises in professional sports and Kids Day is just another example of how we continue to make Florida Panthers hockey fun for the whole family,” Panthers President Michael Yormark said in a statement.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), Promotions (120), Sponsorship (101), Tickets (126)

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January 7, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 100,709

Near the end of a road in far western Hialeah with a lake as a backdrop, politicians, Major League Baseball and Marlins officials, and youth baseball players gathered Wednesday to celebrate the announcement of a new MLB-backed youth baseball academy.

Proclaiming it to be a “great day” for his city and Miami-Dade County, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and others gushed about the importance of the baseball academy that will be open to young men and women throughout South Florida to play baseball and softball. Construction of the academy, which is being modeled after MLB’s first academy in the country in Compton, Calif., is expected to begin in 2010 and take about two years to complete. Hialeah is providing the land and MLB is contributing about $3.2 million to the project.

The fact that the group, which included five county commissioners and a representative of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, gathered at all is supposed to show how close officials believe they are to finalizing the long-awaited $515 million Marlins ballpark. The academy won’t happen, officials say, unless the ballpark is built on the site of the former Orange Bowl. The Hialeah academy was the result of the city's offer to provide the land for a ballpark during negotiations in 2006.

“Major League Baseball is committed to South Florida. This is an affirmation of our commitment to South Florida,” MLB President Bob DuPuy said.

But amid the glowing talk of giving youths an opportunity to play baseball and boost their self-esteem, there was clearly some concern that getting the final ballpark documents approved might not be as simple and rosy as Wednesday’s gathering.

“Commissioner Seijas, very good to see you,” Marlins President David Samson said addressing County Commissioner Natacha Seijas before the rest of the crowd. Seijas, after all, was the only one of the five commissioners present who, despite her profound love of baseball, hasn’t always supported the Marlins ballpark project.

Samson, however, remains as optimistic – publicly – as ever. The five ballpark agreements are nearing completion and although it hasn’t been officially scheduled, officials are hoping for a vote of the Miami city and county commissions on Jan. 22.

“We all came together now, because we feel as though we’re in a position very, very shortly, to deliver to 13 county commissioners and five city of Miami commissioners completed documents for their approval. There is no deal without their approval,” Samson said. “They’re the only votes that matter. This is the vote to end all votes, this is it.”

Commission Chairman Dennis Moss said Jan. 22 is the target date, but he’s not sure that’s possible. He, Commissioners Pepe Diaz, Rebeca Sosa, and Bruno Barreiro, who were also in attendance, have routinely supported the project.

“I’m personally supportive of the stadium. Again, the devil is in the details,” Moss said. “I’m supportive of it, I’m hoping we can work through with whatever issues we have, and get an agreement signed off on and move forward on keeping the Miami Marlins in South Florida.”

The stadium project will need approval of nine of the county’s 13 commissioners. And some members of the public have grown increasingly concerned about the large public investment in a stadium when the economy is struggling. Commissioners reminded that the public investment comes from tourist tax dollars that can only be used for projects such as sports venues and convention centers, rather than roads or schools or public safety. They also said the stadium will create jobs.

Seijas said she would reserve comment until she’s seen the final stadium documents.

Samson thanked everyone for the hard work on the Hialeah academy, but reminded the crowd where things stand.

“There’s a little work left to be done, but I’ve never felt more confident than I do today, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to seeing everyone soon," Samson said.

As always, stay tuned…

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

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Gators donuts

2.jpgAn Oakland Park Dunkin’ Donuts is celebrating the Florida Gators return to the BCS National Championship game on Thursday with specially decorated donuts and a deal.

Donuts celebrating UF will feature orange icing and blue sprinkles. And you can pick up two dozen for $9.99. Franchisee Michael Koroghlian is hoping fans will want to add UF donuts to their tailgate.

“Fans can enjoy them before the game and then have an extra dozen ready to roll following a Florida victory,” a hopeful Koroghlian said in a statement.

The Gators donuts will be available from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 801 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park.

POSTED IN: Promotions (120), UF (18)

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January 5, 2009

Dolphins gain on the business side, too

A record-breaking and energized crowd of 74,240 attended Sunday’s Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens first-round playoff game at Dolphin Stadium, many decked in aqua and orange and swelled with a pride for their team they hadn’t felt in years.

The Dolphins had a remarkable and historic turnaround on the field going from an NFL-worst 1-15 in 2007 to AFC East Division champion with an 11-5 regular season record this year, before losing to the Ravens 27-9.

Off the field they’ve made strides, too.

According to the NFL, the team ranks just below the top 10 in merchandise sales on and saw sales rise almost 75 percent in 2008 compared with the previous year.

In addition, Ronnie Brown’s jersey was in the top 30 and Chad Pennington’s made the top 50. The NFL will only release the top 10 teams and top 25 jerseys. See the full list of teams and jerseys below.

Meanwhile, team officials say new season ticket sales are better than ever. Sales of season tickets fell to approximately 50,000 this season, down from 54,465 in 2007 and 61,121 in 2006. Team officials wouldn’t release specific numbers, but are pleased with progress they see already.

“All the indicators are very positive,” said Scott Loft, Dolphins vice president of ticket sales and service. “Our deposits are way higher than they have been in the recent past for new season ticket holders.”

The team has been accepting $100 per seat deposits for new season tickets since early December, as a way to offer fans priority behind current season ticket holders for seating, but ahead of individual ticket buyers. They also got playoff priority before the general public. “The number is higher than it has been certainly in this decade for new deposits year over year,” Loft said.

Loft said a decision about ticket prices for next season has not been determined. Renewal notices will go out around Feb. 1.

Here are the NFL’s rankings for team and jersey sales between April 1 and Dec. 31 at


1 Dallas Cowboys
2 New York Giants
3 Pittsburgh Steelers
4 New York Jets
5 Chicago Bears
6 New England Patriots
7 Washington Redskins
8 Philadelphia Eagles
9 Green Bay Packers
10 Indianapolis Colts


1 Brett Favre, New York Jets
2 Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
3 Eli Manning, New York Giants
4 Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
5 Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
6 Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
7 Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys
8 Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
9 LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D. Chargers
10 Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
11 Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles
12 Tom Brady, New England Patriots
13 Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys
14 Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
15 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
16 Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
17 Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos
18 Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers
19 Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
20 DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
21 Randy Moss, New England Patriots
22 Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins
23 Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
24 Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
25 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178)

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January 3, 2009

Dolphins go green

Dolphin Stadium has joined the “green movement” – with the help of Waste Management, which added automated recycling machines at the stadium and gave out tips for preserving the environment at the Dolphins' last home game of the season.

Now, StubHub is using the Dolphins’ first playoff game in seven years to help plant trees in the country’s national forests. For every ticket Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens ticket re-sold on (tickets are still available for the 1 p.m. Sunday game from $82 to $2,000), the online ticket marketplace will plant a tree in the National Forests of Florida. The company’s “Tickets for Trees” program will also plant one tree for every dollar donated to the National Forest Foundation in the name of the Dolphins.

The National Forests of Florida include nearly 1.2 million acres in the Apalachicola, Ocala and Osceola national forests. StubHub is donating trees in honor of each of the teams hosting playoff games through the postseason and to the Ocala National Forest for Super Bowl XLIII, which is being played in Tampa.

StubHub expects to plant tens of thousands of trees – the type will be determined by the National Forest Foundation, spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer said. She said several thousand will be planted in honor of the Dolphins based on tickets sold and donations made. The company will not release specific figures until after the Super Bowl, she said.

“We are excited to involve our fans in this campaign to help restore the country’s National Forests,” Ferrer said. “Assuming all goes well, we plan to expand this program and continue StubHub Tickets for Trees based around other events.”

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Tickets (126)

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January 1, 2009

South Florida’s big football week

While Orange Bowl Committee members are pulling double duty, serving as ambassadors for tonight’s 75th annual FedEx Orange Bowl and next Thursday’s BCS National Championship Game, some people – and places -- are doing triple duty.

The Dolphin Stadium grounds crew, for example, is preparing for three big games – now that the Dolphins have made the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 season – two bowl games with an NFL playoff game in the middle. That hasn't happened since the BCS added a fifth game to the rotation three years ago.

As soon as tonight’s game between Cincinnati and Virginia Tech is completed, workers will begin cutting out the logos at the center of the field and the endzones for new pieces of sod that will then be painted with Dolphins and NFL playoffs logos in advance of Sunday’s 1 p.m. Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens game. After Sunday’s game, the same process – which takes up to 12 hours – will occur again in advance of the BCS game featuring Florida and Oklahoma.

Stadium President Bruce Schulze calls hosting the three games “pleasant challenges.” After all, the stadium had some practice this fall hosting the UM Hurricanes for their first season since moving from the Orange Bowl.

“We got so good at doing it during the Dolphins and UM seasons,” Schulze said.

Meanwhile, the Marriott Harbor Beach in Fort Lauderdale is the host hotel for the Orange Bowl and BCS games and it will also play host to the Ravens.

Tourism officials are hoping Ravens fans will join the visitors here this week for the bowl games.

“Baltimore has a great reputation for traveling with their teams,” Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman said.

The CVB has been promoting the region in Cincinnati, Virginia and Oklahoma, she said.

The three games have also provided an active secondary market for tickets. Tickets to the Orange Bowl are still listed for re-sale, although not for as little as $6 as some were selling for last month.

“There’s definitely a lot of activity down there,” said Scott Roback, vice president of business development for RazorGator, which serves as the official ticket exchange site for the OB and BCS games. But Roback said, the Dolphins game “is not the highest demand playoff ticket. That being said, there’s still a secondary market for tickets.”

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), Miami Hurricanes (32), NCAA (38), NFL (178), Orange Bowl (45), Tickets (126)

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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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