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February 28, 2009

Marlins, Heat, Panthers promote Tobacco Free Florida Week

TFF2.jpgThose public service announcements by local athletes in which they say they don’t chew, dip or smoke, are having an impact. So much so that Gov. Charlie Crist proclaimed this week “Tobacco Free Florida Week.”

In an unusual display of teamwork, eight pro and college teams around the state along with Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports are continuing the anti-tobacco messages in force this week. The networks have taped more than 90 tobacco-free announcements with players and coaches. They’ll be played on scoreboards and during game telecasts.

Skeletons -- representing the nearly 29,000 Floridians who die each year from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control – will be dressed as sports fans and placed in the stands at participating arenas and stadiums (see photo of skeletons in UF and FSU gear). Street teams will promote anti-tobacco messages; smokifier vans, in which fans can see how they would age if they smoke, will be at the events.

"By combining efforts of professional and collegiate teams, local County Health Departments and other key tobacco prevention stakeholders, we can further extend the reach of the campaign's message," Kim Berfield, Florida Department of Health deputy secretary, said in a statement.

The festivities started Friday at the Orlando Magic-Detroit Pistons game and continued today at FSU’s basketball game against Clemson. Sunday afternoon’s Marlins-St. Louis Cardinals spring training game in Jupiter will also be a Tobacco Free Florida event. The rest of the week’s schedule: Monday night’s Heat-Cleveland Cavaliers game at AmericanAirlines Arena; Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Rays-Houston Astros spring trianing game; Thursday’s Panthers-Pittsburgh Penguins game at BankAtlantic Center; Friday’s Tampa Bay Lightning-St. Louis Blues game; and Saturday’s UF-University of Kentucky basketball game.

"Tobacco Free Florida Week presents a tremendous platform for us to utilize our unique media assets, along with those of our sports team partners across the state, in a concentrated, highly-visible way and encourage Floridians to pledge to be tobacco free," Fox Sports and Sun Sports Senior Vice President and General Manager Steve Liverani said in a statement.

Tobacco Free Florida Week is one part of this year’s campaign to promote anti-tobacco messages and help smokers quit. The campaign is funded by tobacco settlement dollars made available for anti-smoking programs when Floridians approved a constitutional amendment in 2006. Last year, $17 million was spent on the media campaign; the amount is up to $19.8 million this year.

The program directs smokers to the American Cancer Society’s Quitline for counseling and nicotine replacement patches, gum and lozenges. The message has been effective. Calls to the Quitline rose from about 4,000 in 2007 to about 45,000 last year.


POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Florida Marlins (193), Florida Panthers (108), Miami Heat (174), Promotions (120), Television (35), UF (18)

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Marlins Stadium Update No. $500 million

Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has been quiet about the Marlins ballpark issue since her absence at the city commission meeting on Feb. 13 left the ballpark deal deadlocked 2-2 and almost derailed it completely before the meeting was continued until March.

That is, until Friday.

On Friday, Spence-Jones, who had been on maternity leave, issued a statement titled "Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones Says Marlins Must Hit a Home Run for Her District." In the release from her office, Spence-Jones says times have changed since she supported the ballpark last year.

Apparently, Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff isn't the only one with demands.

Spence-Jones' statement listed several. She wants to ensure improvements and jobs for her district. Among her demands: preserving property tax dollars raised in the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency for the Overtown neighborhood; "authorize a half billion dollar bond issuance to fund the redevelopment of the historic Overtown community," and that the Marlins and Major League Baseball pay for a "mini-baseball youth academy located in the inner city."

Three times the statement says the Marlins "will strike out" on March 6 -- when the commission is to vote on the ballpark agreement -- if changes are not made to the deal.

"In an economic environment where jobs are critical, small businesses are struggling, and construction work has slowed, the Commissioner says the deal must appeal to the needs of her district or the Marlins will strike out on March 6," the statement says.

As always, stay tuned...

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

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February 27, 2009

Hollywood company responsible for Dwyane Wade’s bandages

chuck_wade2.jpgThe NBA may have banned Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s personalized adhesive bandages, but the fad is already under way. Lil Wayne wore one at Tuesday’s Heat-Detroit Pistons game; so did Burnie the Heat mascot. On Thursday night, even the TNT NBA analysts, including Charles Barkley, were wearing them. Of course, Wade was a guest analyst.

Wade shed his personalized bandage Friday night after the NBA told the team bandages must be worn only for healthcare reasons and can’t have names or promotional slogans on them. Ira Winderman explains the league’s edict here and The Hater weighs in on the controversy here. Incidentally, Jermaine O’Neal did get to wear his headband during Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.

And fans can join the Band-Wade bandwagon on Saturday night. Heat staffers, AmericanAirlines employees, ticket takers and ushers will all be wearing decal versions of the Band-Wade, courtesy of Metro Signs Inc., which made Wade’s adhesive bandages, too. Read about Metro Signs’ involvement here.

The team will be selling special three-packs of the decals featuring Heat, Wade and 3 on them for $5 apiece at the Miami Hoops Gear store at the arena and online. A portion of the proceeds will go to Wade’s foundation. In addition, Saturday is jersey night, so fans wearing Heat jerseys to the game might be lucky enough to get a free decal if they’re spotted by the Heat’s Hoops Crew.

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

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February 26, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 3,062,009 (I said PENCIL)

Now it’s the Miami City Commission moving its meeting to consider the Marlins $515 million ballpark deal. The city commission is now scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. March 6 – rather than on March 4.

No official word on why the meeting has been rescheduled, but it sounds like it could just be a scheduling issue. The Miami-Dade County Commission is still scheduled to meet to consider the deal at 9:30 a.m. on March 9.

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

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February 25, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 62,226,209

With just a week until Miami City Commissioners again consider a plan to finance and construct a $515 million ballpark for the Marlins, two Miami activists have filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

Graciela Solares, a member of the Miami Roads Neighborhood Civic Association, and Elvis Cruz, a member of the Morningside Civic Association, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Miami and Miami-Dade County alleging the two governments negotiated the ballpark deal behind closed doors in violation of Florida’s public records law.

The suit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, seeks to void last year’s Baseball Stadium Agreement – the document that set in motion plans for the 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark at the former site of the Orange Bowl – and halt any further negotiations unless they are held in public. The suit states that if the Miami City Commission and the county commission approve five new agreements that spell out precisely how to pay for and build the venue – those, too, would need to be voided. The city commission is scheduled on March 4 to consider five agreements; the county commission is to consider them March 9.

“The only thing they can do is, in a sense, start all over again,” said Linda Carroll, a Miami attorney representing Solares and Cruz.

Carroll said the public doesn’t have a right to interfere with negotiations, but must be allowed to watch them. Otherwise, she said, when it is the public’s time to comment, it can’t make informed observations since it doesn’t know what was considered.

A county spokeswoman said the county attorney’s office was reviewing the suit and had no comment. A city spokeswoman could not be reached late Wednesday. The Marlins were not named in the suit.

In his lawsuit filed last year, auto dealer Norman Braman also questioned the ballpark deal being negotiated in violation of the state’s Sunshine law. Braman’s suit accused County Manager George Burgess of negotiating the stadium deal on behalf of the county in private. The claim was one of the first dismissed in the case.

Carroll said the cases differ and the new lawsuit points out the public knows even more private meetings occurred in recesses during the city commission’s Feb. 13 meeting to consider the five agreements.

“The Chairman of the Commission declared recesses during the Commission meeting so that members of the negotiating teams of the City, the County and the Marlins could meet and confer,” the suit states. “The negotiators left the Commission chamber for the second floor (where the offices of the City’s Mayor and Manager are located). No one in the public knows what happened: all negotiations at that time were closed to the public.”

Knowing Braman’s public records law claims were dismissed last year, it’s possible the votes go on as planned. But it’s also possible Carroll files an injunction seeking to stop the votes from going forward.

As always, stay tuned.

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

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February 24, 2009

Several ways to save on tickets to upcoming Panthers games

The Panthers may be the hottest team in South Florida, but good seats are still available to most games at BankAtlantic Center. And a number of them are available at a significant discount.

Online travel deal Web site, Travelzoo, has individual game tickets available at group rate prices – that’s as much as a 45 percent discount -- for five upcoming games. Discount tickets are available in four seating categories, including Upper Level Goal Zone seats for $20 (regularly $30) and Club Level seats for $50 (regularly $92).

Ticket are available to the following games: March 7 against the St. Louis Blues; March 14 against the Tampa Bay Lightning; March 17 against the Washington Capitals; March 19 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and March 21 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Meanwhile, limited lower bowl seats are available for all remaining weekday Panthers games for $49 – a $23 savings off the individual ticket price – thanks to team sponsor Saveology.com. The online comparison shopping Web site is covering the additional cost to provide the “Save Seats” to Panthers games.

The Panthers also still offer their Total Ticket package, starting at $17 in the upper bowl, which includes the ticket, $5 gas card and combo meal (personal pizza, chicken sandwich or turkey wrap; cookie or pretzel; and soda or bottle of water). The plan is available in most seating categories.

For more information, call 954-835-PUCK or visit the team’s Web site.


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

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February 19, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 309,009 (PENCIL it in)

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Dennis Moss rescheduled the county’s March 5 special meeting to vote on the $515 million ballpark plan, after he learned that a few commissioners might be unable to attend.

Wanting to make sure everyone could attend, Moss has now scheduled the county commission’s meeting for 9:30 a.m. March 9 – meaning there will be a gap of four days between the Miami City Commission’s March 4 meeting and the county’s meeting.

Could the dates change again? Sure. Mark them in pencil.

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

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February 18, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 304,305 (Mark your calendar)

The Marlins said they hoped to get their ballpark issue resolved before March 12 –- the date Miami City Commissioners chose to continue last Friday’s meeting – the one that lasted more than seven hours.

The city and Miami-Dade County are trying to oblige. The city has scheduled to continue its meeting at 9 a.m. March 4, when presumably Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who is on maternity leave, will be able to attend.

The county commission, meanwhile, will consider the stadium deal at a meeting at 9:30 a.m. on March 5. The team wanted to avoid what happened Friday – dozens of people waiting for the county meeting, which was scheduled to start at 1 p.m., while proceedings dragged on without resolution at the city commission meeting.

With Spence-Jones absent, the four commissioners in attendance twice deadlocked 2-2 in votes on the stadium deal. City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff made three demands: the team help pay cost overruns on the parking lots; turn over naming rights proceeds to the city and county; and hand over profits to the city and county, if the team is sold within 10 years.

The team agreed to cap the parking lots at $94 million, but would not agree to the other demands. Marlins President David Samson told the commission he would be willing to renegotiate additional provisions, but only if the entire ballpark agreement is reopened for discussion.

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

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Stanford Financial’s local sponsorships include Heat, tennis, golf, polo

It’s unclear what effect the Securities and Exchange Commission charging R. Allen Stanford with fraud this week will have on the dozens of sports sponsorships held by Stanford Financial Group, including several prominent ones in South Florida.

Stanford Financial’s name covers the VIP lobby at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. It’s the title sponsor of the No. 1 field at the International Polo Club of Palm Beach and one of the host sponsors at the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne. The company has sponsor relationships with prominent golfers, including Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas and Boca Raton’s Morgan Pressel.

The SEC’s complaint alleges Stanford was involved in an $8 billion scheme centered on certificates of deposits that promised unusually high rates. The SEC froze the assets of Houston-based Stanford Group Co.; Stanford Capital Management, also of Houston; and Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.

It doesn’t appear that Stanford Financial Group, which is the arm of the company with the sports sponsorships, is a target of the current investigation, but that doesn’t mean those sponsorships aren’t in potential danger. Team and sporting event officials contacted said it’s too early to say, and they’re waiting to learn more, too.

The Heat is believed to have a multi-year deal with Stanford Financial at AmericanAirlines Arena. For now, it appears the entrance lobby the company sponsors will continue to bear Stanford’s name. Eric Woolworth, Heat president of business operations, said: “We don’t know anything, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment.”

At the International Polo Club of Palm Beach, Stanford has been a sponsor of “Stanford Field” for three years and recently renewed for another three years, starting this year. “They paid up through this season, 2009, which ends in April,” said John A. Wash, president of club operations.

“Just as things progress in the news, we’re watching it closely,” Wash said. “We have sponsors come and go all the time. We hate to see this situation happen. We’re waiting to see how it all plays out.”

But Wash assured “polo will continue.”

He said sports don’t have control over corporations’ business operations. He reminded that the Houston Astros ballpark was originally known as Enron Field, until the Enron collapsed and it’s now known as Minute Maid Park.

At Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne, Stanford Financial is now in its fifth year as a “host” sponsor for the Sony Ericsson Open. The company has court signage, display booths, a hospitality suite.

Tournament Director Adam Barrett said he isn’t sure what the SEC investigation will mean for the sponsorship, which runs another two or three more years.

“We hope it means very little, not as much for the tournament, but for anyone who has investment dollars with Stanford,” Barrett said adding the tournament will not be dramatically affected should Stanford’s contract end early.

“There’s not much we can do about it, we can’t really control the outcome of it,” Barrett said. “It’s more about you hope it’s not true, not because of our sponsorship, but because as a country, we can’t use another major fraud or fallout from our financial sector. That’s the bigger picture than our tennis balls going over a net.”

Stay tuned…

POSTED IN: Golf (12), Miami Heat (174), Sponsorship (101), Tennis (8)

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February 17, 2009

O’Neal Heat jerseys now available (Or - the numbers game)

Jermaine O’Neal, who will make his debut with the Heat on Wednesday, didn’t offer up anything like a Mercedes or a few thousand dollars to new teammate Mario Chalmers for the No. 6 – the number O’Neal wore in Toronto.

No, O’Neal has chosen to go back to wearing No. 7 – the number he wore as a member of the Indiana Pacers. His jersey is already for sale at miamihoopsgear.com or by going to heat.com. And Andy Montero, Heat senior director of retail operations, tells us there will be O’Neal jerseys for sale at AmericanAirlines Arena at Wednesday’s game.

But upstairs on the 300 level of the arena are No. 32 O’Neal jerseys – remaining from Shaquille O’Neal’s tenure with the Heat – at a steep discount. Those are for sale for $10 apiece and fans are still buying them, Heat officials say.

There was no encouraging Jermaine O'Neal to pick No. 32 or special program to pay a few dollars to have your No. 32s replaced with No. 7s. This is, after all, another merchandising opportunity.

“He’s a former Heat player, just like Glen Rice is a former Heat player. We’re happy to see people show up in No. 32 O’Neal jerseys,” Heat executive vice president Michael McCullough said. “We hope more of them get No. 7 O’Neal jerseys.”

“It’s a different player,” Montero added. “It’s a new era.”

The team even has some remaining No. 7 jerseys for Shawn Marion – who was traded to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal, Montero said.

Additionally, Jamario Moon's No. 8 Heat jerseys will be available at the arena on Wednesday. Moon wore No. 33 in Toronto -- the same number Alonzo Mourning wore with the Heat.

COOK THREE-POINT MERCHANDISE

Meanwhile, the Heat has ordered 60 commemorative versions of the orange and purple “money balls” from this past weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix to sell in honor of Daequan Cook winning the three-point contest. The team will also sell 8 x 10 photos of Cook shooting the “money ball.” Those should arrive within a week and will sell at the Miami Hoops Gear store and online -- $70 for the basketball and $5 for the photos, Montero said. He said the same thing was done to honor Jason Kapono, who won the three-point contest in 2007.

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Miami Heat (174), NBA (139)

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February 16, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 215,090,118 (Observations and additional thoughts on Friday’s proceedings)

As my regular readers know, I gave up handicapping whether the ballpark project will happen several years ago. I have been covering this for too many years and seen too many bizarre things – especially Friday’s Miami City Commission meeting – to know for sure what will happen.

But let’s re-cap and explore some of what occurred:

Approval?: The Miami City Commission might have passed the Marlins’ $515 million ballpark financing plan on Friday, had Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones been present. Spence-Jones, who is on maternity leave and was absent Friday, has supported the ballpark project in the past. That’s no guarantee, but it’s a possibility. Still Commissioner Marc Sarnoff may have raised his concerns (more on this later) about wanting to exact more protections for the public -- and in the process given some commissioners pause.

Even if the deal had passed at the city, Miami-Dade County Commissioners were prepared with their own questions and perhaps even more demands. Among concerns of both city and county commissioners is that general fund revenue could be tapped, should hotel bed tax dollars fall short. General fund dollars are listed as the secondary pledge – as a backstop – for repaying bonds. City, county and team officials have said they do not intend – ever – to tap the general fund.

At the county, provisions are being made to pull a few items that need a super-majority – or nine of 13 votes – from the ballpark agreements, so that a simple majority of seven votes can pass the ballpark contracts. The nine votes would be needed for items such as waiving competitive bidding procedures for the contract for the street and sewer work at the ballpark.

Jobs and public testimony: Before city commissioners began their debate Friday, 36 members of the public spoke. More were in favor than opposed, but both sides were represented. Many of the people who spoke in favor of the stadium, including those representing labor unions, pleaded for the construction jobs it would create during the next three years. The jobs at a new stadium have been in question since most of the jobs at Dolphin Stadium during Marlins games would just be moved to the new ballpark.

Here’s what Marlins President David Samson said about jobs: “I believe and I continue to believe this deal makes sense from the city’s standpoint and the county’s standpoint, and for every single person in South Florida whether you’re a baseball fan or not, the community needs these jobs. It was loud and clear. There can be a debate as to the type of jobs, but the community needs it.”

Opponents questioned such a large public outlay of tax dollars during a recession, whether the money should be spent on other projects, the types of jobs being created, and padding the pockets of private business.

Sarnoff’s demands: The stadium contracts up for votes on Friday were produced as a result of the “Baseball Stadium Agreement” (BSA) – a document the city and county commissions approved a year ago that covered the ballpark project in principle. The contracts are the fine details of that agreement that spell out precisely how to finance, construct, and insure the ballpark, keep the Marlins from re-locating for the 35-year life of the agreement and build the parking garages and lots. The contracts modified some of the items in the BSA, but the BSA always contemplated naming rights proceeds would go the Marlins. The Marlins have sought a new ballpark for years to be able to control their own revenue, so they can put more dollars into the team’s payroll.

The timing of Sarnoff’s demands is what blindsided many at city hall Friday.

For his part, Sarnoff says the dais at city hall is his place to make demands, not in meetings or negotiations ahead of time. Sarnoff said city administrators negotiate a deal they think is fair and then the “baton gets passed” to the city commission.

His demands were aimed at protecting the city and its taxpayers. He wanted the team to help cover cost overruns incurred if the cost for building the parking lots exceeds $94 million. Samson said the team would cap the parking at $94 million, even if that results in fewer than 5,500 spots.

Sarnoff wants naming rights split by the city and county to help them repay the bonds they issue for the ballpark.

And if the team is sold within 10 years, Sarnoff wants all the profits shared with the city and the county since it’s the public’s commitment to building a ballpark that will increase the value of the team.

“I just don’t think it’s taxpayers’ job to enhance a man’s asset,” Sarnoff said. “It’s not taxpayers’ job to increase the franchise value. And if the franchise value right now is $300 million and it goes up to $600 million, it seems to me the taxpayers should benefit from that franchise increase in the event of a flip.”

Sarnoff said if Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has no intention of selling the team, he should agree to the profit-sharing language. Historically, sports team owners make money when they sell. See Dave Hyde’s column for more on this subject.

The contract does call for the Marlins to share profits if the team is sold, but within seven years and at a far lower and decreasing rate – 18 percent in the first year to 5 percent in the seventh. (The BSA had a five-year schedule that started at 10 percent, so the terms did get stronger).

Samson said the team couldn’t agree to those demands, but would be willing to renegotiate the deal, as long as the entire agreements is reopened.

For comparison purposes, profit-sharing – or sales kickers – are rare. In Washington, DC, the Nationals agreed to share profits if the team were sold after the city agreed to spend $600 million for the ballpark. That provision has already expired. In Minnesota, as part of their ballpark deal, the Twins agreed to share profits if the team is sold.

(By the way, just as an aside: did it look to anyone else like Sarnoff might be auditioning for a run at the mayor's seat? Already Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez and Commissioner Tomas Regalado are running to replace Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, when his term is complete. Sanchez even accused Regalado of campaigning at the dais during Friday's meeting).

What’s next?: The city commission has continued its meeting until March 12, but it’s possible a meeting could be held sooner. Samson said the city and the county will hold their meetings on separate days to avoid what happened Friday, when the city commission meeting ran long and those at the county, were left waiting before the county meeting was called off.

Samson said he believes a deal can still be struck. Read Juan Rodriguez’s piece from Sunday where Samson spoke on the first day of spring training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

On Friday, when he met with the media, Samson said, “Any speculation that you hear that the ballpark deal is off, any speculation you hear that the team or county or city is fighting or anything, that is not the case. What you are hearing from me today is we are trying to figure out the best way to have a deal that makes sense for the county and the team, and we will continue to work toward that. And the minute we can no longer work toward that, is the minute I will tell all of our fans, that it’s over. And that day is not today.”

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

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February 13, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update … To Be Continued

Deadlocked in their vote for a new ballpark for the Marlins, the Miami City Commission decided instead to hold off further votes until next month.

The commission’s ballpark discussion will continue on March 12, which presumably will give time for any further negotiation that might make the $515 million financing proposal palatable to more city commissioners – and perhaps even allow for Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who is on maternity leave, to attend.

The Miami-Dade County Commission, which had been waiting since 1 p.m. to start its meeting on the ballpark plan, instead didn’t hold its meeting. The commission chairman will decide when the county should hold its next meeting. Any substantive changes in the ballpark deal would need to be reviewed by both the city and county.

Marlins President David Samson said he appreciated the political process and assured fans of the team and supporters of the ballpark that he is not giving up.

“I do not believe this marks the end, because we will continue to try to figure out a way to reconvene this meeting and have the county meeting that has not even begun yet,” he said.

“I tell our fans who are watching, spring training starts tomorrow, I will be in Jupiter for that. We are going to continue working to make sure the ballpark opens on time and on budget in 2012.”

He said fans should not believe that work on the ballpark is over: “I assure you when that is no longer the case you will hear it from me.”

The deadlock came when City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff asked that the Marlins agree to three additional items: covering overruns on parking garages and lots, and turning over proceeds from naming rights and any profit if the team is sold -- to the city and county. Samson said the team would agree to cap the parking costs at $94 million, but not the other provisions.

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

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 2-1, no, wait another break

Miami City Commissioners reconvened, but are no closer to a deal. Their meeting has devolved into political chaos.

In responding to Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s proposals to cover extra costs of parking garages and to turn over naming rights and any profits of a team sale to the city and county, Marlins President David Samson said the team would agree to cap the cost of parking garages and lots at $94 million.

As for the other two provisions, he said the team could not agree, but if the commission wanted he would be willing to renegotiate the entire deal. Not just the parking agreement and non-relocation, but the ENTIRE deal.

Samson reminded Sarnoff and the other commissioners that the agreements before the commission were similar to the agreement to build a stadium in principle – known as the Baseball Stadium Agreement – that commissioners approved a year ago.

"We are open to renegotiate the entire agreement," Samson said. "All five agreements."

The commission decided to move forward with a vote on Sarnoff’s motion with the added provisions, which Samson said will result in “no deal.” But the voting ended at one no (Angel Gonzalez) and two yeses (Sarnoff and Tomas Regalado), when commission chairman Joe Sanchez lashed out at Regalado.

“You just voted against the deal,” Sanchez said.

“I’m voting for the residents of Miami, Mr. Chairman,” Regalado said. “Respectfully, it is not about the deal. It’s about the residents of the city of Miami. I believe these terms can be achieved.”

By the way, both Sanchez and Regalado are running for mayor of Miami to replace Mayor Manny Diaz.

Regalado continued: “We want the stadium, these are details that you all didn’t work out, but according to you mr. Manager, you got a lot of things from the county. Well, now is the time to come back to the table.”

All the commissioners sounded like they believed in helping finance a ballpark for the Marlins, but they can’t yet agree how, despite having the framework of a deal for the past year.

City Manager Pete Hernandez suggested another recess to meet with team and county officials. The group has gone to huddle in the city offices.

“I think today is a truly sad day for the county,” Sanchez said. “My colleagues have taken the hopes of many, the people who live in Little Havana.”

Again, stay tuned...

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

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 2-2 tie -– City votes deal down… for now

The Miami City Commission deadlocked on 2-2 vote to move forward with a plan to finance a $515 million ballpark for the Marlins, meaning the deal died. (Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, on maternity leave, is absent).

But the commission has just taken a break and team, city, Miami-Dade County and Major League Baseball officials have gone behind closed doors to see if a deal can be salvaged.

Before breaking City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who along with Commissioner Tomas Regalado opposed the deal, suggested several amendments to revive the deal. He wants the Marlins to cover extra costs on a parking garage the city is to build for $94 million, turn over naming rights dollars to the city and county to service their debt on the project and any profit, if the team is sold, to go to the city and county.

Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez initially seconded the motion, but then decided it would “kill the deal” and rescinded his motion.

At the moment, there is no deal on the table and certainly no need to head to the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers.

When I asked Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, a supporter of the ballpark, what happens now, he smiled and said “We’re taking a 10-minute break.”

As always, stay tuned.

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

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 213 million (The public speaks out)

More than 25 members of the public are signed up to speak at Miami City Hall in favor or against a new ballpark for the Marlins. The debate has become less about the use of public money for the $515 million venue and more about whether it will create the jobs, residents and business people say are desperately needed.

Several people in the construction industry have spoken in favor of the jobs the stadium will create. Others said those jobs are an illusion, won’t pay enough and the money should be spent on housing, education and other needs.

The tourist tax dollars designated for the project can only be spent on sports venues, convention centers and other projects to promote tourism.

A man from Hialeah said he had 5,000 signatures in favor of the stadium. A Miami activist called the deal “terrible” and implored the commission to put the 335-page stadium contracts before voters.

“Let the Marlins get a loan to buy the land at the old Miami Arena site, just like any private business should have to do,” Elvis Cruz said. “Let them build the stadium themselves and let Major League Baseball guarantee it.”

Before the public testimony, Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy spoke of the significance of building a ballpark in Miami for generations of families to enjoy.

“No one remembers their first visit to a convention center,” DuPuy said, “but almost everyone remembers their first visit to a baseball game.”

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz called on commissioners to approve the ballpark deal for its much-needed jobs during a period of high unemployment, because it will revitalize a neighborhood in the city that sorely needs it and will help make Miami as a world class city.

“It’s very easy to say no. I believe this is not why we get elected,” Diaz said. “We get elected to act, to be decisive, to lead.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez told commissioners the issue is not new, and that it is time to make the decision. He worried the Marlins will leave “because after 10 years, we couldn’t come up with a contract.”

Alvarez said he hopes the team does “make a lot of money. If they make money, we’re successful in this community.”

Alvarez reminded commissioners, the county is fortunate to have professional football, basketball -- and baseball.

“They may never win a World Series again, but they’ve already won two,” Alvarez said.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke briefly, telling commissioners he’s owned the team longest of its three owners, “because I have an unwavering commitment to see things well done, professionally done, it will continue in that same vein.”

But Loria added, “I do take exception to Mayor Alvarez’s comments we may never win another World Series.”

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

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 2.13 million (The scene at Miami City Hall)

There’s a full house at Miami City Hall this morning, where the city commission is late starting its meeting to consider funding for a $515 million ballpark for the Marlins. Some in the audience are clad in Marlins jerseys and caps. There are also some opponents.

Miami resident Elaine Jepeway stood alone in front of Miami City Hall, holding up a paper grocery bag that she’d split apart and had covered with the words “NO DEAL.”

“I thought there were going to be other people here,” said Jepeway, 67. “This is just such a fiasco with the economy … We should use the money for something that’s needed. Nobody goes to the games. I wasn’t coming, but I thought it’s the right thing to do … I think it’s just not the time to do it.”

Meanwhile, a Marlins fan circled the city hall parking lot in his pickup truck carrying a billboard that read “I want to take my child to a Marlin World Series in 2013.”

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson are in attendance. City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who is on maternity leave, is not present and not expected to vote on the deal. The stadium agreements need a simple majority of the four commissioners present to pass.

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

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February 12, 2009

T-Mobile and D-Wade team up for H-O-R-S-E

They’ve renamed H-O-R-S-E after insurance company G-E-I-C-O for an event Saturday at NBA All-Star weekend, but Heat guard Dwyane Wade and sponsor T-Mobile are already thinking about H-O-R-S-E at the Eastern Conference Finals.

Wade and T-Mobile kicked off a promotion this week that will give one fan a chance to play H-O-R-S-E against Wade at the Eastern Conference Finals and a shot at winning $50,000. Oh, and the fan can bring along five favorite friends – this is T-Mobile, after all.

To enter, text MYSHOT to 72579 through May 1 or enter online beginning March 4 at www.t-mobile.com/nba -- where you’ll find more information on the promotion as well.

But be forewarned, Wade, who says he plays H-O-R-S-E “all the time,” is ready.

“We can both have fun, I will win, but we can both have fun. I think it’s an unbelievable opportunity for someone, the opportunity of a lifetime,” Wade said. “You can’t beat me. I’m very confident in my ability. I’ve got a couple of shots that will get me over the hump, but I’m sure people will make it hard on me.”

Meanwhile, Barkely is back with Wade in a new T-Mobile ad that also features Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. T-Mobile dropped the ads that paired Wade and Barkley, after Barkley's drunk driving arrest on New Year's Eve. Barkley also took a leave of absence from his position as an NBA analyst with TNT, but the network now says Barkley will be back, but after the All-Star game.

The new T-Mobile ad breaks Friday; Wade and Howard are on the coaching staffs of the rookies and sophomores, respectively, competing in the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Friday night.

Check out the new spot:

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174), NBA (139), Promotions (120)

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February 11, 2009

Huizenga’s legacy in South Florida sports

H. Wayne Huizenga bid farewell Tuesday to nearly two decades of sports team ownership, including 19 years with his favorite team, the Dolphins.

When he completed the sale of the Dolphins to New York real estate developer Stephen Ross last month, Huizenga’s remarkable tenure owning three professional sports franchises - including two expansion teams that took the field and ice within six months of each other - came to an end.

His biggest regret: that his Dolphins didn’t win a Super Bowl. He also said in hindsight perhaps he should have waited a year to dismantle the Marlins after they won the 1997 World Series.

He oversaw a tumultuous period, bringing South Florida into the major leagues: owning three teams and taking two of them to their sport’s championship, investing in a regional sports network, selling naming rights to a stadium, and overseeing the construction of a 20,000-seat arena. It was a period the likes of which will never been seen again. If you’re interested in reading a longer view of Huizenga’s tenure in sports, click here.


POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Florida Marlins (193), Florida Panthers (108), MLB (110), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), NHL (56), Sports Team Owners (49)

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February 9, 2009

A-Rod still scheduled to attend A-Rod Park dedication Friday

Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field is scheduled to get its official dedication at the Hurricane Club’s “Dinner on the Diamond” this Friday, in the wake of the Sports Illustrated story indicating Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.

And as of right now, Rodriguez is still expected to be the guest of honor, a UM spokesman said.

The event starts at 6 p.m. with a tour of the renovated Hurricanes' ballpark and silent auction, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets to the banquet are sold out. The Hurricanes open the 2009 baseball season on Feb. 20 against Rutgers at Alex Rodriguez Park.

The stadium has been renamed for Rodriguez, who in 2002 gave the university $3.9 million – the largest donation ever to the school’s baseball program. Of that donation, $3.4 million was to kick off upgrades of the stadium and $500,000 to endow an annual UM scholarship for a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Miami.

Construction began in October 2005 and was conducted in three phases. Phase one modified seating, added new restrooms, dugouts and lights. Phase two renovated the area under the grandstand and added new concession areas, clubhouse, weight room, meeting and video rooms, academic area and pressbox with VIP suites on either side. The final phase, which is being completed, is the renovation of the Ron Fraser Building housing the team’s baseball operations. Check out photos here.

Whether the New York Yankees third baseman actually attends the event remains to be seen.

Back in 2002, when Rodriguez, was still shortstop for the Texas Rangers, his donation to UM’s baseball program was announced on a sunny October day to much fanfare. Rodriguez, MLB’s No. 1 draft pick in 1993, had been accepted to UM, but signed with the Seattle Mariners instead. Rodriguez spoke at the time about taking a bus from his Kendall home to Mark Light, jumping over the outfield fence and watching the Hurricanes for free. Here’s an excerpt from the piece I wrote about the donation in 2002:

He would practice baseball, serve as batboy and just relish watching the Hurricanes, growing sad each Sunday afternoon as the weekend series came to a close and he had to wait another week to watch more baseball. …
"For me, this was my Yankee Stadium, my Candlestick Park, my Dodger Stadium," the graduate of Miami Westminster Christian said from a spot near home plate. "This is a very dear special place to me." …
"Although I didn't have the privilege to be a college student here," he said, "I've always been a Hurricane at heart."

POSTED IN: MLB (110), Miami Hurricanes (32)

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February 7, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 333,365 (FanFest edition)

flzmarlstad062.jpgOn Friday, the Marlins hosted a wiffle ball game (see photo) on the grounds of the former Orange Bowl, which they hope will become the location for their new home.

On Saturday, renderings of that home – a proposed $515 million retractable roof ballpark – were up in select spots around their current home, Dolphin Stadium, during the team’s annual FanFest.

The team also handed out fliers depicting the new home and encouraging fans to show up on Friday (Feb. 13) at the Miami City (9 a.m.) and Miami-Dade County (1 p.m.) commission meetings to show their support for a new ballpark. The two commissions are scheduled Friday to determine whether ground will finally be broken for the long-sought ballpark. The commissions are considering five agreements that spell out the details of the financing and construction of the ballpark. The vote – at least at the county commission, where the team needs 9 of 13 votes – is expected to be close and is not assured.

According to an announcement in Miami Today, a group called “Coalition Against Marlins Bailout” has scheduled a protest at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, outside the county government center, 111 NW 1st St., Miami. And the Miami Herald writes opposition to the use of county hotel bed tax dollars to fund the ballpark has surfaced again from Miami Beach officials who want bed taxes used to upgrade the Miami Beach Convention Center.

But Saturday at Dolphin Stadium was about celebrating baseball, the Marlins and their players and to ask questions about certain elements of the ballpark. Among the ballpark details that Marlins President David Samson shared and were applauded:

Food: A “Taste of Miami” concept in which offerings are to represent the range of ethnicities and tastes of South Florida from croquetas to sushi to stone crabs to hamburgers. “It’s going to be a pleasure watching people eating stone crabs, while they just got something from Café Versailles,” Samson said.

Roof: Opening and closing the roof should take 11 to 16 minutes, depending on wind and other factors, Samson said. He said during the rainy and boiling summer months, the roof should be closed most of the time to ensure games are played and fans are kept cool in the air conditioning.

Dimensions: Similar to Dolphin Stadium, the new ballpark will be a pitcher’s park, Samson said, but with the short porches reversed, so that right field is shorter and left field is farther away. These are the dimensions: Left-field line: 340 feet; Left-field alley: 384 feet; Center field: 420 feet; Right-field alley: 392 feet; Right-field line: 335 feet. There will a “Bermuda Triangle” sort of feature with a surprise being planned by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

Parking: Season ticket holders will be assigned spots in four garages based on where they live or will be coming from to the ballpark to make it easier for them to get in and out of the location, Samson said. For example, he said, West Broward residents who take the 836, will be assigned west side garage spots; fans traveling south will be in east side garages.

Design: The renderings don’t give the full effect of the glass and color planned for the venue, Samson said. He said there will be a glass wall facing downtown Miami.

Meetings: The Miami City Commission meets at 9 a.m. Friday at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami; the Miami-Dade County Commission meets at 1 p.m. Friday at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st St., Miami.

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

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February 5, 2009

Panthers, Nets create "Snowbird Ticket Exchange"

Twin brothers and sports team execs Michael Yormark (Panthers) and Brett Yormark (New Jersey Nets) often try to take credit for each other’s creative marketing ideas. This time, the pair is trying to offer each other’s fans a break.

Introducing the first-ever “Snowbird Ticket Exchange” program: Panthers season-ticket holders who happen to be in the New York/New Jersey area can cash in unused Panthers tickets for a seat at a Nets game. Nets season-ticket holders in South Florida can do the same to get with unused Nets tickets for a Panthers game.

You just need to prove you’re a season-ticket holder and provide five days’ notice.

“This innovative program represents yet another way for us to add value to being a Florida Panthers season-ticket holder,” Panthers President Michael Yormark said in a statement. “As I am sure many of our fans regularly visit the New York metropolitan area for business or pleasure, they will have an opportunity to add a Nets basketball game to their itinerary.”

Of course, Nets fans might be getting more value at BankAtlantic Center than Panthers fans at the IZOD Center — the Panthers are in the playoff hunt at 24-18; the Nets are lagging at 23-27.

The brothers, however, are also known for their creative sponsorship deals. Maybe they should get JetBlue to sponsor this promotion.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), NBA (139), NHL (56), Promotions (120), Tickets (126)

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February 4, 2009

Should companies with naming rights deals also be getting bailouts?

Citigroup’s $400 million naming rights deal for the new New York Mets ballpark has gotten the attention of members of Congress. After all, the banking giant is receiving $45 billion in federal bailout money through the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). It agreed in 2006 to spend about $20 million a year for 20 years to name the new stadium.

Last week, U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, and Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to push Citi to drop the deal. “Citigroup is now dependent on the support of the federal government for its survival as an institution,” the representatives’ letter said. “As such, we do not believe Citigroup ought to spend $400 million to name a stadium at the same time that they accept over $350 billion in taxpayer support and guarantees.”

When word surfaced the company might be looking for a way out of the giant stadium name deal, it reiterated Tuesday that it is committed to the legally binding deal and that no TARP money would be used on the Citi Field agreement.

But the question remains: should companies that receive federal bailouts be putting big money into these types of naming rights deals?

The question arose after Sept. 11, 2001, when the airline industry was laying off workers and seeking federal help, and yet several stadiums and arenas, including AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, bore the names of air carriers.

The conventional wisdom from the business community tends to be that in difficult times, companies should be spending a portion of their budgets on advertising, since that’s when they need it most.

Do you agree?

New Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross completed a deal valued at $1.1 billion to buy the team and Dolphin Stadium last week, even as he has joined a group of real estate developers asking for federal assistance in the struggling economy.

According to Richard Sandomir’s column in today’s New York Times, several financial institutions with their names atop sports venues are receiving TARP dollars. Among them: Bank of America, which pays $7 million annually for its name on the Carolina Panthers football stadium is receiving $45 billion; JP Morgan Chase, which pays $2.2 million a year to name the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field is receiving $25 billion; PNC Financial, which pays $1.5 million a year for the Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park name is getting $7.6 billion.

Sandomir’s column quotes a Treasury official saying the department did not have the authority to command a bank to discontinue a naming rights deal. But Kucinich told Sandomir that TARP allows “broad changes.”

What do you think?

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), MLB (110), Sponsorship (101), Sports Team Owners (49)

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February 3, 2009

Office Depot offering shopping spree with Tony Stewart

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and race team owner Tony Stewart is already an Office Depot customer. The Boca Raton-based office products retailer is co-primary sponsor of Stewart’s car this season and outfits Stewart-Haas Racing with its office equipment.

So, Office Depot is offering up a chance to win a $14,000 shopping spree with Stewart in one of its stores. The prize is part of a VIP race experience package at the May 23-24 Coca-Cola 600 race weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., that includes a ride-a-long with Stewart.

To enter Office Depot’s “At The Speed of Smart” sweepstakes visit officedepotracing.com and enter the transaction code that can be found on the receipt from an Office Depot purchase, through Feb. 28. There’s also a way to enter without making a purchase.

The company is using the sweepstakes to promote its products and its new sponsorship of Stewart.

“I’m excited to hang out with the winner during the ultimate Office Depot shopping spree,” Stewart said in a statement. “We’re going to have a great time…and I even promise to help push the shopping cart!”

POSTED IN: Auto Racing (42), Promotions (120)

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February 2, 2009

Marlins: ticket sales for the season; WBC, stadium etc…

The Marlins are expecting season ticket sales to be in the range of last year’s 5,000, team president David Samson said Monday.

“Our renewal rate is better than last year,” Samson said. “Our new sales are slightly below what I would have hoped. I would expect we’ll end up where we were last year, and I was hoping for an increase. It’s not over yet.”

Individual tickets go on sale during the team’s FanFest at Dolphin Stadium, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. Fans can purchase season ticket packages there as well. The Marlins plan to release additional ticket packages prior to the start of the season.

Samson called sales of tickets to the second round of the World Baseball Classic – March 14-18 – “good,” but he expects those to improve once fans know which teams will be competing.

“We are hoping they will continue to pick up as the first week of the classic happens and we make sure and confirm the teams we anticipate coming will come, which will be Venezuela, the Dominican, Puerto Rico and the U.S.,” Samson said. “It’s going to be something people don’t realize how cool it is until they see it. The environment of these games of is very special, the national pride these countries feel.”

Samson said he expects attendance to be at least 20,000 for each of the six games. And, he said, the Marlins would like to host the WBC Finals in 2013 – in a new ballpark.

As for the new ballpark, Samson says he’s spending most of the next 10 days meeting with Miami City and Miami-Dade County commissioners and answering questions about the ballpark agreements the commissions are scheduled to consider at separate meetings on Feb. 13. If the commissions approve the agreements, any of the parties can pull out of the deal until June 30. But Samson isn’t expecting that to happen – he says with approval ground can be broken between June 15 and July 15. Read more about the Marlins' payroll philosophy in a new ballpark at our Marlins blog.

The city commission meets at 9 a.m., followed by the county commission at 1 p.m.

As he typically does, Samson refused to say what will happen if the commissions reject the agreements for the $515 million ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl.

“That I’m not going to address until the day after at the earliest,” he said.

A ballpark is expected to open in 2012. Samson said new Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross knows the team wants to extend its lease at Dolphin Stadium through the 2011 season. Samson said he’s also spoken with UM President Donna Shalala about the need to remain in the stadium the team shares with the Dolphins and Hurricanes.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Florida Marlins (193), Tickets (126)

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February 1, 2009

Is anyone in tonight's Super Bowl marketable?

Just as broadcasters and columnists have been bashing tonight’s Arizona Cardinals-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, veteran sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman isn’t seeing a lot of Madison Avenue power in the players either.

In his annual Super Bowl Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report, Dorfman, who is executive vice president at San Francisco’s Baker Street Advertising, puts only Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in the “touchdown” category of marketability.

“Though he lacks Peyton Manning’s charm and Tom Brady’s glam, Big Ben has a rugged, blue-collar appeal that matches well with any product that gets a tough job done without a lot of flash or hoopla—like power tools, trucks, deodorants, or cold and flu remedies,” Dorfman wrote.

Excedrin or Advil since he recently suffered a concussion, Dorfman suggests.

“And though a “Roethlis-burger” has been served in various Pittsburgh area joints, it may be time to take it national via McDonald’s or Burger King. In just his fifth year in the NFL, there’s no ceiling on Big Ben’s football—and marketing—future,” Dorfman said.

He gives “field goal” status to Cardinals QB quarterback Kurt Warner; Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“Warner’s rags-to-riches story—from supermarket to Super Bowl—would make a fine biopic, his large family would fit well in a minivan campaign, and his good looks could work handsomely for any men’s grooming product,” Dorfman wrote. “At 37, he may not be the best choice to appeal to the coveted “male 18-34” demographic, but for more mature audiences, Warner could be an effective pitchman—especially if he can lead his Cardinals to an upset win on Super Sunday.”

If you’ve been following the pre-Super Bowl advertising hype, you already know that Polamalu is featured in a Coke Zero remake – of sorts – of Coke’s famous Mean Joe Greene spot to air during the big game. Yes, the spot was made long before it was known Polamalu would be playing in the game.

“Intense on the field, soft-spoken off, Troy’s trademark flowing locks belong in a Pert shampoo ad. And the way he flies all over the field could qualify him for an American Airlines commercial, or a Dodge “Ram Tough” truck ad,” Dorfman said.

And then he asks, “And wouldn’t you love to see Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald together in an ad, getting hairstyle makeovers from Paul Mitchell?”

More hair spots for Fitzgerald, Dorfman says. “Fitzgerald’s signature dreads could make a compelling hair care demo, his great smile could sell Crest toothpaste, and his good hands could score big for Allstate. T-Mobile might even consider replacing Charles Barkley with Fitzgerald in their “Fave 5” campaign. How about a spot with T.O. trying to make it onto Larry’s shortlist?”

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

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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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