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May 28, 2009

Red Memorial Day caps raise funds for war veterans

marlcap1.jpgThose ubiquitous red baseball caps with snippets of the American flag included in each MLB team’s logo (the Canadian flag was in the Toronto Blue Jays’ red caps) weren’t just worn during Monday’s games in honor of Memorial Day or to sell even more merchandise.

The New Era caps are part of a fundraising campaign for Welcome Back Veterans, a program that helps veterans returning from war with employment and mental health issues. The organization, launched last year and funded in a partnership of MLB, MLB Advanced Media (the sport's interactive arm), and the McCormick Foundation, provides grants to organizations that help veterans.

The Stars & Stripes cap program started last year with blue caps players wore on July 4 and Sept. 11. This year, Memorial Day was added and the red caps will also be worn on July 4 and Sept. 11. Major League Baseball is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from its portion of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans. MLB.com is donating $1 from the sale of each cap purchased through mlb.com to the organization. The caps are selling for $36.99 apiece.

Three-quarters of the number of caps sold last year have already been sold this year, an MLB spokesman said. Counting last year's and this year's sales, MLB is on pace to donate $1 million to Welcome Back Veterans.

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

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Heat enters new era with giant LED MiamiMediaMesh marquee

mediahmesh1.jpgThe Heat unveiled its MiamiMediaMesh LED marquee Wednesday night with great fanfare. The 3,400-square foot stainless steel mesh screen covers a dozen window panels on AmericanAirlines Arena’s west façade – so it’s hard to miss.

I described it in today’s story as being like a curtain, but it’s really more like a screen since it’s attached to the arena. (See photos by the Heat's Omar Vega). But at just ¾ inch thick and 70 percent transparent, it doesn’t block your view from inside the arena, and you almost don’t know it’s there, if it’s not turned on.

When it is on – arena officials plan a 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. schedule – it’s the size of 320 50-inch plasma TVs blasting game and concert footage, sponsor advertising messages and even the public’s Twitter and email messages. Send Tweets to @MiamiMediaMesh or emails to MiamiMediaMesh@heat.com for possible display.

“One of the things we’ve never had here is a true marquee and almost as soon as we opened we started talking about how we might really get one,” Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said. “We’ve been through many versions of what we thought might work or what’s been done elsewhere. Because of some of the limitations of our site, because we’ve got a rounded building, we wanted to do it right.”

A couple of Heat employees saw the technology at a trade show about three years ago. The Heat’s marquee is the first use of the technology developed by a German company and installed and operated by Boston-based A2aMEDIA on a sports arena in the United States. A2aMEDIA is talking with other sports venues, as well as hotels, office buildings, retail centers, casinos and other large-scale buildings that are seen by lots of people.

The Heat’s arena, for example, gets 1.4 million visitors at its events each year, 65,000 cars traveling by each day on Biscayne Boulevard and more than 3.8 million cruise passengers passing through the nearby Port of Miami.

mediamesh2.jpgAlthough the Heat isn’t saying how much the marquee cost, it does expect to cover its expenses from the advertising dollars. Already, American Airlines, Bacardi, the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming and Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler are among several advertisers already signed up to place their messages on the marquee.

Martha Pantin, an American Airlines spokeswoman, said the airline plans to put up shortened commercials and other messages.

“We think it gives us great visibility,” Pantin said. “For us AmericanAirlines Arena is one of our crown jewels and this makes the crown a little bit sparklier.”

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), AmericanAirlines Arena (35), Miami Heat (174)

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May 27, 2009

Supreme Court nominee on baseball and other sports issues

“Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” President Barack Obama is quoted as saying of his Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Obama explained that the temporary injunction she issued in 1995 ended the baseball players strike that wiped out the end of the 1994 season as well as the playoffs and World Series.

Sotomayor, then a federal judge, issued an injunction against the owners requiring they restore free agency and arbitration. Players agreed to return to work and the injunction set the stage for a new labor agreement to be reached.

It may have been the only case of Obama cited in announcing his choice of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge to replace Justice David H. Souter, but it’s far from her only case dealing with sports. She was also on a panel that reversed a ruling that made former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett eligible for the 2004 NFL draft.

There are several other notable cases. Check out the Sports Law Blog to see a rundown of other sports cases she ruled in.

POSTED IN: MLB (110), NFL (178)

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May 26, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. A+, A, AA-, A2 (Bond ratings)

Miami-Dade County officials plan early next month to begin the sale of bonds backed by tourist tax dollars to pay for construction of the Marlins' new ballpark, after getting results from bond rating agencies.

According to a memo County Manager George Burgess sent county commissioners today, county officials got word late last week that the agencies -- Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings –- “reaffirm the relative quality of investing in Miami-Dade County and the strength of its credit.” A news release issued by the county late today, said the agencies had “given the County solid marks, determining that our tourism sector is sound in the long run and bonds backed by tourist dollars are good investments.”

County officials had visited the agencies in late April, to make their case that tourist taxes are a strong source to repay the bonds needed to pay for the $515 million ballpark. The county’s case came in the midst of the recession, which has seen local hotel bed tax dollars plummet. County officials and ballpark supporters argue hotel taxes fluctuate and won’t always be in decline during the 40-year life of the ballpark agreement.

The agencies, Burgess’ memo says, are expected to announce their findings in their own press releases. The county’s own up-beat press release acknowledges that not all of the ratings have been determined.

I’m the first to admit this is not my area of expertise, but here’s part of what the statement says:

Standard and Poor’s assigned an “A+” to the Professional Sports Franchise Tax (PST) credit, affirmed the Convention Development Tax (CDT) credit an “A” and affirmed the County’s general obligation rating at “AA-”. Moody’s assigned an “A2” to the PST credit. A rating for the CDT financing is expected soon. Fitch Rating’s assigned an “A” with a stable outlook to both the PST credit and CDT credit. In addition, Fitch Rating’s reaffirmed the general obligation as well as the public service tax bond rating an “AA-”.

Both Burgess and County Mayor Carlos Alvarez complimented the county’s ratings results.

“We are pleased with the outcome,” Alvarez said in a statement. “The ratings are solid and demonstrate the County’s financial strength. An investment in Miami-Dade County is a quality investment.”

“The favorable ratings reinforce our commitment to acting responsibly and conservatively every step of the way as we push forward with a Marlins stadium paid for by tourist tax dollars,” Burgess said.

More later…

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

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ESPN360.com broadcasting National Spelling Bee (including three South Floridians)

Want to catch the 82nd Scripps National Spelling Bee, but don’t have access to TV during the day? ESPN360.com is exclusively broadcasting Wednesday’s preliminary round. The broadband sports network, carried for free by Internet Service Providers including AT&T and Verizon, will also broadcast the semifinals on Thursday. ESPN360.com is offering access to schools whose students are participating in the bee.

The 293 students competing in the bee include 11 from Florida. The three South Florida competitors are: Vincent A. Medina, a student at Ramblewood Middle in Coral Springs; Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger, a home schooled student (representing the Parents Educating Children Home School Association) from West Palm Beach; and Franchesca Cabal-Ugaz, a student at Conchita Espinosa Academy in Miami.

Family and friends can catch them in the preliminary round, which ESPN360.com will begin showing at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday. The semifinals will be simulcast on ESPN360.com and ESPN starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. The finals are scheduled to air on ABC at 8 p.m. Thursday.

POSTED IN: Television (35)

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Marlins video contest: poking fun at opponents

While they play up opponents in order to boost ticket sales, the Marlins also try to have some fun at their opponents’ expense. For example, they’ve run ad campaigns that include putting salt in a Mets fan’s coffee cup or a fish in a Phillies fan's car.

And last season, the team launched its “Reason” in-game video series. It’s a series of video vignettes showing Marlins fans’ reasons for owning rival teams’ jerseys. Reason No. 21 to own a Mets jersey?: Doormat. Reason No. 77 for a Mets jersey?: Tissues. See video examples here.

Sean Flynn, Marlins vice president of marketing, says the feature has become so popular that fans have been submitting ideas. So the team has launched a “What’s Your Reason” video contest. Fans have until July 2 to submit their own video of up to 40 seconds, showing off their reason for owning a rival jersey and including a ticket sales pitch. The public will also get a chance to help choose the winning video when they are posted for an online vote July 13-28.

“We’re taking the in-game experience and giving folks an opportunity to participate,” Flynn said.

The grand prize winner, which will be announced Aug. 1, gets a package that includes a night at a Marlins game in a suite for up to 10 people and a Marlins jersey, natch, for the video creator.

Videos can be submitted online at marlins.com or by mail to “What’s Your Reason” Video Contest, Florida Marlins, 2267 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami, FL 33056. Find full contest rules here.

Flynn likens the idea to sports fans poking fun at each other at a bar.

“It’s all done with pride of the Marlins,” Flynn said. “It really stems from us trying to build up that loyalty and that association with South Florida’s home team.”

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Florida Marlins (193), Tickets (126)

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May 22, 2009

Marlins give away tickets to promote seatbelt use

MAR_click1.jpgLaw enforcement officials gave tickets to students at North Miami Beach Senior High on Friday. But they were tickets – well, vouchers for tickets – to future Marlins games.

As part of the Marlins’ “Click It or Ticket” Days this weekend, representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation, North Miami Beach and Miami-Dade Schools police along with Billy the Marlin and the Marlins Mermaids rewarded students leaving campus with their seatbelts fastened with ticket vouchers. (See photos by the Marlins’ Robert Vigon).

On Saturday, Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, crash test dummies Vince and Larry, FDOT and local law enforcement officials will be at Land Shark Stadium for the Marlins-Tampa Bay Rays game to continue promoting seatbelt safety. FDOT officials will hand out promotional items. Conine and Vince and Larry will meet with fans at the Gate H Strikezone before the 7:10 p.m. game.

MAR_click2.jpgThe Click It or Ticket program promotes seatbelt safety. A new state law takes effect June 30 that allows law enforcement officers to stop and cite motorists who don’t buckle up as a primary offense. Currently, motorists can only be cited for not wearing their seatbelts if they are stopped for a different offense.

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Land Shark Stadium (44), Tickets (126)

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Want to own an IndyCar race team?

OK, not the whole team, but a piece of a team? Boca Raton-based iTeam Sports, which launched last year to provide fans an opportunity to become team owners, recently forged a partnership with HVM Racing, which has two cars competing in Sunday’s Indy 500.

iTeam’s model allows fans to pay typically $150 to $200 to invest in a minor league sports franchise. That investment provides no monetary return, but gives fans the right to be called “owner” as well as merchandise, ticket discounts, and unique access to team officials and players. They also become part of an online social network for each team.

The company launched with three independent baseball teams last year: the Atlantic City Surf in New Jersey and Texas-based Grand Prairie AirHogs and El Paso Diablos. Read the story I wrote about the company’s launch last October here.

But iTeam always planned to expand to other sports, including auto racing. In fact, iTeam President Steven Levenson said, partnering with an IndyCar team works well for attracting fans nationally.

“The stick and ball sports are very regionalized to where the team is,” Levenson said. “The appeal with motorsports is national and international … it’s a different model.”

For $199, fans can own a stake in Indianapolis-based HVM Racing -- read more about the partnership here. Team drivers E.J. Viso (No. 13) and Nelson Philipe (No. 00) are competing in the Indy 500. The partnership is exclusive through 2011.

“Racing fans are very engaged with their favorite teams, and this arrangement lets them get even more involved, probably more than they even thought possible,” HVM Racing Team Principal Keith Wiggins said in a statement.

iTeam has a booth at this weekend’s Indy 500, and representatives are handing out postcards explaining the deal. The company is running ads on other Web sites and pitching the investment as a gift idea, including for Father’s Day.

“You can sit and watch the race and say I’m a fan of so and so. It’s another thing to say I’m a fan of this team because I own this team,” said Bob Margolis, an iTeam spokesman. “It’s an opportunity to be Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske without the headaches.”

POSTED IN: Auto Racing (42), Minor League (6), Sports Team Owners (49)

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BankUnited Center: business as usual

It’s too early to say if the name of the Hurricanes’ basketball arena, BankUnited Center, will change in the wake of the government seizure and new ownership of BankUnited.

The bank – the largest headquartered in Florida – signed a 10-year agreement to put its name on the Coral Gables arena in November 2005. So the bank has a contract and a bank spokeswoman said Friday that it’s “business as usual.”

It’s possible the contract will be honored and the name will remain, particularly since the bank is to continue being called BankUnited.

POSTED IN: Miami Hurricanes (32), NCAA (38), Sponsorship (101)

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May 21, 2009

More Land Shark reaction

The 2010 Super Bowl will be played at Dolphin Stadium (the venue currently known as Land Shark Stadium). Unless, of course, the Dolphins are lucky enough to land another corporate sponsor in the coming months, which is not something Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross expects to happen in this economy.

For now, the Dolphin Stadium signs are slowly being replaced with Land Shark signs. The NFL’s Super Bowl bid specifications prohibit the host venue of the Super Bowl to be named for a short-term deal, which is what the Land Shark deal is. It’s been described as a marketing or branding opportunity, since a source says Land Shark isn’t contributing money to the deal.

The deal elicited some unusual responses from some NFL team owners at the spring meeting in Fort Lauderdale this week.

“I think Steve Ross is a great entrepreneur. He knows what he’s doing,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said.

“I certainly have no objection to it,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said. “We look at all types of businesses and we sell beer along with food. You know, it could be Wiener Stadium or something. So I don’t view that as a problem. They might think, though, that Greg Norman might have an interest in it, too.”

With the New York Giants and Jets seeking a naming rights partner for the new stadium they will share, Giants co-owner John Mara told my colleague Ethan J. Skolnick, the Land Shark deal wouldn’t be his choice for a corporate sponsorship.

“It's such a unique deal. I just don't know,” Mara said. “Certainly, it's not the deal we're looking for. But there are a lot of circumstances that went into that, and I don't pretend to understand them all. I don't think we'll see too many more of those.”

Meanwhile, Land Shark Lager wasn’t in the Anheuser-Busch section at our neighborhood Publix last week. It wasn’t in the premium domestics either, but there was one 12-pack nestled between the Mexican and Dutch beers. (It’s brewed in Jacksonville). It was on sale for $12.99 – a savings of $1.70.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49)

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Wrap-up from NFL owners meeting

Just to re-cap and fill in some of the details from the NFL owners spring meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale:

+ South Florida lost out to New Orleans – which was the favorite – to land the 2013 Super Bowl. South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee officials, who are preparing for the 2010 game and the Pro Bowl, are already planning to bid for the 2014 game. Typically bid packages go out in November and owners vote in the spring.

+ The league and the players association are to begin discussions for a new players’ contract next month, but NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash says he has no time frame for how long negotiations should take. The league opted out of the last two years of the current agreement meaning the deal ends in 2011 and the 2010 season will be played without a salary cap. Some owners believe the agreement, which guarantees roughly 60 percent of football revenues go to player salaries, isn’t working. NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who met with owners at their meeting Tuesday, said he isn’t sure why owners feel that way.

“We all know that the players didn't opt out of this deal. We do know that the NFL generated in excess of $8 billion last year. We know that the average team has grown by 400 percent in 10 years. We know that the average team is worth in excess of a billion dollars,” Smith said. “What we don't understand is what is wrong with the current deal when we know those facts exist? And if you want to move or start negotiations it seems to me that we need to understand why they believe that the current deal wasn't good.”

+ Owners didn’t vote on whether to extend the regular season to 17 or 18 games, but they discussed the issue. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised the players and partners would be brought in on discussions. Smith said the key to discussions is determining the average each team makes per game and considering why players’ salaries drop for playoff games.

“The players understand the cost to their bodies. The players understand how tough it is to get through a regular season,” Smith said. “They understand the cost. What they don't understand is when their playoff salary drops to $20,000 a game, what's the net profit for the team for that game? And once they understand that, then we can understand or at least be in a process to discuss what the right cost compensation model is for an extra game.”

+ The league reached agreement with Comcast to expand the number of homes that can view the NFL Network from 2 million to 10.8 million by moving the network from a higher pay tier to Comcast’s Digital Classic service. The league also reached agreements with CBS and Fox to extend their rights to broadcast NFL games by two years until at least 2013. Goodell said conversations are also taking place with NBC about an extension.

+ Owners voted Tuesday to allow teams to forge partnerships with their local and state lotteries to generate revenue. Team logos could appear on lottery tickets – as they do in other leagues (see Red Sox example at left) – but only for scratch-off or chance games. “It would not be based on the outcome of games,” Goodell said. “That’s a critical feature for us. We do think it’s responsive to pressures states are feeling right now to help meet some of those shortfalls, what we can do with states and our clubs, to be able to try to create some additional revenue, and I think it has been effective in other sports." The New England Patriots have already jumped aboard with the Massachusetts State Lottery.

+ Owners discussed possibly expanding the Rooney Rule, which requires teams interview at least one minority candidate for coaching positions, to include general managers.

POSTED IN: NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49), Super Bowl (53), Television (35)

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May 20, 2009

Dolphins going mobile, at least in the club level

Kangaroo-Gen-III---Dolphins.jpgDolphins owner Stephen M. Ross unveiled this afternoon his latest innovation aimed at boosting the fan experience at Land Shark Stadium – Dolphins Mobile Vision.

The wireless mobile device, which looks something like a Playstation Portable with a 4.3-inch screen, is a brand new, completely customized version of Kangaroo TV’s handheld device that is used at NASCAR races and some NFL games. In partnership with Cisco Systems and Kangaroo Media, Ross came up with the idea of offering fans even more football information quickly, fantasy football statistics and a way to order food.

The devices will only be available – for free - in the stadium’s premium seating areas, but Ross promised he’ll be rolling out more surprises for fans across the stadium in the next few weeks. Ross said he hopes the mobile devices will encourage some fans to want to buy tickets in the club level -- sales of those seats are slower than the team would like.

The team has purchased 5,000 of the devices, which will be shared by roughly two seats each, in the stadium’s club and premium seating areas. Fans will be able to choose to see the game on the field from among the nearly one dozen cameras covering it; have access to all the other games airing at the same time; and be able to search statistics for their fantasy football teams. They’ll also be able to view replays and order food.

Ross said surveys of Dolphins fans showed 95 percent considered themselves avid football fans; 75 percent said they were interested in information the handheld device could provide; and 54 percent said they’d prefer a device separate from their cell phones.

“This does not exist anywhere in America today,” said Ross, who showed off the device at the close of the NFL owners spring meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale. “This handheld instrument will allow the fans to customize their experience watching the game.”

As time goes on, more features will be added, said Ross and Kangaroo Media President Robert Mimeault, such as a camera at the entrance to the team locker room or a “cheerleader cam.”

Kangaroo Media experimented with an earlier version of the handheld devices in a couple of NFL stadiums, including the Dolphins’ home stadium in 2006-07 and 2007-08 for a fee per game or for the season. This new version is unlike anything that’s been designed before, Ross insisted.

“For years, fans have been getting used to having immediate access to information they want,” Mimeault said. “This will allow them to do just that.”

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186)

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May 19, 2009

NFL and Comcast settle dispute over NFL network

The NFL owners officially began their spring meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale this morning and the league announced it has reached agreement with Comcast to ensure NFL Network is available to more viewers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement ends the outstanding legal disputes and means the 24-hour all-football network will continue be available to Comcast’s Digital Classic Cable customers, rather than moving to the higher-tier Sports Entertainment package. That means the network will be available in 10.8 million homes, up from 2 million.

“We are delighted to have come to an agreement with the NFL,” Comcast Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts said in a statement. “Our goal has always been to provide our digital customers with access to the NFL’s unique content and, working together, we have struck the right balance between value and distribution on a variety of viewing platforms. We are looking forward to bringing the NFL’s programming to our customers just in time for the start of the NFL season.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement the league looks forward to having coverage of training camps and preseason included on Comcast.

POSTED IN: NFL (178), Television (35)

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May 15, 2009

Fantasy Sports Ventures expands reach with ACC, SEC college sites

Founded in 2006 to serve as the business backbone for a wide range of fantasy sports Web sites, Fantasy Sports Ventures is continuing to expand its footprint. The New York company that handles the marketing and advertising sales for some 400 Web sites across sports announced this week it has added 35 independent college Web sites, including NoleInsider focusing on FSU, and The Bulls Pen, which covers USF.

Other college sites now in FSV’s network include SECTalk, Tiger Droppings (LSU), and TotalUGA (Georgia).

FSV was formed early on in the growth of fantasy sports as a way to help sites – many of them niche – build their businesses through dynamic online advertising, contests and promotions.

“We started about three years ago when the notion of fantasy sports marketing was just evolving,” FSV CEO Chris Russo said. “We really pioneered the notion that marketers could do marketing programs online beyond banner advertising.”

That means content widgets and modules and a variety of programs that promote advertisers and sponsors across FSV’s network. With 400 sites in its network, FSV offers companies an attractive advertising opportunity. Because it can count traffic to all its affiliated sites – it owns about 25 percent of them and has affiliations with the rest – FSV is ranked fifth among online sports properties with more than 10 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen Online. (Yahoo! Sports is No. 1, followed by ESPN, CBSSports.com and Fox Sports).

Since fantasy sports boast some 27 million players in the U.S., leagues and other companies recognize the power of the industry as a business tool.

“By adding 400 sites together, you have enough scale. You really become relevant to advertisers,” Russo said. “Marketers want to be around passion points. People care about fantasy sports. That’s a hobby and an avidity. More and more money is going to continue to move from traditional media to new media.”

While FSV might not be recognizable to consumers – its Fantasy Players Network branding can be found on many of its affiliated sites – the company allows for smaller sites with avid fan bases to flourish because of the company’s business backing.

“We are providing, at the end of the day, a way for niche sites to grow and prosper and continue offering more and better content to their users,” Russo said. “We’re helping a whole cottage industry.”

Among the programs FSV created was a Gillette Young Guns fantasy game that allowed fans to pick winning drivers from among a group of drivers, including Gillette’s sponsored drivers. The game was on Gillette’s Web site, but was promoted and distributed across FSV’s affiliated sites. For college basketball, the company launched a site this year devoted to the NCAA Tournament that featured Bobby Knight and Billy Packer, who provided analysis, and was sponsored by Irish Spring.

Russo said the company plans to activate a number of its promotions around events throughout the year, including the upcoming NBA draft and the NFL season.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Fantasy Sports (6), Sponsorship (101)

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May 14, 2009

Dolphins-logoed golf bags now available

NFL_Carry_bag_AFC_Dolphins-.jpgWilson Sporting Goods has produced the official football of the NFL since 1941. Now you can buy Wilson golf bags in NFL team colors featuring team logos.

The bags come in cart and carry versions and are selling for $199.99 and $159.99 respectively. They’re available for all 32 NFL teams.

“As a nearly century-old American brand, Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has a rich history in both football and golf and a strong connection to fans across the sports spectrum,” Wilson Golf General Manager Tim Clarke said in a statement. “The partnership of Wilson Golf and the NFL is a natural fit and we’re thrilled to offer the official logoed bag to devoted NFL fans.”

POSTED IN: Golf (12), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178)

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May 13, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 24 hours (Webcam edition)

obsite.jpgEarlier this month, the Marlins installed flag poles on the dirt where the Orange Bowl used to stand to signify the location of the baseball diamond in the team’s new ballpark.

Three flags representing the Marlins, Miami-Dade County and city of Miami, are at home plate. First base features a flag for architect Populous (formerly HOK Sport); second base has the U.S. flag; and third base has a flag for Hunt/Moss – the joint venture construction manager for the ballpark.

Now, you cannot only get a glimpse of the flags, but you can watch the dirt at the location. Literally. The team has installed a webcam that will provide updated images from the site every 15 minutes. You can access the camera at the team's Web site. One has to hope this will become more exciting once ground is actually broken – expected sometime in July.


“This exciting, state-of-the-art technology allows us to share the historic construction of our new home with Marlins fans everywhere,” Marlins Senior Vice President of Ballpark Development Claude Delorme said in a statement. “Everyone can now follow the increased activity on the site as groundbreaking quickly approaches.”

For now, you can zoom in to see where the flags are placed and see the downtown Miami skyline, which is to be the view beyond the outfield in the $515 million, 37,000-seat, retractable-roof venue. You can even check out photos from the previous days by hour, but other than getting lighter or darker, there isn’t much that could be called activity yet. Update: no, it's not downtown - it's Coral Gables.

The ballpark is to have a southeast orientation, according to a release from the team, and be situated on land bordered by Northwest 6th Street on the north, Northwest 4th Street on the south, Northwest 16th Avenue to the west, and Northwest 14th Avenue to the east.

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

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Yankee Stadium auction; South Florida has two of SI.com’s worst sports team owners

Catching up from a couple of days away:

+ As you no doubt know, items from old Yankee Stadium are now up for auction through July 24. The auction includes 1,500 distinct pieces, ranging from stadium signs to the dugout bat holder to the actual seat Jeffrey Maier occupied during the 1996 playoffs. New pieces will be added each week. Visit auctions.steinersports.com to register and check for updates.

Other items for sale include 1 square foot pieces of live sod for $120; pairs of stadium seats from $1,499 to $1,999; and bricks from Monument Park in a glass case for $150.

+ And SI.com says South Florida is lucky enough to have two of its four pro team owners included among the worst five owners in the four major sports.

The Web site placed Panthers owner Alan Cohen as second worst among NHL team owners ahead of only MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Web site says Cohen hasn’t connected with fans and made the “wrong hire” with Jacques Martin.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was ranked fourth worst among MLB owners. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos was worst, followed by Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, and Kansas City Royals owner David Glass. The Web site says Loria may have overseen a shocking 2003 World Series championship over the New York Yankees, but blames him for letting go of his young talent when it gets too expensive.

Do you agree with SI.com’s assessments?

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Florida Panthers (108), MLB (110), NHL (56), Sports Team Owners (49)

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May 8, 2009

Buffett delights Parrot Heads, Dol-fans at LandShark Stadium

Several hundred Dolphins fans and Parrot Heads dressed in jerseys, Hawaiian shirts, and everything from balloons fashioned into fins, stuffed cheeseburgers and parrots on their heads reveled and swayed at a quick Jimmy Buffett concert at newly re-named LandShark Stadium Friday morning. Check out a photo gallery here.

As LandShark Lager’s tagline says: “Let The Fin Begin.”

Buffett and new Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ushered in a brand new era at the Miami Gardens venue, merging football with fun.

“We gave half the tickets to the Parrot Head clubs and half to Dolphans and you can’t tell the difference,” Buffett said during his three-song set. “I know I’m home.”

He sang his anthem “Margaritaville,” at one point saying “It’s all Steve Ross’ fault,” rather than blaming a woman as the song does, followed up with “Volcano” and ended with his newly rewritten “Fins” to honor the DolPHINS.

We drive down on Interstate 95,
And up on U.S. 1.
It’s game day in Miami town
Where the Dolphins are Number 1 (numero uno)
We play down by the ocean
In the warm South Florida sun
The tailgate’s down so gather round
For some pre-game LandShark Fun

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Sponsorship (101)

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May 7, 2009

Photo: LandShark Stadium

marlinslandshark2.jpgSharp-eyed colleague Ted Hutton, who was covering Thursday’s Marlins-Atlanta Braves game, looked up about an hour after the game ended and saw the Dolphin Stadium scoreboard outfitted with the LandShark Stadium logo. He snapped this photo quickly – when he looked up again, the image was gone. In anticipation of Friday’s press conference in which Jimmy Buffett and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross are to announce a business deal that is to include the branding of the Dolphins’ home as LandShark Stadium for one season, enjoy.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Miami Dolphins (186), Sponsorship (101)

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Governor appoints Tebow to council on physical fitness

Add promoting physical fitness to Heisman Trophy-winning UF quarterback Tim Tebow’s list of things to do. On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Tebow to co-chair the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.

He doesn’t have to pull all the chairing duties – he’s co-chairing with former Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, who serves as council chair, and council co-chair Olympic gold medal gymnast Shannon Miller. The council, created by Crist in 2007, is charged with promoting physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

The roster of council members includes athletes who either live in, play or played in or have some connection to Florida from tennis star Jennifer Capriati to Parkland Olympic swimmer Dara Torres to Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell to Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal.

In addition to leading the Gators to a national title in the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma at Dolphin Stadium in January, Tebow volunteers at schools, churches and hospitals and takes mission trips to the Philippines to volunteer at a home for orphaned Filipino children, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“Tim Tebow’s leadership and servanthood both on and off the field make him an ideal candidate to serve as co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness,” Crist said in a statement. “Tim is a true role model who consistently demonstrates the fitness and healthy living characteristics the council is responsible for promoting.”

(Photo credit: Tebow Family, Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association / May 2, 2008: In an impoverished village outside General Santos City in the Philippines, Tebow helped with health care for impoverished children.)

POSTED IN: UF (18)

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Marlins fans: Quick -- Check this outs

qqq2.jpgWondering what those Q’s are in left field at Dolphin Stadium during Marlins games? No, they’re not some obscure translation of the K’s that represent strikeouts.

Marlins fans sitting in the power alley are keeping track of yet another baseball stat -- what’s being called “Quick Outs” – outs recorded in three pitches or fewer. Nancy Olson, executive director of the Marlins Community Foundation, who came up with the idea, has a group of loyal foundation volunteers putting up a white sign featuring a black ‘Q’ every time a Marlins’ pitcher records a quick out. There’s one teal sign that’s used to delineate when a relief pitcher comes into the game. (See photo by Kelly Gavin, courtesy of the Marlins). The radio and TV broadcasters are aware of it -- and even asked that the Q's be clumped in sets of three to make it easier to keep track of them, Olson said.

Olson was urged by her brother, who saw Q’s at Arizona Diamondbacks games, to adopt the idea as a fundraiser for the foundation. Olson is hoping to secure a corporate sponsor, which would get its name on the Q’s -- and she hopes make a donation to the foundation either on a per game or per Q basis.

The team has 20 Q’s, which is typically plenty for a game, but when Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds stretched to 14 innings, the supply just ran out, Olson said.

Perhaps a sponsor will help pay for more signs, too. Some ideas for potential sponsors? A couple of suggestions I’ve heard are Sir Speedy and Jiffy Lube.

But what about the Nasdaq-100, former title sponsor of the tennis tournament on Key Biscayne? The Nasdaq-100 is an exchange traded fund similar to a mutual fund, but trades like a stock. It holds shares of the 100 largest companies on the world’s largest electronic stock market. Its ticker symbol? QQQ.

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Sponsorship (101)

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May 6, 2009

Dolphins’ season ticket holders can get their seats for 2010 Pro Bowl

NFL, South Florida Super Bowl XLIV Host Committee and Dolphin Stadium officials officially unveiled the logos for next year’s Super Bowl and Pro Bowl on Wednesday.

They also announced the “Your Seat, Your Price” program that allows Dolphins season ticket holders to lock in the same seats they have during the season for the 2010 Pro Bowl at the same regular season price. Those tickets are to go on sale in July. Regular Pro Bowl subscribers (yes, apparently there are people who buy tickets to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii every year) also get priority. After that, the general public can buy tickets, starting in October, but anyone seeking tickets should register their interest now at miamidolphins.com/2010ProBowl.

Tickets for the general public are only expected to be slightly more than the Dolphins regular season price with most seats selling for less than $100, NFL Senior Vice President of Special Events Frank Supovitz said. The idea, he said, is to try to attract as many fans as possible, who might otherwise be shut out from the Super Bowl.

“There will be some people who will be lucky enough to score tickets to both, but by and large, it will be two different audiences,” said Supovitz, who was sporting a Super Bowl XLI tie honoring the last Super Bowl in South Florida in 2007. “The Super Bowl is a higher priced ticket, the Pro Bowl really is meant to be open to everyone, the whole idea was to bring more fans to the Pro Bowl and more fans to the stadium than we’ve ever been able to do.”

Next year, the Pro Bowl is being held Jan. 31 at Dolphin Stadium – marking the first time it’s being held outside of Hawaii since 1979 – a week before the Super Bowl, which we be played at the Miami Gardens venue on Feb. 7. The game will move back to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. The game is expected to have a regular presence in Hawaii, but also could move to other cities in the continental United States, Supovitz said.

Pairing the two games together and holding the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl, Supovitz said, will provide the community with a longer period of football and festivities.

“Our hope is to capture the fervor and the passion of the football fan, while it’s still at its height,” Supovitz said.

He said the Super Bowl attracts as many as 150,000 visitors who pump $350 million to $500 million into the host community’s economy. He said he does not know the economic impact of the Pro Bowl, but it is expected to draw more local fans.

Other changes planned for next year’s events include an area called “NFL Plaza,” which will replace the NFL Experience theme park area just next year. The Plaza will be open on Pro Bowl Sunday and will serve as a gathering area for activities, merchandise sales and stadium tours. Supovitz said with the Super Bowl last in South Florida in 2007, the league wanted to provide different types of activities. Next year will be South Florida’s record-breaking 10th time hosting the Super Bowl.

The NFL Flag National Championship will be moved to January and South Florida – from November at DisneyWorld -- during the festivities with the winners among the 9- to 14-year-old players being honored on the field during the Pro Bowl. The region will also host Super Bowl Saturday Night – an event started in Arizona two years ago. The free night of football, fireworks and music is expected to attract tens of thousands of fans. The location has not yet been announced.

South Florida is competing against New Orleans and Arizona to host the 2013 Super Bowl. NFL owners will make a decision later this month.

But don’t expect a Super Bowl in London anytime soon, despite a number of reports. Supovitz said conversations have taken place with London officials about the bidding process, but nothing more.

“That’s where discussions began and ended,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with them. Nobody’s set any timetable. Nobody’s set any objectives to bring a game there anytime in a specific year. There’s been a lot reported there has been. None of those conversations have happened.”

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Super Bowl (53), Tickets (126)

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May 5, 2009

Office Depot’s "Small Business of NASCAR" Tony Stewart-version

Rear-Panel-of-No-14-Office-.jpgBoca Raton-based Office Depot has launched this year’s version of its “Official Small Business of NASCAR” sweepstakes, in which a company with 99 employees or fewer can win its logo on the back of Tony Stewart’s Chevy Impala for a race.

The sweepstakes runs through May 31 and includes a chance to win the company’s logo on the rear panel of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy driven by Stewart during the Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Atlanta on Sept. 6. Other items in the grand prize package include a $14,000 small business makeover by the office products supplier, the use of the “Official Small Business of NASCAR Courtesy of Office Depot” logo for a year, stationery and business cards.

In addition to Stewart’s participation, also new to the contest this year is a $1,400 Office Depot gift card, which is given to one winner every day of the sweepstakes.

“I know how challenging it is to build a successful business and how much hard work it takes,” Stewart said in a statement. “The Official Small Business of NASCAR Sweepstakes, Courtesy of Office Depot is a dream come true for a small business to get its name out there in front of millions of people.”

Stewart, who switched to the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy after last season, is a driver/team owner with Stewart-Haas Racing and is also owner of legendary Ohio short track, Eldora Speedway, and is part owner of two other tracks.

Businesses can enter in person at Office Depot locations or online daily during the sweepstakes. The public can also nominate businesses. For more information, visit officedepotracing.com.

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

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Panthers Playoff Promise nets ticket buyers

They didn’t make the playoffs, but the Panthers did sell nearly 1,400 Playoff Promise tickets, the team said.

A total of 1,377 tickets were sold under the marketing campaign that promised fans the team would make the playoffs – for the first time since 2000 – or buyers would get tickets to four games free next season. That means 1,377 tickets can be redeemed for games during the Panthers’ 2009-10 season.

POSTED IN: BankAtlantic Center (30), Florida Panthers (108), Tickets (126)

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May 4, 2009

(Ph)ins to the Left: more on LandShark Stadium

We’ll learn a lot more at Friday’s press conference that promises Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, Jimmy Buffett, “high profile sports personalities,” and a live music performance.

But the possibility of a short-term naming deal – perhaps a season – of LandShark Stadium is certainly intriguing and well, unusual. The name comes from LandShark Lager, the Anheuser-Busch-brewed beer that is produced in partnership with Buffett and his Margaritaville restaurant enterprise.

If you’re thinking it’s all about money, think again. Yes, it’s about some money, but not nearly the $10 million to $15 million that Dolphin Stadium officials would love to score for a new corporate name.

So, why change the name even for a short time at the risk of further alienating fans? The venue was Joe Robbie Stadium when it opened in 1987, named for its original owner who put together the private financing plan to build it. In 1996, it became Pro Player Stadium -- and remained that way years after the apparel company’s parent, Fruit of the Loom, filed for bankruptcy in 1999. It became Dolphins Stadium in 2005; the ‘s’ was dropped in 2006. Many fans still call it Joe Robbie; others like Dolphin Stadium for its connection to the team.

Dolphin Stadium officials weren’t commenting Friday, but what it seems LandShark is meant to do is aid in Ross’ plan to create an entertaining South Florida feel to the stadium. While we don’t know the financial terms of the deal, it’s expected Buffett will perform concerts at the venue with proceeds going to the stadium. A Margaritaville section or area of the stadium has also been contemplated.

There are reports Buffett has been approached about becoming a limited partner in the team, but this sounds more like a business deal. Perhaps Buffett will be called a limited partner as part of this arrangement, but it seems unlikely Buffett would spend the cash Ross has been seeking from potential investors. Ross is believed to have been asking $25 million for a 2.5 percent stake in the team.

Surely UM, which also wasn’t commenting Friday, must have paused when hearing about Ross’ plans for LandShark Stadium. After all, the school, which has tried to shed it’s Suntan U. image, was named the nation’s No. 1 party school by Playboy last month. Playing football in a stadium named for a beer couldn’t be high on the school’s things to do list, but apparently school officials have accepted it.

It’s likely this is a short-term deal so that Ross can infuse some South Florida lifestyle into the stadium experience while he waits for the economy to recover. Then, stadium officials can try peddling the name again.

Don’t be surprised if Buffett is song writing, perhaps a new version of Fins that honors the football team, rather than those hungry women-stalking male “landsharks”:

And just for kicks and since I’ve been receiving messages about that other “landshark,” enjoy this piece of SNL history:



via videosift.com

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Miami Dolphins (186), Miami Hurricanes (32), Sponsorship (101)

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May 1, 2009

New name for home of Dolphins and UM: LandShark Stadium?

bowl08c2.jpgThe ink might not be dry on the deal, but a source says Dolphin Stadium could soon be renamed LandShark Stadium.

That’s LandShark as in LandShark Lager. It’s likely a short-term branding opportunity, perhaps for one season, but the arrangement would fit with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ plan to make the venue an entertaining tropical South Florida experience. LandShark is served at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurants.

Buffett has been chatting with Ross about a business opportunity. But he wasn’t revealing anything about a business deal when I asked him about it at Monday’s Heat-Atlanta Hawks playoff game.

“You’re going to find out real soon,” Buffett said with a smile. “Real soon. It’s going to be great.”

A press conference to announce the deal could be held next week.

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

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Buy a jersey, get free Marlins tickets

As part of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s “Fan Initiative” aimed at providing ticket discounts and special offers, teams will give fans two free tickets to an upcoming game this season with the purchase of a replica jersey.

The Marlins launch the program starting at Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds at Dolphin Stadium. Majestic Athletic replica jerseys cost $99.99. With the purchase at the stadium or the Marlins En Miami store, fans will receive two tickets in the stadium’s Bullpen Box seats.

For more details on about Marlins and other teams’ special offers, check out the MLB’s Fan Value Corner.

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), 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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