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June 30, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. $6.2 million (UPDATED 1:10 AM)

Miami-Dade County fell short by $6.2 million in its effort to sell bonds for a new Marlins ballpark Tuesday, but site preparation work is expected to begin Wednesday morning at the former location of the Orange Bowl.

Although the shortfall in the bond sale threw the ballpark deal into disarray for several hours Tuesday night and into early Wednesday, the deal appeared to be back on track, after the Marlins agreed to fill the gap should the dollars be needed to complete the 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark.

The commission debated from about 7 to 9 p.m. and then what was meant to be a 45-minute break stretched on for three and a half hours. The commission finally returned at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday and voted 9-3 for changes that will allow the deal to move forward. Commissioners approved three items, including agreeing to a higher interest rate on the some of the bonds and adjusting the county's commitment to the project to $341 million down from $347 million.

Earlier in the evening, County Manager George Burgess told commissioners the county had planned to sell $306 million in bonds, but fell short by about $6.2 million and a portion of the bonds were set at a higher interest rate than the county had expected. That means the county’s commitment to payments will remain the same, but the gap needed filling. Neither the county, nor city were willing to step up, Burgess said.

“At end of the day, we’re extraordinarily close,” Burgess told commissioners. “We’ve had conversations with the team. My ask of them was, ‘If we’re short, are you prepared to be able to cover the difference’?”

Marlins President David Samson insisted the team would -- and the public would not be asked to put more into the deal.

“We made a commitment in March," Samson said. "That commitment was there would be a certain amount of money the public would be committing and not one dollar more.”

Worried construction workers would not be able to begin working, Samson said the team would cover any additional costs.

“If this building costs $515 million, the team will put in what’s required,” Samson said. “If it costs $512 million that is what the team will do.”

You can see equipment on the site via the team’s ballpark webcam. A formal ground-breaking is scheduled on July 18.

Not to get too technical here, but while the bonds backed by the professional sports franchise facilities tax portion of the hotel tax were sold at a lower interest rate than anticipated, those backed by the Convention Development portion of the hotel tax were set at a higher rate. The “blended rate” of the two taxes fell within the county’s 7.5 percent cap, but the commission needed to sign off on the higher cap of 8.2 percent for the CDT-backed bonds.

Some commissioners worried about encumbering more taxpayer dollars, tapping into the county’s general fund if hotel dollars fall short during the life of the deal, and continuing to adjust a deal that has dogged them for years, but may finally result in a ground-breaking in a few weeks.

Commissioner Sally Heyman wanted Samson to agree to cover the $6 million shortfall rather than agreeing to cover any additional costs. Commissioner Katy Sorenson worried the county didn’t bargain hard enough while the deal was being negotiated.

“We can see clearly the Marlins have more to give and clearly have had more to give all along and it’s an example of why we can see this isn’t such a great deal for our constituents,” Sorenson said.

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

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Panthers fans “hire” Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate ticket prices? (UPDATED)

Got your attention, right? That’s the idea.

If he can negotiate the price of ESPN talent’s lunch in an ad for ESPN’s SportsCenter (see ad below), then why can’t super NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus help out the Panthers fan with his or her ticket prices?

OK, to be clear: he has not really been hired by fans to negotiate ticket prices – who, after all, is going to pay for that? -- but he is being used as part of the Panthers’ plans to market the team for the 2009-10 season.

He tweeted about it - in all seriousness - earlier today.

“As a longtime Panthers fan and a person who believes in giving sports fans the value and the atmosphere they deserve, I am absolutely thrilled to represent the Cats faithful at the bargaining table,” Rosenhaus says in a press release issued as part of the campaign. “That said, this a unique situation for me to represent the fans as opposed to professional athletes. But as a passionate Cats follower, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the BankAtlantic Center faithful.”

Panthers President Michael Yormark said he's gotten just the kind of response he'd hoped: attention and national media calling to talk about the "negotiations."

"We wanted to create an out of the box, unique and different type of ticket marketing campaign," Yormark said late this afternoon. “It’s getting us top of mind, we haven’t even launched our campaign yet."

Rather than just send out a press release with new ticket pricing that might languish in emailboxes, the Panthers wanted to create a buzz. And figured, why not have Rosenhaus, a well-known South Floridian, help start it?

"What we’re trying to do is raise awareness for this announcement of our new pricing. We don’t expect Drew Rosenhaus to sell tickets for us, what we do expect is Drew Rosenhaus is going to help us introduce new pricing," Yormark said. "He opens up doors for us, we might not have been able to open ... You want people thinking about your product, thinking about the Panthers."

Rosenhaus will be appearing in TV, print and radio ads on behalf of the Panthers set to break next week. That's when we'll learn about the new ticket prices, too.

Apparently Rosenhaus is a Panthers fan, so does it make sense to have one of the region’s most recognizable figures in sports promote the Panthers? What do you think?


POSTED IN: BankAtlantic Center (30), Florida Panthers (108), NFL (178), NHL (56)

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June 29, 2009

Dolphins team with marketing company for travel packages

The new business developments keep coming from the Dolphins and Land Shark Stadium. OK, this one isn’t about a celebrity (Jimmy Buffett, Gloria and Emilio Estefan) or added technology (Kangaroo TV handhelds for premium seat holders).

It’s a multi-year marketing partnership with Premiere Global Sports to provide travel packages to Dolphins home and away games and special events. The company is designing packages for Dolphins away games that start at $245 and include two-night hotel stays, game tickets and a game-day souvenir. The packages for fans from out of South Florida for home games start at $345 and include two nights at the Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach, game tickets and a souvenir.

For more information and to book packages, visit sportstravel.com/dolphins.

The company has worked with a number of teams, including arranging trips for New York Rangers fans to Prague for the team’s opening series last year and is arranging trips for St. Louis Blues fans wanting to attend the opening series against the Detroit Red Wings in Stockholm in October.

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), NHL (56)

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June 27, 2009

It’s on: Twash-talking and twagering hit Twitterverse

When I wrote a story in March about how sports fans and teams were using Twitter to do everything from play-by-play to sharing promotion and ticket discounts, I included a reference to a friendly wager.

This was before Twitter essentially exploded – teams were just getting their feet wet using the social messaging system and fans were clamoring for them to keep up. Plantation marketing executive and Panthers fan John Sternal had put the Panthers logo on the line in a bet with a couple of Chicago Blackhawks fans. When the Panthers lost the matchup between the two teams, Sternal had to put the Blackhawks logo on his account the following day.

Avid tweeters, Sternal and Toby Srebnik, a sports fan from North Lauderdale and public relations executive, have now significantly upped the ante. Sternal, a Marlins fan, and Srebnik, a Tampa Bay Rays fan, have been betting the Marlins-Rays series this season. Of the two three-game series, the fan of the team that loses each series must post the rival team’s mascot on his Twitter page for the following workweek. The Rays won the first series in May, so Sternal had to post a photo of the Rays’ mascot Raymond as his avatar.

They’ve even named their bet #billyrayavatar – in Twitter parlance – after Billy the Marlin and Raymond.

They each began sporting their team’s mascot this week. And Srebnik is already ahead again with the Rays beating the Marlins 7-3 in St. Pete last night. They’ve been trash-talking much of the past few days. Follow their adventures at #billyrayavatar. Sternal is @SternalPR; Srebnik is @fsutoby.

And don’t forget to follow me @sarahtalalay


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

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June 26, 2009

Donald Pliner shoes for the Dolphins?

The introduction of Gloria and Emilio Estefan as minority investors in the Dolphins on Thursday had a festive air: an Estefan greatest hits soundtrack, a Cuban coffee station, plenty of Latin entertainment and lifestyle media – and even a journalist from an Italian style magazine.

Among the media, Dolphins and stadium officials were Related Group CEO Jorge Perez, who is Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross’ business partner and the guy who introduced Ross to the Estefans, and luxury shoe designer Donald J. Pliner.


Pliner made a beeline for Ross after the press conference. He offered to make slip-on street shoes for the Dolphins. The two pairs he’s considering for the team are his T Rex (photo left) and Uwait (photo below).

Pliner makes shoes for former Heat center Shaquille O’Neal and retired Heat center Alonzo Mourning. He works with the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. Perez wears Pliner’s shoes. So does criminal attorney Roy Black. The Estefans are his neighbors on Star Island.

The shoes Pliner has picked out for the Dolphins are made of breathable micro-fiber. “It’s more expensive than leather, but it stimulates the blood vessels, stops your feet from getting tired, keeps the blood flowing it has memory,” Pliner said. “They’re water resistant, it looks like leather.”


He added: “The point is if your feet are uncomfortable so is the body and so is the mind.”

So what was Ross’ reaction?

“He gave me his size and which size to send him first,” Pliner said.

For the record, Ross wears a size 13B. “That’s narrow, which is difficult,” Pliner said. “We’ll fit him.”

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Miami Dolphins (186), Miami Heat (174), NBA (139)

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June 25, 2009

Talks to buy Panthers ongoing, suitor’s board could change

We don't yet know if a public company's proposal to buy the Panthers will result in a deal. But talks between Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. and the team are ongoing. And the clock is ticking.

Sports Properties is what’s known as a "special purpose acquisition company" or SPAC. It raised $215 million from investors last year and has until January to use the money to buy a sports or entertainment asset. If the money isn’t spent it must be returned to investors with interest. The SPAC signed a non-binding letter of intent last month to purchase the team for $230 million, but it still could be some time before an agreement is reached.

What makes this story interesting right now is the role of Sports Properties president and CEO Tony Tavares. Tavares is a long-time sports team executive, who has run the Anaheim Ducks, as well as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Montreal Expos and the Washington Nationals. He also headed venue operating company SMG.

Tavares is also linked to a group that is bidding to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy at auction and keep the team in Arizona. That group includes Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and is completely separate from the SPAC. Reinsdorf’s group is expected to put in a bid on Friday with the auction to be held Aug. 5, assuming the bids are qualified and accepted by the bankruptcy judge.

From what I’m told, Tavares does not plan to do both deals. If Reinsdorf is successful, it’s quite possible Tavares could be installed to run the Coyotes. In that case, he'd most likely resign from the SPAC.

If the Panthers deal occurs first, it’s unclear if Tavares would have a position with the team.

The NHL does allow minority ownership in more than one team: Panthers limited partners, Fort Lauderdale advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman and St. Louis orthopedic surgeon Rick Lehman bought into the Tampa Bay Lightning, too, last year.

It’s unknown how large Tavares’ interest would be in the Panthers or Coyotes, but it’s unlikely the league would allow an executive (and owner) of one team to invest in a second team.

So, we’ll have to keep watching and waiting to see how this all plays out.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), NHL (56), Sports Team Owners (49)

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Gloria and Emilio Estefan bring entertaiment to Dolphins

The Grammy-Award winning duo, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, became the first Cuban-American investors in an NFL team this morning, announcing their agreement to partner with Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross.

The Estefans were introduced with a montage video (you can see below) that includes shots of Gloria performing at the Super Bowl (she's performed at three Super Bowls and three Olympic Games). See the other video below that one showing her taping a new version of the Monday Night Football song with Hank Williams Jr. in Nashville on Monday. That version, which includes some lines in Spanish, will be shown before the Dolphins-New York Jets game at Land Shark Stadium on Oct. 12.

Emilio promises to help beef up the game day music: "I would love to play Latin music in the games. That brings a lot of energy to game day."

Asked whether he also might one day install a Bongos Cuban Cafe at the stadium (Estefan Enterprises includes several Bongos and two hotels), he said, that's up to Ross, but he'd be on board.

"Definitely, we’ll bring Bongos here," he said, "we would love that."


 

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186)

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Shaq gets new team, sheds Star Island home

Former Heat center Shaquille O’Neal finally unloaded his Star Island home on Wednesday, a day before he was traded from Phoenix to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Philip Freedman, a broker with Flagstone Realty, said the deal to sell the 2.5 acre property at 26 Star Island Drive closed Wednesday. The home sold for $16 million, far below the $18.8 million O’Neal paid for the mansion in 2004 and the $32 million he was seeking for the home in 2005. He was reportedly asking $22.5 million, but couldn’t get nearly that much in this economic climate.

The home has been on and off the market for years, including when O’Neal threatened to move to Broward County when his family grew tired of the gawking boaters who stopped by to look at the house.

The 19,440-square-foot, two-story home has eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a dock, gym, tennis court, indoor racquetball court and a separate guest house. Other Star Island residents include Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Rosie O'Donnell.

The home was originally owned by original Heat center Rony Seikaly.

O'Neal has had contracts out on the home that have fallen through, including one with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

Freedman would not identify the buyer, but the Daily Business Review speculates it could be Peter Fine, a co-producer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights. Fine, the publication reported, had a contract to buy the property for about $19 million and the deal was supposed to close in January.

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

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June 23, 2009

More Gloria Estefan and the Dolphins

Just as news was breaking Monday that she and her husband have agreed to buy a small minority stake in the Dolphins, Gloria Estefan was taping an updated Monday Night Football video for the 2009 season with Hank Williams Jr. in Nashville. (See photo courtesy of ESPN, by Frederick Breedon IV, of Williams with Estefan decked out in Marino jersey).

Estefan is to appear in the opening video with Williams before the Oct. 12 Monday night game featuring the Dolphins versus the New York Jets at Land Shark Stadium. Some of lyrics in the Estefan-Williams version of the MNF song are in Spanish and the video will honor Hispanic Heritage Month.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178)

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Zo and D. Wade join foreclosure prevention tour

Photo--AM--DW2.jpgAlonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade are spending a lot of time together this summer promoting causes. Last week, they were at the White House with other notable fathers to promote the responsibilities of fatherhood alongside President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, Mourning, retired Heat center, and Wade, current Heat superstar guard, are joining Latino TV host Fernando Arau in bringing attention to the problem of foreclosures and how to prevent them. The trio is participating in Hope Now Alliance’s “Bringing Hope Home” bus tour of Miami.

No, the group will not be doling out financial or legal advice. Their role is to bring star power and attention to needy communities around Miami-Dade County. They’ll also participate in a roundtable discussion with community leaders and homeowners. The idea is use celebrities to let residents of needy communities know how and where they can get help.

Hope Now, an alliance of counselors and mortgage professionals helping homeowners avoid foreclosure, has arranged other celebrity tours, including with Queen Latifah and Wyclef Jean in Newark and Mary J. Blige and Big Boi in Atlanta.

Next month, Wade is helping host annual charity event Zo’s Summer Groove, now known as The Summer Groove hosted by Zo and D. Wade.

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

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June 22, 2009

Gloria and Emilio Estefan investing in the Dolphins

Grammy Award-winning singer Gloria Estefan and her Grammy Award-winning producer husband Emilio Estefan are purchasing "a small minority" stake in the Dolphins, a source said Monday.

The Estefans and Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross are to announce the purchase officially on Thursday at Land Shark Stadium.

The team has released no details, other than the couple and Ross are making a "major corporate announcement." Ross has been seeking minority partners and the Estefans fit the bill because they’re well-known locals, who could help spice up the entertainment side of the stadium. The source said Emilio Estefan is already at work on coming up with some original songs to boost entertainment at the stadium.

Last month, Ross partnered with pop singer and South Florida icon Jimmy Buffett to re-name the stadium, Land Shark Stadium after Buffett’s beer. Ross said there will also be a Margaritaville area of the stadium and a Parrot Head section for Buffett fans. Buffett debuted a re-written version of his hit "Fins" in honor of the football team.

While it is not expected to be announced on Thursday, perhaps an off-shoot of Estefan Enterprises' successful Bongos Cuban Cafe restaurant chain could be installed at the stadium. There are several Bongos locations, including one adjacent to AmericanAirlines Arena, as well as in Miami Beach, Orlando, and Mexico City. The couple also owns hotels in Miami Beach and Vero Beach.

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186)

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June 19, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 6,293,009 (Bond sale on)

It’s been a busy week of technical, banking and court issues related to the Marlins ballpark plan, but as of this afternoon, the ballpark project appears to be back on track.

At least in the eyes of Miami-Dade County officials, who made progress on two fronts today:

County commissioners signed off on some technical changes to the ballpark plan, including delaying the termination date for the ballpark deal until July 15, instead of July 1, with the expectation the bond sale will close by July 17. (Miami City Commissioners took similar action Thursday). And Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lawrence Schwartz issued an opinion Friday afternoon, denying an injunction to prevent the sale of the bonds.

Miami activists Graciela Solares and Elvis Cruz filed the motion for the injunction against the county and city of Miami on Monday, to stop the planned sale of the bonds, which was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. In February, Solares and Cruz filed suit aiming to halt the $515 million ballpark plan because they said it was negotiated behind closed doors in violation of the state’s public records laws.

As a result of Monday’s filing, Miami-Dade County officials chose to delay selling the bonds until June 29 and 30. The decision was made as a precaution, not because county officials believe the suit has merit. In fact, County Manager George Burgess called the suit “extremely frivolous” during a meeting of county commissioners Friday morning.

Solares and Cruz quickly filed notice they are appealing Schwartz’s decision.

But as of now, county officials intend to proceed with the bond sale and the Marlins are expecting work to begin at the former site of the Orange Bowl on July 1, with a ceremonial ground breaking for the 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark scheduled on July 18.

Despite the roadblocks and technical changes, county officials say they are committed to the project.

“Our confidence in the project and its underlying funding plan has not changed,” Burgess wrote in a memo to commissioners in advance of Friday morning’s meeting.

The team, city and county set a termination date for the ballpark deal so that any side could pull out of the deal before bonds had been sold. County officials say they should know as of June 30 whether the bonds can be sold, with a closing expected by July 17.

“If we terminate, there will not be a ground breaking on the 18th," Burgess told commissioners Friday. “If we close between the 14th and 17th, then we have the ground breaking.”

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

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June 11, 2009

Arena design: economics v. art

05gehry2_600.jpgA little delayed on this, but I’ve been getting my thoughts together since the news last week that renowned architect Frank Gehry’s design (see left) for the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn was being tossed aside for a less expensive one by Ellerbe Beckett (see below right).

Economics were cited as the reason – the Ellerbe Beckett version is to cost about $200 million less than Gehry’s $1 billion glass-walled arena that is part of the Atlantic Yards development. Kansas City-based Ellerbe Beckett has designed stadiums and arenas, including Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and BankAtlantic Center, the Sunrise home of the Panthers.

According to a New York Times story last week: “Officials who have seen the design say that while it resembles Conseco Fieldhouse it also bears a likeness to an ‘airplane hangar.’”

Say what you will about South Florida’s two arenas -- and plenty of fans have. I hear routinely how much fans love BankAtlantic Center for its ease of parking, wide concourses, comfort and carpeting. I’ve heard the Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena is too stark, looks unfinished, isn’t as cozy.

But if we’re comparing architecture, AmericanAirlines Arena, designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica with Heinlein Schrock Stearns Architecture + Design, says Miami. It’s sleek and different and wouldn’t be deemed to look like an “airplane hangar.” By contrast, BankAtlantic Center could be described as a bunker in the swamp.

Clearly, this isn’t the time showy. But the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project has been delayed for years. Now Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is rushing to begin arena construction by year’s end so he can take advantage of tax-exempt financing.

You may think Gehry’s design was unrealistic to begin with – as one local team official expressed to me earlier this week – but it was ground-breaking and unique. It might not have changed arena design forever, but it would have become a showplace, a symbol of Brooklyn and the Nets.

Consider this: the past two decades have been spent replacing outdated stadiums and arenas that didn’t have revenue-generating premium seats and club seats. Dual-purpose (baseball and football) concrete doughnut stadiums have been replaced by ballparks with unique features. Of course, even those have become cookie cutter, as some teams have chosen to duplicate the red brick, green steel design. ellbeck_600.jpg

But those that chose to be different have successfully built sports venues that represent their communities, ones for which fans can immediately identify their place. Think PNC Park overlooking the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh; the old brick warehouse that’s part of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore; and, even American Airlines Arena, overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Isn’t making progress correcting bad decisions of the past? Do we want to regret a decision that was made based on economics? Miami Arena, anyone? The pink elephant was obsolete when it opened in 1988, lost its tenants and was demolished last year.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, the New York Times architecture critic, called the scuttling of Gehry’s design "a shameful betrayal of the public trust, one that should enrage all those who care about this city." Read Ouroussoff's thoughtful piece here.

During the SportsBusiness Journal’s conference on sports facilities and franchises this week, Nets officials defended their decision, according to the Associated Press.

“Unfortunately the world we live in today is very different than what it was three or four years ago when we hired Frank," Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said Wednesday according to the piece. "The world is more simplistic. It's not as grand and glitzy. And I'm not sure that design would have been appropriate right now, as much as we all loved it. I think the design that we have now is very appropriate. It speaks to Brooklyn."

I’m not so sure.

What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay

POSTED IN: AmericanAirlines Arena (35), BankAtlantic Center (30)

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June 10, 2009

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ranks No. 2 in real estate “Power 100”

The New York Observer’s latest Power 100 ranking of “The Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate,” places Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross No. 2, behind only… President Barack Obama.

Ross, who is chairman and CEO of the Related Cos. (when he’s not working on the latest fan amenity at Land Shark Stadium), actually rose from No. 3 on the paper’s 2008 list. The publication calls Ross “the city’s unparalleled king of private development” who developed the Time Warner Center and is “the designated developer” of the West Side rail yards.

The list includes state and national politicians, hoteliers and university presidents. Donald Trump ranks No. 16, up from 38 last year. Two other sports team owners made the list: New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who is still trying to develop Atlantic Yards with a new Nets arena in Brooklyn, fell from No. 8 last year to No. 23 this year; and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson ranks No. 68, as board president of luxury co-op 834 Fifth Avenue.

Reminder: follow me on Twitter @sarahtalalay


POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49)

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June 9, 2009

Get drafted by the Dolphins

Well, sort of. The Dolphins have put together a creative interactive marketing campaign for which the tagline is: “This offseason, the Dolphns’ most important signing … is you.”

OK, so it’s a little cute, but it’s done well and even includes snippets of interviews with players and Coach Tony Sparano talking about … well, you. It’s not really you, but the team has done a nice job embedding your name into the online video. You’re recruited on the news, on the Land Shark Stadium scoreboard, on fans’ signs. You even get your own jersey hanging in the team locker room – next to Chad Pennington. And you can share the video with your friends.

“We wanted fans to be able to experience the game through this viral video, putting them in the forefront of it all,” Dolphins Enterprises spokesman George Torres said. “They are the main performer at the stadium, what it feels like to come through the orange carpet, into the locker room, to hear the rest of the fans cheer for them.”

Even Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross sits across from you and hands you a contract to sign. Then he invites you to tell the region’s fans. Kudos to Ross for embracing the idea. It’s in keeping with his plans to boost the fan experience.

Fans and ticket buyers have been receiving emails from the team with the video message. Access the video at at the team’s Web site or at mydolphinslive.com. (You have to wait a few seconds for the video to load.)

The idea is to encourage fans to buy season tickets. Torres said the feedback has been good and ticket sales are ahead of schedule.

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), Tickets (126)

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June 8, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 7,182,009 (Ground breaking UPDATED)

UPDATED
The Marlins have scheduled their ceremonial ground-breaking for Saturday, July 18 and the public’s invited.

That’s assuming, of course, that financing for the new ballpark can be secured, but officials are optimistic given the ratings the bonds received so far from the rating agencies last month.

Miami-Dade County officials were to begin selling the bonds Tuesday and Wednesday, but those dates have since been moved to June 17 and 18. Marlins President David Samson says the delay isn't cause for alarm.

"The ratings were positive," Samson said. "We’re confident there will be individual and institutional buyers for these bonds."

Assuming the bonds are sold, grading and site preparation are to begin July 1 at the former site of the Orange Bowl. Then the ceremonial ground-breaking will be held on July 18, complete with team, county, city and Major League Baseball officials, and, of course, those fancy shovels. Fans are invited, too.

"It’s going to be, and we try not to over use the word, but a historic day," Samson said Monday afternoon before the Marlins-San Francisco Giants game at Land Shark Stadium, where rain was threatening once again. "It’s a day we’ve all been working toward, seven years personally, and our organization for over 10 years."

Samson said team officials along with representatives of their architect and construction manager have been putting in long hours -- as much as 18 a day -- to prepare for the ballpark. He said on Monday, for example, the ballpark team worked on finalizing seat counts, including ensuring that no sections have rows with only one seat: "We don’t know of many people who would buy a season ticket of one," he said.

The team examined entrances and exits and the time it takes to get from section openings, known as vomitories, to seats, and the sightlines for fans when people are walking to and from vomitories. Then there is permitting for the 70 or so bid packages for construction; and for the 16 trailers that will be on-site during construction. The trailers have to be placed carefully to allow for the movement of trucks and cranes at the location, Samson said.

There was also a discussion, Samson said, of the actual ground-breaking event -- how to get power to the site and what kind of shovels to order. And yes, Samson said he feels enormous pressure.

"We cannot have a delay," Samson said. "We will not go over budget."

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

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June 5, 2009

L.A. Sparks follow Phoenix Mercury; strike jersey sponsor deal

farmersinsurance1.jpgThat didn’t take long. The Los Angeles Sparks and Farmers Insurance Group of Companies announced a multi-year partnership Friday that will put the insurance group’s name on the WNBA team’s jerseys.

The partnership comes just in time for the Sparks home opener against the Detroit Shock on Saturday. It also marks the second such announcement this week. The Phoenix Mercury announced Monday that it will be wearing identity theft protection company, LifeLock Inc., on its uniforms for three years under a deal said to be worth at least $1 million a year.

The Sparks’ deal with Farmers Insurance also includes signage in the Staples Center, and visibility with other Sparks’ events in the community.

The idea is apparently sweeping the WNBA. The Indiana Fever and Seattle Storm are also considering partnering with jersey sponsors.

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Sponsorship (101), WNBA (6)

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross spending “90 percent” of his time on team

In the nearly six months since real estate developer Stephen M. Ross took over as majority owner of the Dolphins, he says he's been spending as much as 90 percent of his time on the team.

Don’t worry, he told reporters at the kickoff of the Dolphins Foundation Celebrity Weekend Friday. He reiterated he’s leaving football decisions to the football operations side. “They don’t want to hear from me,” he said.

Ross is continuing to work on improving the fan experience at newly-renamed Land Shark Stadium. Already, Ross has partnered with Jimmy Buffett to rename the stadium after the singer's Land Shark Lager and has promised a Margaritaville area and Parrot Head section in the stadium. He's also worked with Kangaroo TV to create Dolphins Mobile Vision -- a Dolphins-branded handheld device from which suite and club seat holders will be able to watch the game from different camera angles, access all other NFL games being played at the same time, get fantasy football statistics and order food.

Ross promised there's more: “We have a lot in store to really create a great experience,” he said.

Here he is chatting with reporters, including Sun Sentinel Dolphins beat writers Omar Kelly and Mike Berardino:


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POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186)

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Marlins banking on Uggla

2uggla.jpgThe Marlins are giving “Dan Uggla head” banks to the first 5,000 kids attending Sunday’s game versus the San Francisco Giants at Land Shark Stadium.

Not a full body piggybank or even a bust. It’s a five-inch polyresin bank that resembles the second baseman’s head – complete with blue eyes and eye black. (Check out Sun Sentinel photographer Robert Duyos' photo of Uggla with his bank).

Outfielder Cody Ross got to smash one with a baseball bat during a promotional spot for the giveaway. He needed change for a soda.

“We had fun with it. We only did three or four takes, [but] I only got to smash the piggybank head once,” Ross said. “I thought I did a pretty good job with it.”

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Florida Marlins (193), Promotions (120)

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June 4, 2009

Yahoo follows CBS, sues NFL players over use of fantasy stats

Concerned about threats that it would be sued, Yahoo Inc., became the second major fantasy sports provider to sue the NFL Players union over use of players' names and statistics in its fantasy football games.

The suit filed in federal court in Minneapolis on Monday is similar to one filed by CBS Interactive on behalf of Fort Lauderdale-based CBSSports.com last year. A federal judge ruled in CBS’ favor on April 28, saying the players’ names and stats are protected by the First Amendment.

That ruling followed an earlier federal appeals court decision that said Major League Baseball players’ names and stats are in the public domain. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear that case.

Last week, the NFL Players Association and its marketing arm, Players Inc., appealed the ruling in the CBS case.

Yahoo, whose last licensing agreement with Players Inc., expired March 1, cites the CBS ruling in its suit. Yahoo believes the ruling should apply to all fantasy providers, just as the judge in the CBS case ruled the baseball ruling also applies to football.

“In the CBSI case, the court held that the provider of a fantasy football game did not require a license from Players Inc. in order to operate a game that used player names, statistics, images and other information,” Yahoo’s case states.

The Yahoo case was filed in Minneapolis, which is where the both the baseball case and the CBS case were decided. Friendly courts, anyone?

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association is supporting Yahoo’s case, but as it has said repeatedly, it hopes the leagues and game providers can work together to promote fantasy gaming.

“The fact that the NFL Players Association continues to demand licensing fees is disheartening news for the industry, and for fantasy sports participants,” FSTA President Paul Charchian said in a statement. “The Players’ Association is seemingly oblivious to the obvious and tangible benefits derived from the proliferation of fantasy sports, along with the many cases that have already been decided in favor of fantasy operators. While the FSTA will support Yahoo in this case, we also hope to cooperate with each of the players’ associations to help maximize fantasy sports products.”

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POSTED IN: Fantasy Sports (6), MLB (110), NFL (178)

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June 3, 2009

Lots of details to resolve in potential sale of Panthers

After looking at dozens of sports and entertainment properties to acquire, Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., has zeroed in on the Panthers and is working with Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to try to finalize a deal.

Last month, the two entities signed a non-binding letter of intent to reach agreement on the sale of the team for $230 million, but sources say it could be weeks before a deal is signed. As I explained in a story last month, Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., a public company formed to buy a sports or entertainment asset, has been searching for a property that offers an upside. The company has examined other hockey teams and made an unsuccessful bid for the Chicago Cubs.

What makes Sunrise Sports & Entertainment attractive is not just that it owns the Panthers, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2000, but that it operates publicly-financed BankAtlantic Center and has plans for City of Oz, a massive mixed-use retail and entertainment complex surrounding the Sunrise arena.

So, details are still being worked out, but the NHL is aware of the negotiations and the non-binding letter. It’s possible an agreement could be reached by late June, but unclear if it could be ready in time for the league’s Board of Governors meeting later this month. It could be months before the deal closes, sources said.

Sports Properties Acquisition is what’s known as a "special purpose acquisition company" or SPAC. The SPAC raised more than $200 million from investors last year and has until January to use the money or it must be returned to shareholders with interest. Shareholders would also get their money back if a deal is reached but rejected. Any deal must receive approval of NHL owners and the SPAC’s investors.

SPACs gained notice in the 1990s, but their modern version did not surface until 2003. They are mainly an investment vehicle for hedge funds. While SPACs are formed to purchase all sorts of companies, Sports Properties Vice Chairman Andrew Murstein said last month his SPAC was the first to delve into the sports industry.

Panthers owner Alan Cohen and his partners would receive stock in the company in the deal and the team would be public once again. The Panthers, who were an NHL expansion franchise in 1993, were publicly held from 1996-2001, but became a private entity when H. Wayne Huizenga sold the team to a group led by Cohen for $101 million.

The makeup and operation of the team under the new company, is unclear. Although he could still have a role with the team, don’t be surprised if Cohen isn’t calling the shots in the future.

Sports Properties has plenty of sports experience among its board and advisors.

The company's board of directors includes Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former New York governor Mario Cuomo. Ex-Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jack Kemp, who died last month, had also served on the board. Murstein had said it was Aaron who suggested the company consider buying a sports team.

Company President and CEO Tony Tavares’ resume includes stints as president of the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Expos and head of venue operating company SMG.

And Game Plan LLC, an investment banking firm that handles team sales and acquisitions and is advising Sports Properties, was one of a pair of companies that together made an offer to buy the entire NHL in 2005 during the lockout.

The offer from Game Plan and Bain Capital never advanced, but was for $3.5 billion (roughly $116 million a team) and was presented to the NHL. The idea was to run the industry as a single-entity league in which no team had a particular economic advantage. Traditional television contracts would have been replaced with coverage by regional sports networks.

Anyway, stay tuned…

And just a reminder that I’m now on Twitter. Follow me: @sarahtalalay

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108), NHL (56), Sports Team Owners (49)

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June 1, 2009

How is Dolphins’ ticket plan like a Chinese menu?

The Dolphins will put a “limited number” of four-game season ticket packages on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday for “a limited time.” But while the deal is more economical than paying individual ticket prices and includes some season ticket holder benefits, such as playoff ticket purchase priority (based on availability), it might not be enough to convince some fans it’s worth the price.

Set up like a Chinese menu (one from Column A, two from Column B), this plan has “Aqua” games and “Orange” games. But you only get to choose one Aqua game, which includes the more desirable opponents: the home opener Monday Night contest against the Indianapolis Colts; New York Jets; New England Patriots; and Pittsburgh Steelers.

To fill out the rest of your plate, er, plan, you’ve got to pick THREE from among: Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Houston Texans.

The plan costs $75 per ticket, per game in Land Shark Stadium’s upper level and $87 per ticket per game in the stadium’s lower level. New team CEO Mike Dee is pitching it as an “affordable alternative” that provides “the flexibility for fans to customize their 2009 Dolphins experience prior to individual game tickets going on sale.”

To purchase the tickets, call 1-888-FINS-TIX or visit miamidolphins.com.

Also, I'm on Twitter now -- follow me: @sarahtalalay

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

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WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury to wear LifeLock logos on uniforms; and Twitter and me

The Phoenix Mercury will become the first WNBA team to wear a corporate sponsor’s logo prominently on its jerseys this season. In a deal being announced today, identity-theft protection company LifeLock Inc., will sponsor the team for three years in a deal said to be worth at least $1 million a year.

The Arizona-based company, which also sponsors NASCAR, will be the team’s presenting sponsor and get its name on the team’s warm-up jerseys and its arena. It is also to offer complimentary membership to WNBA season ticket holders.

The WNBA did a deal prior to last season with McDonald’s in which the fast food giant sponsored Tip-Off for the league’s 12th season. Players wore the Golden Arches on a Tip-Off logo on their jerseys during the home openers, but the logos weren’t as prominently displayed as LifeLock’s will be on Mercury jerseys.

The Mercury will still wear its team logo, but Mercury will be a much smaller badge-style logo on the upper left – similar to the way the L.A. Galaxy’s logo appears on the MLS team’s jerseys since Herbalife began sponsoring that team in 2007.

So, while we’re used to seeing corporate logos on jerseys overseas, they are beginning to seep into U.S. sports more frequently than they have in the past. The Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s wore sponsor logos on their jerseys and helmets during the two games that opened the 2008 MLB season in Japan. The Puerto Rican team wore Best Buy logos on their jerseys during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Since we used to seeing logos just about everywhere these days, does this bother you? Do you think the uniforms for NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams are still sacred?

Also, I’ve just joined the masses on Twitter. Follow me there: @sarahtalalay

POSTED IN: MLB (110), Soccer (15), Sponsorship (101), WNBA (6)

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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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