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July 31, 2009

Marlins holding seminar for minority businesses seeking ballpark work

The Marlins committed to ensuring minority businesses get work on the new ballpark. To help make that happen, the team and the Minority Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to offer an informational seminar on Monday.

“Doing Business with Florida Marlins Stadium Project, a Call for Minority Entrepreneurs” will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at the Double Tree Hotel Miami Mart, 711 NW 72nd Ave., Miami.

Additional information about employment with the Marlins ballpark can be found at www.huntmossjv.com.


POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193)

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Dolphins’ (organizational) depth chart

The Dolphins are beefing up the business side of the organization under new CEO Mike Dee. The team has hired two new executives, promoted some current ones and altered a few job descriptions.

The team, which announced the changes Thursday, called the moves “the first step in the eventual integration of the team and Land Shark Stadium businesses.”

Dolphins President and Chief Operating Officer Bryan Wiedmeier moves to the newly created position of senior vice president of NFL affairs & special projects. The team release says “Wiedmeier will work closely with Dee on NFL matters and a variety of special assignments.” Not entirely sure what that means at this point, other than it likely includes working more extensively on preparations for next year’s Super Bowl and Pro Bowl being held at Lank Shark Stadium, which will be known as Dolphin Stadium for the games.

Stadium President Bruce Schulze is to focus on the stadium’s operation and fan experience and Senior Director of Community Relations & Government Affairs Eric Knowles is to expand the team's government relations outreach, the team release said.

Dee, who previously worked at the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres, also hired two former colleagues: Adam Grossman, vice president of marketing at the Boston Red Sox, was named Dolphins’ senior vice president of public affairs, and Mark Tilson, who worked for the Padres and most recently as the Kansas City Royals’ vice president of sales & marketing, becomes Dolphins senior vice president of sales & ticket operations.

Other changes: Ilona Wolpin becomes senior director of community relations up from community relations manager; Matt Thomas adds vice president to his General Counsel and Football Administration title; Tery Howard, who oversees the stadium and team’s technology efforts, becomes senior vice president/Chief Technology Officer; and Danielle Sergeant was promoted to director of client services.

"We have made a commitment to build a tier one organization that will be equipped to execute the great vision and high expectations that Steve Ross has set for this franchise," Dee said in a statement. “We believe that these moves were essential to make at this time in order to begin the process of positioning the franchise for future growth and to maximum efficiency."

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Tickets (126)

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July 30, 2009

Want to meet Udonis Haslem?

Heat forward Udonis Haslem is scheduled to sign autographs and visit with shoppers at BJ’s Whole Sale Club in Miami Lakes on Saturday.

Haslem is to appear at the store at 17250 Northwest 57th Ave., between 11 a.m. and noon. The first 200 fans will receive an autographed photo card.

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174)

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July 29, 2009

Dolphins plant flag, launch game day bus service in Southwest Florida

dolplhflag1.jpgThe Dolphins literally – and figuratively – put down roots in Southwest Florida this afternoon. Dolphins players, alumni, cheerleaders, T.D., and team officials stopped at Germain Toyota in Naples signed autographs, posed for photos and yes, raised an aqua Dolphins flag high above the dealership.

And so began a new team initiative to reach out to current and prospective Dolphins fans in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties. The team counts 1,200 season ticket holders from southwest Florida and hopes over time to increase that number, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said.

One way the team plans to make it easier for southwest Floridians to attend games is through “Dolphins Express” – a bus service from points in the southwest, including Germain Toyota, to Dolphins games. The new bus service does not require a group, but can be purchased by individuals just wanting transportation to and from Land Shark Stadium. Fans can purchase an upper sideline ticket and the bus trip for $75. Check out DolphinsExpress.com or 1-888-FINS-BUS.

Germain Toyota was dubbed the Dolphins official southwest Florida headquarters and the automotive company plans to host tailgate parties and promote the bus service in its own advertisements, said Bob Germain, vice president of Germain Motor Company.

Dolphexpress1.jpg“We’re reaching out to fans, expanding our footprint beyond what has been known traditionally as our core market of South Florida,” Dee said. “We’re taking our message on the road, across the state, across the southern half of Florida and the Dolphins Express program is going to be a big part of that bringing fans from around the state over to Land Shark Stadium.”

In addition to focusing efforts in South and southwest Florida, Dee said the team is also targeting the Treasure Coast and Central Florida to bolster its existing fan base and attract new fans.

The group that included wide receiver Davone Bess, tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Akin Ayodele and running back Patrick Cobbs, then moved to Buckingham Community Park in Fort Myers for a football clinic and cheerleading camp for some 500 kids.

Bess said he likes participating in community events and meeting fans.

“They’re the reason why we do what we do. They’re a big part of why we’re who we are and our identity,” Bess said, “so it’s always good to go out and meet them and give back.”

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

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July 27, 2009

Are you ready for some Super Bowl and Pro Bowl?

Dozens of volunteers for the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee were getting ready for the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl this afternoon at Land Shark Stadium. They were auditioning to be in an ad campaign promoting the two big games South Florida will host Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, respectively.

Ronin Advertising of Coconut Grove took headshots of the aspiring actors and actresses and then asked them to say three lines with all the “passion for football” they could muster:

“Are you ready for some football?”

“Come on down and hang out for the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl.”

“Will you own the moment, or will the moment own you?”

“I feel like Hank Williams Jr. here,” said Laurie Steele, of West Palm Beach, as she prepared to say her lines.

Ronin was looking for volunteers to represent the NFL’s 32 teams in TV, print and outdoor advertising. They’ll don jerseys and other NFL gear, such as a cheesehead hat for the Green Bay Packers fan. The fans will also be wearing shorts and flip-flops -- since the big game is returning to South Florida for a record 10th time -- and the Pro Bowl will be played here, too, rather than in Hawaii.

“Our goal is to get a cross-section of fans,” said Kristen Mathieson, a senior account executive at Ronin.

The ads are scheduled to be shot Aug. 11 and 12 and begin airing around the start of the 2009 football season. In the meantime, here’s the ad Ronin shot featuring Don Shula to promote Super Bowl XLI in 2007 – the last time the game was here.


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

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July 25, 2009

More spring training memories

The rich history of spring training in South Florida has been slowly wearing away during the past two decades as teams that once made Florida’s southeast coast their spring homes have moved elsewhere to fancy new venues. The news this week that Sarasota has lured the Baltimore Orioles to the west coast next year, means Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, where the Marlins and Cardinals train, will be the closest place to watch spring baseball.

But there are plenty of memories from the years that saw the Orioles in Miami (1959-1990) and Fort Lauderdale (1996-2009), Yankees in Fort Lauderdale (1962-1995), Washington Senators/Texas Rangers in Pompano Beach (1961-1986), Atlanta Braves in West Palm Beach (1963-1997) and Montreal Expos, also in West Palm (1968-1972; 1981-1997). The dozens of star players: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr. and on and on. Ted Williams managed the Senators from 1969 to 1971, when they trained in Pompano Beach.

Spring training actually stretches back nearly a century in South Florida with teams playing the in the teens in Miami and in the 1930s in Miami Beach, but its glory days followed World War II.

Here are some memories, with help from Marlins beat writer Juan C. Rodriguez, that didn’t make this morning’s story in the paper:

“We’re losing our rich tradition, that’s the sad part about it. We loved it. You could play a week without ever having to leave the area ... The tradition in that part of Florida. It was unbelievable. Thurman Munson, Bobby Murrcer, Yogi Berra. Billy Martin was my manager there, Mickey Mantle. All the guys, Gene Michaels, George Steinbrenner was always around then some.”

Rick Dempsey, catcher for the Yankees, 1973-1976, Orioles, 1976-1986, now a broadcaster with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network

“One of the most enjoyable times I ever had broadcasting a game at Fort Lauderdale Stadium was with my partner [former Brooklyn Dodger] Duke Snider when the Expos were playing the Yankees. Mel Allen had come down to visit the Yankees … He sat in the broadcast booth for about an inning and I just let Duke and Mel tell stories about the old days. Here I am with the voice of the Yankees, Mel Allen, and the Duke of Flatbush, talking about the old days.”
Dave Van Horne, Marlins and former Montreal Expos radio broadcaster

“Back then the fan accessibility was a little bit more lax. They were close to you. They were down close to the field. Every morning you’d go out to stretch and there would be a bunch of people. There was more accessibility to the players back then."
Marlins hitting coach Jim Presley, who trained with the Atlanta Braves in West Palm Beach in 1990

“It was Bobby Maduro with the Orioles and now Fort Lauderdale with the Yankees and Orioles, now that’s going to be gone. Growing up down there, that’s where you went to see games before we had a Major League team. As players, it was great. You have the beach there for spring training, great restaurants, great cities. It wasn’t a little sleepy town like Vero Beach. That was nice. When the Yankees were there in ’87 it was packed every night, every day. I remember playing a lot of night games there in spring training. It was a packed house every night and I thought it was a state-of-the-art building at the time in ’87.”
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who attended spring training with the Yankees in 1987

“Over the years I got to know a lot of the Yankees because I was also the director of administration at Pompano Harness Track. I’d leave them passes and programs. It was very interesting to have that personal touch with them. One night I had Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford and later on, Catfish Hunter. The thing about the Yankees more so because of the tradition than the Orioles, is they brought a lot of old players back to camp.”
“I picked my seats behind the visitors’ dugout so I could see all the visiting teams. I took my ballplayers from Lauderdale High out to the games, especially if they got a lot of hits. It was a real fun thing. They kidded me my first year, being from West Virginia I’d take a mason jar of chili and sit there watching spring training … It’s just a little bit special time March down here, starting the season. That’s when you smell the flowers, the rosin bag and pine tar, and the crack of the bat. We’re going to miss that.”

Jack Trainor, retired Fort Lauderdale High School baseball coach

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

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July 23, 2009

Marlins’ “Reasons” videos down to final two

Entries in the Marlins’ “What’s Your Reason?” video contest that challenged fans to come up with unique uses for rival teams’ jerseys have been narrowed to two.

The public has until July 29 to vote for its favorite. The choice is between using a New York Mets jersey as a birthday party pinata and a Washington Nationals jersey to help clean up a barbecue. Watch and vote for the videos here.

The winner will be determined by a combination of fan votes and a panel of team judges. The winning video will be shown on the video board at the Marlins-Chicago Cubs game at Land Shark Stadium on Aug. 1. And the winner will receive a prize package that includes a night at a Marlins game in a suite for up to 10 people and a Marlins jersey for the video creator.

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

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So long Orioles, spring training

Negotiations and threats to leave Fort Lauderdale Stadium seemed to drag on for years. But on Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles made an abrupt exit.

The Sarasota City and County Commissions approved agreements that made way for the team to move its spring training operations to Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium next spring. And with that, the team is on its way out of South Florida, taking with it the tradition of spring training.

Major League Baseball teams used to be ubiquitous in South Florida. The Orioles made their spring home at now-demolished Bobby Maduro Stadium in Miami from 1959 to 1988. The New York Yankees trained in Fort Lauderdale from 1962 to 1995. The Texas Rangers spent the spring in Pompano Beach; the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos in West Palm Beach.

Now the Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, who share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, will be our closest teams.

“Anytime you lose an athletic team of that magnitude, whether it’s for spring training or whether it’s for the Super Bowl, athletics is a large part of what makes quality of life issues so important,” Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom said. “I really enjoyed having them here, they were part of the fabric of our community.”

At one time it seemed certain the Orioles would stay in Fort Lauderdale. In 2007, the team, Fort Lauderdale and Broward County reached agreement to fund a major overhaul of aging Fort Lauderdale Stadium. But that plan stalled last year when the Federal Aviation Administration said the team would need to pay $1.3 million annually to maintain adjacent Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

Despite the city’s efforts, the FAA didn’t budge. And the team continued negotiating with other communities from Vero Beach to Fort Myers, before hammering out the Sarasota deal. The $31.2 million, 30-year deal includes $7.5 million in state funds and $23.7 million from an increase in the county tourist tax. The agreement includes renovations to Ed Smith Stadium and minor league venue Twin Lakes Park and plans for a Cal Ripken Baseball youth academy.

“It is with great excitement that we announce that Sarasota will be our new long-term spring training home,” Orioles Executive Vice President John Angelos said in a statement released by the team.

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman, who was in Oregon, got a call from the Orioles early Wednesday informing her of the Sarasota deal. While Grossman said she understood the team’s financial predicament, she’s disappointed the region will be losing what the bureau estimates are 19,000 visitors who travel here annually specifically to see the team and pump $25 million into local hotels, restaurants and other businesses. The Orioles also promoted the region in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Grossman said.

When some 50 members of the public signed up to speak at a public hearing at the Sarasota county commission, it seemed as though the agreements might never get to a vote. Residents weighed in on whether the deal had been struck in secret and the use of taxpayer dollars for the project when there are other needs in the community; others urged passage of the agreement to preserve baseball in Sarasota and to fund other sports. The commission voted 4-1 for the agreement; their vote came after the city commission voted 3-2 to transfer ownership of the stadium from the city to the county.

The Cincinnati Reds held spring training in Sarasota this past spring, but are moving to Phoenix next year. Rodstrom wished the Orioles well and said at least they will remain in Florida.

The 16 teams that trained in Florida this year drew 1.56 million fans, down from the 1.67 million fans 18 teams in the state drew in 2008. The Orioles averaged 4,588 a game this spring.

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

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July 21, 2009

Bon Jovi reportedly wanted exclusive deal with Dolphins

Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross did try to recruit rock star Jon Bon Jovi to join his ownership group even entertaining him along with Heat guard Dwyane Wade in his suite at the Dolphins playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens in January.

But according to the SportsBusiness Journal, Bon Jovi’s demands were too rich. Bon Jovi, the trade publication reported last week, “insisted upon an exclusive arrangement during their talks late last year.”

That would have prevented Ross from adding the celebrities he’s enticed to join his ownership group this summer, including Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, who was announced as a new minority owner today. Last month, Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio Estefan agreed to buy a small stake in the team.

Ross forged a partnership with pop singer Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville enterprise in May that included re-naming the team’s stadium after Buffett’s Land Shark Lager for this season. Buffett has an option to purchase a stake in the team, but so far has not become a minority owner.

There are likely to be a few other names to come, Ross said today in a conference call from New York, where he and Anthony had announced their partnership. The pair were joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and ESPN President George Bodenheimer at a press conference at New York’s Time Warner Center, the Columbus Circle condo-retail complex built by Ross’ Related Cos. Enjoy this description of the event from The New York Times' Fifth Down Blog.

Ross said he always planned to add investors to his ownership group, but wants those partners to reflect the South Florida community. Adding the Estefans and Anthony, who is married to singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, help add to the Latin flavor of the ownership group.

“The Miami Dolphins want to really represent the community itself,” Ross said. “Having Marc and Emilio and Gloria is important for showing this community, this team is about them. They are great representatives of the Latin community.

“There will be a few more people who will join them,” Ross added.

Goodell and Bodenheimer attended the press conference to announce the league and network’s involvement in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. They will hold a series of special events around the Dolphins-New York Jets Monday Night game on Oct. 12 at Land Shark Stadium.

That night, ESPN, which is broadcasting the game, will debut a special version of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Are You Ready for Some Football” video featuring Gloria Estefan – in a Dolphins jersey – and some lyrics in Spanish. Anthony, meanwhile, will perform the National Anthem at the stadium.

As for Anthony’s additional involvement in the team, he and Ross said it’s too early to say, but they’ve already been discussing ideas. Ross said Anthony was brought in for his ideas, not just to perform.

“This is a business investment. To bring his ideas, his creativity,” Ross said stressing that Anthony is writing a check for his investment, although the amount was not disclosed.

Anthony, who has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, said he can’t wait to get started.

“The most important thing now is Steve is open, he’s a great listener and a great visionary,” Anthony said. “I want to fly to Miami right now and sit at my desk.”

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

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July 19, 2009

Former Hurricane Devin Hester stars in Under Armour cleat ad

Chicago Bears wide receiver and former UM star Devin Hester is starring in an ad for Under Armour’s new “Mission” campaign to promote the company’s new UA Fierce cleats.

The fast-paced commercial, which debuts during tonight’s broadcast of the 2009 ESPYs of which Under Armour is a presenting sponsor, is filmed from Hester’s point of view. It’s a day in his life – his waking up, visiting with Deion Sanders, signing autographs at Sports Authority, throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field and working out at Soldier Field. At the beginning, it isn’t entirely clear who the viewer is following, but the ad offers clues along the way.

“It’s pretty strange, it’s kind of like a mystery, trying to figure out ‘who is this person? Oh OK, they want to keep it like a little secret and then at the end wow, OK,’” said Hester, who is from Riveria Beach.. “I think this is the first commercial where they [Under Armour] featured just one guy. I’m blessed to be the guy to do it. It was very fun, a great opportunity for me."

It’s also the first campaign in which Hester has held the starring role. He and his mother, Juanita Brown, were in one of those “Mama’s Boys” Campbell’s Chunky Soup ads together with other NFL players and their moms two years ago.

Hester said he enjoyed working with Sanders, whom he’s known since college. “Not only is he my idol, he’s more of a big brother, a role model for me. I look up to him. We text message every day, before I wake up I have a message from him. He sends words of encouragement, things to think about, to be happy for waking up, a big word of encouragement to start off your day,” Hester said.

As for UA’s cleats, Hester says they’re made for swift athletes like him. “The UA Fierce is the lightest they’ve made so far. It’s made for speed for players such as myself. You want to wear the lightest cleats as possible.”

Check out the ad here:

POSTED IN: Endorsements (20), Shoes (15)

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July 18, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. 987 days and counting…

There are clocks around the Marlins offices at Land Shark Stadium that count down the days until April 1, 2012. That's when the team's new ballpark is expected to open.

Saturday was a significant day. Less than 12 hours after the team finished an extra inning game against the Philadelphia Phillies that stretched into Saturday morning after a 78-minute rain delay, team executives and players, and representatives of Major League Baseball, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami gathered on a sun-scorched spot in Little Havana where the Orange Bowl once stood. They were joined by some 5,000 fans, many decked out in Marlins gear, to celebrate the beginning of construction of the team’s looong sought ballpark.

Work at the site officially started July 1, but when something takes this long to get approved, there’s cause for celebration. In fact, with the sun beating down, the late-ish start to the program, and numerous speeches -- many in both English and Spanish -- there were moments when it felt like it might take as long to hold the ground-breaking as it did to get to this day. But by the end of the event, which started at 10 a.m. and didn’t end for another two and a half hours, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and President David Samson, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, County Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, Gov. Charlie Crist (via video), representatives of the architect (Populous – formerly HOK Sport), and the construction manager (Hunt-Moss), and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig had all waxed about the new ballpark with its roof to prevent rain delays and air conditioning for sweltering days like today.

Marlins inaugural pitcher-catcher battery Charlie Hough and Benito Santiago did first pitch honors, the organist played Take Me Out to the Ballgame, videos showed Marlins highlights, including the two World Series championships, and what the new ballpark is to look like.

The dignitaries then donned hardhats and wielded shovels with handles fashioned like baseball bats and dug the dirt at the spot in the ceremonial diamond where home plate will be. They took dozens and dozens of photographs. And then they finally allowed fans, who waited patiently as they melted in the heat, to get a turn shoveling some dirt at home plate and getting a snapshot.

Among the attendees: eight county commissioners, at least two city commissioners (ballpark opponents city commissioners Marc Sarnoff’s and Tomas Regalado’s names were announced and the crowd booed), Manager Fredi Gonzalez, President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest, General Manager Mike Hill, Senior VP of Stadium Development Claude Delorme, former manager Jack McKeon, Special Assistants Tony Perez and Andre Dawson, Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, and current players including Hanley Ramirez, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Lindstrom, Dan Meyer, Brian Sanchez, Chris Coghlan. University of Miami President Donna Shalala was also in the crowd.

Loria couldn’t have seemed happier, even delighting the crowd with a message in Spanish. He spoke about the future, talking about the ballpark’s clean lines, fan comforts, including “great” food, and the roof that will finally bring certainty that games will be played and won’t be delayed.

(Is it ominous or poetic that Saturday night's game was rained out?)

But Loria also didn’t neglect the past.

He spoke of the University of Miami Hurricanes’ many years at the Orange Bowl, including winning its first of five national championships in 1983. He talked of the Dolphins' 1972 undefeated season.

“We honor both of these teams, we remember their achievements,” Loria said. “We vow the ghosts of glorious past victories will be with us, when we take the field every single night.”

Alvarez echoed Loria: “This spot in little Havana is full of memories. We have watched the Miami Dolphins complete the NFL’s only undefeated season from this land right here in the Orange Bowl. We grew up watching the Miami Hurricanes, win five national titles on this land. As far as I’m concerned this is sacred ground in athletics.

“Now it’s the Miami Marlins’ turf," he said. "I don’t know about all of you. I think I can guess, but I’m ready to see a player such as Hanley Ramirez hit a home run with downtown Miami as a backdrop.”

For some it was part campaign opportunity: Crist, who is running for U.S. Senate, gave a videotaped message. Sanchez, who is running for mayor of Miami, tried to make it look like he wasn’t campaigning. “I am very proud to have played a very small part of this great success,” Sanchez said. “And I speak from the heart, when I tell you when our leaders focus on what’s right for the next generation, and not the next election, that is what makes great cities in America.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told fans that all the controversy that surrounded getting the ballpark deal will disappear once the 37,000-seat, $515 million venue opens, expected in 2012. When he was through, fans shouted “All-Star Game, All-Star Game.”

Selig said the new ballpark would be given “primary consideration,” but he wasn’t ready to commit how soon that might happen. He was also clearly overwhelmed by the heat – “Where I was this morning, it was 55 degrees,” he said.

Samson meanwhile, said the team will be working on new merchandise and branding and even uniforms for the team’s name change to Miami Marlins, when it moves into the new ballpark in 2012.

“New uniforms, we’re relocating,” Samson said. “We’re going to embrace our current fan base and welcome a new fan base, because it’s what we need to have happen.”

Samson also mentioned some of the amenities that will be included in the new ballpark, in part because of fan suggestions, including game radio broadcasts pumped into restrooms during games, a smaller secondary video board down the left field line for fans who don’t have a good view of the main centerfield scoreboard. He said fans also wanted to be able to see into the bullpens during games, so the left field swimming pool area will have views into the home bullpen and there will be a group seating area in right field with a view into the visitor’s bullpen. Yes, that means the dugouts will be switched with the Marlins’ on the third base side, rather than the first base side, as it is now at Land Shark Stadium.

Watch the video, from Populous, that was shown at the ground-breaking, showing details of the ballpark:
 

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), Marlins Stadium Updates (112), Miami Dolphins (186), Miami Hurricanes (32), Orange Bowl (45)

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In honor of Marlins ballpark ground-breaking…

MIAST3.jpgThis morning, the Marlins will make history, holding the official ceremonial ground-breaking for their loooong awaited ballpark.

The ceremony is expected to be full of optimism and forward-looking, but it will also include a tinge of history: the Marlins’ first-ever pitcher-catcher battery of Charlie Hough and Benito Santiago will perform a ceremonial first pitch at the former Orange Bowl site.

With that in mind, when the Marlins take their new field, expected in 2012, they’ll be making another nod to the past -- changing their name to Miami Marlins. It’s a requirement of the ballpark deal struck with Miami-Dade County and city of Miami, which are paying the bulk of the ballpark’s price.

While the name isn’t expected to change until the new ballpark opens, the team is already quietly easing into the transition. Its Web site is now just marlins.com without the Florida.

As for the original Miami Marlins, they were a minor league team that played in the International League from 1956 to 1960 at Miami’s famed and now-demolished Miami Stadium (renamed Bobby Maduro in 1987). Satchel Paige pitched for the team. Later, there was a Florida State League team named the Miami Marlins, which played at the stadium from1962-1970 and then from 1982-1988.

The original Miami Marlins are immortalized in a T-shirt produced by Ebbets Field Flannels, a Seattle mail order company (ebbets.com) that sells authentic flannel and felt-lettered reproductions of minor league baseball jerseys, jackets and caps, favored by the likes of Spike Lee, David Letterman and former Sex Pistol John Lydon. As you can see, the shirt’s orange – one of the Major League Marlins’ colors - and shows a baseball bat-wielding marlin popping out of old Miami Stadium.

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Minor League (6)

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July 17, 2009

D. Wade joins Nike’s Jordan Brand

Heat superstar guard Dwyane Wade is joining Nike's Jordan Brand.

Wade, who signed a modest $400,000 deal with Converse as a rookie, is abandoning his deal with Converse, which was set to run through the 2011-12 season. He’s joining Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Derek Jeter, among others, with Team Jordan, the brand named for Michael Jordan.

Wade’s first Converse shoe was released during the 2005-06 season.His signing was viewed as a way to spark the struggling brand, which is also owned by Nike. The Wade 4 was released last season, but Wade wore the Wade 1 on the court. Converse re-released a limited number of the Wade 1 last season.

“For me, the move to Jordan Brand is a dream come true,” Wade said in a statement. “As a kid, I grew up on the south side of Chicago idolizing Michael Jordan and have worked hard to achieve the same success that he’s had on the court. I have enormous respect for this brand and all that it stands for. I’m humbled to be a part of the Team Jordan family and I’m looking forward to a great future.”

The Jordan Brand, which also includes apparel, was launched in 1997.

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Endorsements (20), Miami Heat (174), NBA (139), Shoes (15)

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July 15, 2009

Heat’s James Jones joins the fight against home foreclosures

Last month, Heat guard Dwyane Wade and retired Heat center Alonzo Mourning helped bring attention to the problem of home foreclosures joining the Hope Now Alliance’s “Bringing Hope Home” bus tour of Miami. The pair was drafted to meet with needy residents and join a roundtable discussion about the problem.

Today, another Heat player stepped up to help fight foreclosures and assist local residents in buying homes. Heat forward James Jones, a Miami native, joined the Opa-Locka Community Development Corp. (OLCDC) and AT&T to launch the South Florida version of a national program known as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Through the program, the OLCDC will acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed homes and then sell them to low- to moderate-income families in Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens. The OLCDC also plans to counsel needy residents, who wish to buy homes.

AT&T presented $50,000 to the OLCDC. James, meanwhile, said he would help families with house down payments and closing costs and committed to donate up to $5,000 per homebuyer.

“As a Miami native I’ve seen the good and bad parts of our community,” Jones said in a statement. “However, in order to make it a better place we all have to come together. Miami is my home and as such, I hope to continue to provide support and work with community organizations that are interested in building up our community and uplifting the residents who live here.”

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174)

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July 14, 2009

Seeking a job on the Marlins new ballpark?

With more than 6,000 applicants descending on the former site of the Orange Bowl last week seeking jobs on the Marlins' new ballpark, the project’s construction manager has created a Web site for potential employees.

Hunt/Moss, the joint venture between Hunt Construction Group of Arizona and Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates, has posted a potential employment questionnaire on the site at huntmossjv.com. The site also includes information for companies wishing to bid for work on the project. Hunt/Moss estimates as many as 5,000 individual workers will be needed for the ballpark's construction.

“The outpouring of interest last week clearly demonstrates this is an important project that will provide much needed jobs during these difficult times,” Marlins President David Samson said in a statement. “We look forward to subcontractors beginning work the next several weeks.”

Construction crews began grading the site for the ballpark last week. Watch progress on the Marlins ballpark webcam. An official ceremonial ground-breaking is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday.

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @sarahtalalay


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

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July 13, 2009

Office Depot celebrating Tony Stewart’s No. 14

When he announced last summer that he was switching depots – from a sponsorship with Home Depot to one with Office Depot – starting this season, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart also got a new number, switching from No. 20 to No. 14.

Now Boca Raton-based Office Depot, which is a co-primary sponsor of Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala, is asking fans to “Show Us Your 14” with an online photo contest. Fans can submit photos showing their support for two-time Sprint Cup champion Stewart with creative displays of the No. 14. That means anything from ‘14’ carved into haircuts to tattoos to lawn ornaments. Already, fans have submitted photos of ‘14’ in lipstick, landscaping, and on their bare backs.

The grand prize is a Hewlett-Packard package that includes a desktop and notebook computers, fax-printer, ink packs, and photo paper. First and second prize winners will receive a selection of HP items as well. And all entrants receive a 14 percent off coupon at Office Depot.

Enter through Aug. 31 by submitting photos up to 2MB at OfficeDepotRacing.com. Stewart, who is the current points leader in this year’s Sprint Cup Series, will be judging the photos.

“NASCAR fans are the most passionate fans in all of sports, and I can’t wait to see all the creative ways people incorporate the number 14 into their lives. I think I’m going to see some very imaginative stuff!” Stewart said in a statement.

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

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July 9, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. $2.4 billion

At the same time out of work construction workers swarmed the grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood for a shot at a job on the Marlins’ $515 million ballpark, critics were gasping over the $2.4 billion it is expected to cost to pay off the construction bonds for the project.

Miami-Dade County officially released the financing costs for the bonds late this afternoon, but the Miami Herald had already published the numbers. The $2.4 billion is the cost over 40 years to pay off $409 million in bonds, most of which will go to the ballpark.

There’s been no shortage of criticism of the numbers, including by our own Mike Mayo, especially since County Manager George Burgess told commissioners last week he didn’t know the final costs, as he was asking commissioners to approve increasing the interest rate on a portion of the bonds. The financing schedule takes into account the higher than anticipated interest rate and backloads higher debt service payments to ensure the county has collected enough tourist tax dollars to cover the payments.

In his memo with the financing schedule, Burgess stressed the county is working hard to avoid dipping into the general fund, which has been pledged as a secondary funding source, should tourist tax dollars fall short.

“The bottom line is that the transaction was structured within the constrained tourist tax revenue streams in a way that will significantly minimize any exposure to the secondary pledge of the bonds,” Burgess wrote.

There’s also the possibility the bonds can be refinanced when credit markets improve.

Put simply: there’s no question the project relies on a huge sum of public dollars. County officials call them tourist tax dollars, which have a restricted use. That’s true, but they are still public dollars.

But don’t forget that when you buy a house, you pay a lot more than the asking price over the life of your mortgage. For example, if you bought a $200,000 home with 6 percent interest, you’d end up paying $431,626 over 30 years – or more than double the sale price.

The bonds for the stadium construction, which were mainly sold to institutions, are scheduled to close July 14. The team has scheduled an official ballpark ground-breaking at 10 a.m. July 18.

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

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July 7, 2009

Yahoo and NFL Players settle suit over fantasy stats

Yahoo Inc. has dropped its lawsuit against the NFL Players union over paying for the right to use players’ names and statistics in its fantasy football games. The two sides reached a settlement, but the details weren’t disclosed.

Yahoo filed suit in federal court in Minneapolis last month, following the lead if CBS Interactive, which sued the players union last year on behalf of Fort Lauderdale-based CBSSports.com. A federal judge ruled in CBS’ favor in April that the names and stats are protected by the First Amendment.

That ruling followed an earlier federal appeals court decision in a case involving Major League Baseball that said MLB players’ names and stats are in the public domain. Both CBS and Yahoo believed the baseball ruling applies to football games as well.

The players association has appealed the ruling in the CBS case.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has supported Yahoo and CBS in their legal action, but has contended repeatedly that the fantasy game providers and leagues should work together to promote the games.

Andrew Feffer, the union's chief operating officer and executive vice president, told the Associated Press the NFLPA and Yahoo "continue to explore additional opportunities to work together."


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

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Panthers reduce season ticket prices on thousands of BankAtlantic Center seats

After studying the issue and surveying fans, the Panthers are reducing season ticket prices on thousands of seats for the 2009-10 season and offering tickets in the upper bowl for as low as $7 a game and in the lower bowl for $35 a game.

The team had promised to freeze season ticket prices, but is instead reducing prices in 11 of 14 seating categories across BankAtlantic Center, marking what Panthers President Michael Yormark calls the “most aggressive price reduction we’ve had in the history of this franchise.”

Price reductions for full season ticket plans range from $2 to $17 a game. Among the reductions: Terrace level seats are dropping from $9 to $7 a game; Goal Zone from $17 to $12; Lexus Club from $60 to $55; Lower Bowl Sidelines from $77 to $65; and Premium Plaza Middle from $82 to $72. Half-season and mini-plan prices are also being reduced.

“The goal is to get fans to come to more games,” Yormark said. “We think we’ll also be able to attract the casual fan.”

The team sold close to 9,000 season tickets last season, Yormark said, meaning there’s still plenty of inventory. He says he wants fans who attend a couple of games a season to come to five or six; those that came to a half dozen games to purchase a mini-plan, for example.

The cheapest seats in the lower bowl are the Lower Bowl End Zone, which are dropping from $50 a game to $35. The seats in the shoot once end in sections 105 to 114 Rows 18 to 28, are being redesigned and renamed the “Panthers Locker Room.” Sections of the seats will be named after individual players. In keeping with the team’s effort to provide fans more value with their tickets, fans who buy tickets in those sections automatically become members of that player’s fan club, receiving benefits such as merchandise, birthday cards from the player, pre- or post-game autograph sessions and a learn-to-skate clinic.

“It’s a way to get fans a little closer to the product,” Yormark said.

The team has also renamed the first row and Panther Club rows 2-4, the Premier Lounge and is making it a new all-inclusive club with dining and lounge location. The first row stays at $207 a game, but the Panther Club drops from $132 a game to $115.

Fans who have already purchased season tickets have been informed of the reductions and will receive either refunds or other benefits such as BankAtlantic Center bucks good for concessions, Yormark said.

As part of their plan to market the price reductions, the Panthers have enlisted the help of NFL super agent Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus is appearing in TV, print, and radio ads to promote the team. The ads break today:

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

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July 6, 2009

Marlins offering unemployed fans chance to sell tickets

The Marlins have been giving away mortgage or rent payments or $2,500 each at Saturday games and offering free tickets to unemployed South Floridians on Mondays this season.

Continuing its "Economic Relief " programs, the team is offering out-of-work fans a chance to make money by selling ticket plans. Qualified registrants, who are at least 18 and will be paired with sales executives, can earn commissions of up to 10 percent and bonuses.

Register for the Marlins Community Sales Force through July 19 at marlins.com or at Land Shark Stadium. The program runs July 20 to Feb. 15, 2010. The team will consider hiring successful sellers full-time.

The Marlins are just a game out of first place in the NL East, but selling tickets to the team has never been easy. The team, which is averaging 18,117 tickets sold per game, currently ranks last in attendance among baseball’s 30 teams.

Given the state of the economy, is it more difficult to find a job or sell a Marlins season ticket plan?

POSTED IN: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Promotions (120), Tickets (126)

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July 4, 2009

Checking in with new Dolphins CEO Mike Dee

Had a chance to catch up a little bit with new Dolphins CEO Mike Dee this week.

The veteran sports team executive, who joined the Dolphins in May after five years as Chief Operating Officer at the Boston Red Sox, is as enthusiastic about enhancing the business side of the Dolphins, as his new boss, team owner Stephen M. Ross.

Dee shares Ross’ philosophy that owning and running a franchise is akin to being the steward of a community asset. The two want to be as inclusive as possible with all fans, Dee said: “We have a new saying that: no fan gets left behind.”

That partly explains the new partnerships with Jimmy Buffett and Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Dee reiterated that while Ross’ priority is winning, he wants to ensure an entertaining fan experience, too.

“We want to make sure everything we do is fun, looking through the lens of the fan,” Dee said. “Steve’s career and his success has been built on being avant garde. He’s a bold aggressive entrepreneur. That’s what attracted me to him. He lives outside the box. That’s what makes him successful and also what makes it fun.”

The changes being made are Ross putting his “own stamp” on the team,” Dee said.

And it’s the success of the business side, Dee says, that can help the football side make upgrades and sign new players.

Among Dee’s challenges is boosting season ticket sales. Season ticket sales dropped to 47,000 in 2008, from 54,465 in 2007 and 61,121 in 2006. Dee said he expects the team to sell about 50,000 in 2009, but he’s aiming for more than 60,000 in the next few years.

“Season ticket holders are the lifeblood of your franchise,” Dee said. “We have some work to do.”

The Land Shark Stadium concession stands are being upgraded. The 100 and 400 level concession stands are being equipped with 180 flat-screen digital menu boards – just like the 110 that were installed on the club level in 2007 during the stadium’s $300 million renovation.

He said the team is also evaluating the ticket pricing in the 100 and 400 levels.

Expect more announcements of enhancements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned...

Putting his money where his mouth is: Dee says he’s making a contribution to the Dolphins Foundation each time he references the Red Sox.

Reminder: follow me on Twitter @sarahtalalay

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

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July 2, 2009

Marlins ballpark ground-breaking tidbits

With construction bonds sold and grading work started at the former site of the Orange Bowl, the Marlins officially announced their “ceremonial” ground-breaking with a release this afternoon. It’s at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 18 at 1501 NW 3rd St., Miami.

There will be all the usuals you’d expect: team, Miami, Miami-Dade County, state and Major League Baseball officials, Billy the Marlin, the Mermaids, the Manatees. Marlins broadcasters Dave Van Horne and Felo Ramirez will host. New renderings and a video will be shown.

The first 1,000 fans to show up at the free event will get a coupon for a “ballpark-style lunch” and a ground-breaking pin to commemorate the occasion. Original Marlins Charlie Hough and Benito Santiago are to conduct a ceremonial first pitch, in honor of their role as the “first ever ‘battery’ in franchise history.” All fans will be able to shovel dirt where home plate will be in the new ballpark.

But here’s my favorite part of the press release – a sports business sentence like I’ve never seen - ENJOY:

“The Badia Spices Groundbreaking Ceremony, built by the Florida Carpenters Regional Council, is presented by South Florida Ford Dealers, Preferred Care Partners and Baker Concrete Construction.”

Meanwhile, the team is holding a “groundbreaking” essay contest. The prize? Serving as honorary participant in the groundbreaking ceremony and getting a groundbreaking shovel, personalized Marlins jersey and four infield box seats to a 2009 regular season game at Land Shark Stadium.

The contest is open to kids ages 6 to 12, who must describe in 500 words or less – in English or Spanish - what a new Marlins ballpark in Miami means to them and why they want to play a role in the groundbreaking. Submissions will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 13 online at marlins.com or in person at the team’s offices at the stadium, 2267 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami Gardens.

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

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July 1, 2009

Marlins Stadium Update No. Scene 1

Project: Marlins new ballpark
Director: Jeffrey Loria
Dir. Of Photog: David Samson
Date: July 1, 2009
Scene: 1; Take 1 (aka 7 billion)

Work finally began at the site of the new Marlins ballpark in Little Havana today. Workers began moving the dirt, grading the site where the Orange Bowl once stood. Marlins President David Samson called it essentially flattening the ground. (See photo by the Marlins' Robert Vigon below).

Workers arrived at the site at 7 a.m., just hours after Miami-Dade County Commissioners took the final votes (9-3) needed to ensure the sale of the bonds to pay for construction so the project could move forward. That almost didn’t happen. The deal was almost derailed again late Tuesday, when County Manager George Burgess told commissioners the county had fallen about $6.2 million short in its effort to sell the bonds.

Neither the county nor the city would agree to put any more money into the deal to build a $515 million, retractable roof stadium. The Marlins said they’d cover the gap, but some commissioners worried about the county’s liability, changing the deal again and why, if the team was willing to give more in the final hour, the county hadn’t extracted more from the team in the deal.

Team and county officials worked into Wednesday morning to craft changes to the deal that would incorporate the team’s agreement to cover the gap and allow the county to sell some of the bonds at a higher interest rate than anticipated. The commission voted at 1:10 a.m. The changes are to go to the city of Miami or approval, but the county ensured the project could still go forward, even if the city rejects them.

"If last night had not worked out and there had been a termination, that would have been the end of baseball in South Florida,” Samson said. “What we decided as a team was that it was enough. It was time to start.”

Unless the bond sales do not close – something Samson doesn’t anticipate – the project is to move forward with an official, ceremonial ground-breaking scheduled on July 18. Samson said “There are no hurdles.”

Burgess said the bonds were sold Wednesday afternoon with a closing date later this month.

The Marlins have been trying for years to secure financing to build a new ballpark with a roof so they can protect fans from heat and rain and control their own revenue. At Land Shark Stadium, the team pays rent and receives only percentages of revenue from concessions, parking and advertising signage.

Burgess said he was feeling “very good” about the state of the project.

“Projects like this that are this large and complex, I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered one of these kinds of game changers that can have an impact and found it to be easy,” Burgess said. “The North Terminal [of the airport] has not been easy, but it has an enormously significant effect. In the long run it helps define a community … We’re going to look back and this [ballpark] is going to be a wonderful addition to this community.”

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

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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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