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January 31, 2010

Don Shula's statue, award and address

shula1.jpgJust before the 2010 Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, Miami Dolphins officials put a signature touch on their new 35,000 square feet of office space on the east side of the stadium, unveiling a statue of Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history.

The statue depicts Shula being carried on the shoulders of Nick Buoniconti and Al Jenkins after the Dolphins won the Super Bowl in 1973 completing the team’s -- and the NFL’s only -- perfect season. “Perfect Moment in Time” is printed on the statue.

The statue unveiling came less than a month after Shula celebrated his 80th birthday and was attended by a who’s who of Dolphins greats, team owner Steve Ross, coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and local and state politicians, including Gov. Charlie Crist.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee didn’t miss an opportunity to remind Goodell – and everyone else in attendance – of South Florida’s record-setting 10 times hosting the Super Bowl – “more than any other city in America.” Jimmy Cefalo added “We’re fortunate to have the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl and we hope many, many more in the future.”

South Florida is bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl.

Shula’s ceremony came complete with Bob Griese and Shula teasing each other – “I look over at Bob Griese and think ‘I was a hell of a coach to win with talent like that,’” Shula said.

Hall of Famer Dan Marino showed up late for the ceremony to which Jimmy Cefalo said, “Shula just fined No. 13.”

Kidding aside, Shula said he was humbled. The NFL announced the creation of “The Coach Shula Award” to honor an NFL coach each season who displays excellence, integrity and achievement.

And then the Dolphins gave their new offices a new address: 347 Don Shula Drive – in honor of Shula’s 347 wins. That’s the address for the team’s offices. Don’t worry, Marino fans: the stadium’s address remains 2269 Dan Marino Blvd.

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Super Bowl (53)

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on NFL Experience, other Pro Bowl tidbits

Miami Dolphins Ronnie Brown, Chad Henne, Vontae Davis, and Davone Bess were among the NFL players scheduled to appear today at NFL Game Day Fan Plaza – the football activities area adjacent to Sun Life Stadium.

The Fan Plaza area, which is open to the public for a few hours today, and only to Super Bowl ticket holders next Sunday, is part of the league’s answer to the NFL Experience – the giant football-themed activities area that’s become a signature of Super Bowls.

With the Super Bowl just in South Florida three years ago, league officials were looking for ways to vary the experience for local fans. They shelved the NFL Experience and brought the Pro Bowl and some of its trappings instead, including Fan Plaza, the open Pro Bowl practice yesterday at Lockhart Stadium, and free concert on Fort Lauderdale Beach next Saturday.

“We designed a calendar of events that was specifically designed to recognize we were just here three years ago, and we didn’t want to do all of the same things, so that’s part of the reason the Pro Bowl is here this year,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of special events. “Pro Bowl is the key fan engagement opportunity and provides our fans with the opportunity to see the players all in one place that they’re looking at only in posters and décor around NFL Experience.”

Still, the move didn’t sit well with a number of fans, whose favorite Super Bowl activity is the NFL Experience.

“To be honest with you, I’m glad they miss it, that’s a good sign, that means we had a great event, that was meaningful to the community,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “So we’ll take all that into consideration, and see if there’s a role for both of those, where we could play the Pro Bowl and the NFL Experience. It’s something we’ll certainly address as we go forward.”

The NFL Experience will be back when the Super Bowl is held in North Texas at the home of the Dallas Cowboys next year.

For more from Goodell, read my Q&A with him in the Sun Sentinel’s Outlook section here. He addressed the Pro Bowl, future Super Bowls in South Florida, labor and other issues.

And, you know how everything is sponsored – Pepsi was all over at Lockhart Stadium yesterday; McDonald’s is the Pro Bowl sponsor. Even the parking lot at Sun Life Stadium where the media is parking for the Pro Bowl has Snickers as a sponsor – says so on our parking passes.

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sponsorship (101), Super Bowl (53)

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January 30, 2010

South Florida's Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl isn’t until Sunday night, but the NFL’s experiment of moving the league’s All-Star game to the same city as – and a week before – the Super Bowl has already accomplished at least some of its mission.

It’s created a buzz. It’s not all good – in fact, some of it is downright contentious – some have grumbled about missing out on Hawaii and the requirement that Super Bowl players named to the game must attend to receive their Pro Bowl pay. Others, however, love the atmosphere and brought their families to vacation in South Florida.

But if the idea was the raise interest in the game that is often considered an afterthought -- that has happened.

You can’t go more than a few feet these past few days without bumping into a current or former NFL player. They’re practically everywhere. (See a Pro Bowl photo gallery here.)

On Wednesday, Pro Bowl players including Kevin Mawae, Brian Dawkins, Greg Camarillo and Sinorice Moss, helped encourage students at Carol City Elementary School to eat healthful foods and be active. They led the kids in activities and donated $5,000 to the school’s vegetable garden, which includes raised beds of lettuce, celery, parsley, red cabbage and hot yellow peppers.

“We have players who went to this school and went to schools in this area and to me it reminds players, reminds executive directors, of while we’re involved in a great game and a really, really big business, we all have our starts at schools like this,” NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said after visiting the garden.

“We have to be strong members and strong contributors to our community. That’s what we need to be doing. We have a gift and an opportunity to play football and guys like Brian [Dawkins] play this game because they can do things ordinary humans can’t do. But you see them taking time, coming back, not because they think it’s anything special, this is a part of their lives."

On Thursday, players, including Mawae, Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, DeMarcus Ware and D'Brickashaw Ferguson along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined with Bank of America employees to build a playground at RISE Academy in Lauderhill. They put up swings, painted murals, and raked mulch.

It was just one of a series of events in the daylong NFL Play 60 Community Blitz that included projects in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, all aimed at encouraging kids to be active and healthy.

“It shows how great our players are and what they do off the field,” said Goodell, who raked mulch and suffered a nosebleed during the event at RISE Academy. “So many people see them on the field and all the great contributions they make on the field, but these are great men and they do great things in the community, and … it shows how much the NFL cares about their community, and we have the Dolphins here, but we’re also here with two of our biggest events, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. And it gives us a chance to really give back to the community.”

Bank of America also saw the NFL’s commitment to South Florida as a way for the bank to help as well. The bank forged a partnership with the league for the events and for a program to feed the hungry.

More than 200 Bank of America employees helped out across South Florida.

“Our company is committed to finding opportunities to give back to the market,” said Lori Chevy, Bank of America market president for Broward County. “When Bank of America saw the opportunity to partner with the NFL, it made sense for us to be able to create this new opportunity.”

Bank of America is also donating $10,000 to Feeding America for every touchdown scored during the Pro Bowl.

And this morning, the NFL held an open Pro Bowl practice at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale – attended by a few thousand fans, who snapped up Pro Bowl visors, caps and T-shirts, cheered the league’s mascots and cheerleaders and waited patiently for autographs. While the mascots and Goodell were generous with their time, not all the players were made available for autographs disappointing some fans.

The Pro Bowl has certainly gotten attention – both good and bad.

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

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Help Haiti, win prime Super Bowl tickets

The Granted Wish Foundation is trying to drum up support for Haiti relief by offering up three front row seats to Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium to the largest contributor.

The organization, which grants wishes to needy people of all ages, is auctioning the tickets (Section 126, Row 1, Seats 1-3) on eBay.com to raise money to purchase and send a mobile medical treatment vechile to Port-Au-Prince. Bidding ends at 6 p.m. Monday.

So far, bidding stands at $6,550 and the reserve hasn’t been met. The “buy it now” price is $21,978.

Find the tickets, which were donated by Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings in Canton, Ohio, on eBay here or by searching “Super Bowl Haiti” at eBay.com. They also come with VIP passes to the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee’s pregame reception on Feb. 6.

POSTED IN: Promotions (120), Super Bowl (53), Tickets (126)

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January 28, 2010

Pro Bowl decision still roiling; more on Super Bowl matchup and the Williams sisters

As 2010 Pro Bowl players descended on South Florida for practices, community events and other obligations, debate continued to rage about as much as the rosters changed.

At an NFL Players Association event at Carol City Elementary in Miami Gardens, where players encouraged kids to eat well and keep active and provided a $5,000 check for the school’s budding vegetable garden, union representatives put on their best face, but didn’t hide their frustration.

“It’s great for South Florida, great for the Miami area. It brings more programs, things like this where players can get involved,” NFL PA President Kevin Mawae said Wednesday. “It’s going to be good for the community and the players that are here are happy to be a part of it.”

But Mawae, who plays center for the Tennessee Titans and is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, also ticked off a number of reasons players are concerned. He says the union should have had more of a role in the decision.

“We really wish we had a bigger say so. I think it’s something we could have given a little more insight to,” Mawae said. “Part of the lure of the Pro Bowl is going to Hawaii as well. So it’s kind of a mixed bag of feelings there.”

Meanwhile, Mawae and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith aren’t pleased about the requirement that selected players who are in the Super Bowl can’t play in the Pro Bowl, but still must attend the game to get their Pro Bowl pay.

“A whole lot of obligations without a whole lot of input. I also think that’s not lost on our fans,” Smith said. “I talked to a person who was fortunate enough to make it to the Pro Bowl again this year, and he said, ‘you know De, it’s great and it’s still an honor, but there was something about knowing the Pro Bowl was after the Super Bowl, knowing it was a game about the players, knowing it was an honor to be selected to play a game that’s always been traditionally in this spot. And to not have it this year, It feels a little bit less’.”

The NFL says the union was involved in the discussions for years before the decision to move the game’s time and place was announced in December 2008. Smith wasn’t named union executive director until March – after the Pro Bowl decision was announced.

The move before the Super Bowl is also controversial.

“There are fans, once the Super Bowl is over, they lose interest,” Mawae said. “So I understand that aspect of it, but then it cheats guys out of the opportunity to play in the All-Star game, like the 14 guys from the Colts and the Saints. Again, you’ve got to decide which one’s more important, the players’ feelings versus, at the end of the day, the financial aspect of Pro Bowl.”

The Pro Bowl returns to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. After that, it could rotate.

“We’ll see. We’re testing it out this year,” Mawae said.

Negotiations for a new labor contract continue to get interesting. (More on this in future posts).

+ Meanwhile, as workers continue their Pro Bowl and Super Bowl preparations across South Florida, experts are still debating the merits of a Colts-Saints Super Bowl matchup, compared to what could have been, had the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings advanced.

Tickets on the secondary market are averaging about $2,600, whereas a Jets Super Bowl would have started at $2,500, experts predicted.

“It’s not good for tourism in South Florida. If the Jets and the Vikings had gotten in, you’d have more people flying in and more of a corporate fan base,” Robert Tuchman, executive vice president of Premier Global Sports, told my colleague Doreen Hemlock. “With New Orleans, you’ll have more people driving in, and you don’t have that corporate fan base. Some will drive in on Saturday. They won’t spend as much as New Yorkers would.”

With the Colts just in the Super Bowl in South Florida in 2007, Tuchman, whose company arranges corporate and group travel to sporting events, said, “Some have already paid for that once in a lifetime experience at the Super Bowl.”

Tuchman estimates the losses to businesses at 30 percent to 40 percent. The difference, he said, “is millions and millions of dollars for South Florida. There will be less hotel rooms, restaurant reservations and golf reservations. It’s not a great matchup.”

But that’s not to suggest South Florida won’t be putting on a big show during the next 10 days. The Pro Bowl is officially sold out at 70,500 seats, although a few club and single seats remain for sale.

Tuchman, after all, is a big fan of the region. In his book, The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live, he ranks Miami as No. 1 in his list of top 10 cities for hosting a major sporting event.

+ Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams are skipping the Feb. 6-7 Fed Cup because they say they have roles with the Super Bowl as part owners of the Miami Dolphins. A Dolphins spokesman said there is no formal obligation for the Williams sisters to attend any Super Bowl activities. There’s an owners meeting the day before the Super Bowl, but owners with tiny percentages aren’t in the room for those. Venus is, however, hosting a party at the W South Beach on Feb. 5 to launch the new laundry detergent Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport.

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49), Super Bowl (53), Tennis (8), Tickets (126)

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January 25, 2010

Super Bowl matchup, gear, ball kid, stadium renovations and more

+ It might not be the matchup South Florida businesses had hoped for – New York Jets v. Minnesota Vikings would have been more lucrative, some say – but officials recognize they’d better be embracing this year’s Super Bowl teams, the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

And it might not be as slow as some worried, judging from a story Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau President Bill Talbert told my colleague Doreen Hemlock. A volunteer for the CVB was in New Orleans Sunday and reported to the CVB’s board meeting Monday that the Big Easy is excited about its team’s first-ever trip to the Super Bowl.

"They're all coming, whether they have tickets, whether they have a room,” Talbert said the volunteer reported. "This is a dimension you don't often see. This seems to have gone beyond football fans to the entire community. They all want to celebrate the ultimate victory at the Super Bowl... This is driveable. It's a short flight. It's off the charts."

Talbert added: "You better clear the roads: Here come the Saints."

+ Fans interested in snapping up AFC, NFC champion and Pro Bowl and Super Bowl gear can now shop at the NFL’s Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV Store in parking lot 2 at Gate E at Sun Life Stadium. The store opened Monday morning and will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. It'll be open the same hours next week.

+ Meanwhile, at least one little Saints fan couldn’t be happier that Drew Brees is in the Super Bowl. Wesley Warren, 7, of Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans, won the NFL’s Play 60 Super Kid contest and will deliver the game ball to the officials on the field at Sun Life Stadium on Feb. 7.

Here’s part of Wesley’s essay where she explained which player inspires her to stay fit: “Drew Brees because he has done so much to help my city New Orleans. The Saints have made me realize how important team work is and how sometimes you have to work really hard for a long long long time to get what you want. My mom and dad think the Saints will go to the Superbowl and with Drew Brees I think so too. He is Saintsational (my mom told me to say that.)”

+ And just because you haven't heard about it officially since the Dolphins unveiled proposed renderings for Sun Life Stadium earlier this month, doesn't mean the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee hasn't been hard at work. The committee on Monday named former Miami Dolphin Dick Anderson chairman of the subcommittee exploring proposed stadium improvements. The committee also includes Talbert and his counterpart from the north, Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors' Bureau; Bruce Jay Conlan, chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Beatrice Louissant of the Florida Regional Minority Business Council; and Adam Grossman, Dolphins senior vice president of public affairs.

POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Super Bowl (53)

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January 24, 2010

Super Bowl teams, wagers, merchandise and other random thoughts

+ There are plenty of opinions on which teams in Super Bowl XLIV would be better for South Florida’s economy and those differ from which would be better television matchups.

As unseemly as it sounds, lots of hotel and tourism officials have been happy to talk about the New York Jets being the best team for local businesses because of the influx of well-heeled fans, who will be happy to plunk down lots of cash if their team makes it. There are concerns the Indianapolis Colts aren’t good for business because they were just here in the game in 2007.

CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell explains why CBS would prefer the Jets not make the Super Bowl here.

Some just want the Minnesota Vikings in because of superstar quarterback Brett Favre.

“I think the best thing that could happen would be Brett Favre,” Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Nicki Grossman told me.

But it just so happened Grossman was spending the weekend in New York, to make the bureau’s winter tourism pitch in one of its favorite target markets. It’s been chilly in New York, where the bureau has ads on 250 taxicabs and is making the rounds of TV shows to promote South Florida.

“Timing is everything,” Grossman said. “It turned out to be fortuitous on the Super Bowl.”

The bureau is running TV ads during both the AFC and NFC championship games today.

+ Meanwhile, CEOs of the official airlines of the Colts and Jets have placed a wager on today’s AFC Championship game. AirTran Airways (Colts) CEO Bob Fornaro has wagered a steak lunch from Indianapolis steakhouse St. Elmo’s if the Jets win, while JetBlue Airways (Jets)
CEO Dave Barger has promised a pit barbecue lunch from New York’s Blue Smoke restaurant if the Colts win.

“With the Colts being such a great team and the game being at home, it’s only fair that I put up a steak against a pulled pork platter,” Fornaro said in a statement. “Seriously, does anyone think the Jets can really stop Peyton Manning and the rest of the team on the fastest turf in the league?”

Barger said “I like my steak medium rare and make sure there are plenty of fries to go with it.”

+ If you just look at merchandise sales, the Jets rank third among the four teams playing today in gear sold this month compared with a year ago, according to figures from NFLShop.com. Those figures show sales of New Orleans Saints gear are up 650 percent from last January, Vikings up 533 percent, Jets up 252 percent and the Colts up 189 percent.

From April through Jan. 18, however, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the top selling team in the league followed by the Dallas Cowboys, and then the Vikings. The Saints ranked 6th, Colts 7th and Jets 11th. And the Vikings had two of the top four selling jerseys during the same period – Favre at No. 1 and Adrian Peterson at 4. Colts QB Peyton Manning’s was second, followed by Saints QB Drew Brees at third. New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez’s ranked eighth.

+ Is it me or has the number of Pro Bowl and Super Bowl billboards in South Florida quadrupled in the past week?

POSTED IN: Advertising (79), Apparel (55), NFL (178), Sponsorship (101), Super Bowl (53)

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January 21, 2010

Steve Ross' first eventful year as majority owner of the Miami Dolphins

The one-year mark of Steve Ross taking control of the Dolphins from H. Wayne Huizenga didn’t pass quietly this week. Ross was overseas, but on Wednesday his stadium got its second new name of the year: Sun Life Stadium.

It’s been an eventful –- emphasis on the event -- year for Ross’ Dolphins and his stadium. Remember, it was Jan. 20, 2009 when Huizenga made sure the papers finalizing the $1.1 billion sale were signed just hours before President Barack Obama’s inauguration -- as something of a symbolic gesture in case Obama raised capital gains taxes.

Ross promised he’d jazz up the entertainment experience for fans at the stadium then called Dolphin Stadium. In May, he began that transformation signing a cash-less naming rights/marketing partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Land Shark Lager for the 2009 season. The announcement came complete with a short Buffett concert, hundreds of Parrot Heads and a new version of Buffett’s hit Fins written specifically for the Dolphins. Bringing brand new meaning to “Fins to the Left…”

This week, the stadium got its second new name in a year – make that three, if you count the two weeks it reverted to Dolphin Stadium between the Orange Bowl on Jan. 5 and the Sun Life announcement on Wednesday.

So, a short by the numbers:

6 World Baseball Classic games: the stadium was host to round two games in March

6 limited partners: Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony (and by marriage his wife Jennifer Lopez), Venus and Serena Williams, Fergie. (Asked whether more limited partners could be brought on board, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, “I wouldn’t say it’s an active pursuit. We continue to keep an open mind toward additional partners. But it’s not a high priority.”)

2 stadium names: Land Shark, Sun LIfe

2 press conference concerts: Buffett’s to introduce Land Shark in May; KC & the Sunshine Band’s booty shaking serenade to introduce Sun Life on Wednesday. (Dee said KC wasn’t likely to become a limited partner, but “he could be a promotional partner.”)

1 new (much maligned) fight song: Can you forget T Pain’s autotune version of the old song?

1 new theme song: Buffett’s revamped Fins, which is played every time the team scores -- and then some. (Dee said Buffett’s song is here to stay. “What was important about the Land Shark involvement wasn’t necessarily the name on the building, but the vibe, if you will, in the stadium, the theme areas.”)

1 artist: Romero Britto’s neo pop art graces the helixes and gates at the stadium.

0 playoff appearances: Both the Dolphins and Marlins missed the postseason.

1 World Cup finalist site: The stadium was included this month among 18 in the U.S. bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

2 (at least) stadium dissings by the NFL: Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Senior Vice President of Special Events Frank Supovitz told the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee and community leaders the 23-year-old venue needs upgrades to keep it competitive with other stadiums across the country vying to host future Super Bowls.

Stay tuned….

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sponsorship (101), Sports Team Owners (49), Super Bowl (53)

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January 20, 2010

Home of the Miami Dolphins now officially Sun Life Stadium

SunLifeStadium_Logo1.jpgJust in time to host the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV, the Miami Dolphins reached a long-term agreement with a corporate naming rights partner to rename their multi-monikered home, Sun Life Stadium.

Sun Life Financial, a Toronto-based financial services and insurance company, has agreed to put its name on the Miami Gardens venue for at least five years.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but a source said the deal is initially five years with multiple options that could stretch the deal to 20 years. The Dolphins are to receive roughly $5 million a year but that could rise to the $7 million range if the certain incentives occur, including securing another Super Bowl and team playoff appearances.

The Dolphins and Sun Life officials from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Mass., announced the deal on a stage on the field inside the stadium. A medley of songs about the sun, including Sheryl Crow’s Soak up the Sun, Smash Mouth’s Walking on the Sun and Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine, helped introduce the name.

“Boy does it feel good under the sun,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said before sharing the name with invited season ticket holders, Super Bowl Host Committee officials and volunteers and students from American Heritage.

Sun Life officials said what attracted them to the Dolphins home stadium was that it is home to football, baseball, the Orange Bowl, Super Bowl and other events and exposes them to lots of new potential customers. It will also help the company overcome the fact that many people in the U.S. aren’t familiar with what they do.

“It really has been about building our brand in the United States," said Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. "We’ve got great presence in Canada, great presence internationally, but we’ve really lacked brand presence in the U.S., as you’ve seen we’ve with our most recent commercials, our efforts are to really get our name out, so sooner or later you’ll know our name. This is another step in that journey to build our brand.”

And just as they have been doing in their recent advertising campaign launched in November, Sun Life Financial called on KC & the Sunshine Band to help spread the word about its brand. In the ad campaign, two Sun Life representatives try to convince KC to change his band’s name to the “Sun Life Band.” KC still hasn’t done that, but did perform a medley of Shake Your Booty and Get Down Tonight.

Sun Life also agreed to contribute $250,000 annually to the Dolphins Foundation and the team and Sun Life together established “Sun Life Miami Dolphins Haiti Relief Fund” with $200,000 and will match contributions made at sunlifestadium.com two to one.

Priscilla Brown, senior vice president and head of U.S. marketing for Sun Life, who attended the announcement, and Sun Life Financial President Jon A. Boscia, are no strangers to football stadium naming rights deals. Brown served as chief marketing and brand officer for Lincoln Financial Group, where Boscia was CEO. In 2002, Lincoln National Corp., struck the $139.6 million, 20-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to name the team’s new stadium Lincoln Financial Field.

Brown said what made the two deals different was the Lincoln Financial used the Eagles Stadium as a way to announce the company's entry into the Philadelphia market, but the Dolphins' stadium allows the company to make a statement both nationally and internationally.

"Here the primary objective was to make this really big given that we don’t have most of our employees in this area," Brown said. "We want to make sure people around the globe knew about it."

Dee said he didn't think the dollars from the Sun Life deal had been earmarked as yet, but were intended to be used to continue to build a winning franchise. He said he hoped the naming rights deal, which marks the first one in more than a decade that will generate revenue for the team, lasts well beyond the initial five-year term.

"We’ve made clear we want a partner for the long haul," Dee said. "We hope this is the last name this building ever has."

The Dolphins’ home venue, which opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium, has had a series of name changes. For the 2009 season it was known as Land Shark Stadium, after Dolphins owner Steve Ross struck a cash-less marketing deal with Jimmy Buffett’s Land Shark Lager. That deal was only through the 2009 season.

From 1996 to 2005, the stadium was named Pro Player after then-team owner H. Wayne Huizenga struck a deal with sports apparel maker Pro Player. In 1999, Pro Player’s parent company, Fruit of the Loom, filed for bankruptcy and the Pro Player brand was shuttered. The team regained the naming rights in 2000, but never struck a new corporate deal. The stadium was called Dolphins Stadium in 2005; the ‘s’ was dropped in 2006. The Land Shark deal was announced last May.

Thompson said he hopes the lack of a consistent name for the stadium helps fans remember the Sun Life Stadium name going forward.

“In a sense no one’s established a beachhead because of that," Thompson said. "It’s not as if we have to fight a 20-year nomenclature of any type that may have existed before. So we kind of view that as an advantage for us, and we are in this for the long term per the agreement we have with the Dolphins.”

Here’s the stadium name chronology:

Aug. 16, 1987-Aug. 25, 1996: Joe Robbie Stadium
Aug. 26-Sept. 9, 1996: Pro Player Park
Sept. 10, 1996-Jan. 9, 2005: Pro Player Stadium
Jan. 10, 2005-April 7, 2006: Dolphins Stadium
April 8, 2006-May 7, 2009: Dolphin Stadium
May 8, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010: Land Shark Stadium
Jan. 6, 2010-Jan. 19: Dolphin Stadium
Jan. 20, 2010: Sun Life Stadium

Watch a video from the announcement here:

POSTED IN: Dolphin Stadium (31), Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sponsorship (101), Super Bowl (53)

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January 15, 2010

A little yoga with your Florida Panthers game?

It’s not unusual for teams to have theme nights: Boy Scouts day; Jewish or Hispanic Heritage Night; Lawyer Appreciation Day; Bring your dog to the park night.

But yoga night?

The Florida Panthers are getting in on the yoga craze helping to celebrate Yoga Day USA on Jan. 23. Panthers Yoga Day includes a 90-minute yoga instruction session before the Panthers-Toronto Maple Leafs game that night.

Tickets are $20 for the game and the yoga, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Bring your own yoga mat and change of clothes and stay for the game in an upper level seat at BankAtlantic Center. Already have a ticket to the game? It’s just $10 more for the yoga class. Of the yoga tickets, $5 from each purchase goes to the Yoga Alliance. Check out details at floridapanthers.com.


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

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Miami Dolphins auctioning game-worn orange jerseys

Orange-Jersey-Auction-2.jpgThe Miami Dolphins are auctioning off those orange jerseys their players wore in the Monday Night victory over the New York Jets at Dolphin (it was Land Shark then, in case you’re keeping track) Stadium.

Jerseys for 31 players are on auction until Wednesday at miamidolphins.com. Some are already running more than $1,000. As of this posting, quarterback Chad Henne’s is more than $4,000. Proceeds will benefit the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. .

“This was only the third time in team history that our team wore orange jerseys,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a statement. “The game was an electric night and exciting contest for all of our fans.”


POSTED IN: Apparel (55), Dolphin Stadium (31), Land Shark Stadium (44), Miami Dolphins (186)

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The nerve: Baltimore Orioles send spring training ticket form to South Floridians

After 14 years of holding spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the Baltimore Orioles practically snuck out of town last year.

When their long-sought plans for an overhauled stadium got stuck in between the FAA and the city, the team was lured to Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium without so much as a goodbye.

No final spring in Fort Lauderdale tribute; no end of the spring training era finale.

So, that’s why it was a little startling when a brochure advertising the Orioles’ spring season tickets arrived in my mailbox. In Sarasota -- that's 205 miles and, according to the spring training media guide, four hours and 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale.

But who’s counting?

It’s probably a good marketing move. The brochures were sent to people who bought individual spring training game tickets last year.

But is it just me or does that take nerve?

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

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January 12, 2010

Super Bowl South Beach style

Among the myriad parties, concerts and gatherings accompanying Super Bowl XLIV next month is “Eats, Beats and Cleats” – a four-day festival of player appearances, sports films, “Dancing For the NFL Stars,” music, merchandise, chalk talk and tailgate party.

The festival, which is taking over a portion of Lincoln Road, starts with a VIP party at the Ritz Carlton on Feb. 4.

NFL players who appeared on Dancing with the Stars will serve as judges for dancing fans. A Gridiron Greats Night of Champions show Friday night will be hosted by Mike Ditka and Jamie Foxx. A sports film festival Friday and Saturday includes screenings of The Longest Yard, Miracle and the UM documentary, The U.

More than 75 current and former NFL players and athletes from across sports are scheduled to appear during the festival weekend. The list includes the likes of Barry Sanders, Michael Irvin, Tony Dorsett, Vinnie Testaverde, Gale Sayers, Roger Staubach Jim Kiick, Ickey Woods and Jim Marshall.

Tickets, which cost $350 for a VIP All Access Passport that includes Thursday night through the pregame tailgate party on Sunday, and $85 for a daily pass (available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday), are on sale now at www.ebcmiami.com or by calling 877-733-3430.

A portion of the proceeds go to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Program, which provides financial and medical assistance to needy retired NFL players. (Tickets can be purchased separately for the Gridiron Greats Night of Champions at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater. Go to www.gridirongreats.org.)

Since the festival is on Lincoln Road, you don’t need a ticket to glimpse the stars. Autographs and other festivities? You’ll need a pass for those.

POSTED IN: Super Bowl (53)

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January 7, 2010

Deerfield company's protein bars fuel teams in national championship game

When No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Texas face off in tonight’s BCS National Championship in the Rose Bowl, Daniel Schapiro and Nathan Feldman will be watching with interest in both teams.

After all, Schapiro’s and Feldman’s EB Performance LLC of Deerfield Beach, which makes bite size protein cookies and bars, has supplied their PB & Whey Protein Bites to Alabama and Texas for the past two years.

“We hope it’s a great game and ends in a tie,” Feldman said with a chuckle. “We’re going to be watching with one side of our bodies dressed in the Crimson Tide of Alabama and the other side in the burnt orange of the Texas Longhorns.”

The workout buddies formed their company after not being able to find a tasty protein bar. Read my colleague Cindy Kent’s March 2008 small business profile about the company here.

EB’s peanut butter snack bar was also used by the LSU baseball and North Carolina men’s basketball teams, both of which won championships last year. Other colleges using EB’s snacks include Florida, FAU, Michigan, Nebraska, and Auburn.

POSTED IN: FAU (6), NCAA (38), UF (18)

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January 5, 2010

Orange Bowl Committee and tourism officials wary of Playoff system

The 76th FedEx Orange Bowl kicks off tonight at Land Shark Stadium with the Iowa Hawkeyes facing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

It’s not exactly the balmy South Florida weather fans from Iowa and Georgia expected, nor what tourism officials had in mind either, when they created the Orange Bowl in 1935 to promote the region as a tourist destination. The country had just endured the Great Depression and the Orange Bowl seemed like a good way to help with economic recovery and encourage visitors to get out of the cold.

Similar feelings abound today, among Orange Bowl Committee, tourism and economic development officials. Although ticket sales have been slow for tonight’s game, local officials love the idea that two out-of-state teams are pitted against each other and many fans have been in South Florida in preparation for days.

OB Committee and tourism officials worry the lengthy vacations planned around the Orange Bowl will end if efforts to create a college football playoff system are successful. The debate rages on as it does annually, but has gotten louder with President Obama expressing his support for a playoff and Congress holding hearings on whether the Bowl Championship Series violates antitrust laws.

The story I wrote today that you can read here explores issues on both sides of the BCS versus playoff debate. Meanwhile, Playoff PAC, a political action committee formed in October to push for a playoff, released its first ad targeting the BCS this week. Watch it here:

POSTED IN: Land Shark Stadium (44), NCAA (38), Orange Bowl (45)

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Marlins say adios to "Florida" on road uniforms

NewUniforms3.jpgIn preparation for becoming the “Miami” Marlins when they move into their new ballpark in 2012, the Florida Marlins are dropping “Florida” from their gray road uniforms this season and replacing it with “Marlins.” They’re also dropping the ‘F’ from the left sleeve. See photos at left.

Symbolic for now, of course, but a significant move nonetheless.

"This is just the first of many re-branding initiatives that will be introduced during the transition to the new ballpark in Miami," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement released by the team. "We believe this change will better reflect the team’s commitment to the South Florida community and will provide an enhanced look to the Marlins brand that fans will embrace."

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

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January 4, 2010

Lingerie (Football League) Bowl VII in South Florida, too

lfl1.jpgApparently, it’s not enough to have our own entry in the inaugural season of Lingerie Football League. South Florida will be hosting the LFL playoffs and championship game, Lingerie Bowl VII, at Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood the night before Super Bowl XLIV.

Our local team, the Miami Caliente (2-1 on the season), is even vying for one of two open playoff spots. Stephon McMillen, media director for the league, reminds us the Caliente is “South Florida's only pro football in the hunt for the Playoffs.” The Caliente’s final game of the season is against the Tampa Breeze at 9 p.m. Jan. 22 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

In case you've somehow missed this, the Lingerie Football League launched last fall with 10 teams, whose players play 7-on-7 full contact tackle football dressed in bikini tops and short shorts. Check out photos here.

Prior to the league's launch, the Lingerie Bowl was held as an exhibition game and has become something of a fixture of Super Bowl halftime – offering a diversion from the NFL’s official halftime concert performance.

But you can catch the game in person – seats are $55 to $225 – on Feb. 6 at Hard Rock Live. There’s even an after-party hosted by LFL models for Lingerie Bowl ticket holders, celebrities and VIPs at One Bal Harbor Hotel on Miami Beach.

As it has in previous years, except last year when it was “canceled due to a conflict with a Florida nudist resort,” the game will be broadcast on pay per view.

Hard Rock Live is also hosting the LFL conference playoffs on Feb. 4 with the Western Conference playoff at 9 p.m., followed by the Eastern Conference playoff at 11 p.m.

Tickets for the Caliente's final game of the season, conference playoffs and Lingerie Bowl are available at Ticketmaster.com.

POSTED IN: BankAtlantic Center (30), NFL (178), Super Bowl (53), Tickets (126)

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Dunkin' Donuts celebrates the Orange Bowl

iowagt1.jpgDunkin’ Donuts is helping fans celebrate Tuesday’s 76th annual FedEx Orange Bowl at Land Shark Stadium with team-colored doughnuts.

Participating South Florida Dunkin’ Donuts locations are selling the decorated doughnuts on Monday and Tuesday. There will be gold-frosted doughnuts with blue sprinkles for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or black sprinkles to honor the Iowa Hawkeyes. Other variations include yellow (gold) sprinkles or blue woven frosting -- like the ones at left.

The stores are also selling two dozen of the Orange Bowl-themed donuts for $9.99.

POSTED IN: NCAA (38), Orange Bowl (45), Promotions (120)

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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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