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May 30, 2012

Marlins Park shares hot dog link with Fenway

The newest ballpark in the major leagues will share a tasty link to the oldest – link being the operative word. Kayem Foods, a tube-steak staple in New England since 1909 and the producer of the iconic Fenway Frank at Boston’s Fenway Park since 2009, is now the official hotdog and sausage provider at Marlins Park.

Kayem has been striving to become top dog in Florida in recent years via sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Lightning, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Florida State Seminoles.

They are featured in the Red Sox spring home in Fort Myers, and now at Marlins Park just in time for a June series with the Sox. Kayem hot dogs are all-beef and noted for a bold taste from a proprietary blend of spices.

“We’re excited to partner with a revitalized Marlins team and add our distinct flavor to the fan experience at Marlins Park. Floridians have really embraced our top-quality franks and sausage,” said Bob Kufferman, Kayem Senior Brand Manager. “Available at the new Park or at your local market, you can enjoy Kayem wherever you are watching the ball game or at your next family cookout.”

Owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years, the company manufactures Kayem Franks, the No. 1 brand of franks sold in New England. Best known for its Old Tyme Natural Casing franks, Kayem produces over 100 varieties of hot dogs and 300 varieties of deli meats, sausage and dinner hams under the Kayem, al fresco, Schonland’s, McKenzie, Triple M, Genoa, Jordan’s, Deutschmacher, Kirschner, and Essem brands.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (34)

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May 26, 2012

Yankees top Marlins, Rays as Florida fans' favorite

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The Marlins and Rays have some catching up to do for baseball supremacy in Florida. Turns out the most popular team in the state is from out of state.

A poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found the New York Yankees to be the favorite of 20 percent of Florida baseball fans, compared to 18 percent for the Rays and 15 percent for the Marlins.

The Marlins can take heart that they do rule Southeast Florida with 44 percent, compared to 25 percent for the Yankees.

The results are not at all surprising considering all the transplanted residents from the Northeast and the Yankees’ long history of spring training in Florida that predates Babe Ruth. In South Florida, all of their games are broadcast on radio via 640-AM.

Appropriately, the Yankees helped the Marlins inaugurate their new ballpark with two recent exhibition games.

The poll reinforces that it makes more sense for the Marlins to be associated with Miami. Even with two World Series championships, the Florida Marlins never caught on state-wide.

The poll showed the Marlins are the favorite of only 2 percent of fans in North Florida/Panhandle and the Tampa Bay area, 5 percent in Central Florida and 4 percent in Southwest Florida.

Likewise, the Rays are preference of 54 percent in their Bay area vicinity but don’t even register in Southeast Florida.

The Yankees have a strong base of support in each region of the state. The Atlanta Braves, no longer America’s Team since TBS stopped showing their games nationally after 2007, are still North Florida’s team, edging the Yankees 23 percent to 17 percent.

The Boston Red Sox rank fourth in popularity statewide with 8 percent. The New York Mets are a distant also-ran at 4 percent. Even in New York-centric South Florida, only 5 percent favor the Mets.

Photo: Marlins and New York fans combined for the first big crowds at Marlins Park when Derek Jeter and the Yankees played two exhibitions in the new stadium. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel)

POSTED IN: MLB (112)

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Marlins Park first with retractable roof to earn LEED gold

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MIAMI The Marlins’ new ballpark was designed not only to sustain the franchise under a retractable roof in Little Havana but the environment as well.

Those efforts paid off in Marlins Park being recognized as the world’s “greenest” stadium with a retractable roof, as well as the most environmentally sustainable park in Major League Baseball. It is the first in each case to receive LEED gold certification under the rating system for new construction.

“Achieving LEED Gold is an extraordinary accomplishment,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president of the U.S. Green Cuilding Council, who presented the certificate Friday. “This is not a trophy. I like to think of this as the organization has earned its PhD.”

Notably, the ballpark achieved a 22.4-percent reduction in energy use when compared to similar projects, and will reduce water use by 52 percent.

The white exterior and extensive use of glass, combined with an efficient air-conditioning system, help keep energy costs down, said Claude Delorme, Marlins head of ballpark development.

But numerous subtle factors went into producing the 40 credit points needed for gold certification.
For instance, more than 49 percent of building materials were from recycled content, including rubberized flooring in the dugouts and clubhouses from recycled Nike shoes. Bamboo, considered a rapidly renewable material, was used for paneling in the suites.

In addition, the 249 urinals will save about 6 million gallons of water per year.

“When we first started the project we had a goal in mind of LEED silver,” Delorme said. “The numer one reason we attained gold is we started early. Most of the other [ballpark] projects, when we compared to our peers, LEED was almost an afterthought.”

The Orlando Magic’s Amway Center was the first NBA arena to gain LEED gold certification. The Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena earned basic LEED certification for existing buildings in 2009.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (34)

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May 20, 2012

NHL's impending collective bargaining showdown ominous for Florida Panthers

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The first step toward completing the lockout trifecta was taken last week when the NHL notified the league’s players association that it wants to modify or terminate the collective bargaining agreement.

That was not unexpected, though the league and the players had the option to let the current CBA, due to expire Sept. 15, continue for another year. It sets up the prospect of the NHL becoming the third league in the past year to impose a work stoppage, following the lead of the NFL and NBA.

That would be a blow to the Florida Panthers’ hopes of building on their first trip to the playoffs in 12 years. Not only did the team make notable strides under GM Dale Tallon’s plan, the playoff series against the Devils brought a level of excitement that hadn’t been seen in the Panthers’ years at BankAlantic Center.

Consider the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and had to wait a year to defend it due to the lockout that wiped out the 2005-05 season. That cost them their star goalie to free agency, and it took them six years to mount another serious playoff run.

Certainly the NHL doesn’t want – and can’t afford – another lost season. The question is how much the league is prepared to press the players for concessions on the revenue split.

Last time the owners wanted, and got, a salary cap linked to league revenue. He league’s revenue has been increasing, and so has the players’ share, to 57 percent this past season. Early indications are that the owners want to chip away at that.

So far, both sides are keeping the rhetoric low key, but negotiations haven’t begun.
“I’m hoping that they are quick, quiet and painless,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said when he attended the Panthers’ playoff opener last month.

The NHL Players Association is now headed by Donald Fehr, who during nearly a quarter century as boss of the baseball players union was known for not backing down in labor disputes. Major League Baseball is the one pro sport that lately has been able to avoid work stoppages.

After MLB reached agreement on a new CBA late last year without discord, I asked Fehr about the possibility of the NHL doing likewise.

“Hopefully it won’t precede the way the NFL and NBA negotiations did because they were reasonably unpleasant, and we did that already in hockey,” Fehr said.

The NHL is in its seventh consecutive season of record revenues, which would suggest that the last CBA has worked out quite well for the league. Television ratings are up significantly for the current playoffs, which have gotten a boost in exposure by teams from New York and Los Angeles in their respective conference finals.

While there is every reason for the league as well as the Panthers to be eager to build on the successes of this season, that is no guarantee that labor negotiations will be quick, quiet, painless or pleasant.

Already this year there was conflict when the NHL Players Association rejected the leagues realignment plan.

And Fehr’s brother Steve, who is special counsel for the NHLPA, said in a speech this month to the Sports Lawyers Association that if the league is seeking major concessions on the revenue split it will be a problem because the players feel they made major concessions last time.

Negotiating sessions have yet to be scheduled.

Photo: The last thing the Panthers need is labor strife to disrupt the bond developing between the team and fans during the playoff season just concluded. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel)

POSTED IN: NHL (56)

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May 18, 2012

Palm Beaches Marathon gets revitalization under new management

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The purchase of the Palm Beaches Marathon by the company that has driven the rapid growth of the ING Miami Marathon is a positive development for South Florida runners.

The Palm Beaches Marathon, run in early December the past eight years, was acquired this week by US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, which has operated the Miami event since 2007. During that time the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon has grown from 9,100 participants to a sellout of 25,000 in January.

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach race, one of South Florida’s Big Three marathons, has been on shaky ground since the Chamber of Commerce sold it in 2009 to a Chicago-based road race management group, BDO Management. Last year’s race was beset with problems and participant complaints following uncertainty as to whether it would even be held.

The Chamber reacquired the event early this year, and appears to have made a much better choice this time in entrusting the race to US Road Sports. The company produces endurance events around the nation, including five in Florida.

With the leadership and expertise of US Road Sports the Palm Beaches Marathon is now on track to become the nationally recognized race that the Chamber envisioned when they founded it,” said Dennis Grady, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.

The Palm Beach Marathon Festival Weekend includes the marathon and half marathon as well as a 5K, 10K and children’s races. It offers one of the most scenic courses, beginning along the Intracoastal Waterway and running between West Palm Beach and Lantana.

Last year it attracted 3,900 participants for all of the events, and US Road Sports expects participation to increase to more than 5,000 in 2012. A non-competitive bike tour has also been run in conjunction with the races.

“We are very excited and proud to be the new owners of the Palm Beaches Marathon. Anyone who is familiar with this area knows that the Palm Beaches is one of the premier destinations in the world,” said US Road Sports Managing Partner and Founder Peter Handy. “Partnering with the Chamber of Commerce is a unique strategy and will provide a dynamic combination of strengths that will deliver a spectacular weekend of running for years to come.”

The first challenge will be to return stability to the event and convince participants that recent problems are in the past. Last December, runners were outraged that there wasn’t enough water on the course and that some didn’t receive finisher’s medals.

Details about this year’s Palm Beaches Marathon Weekend will be posted as they become available at Runpalmbeaches.com and USroadsports.com

Photo: Last year there weren't enough medals for all finishers at the Palm Beach Marathon. The event will be run this year by US Road Sports, which manages the ING Miami Marathon and other endurance events throughout the country. (FIle photo)

POSTED IN: Running (1)

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May 16, 2012

First chance for Dolphins' 2012 single-game tickets with express bus

It’s the tailgate party without the hassle of driving, parking or food prep.

That seems to be the appeal of the Dolphins Express bus service which has been running to Miami Dolphins games from Duffy’s Sports Grills since 2009.

Dolphins Express game packages went on sale this week for the upcoming season. At the moment it is the only way to get Dolphins single-game tickets for 2012.

Buses will be running to Sun Life Stadium from nine Duffy’s locations between Broward and Brevard counties, as well as several Ford dealerships on the Naples/Fort Myers area.

Along with the roundtrip ride the deal includes a ticket to the game and food and drinks at the pregame tailgate party at the stadium.

Prices are the same as in 2011: $89 with a game ticket in the 400 level, $134 with a lower-bowl seat.

The Dolphins Express has been gaining popularity since it debuted for the 2009 season due to value and convenience, according to Jim Rushton, Dolphins chief revenue officer.

“For $89, you can go to the game, and you get that pregame meal. You get the ride, and essentially parking as well,” Rushton said.

Last season it cost $30 for parking at Dolphins games.

Be advised that the tailgate spread is not gourmet. The fare is burgers, hotdogs, chips, etc. Alcoholic beverages are not included in the price, but can be purchased at a cash bar.

Another option is being added this season for groups of 10 or more to ride the Dolphins Express and have access to the Duffy’s Hall of Champions sports bar on the club level of Sun Life Stadium. That includes the all-you-can-eat buffet as well as beer and wine.

The group rate, including the bus, is $300 per person. Last season seats with all-inclusive access to Duffy’s Hall of Champions were $250.

Spots on the bus, including game ticket, can be booked at Duffy’s Sports Grills. Or call the Dolphins at 1-888-FINS-BUS or send email to dolphinsexpress@dolphins.com. More details are available on the Dolphins’ site.

These are the pickoff and dropoff locations (parking is free):

Duffy's of Melbourne: 1700 Evans Rd, Melbourne 32904
Duffy's of Jupiter East: 185 E Indiantown Rd, Jupiter 33458
Duffy's of The Villages Inc: 721 Village Blvd., West Palm Beach 33409
Duffy's of Boynton: 4746 North Congress Ave, Boynton Beach 33426
Duffy's of Superplay USA: 1608 NW Courtyard Cir., Port St. Lucie 34986
Duffy's of Royal Palm Beach West: 11943 Southern Blvd, Royal Palm Beach 33411
Duffy's of Delray: 1750 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach 33483
Duffy's of Coconut Creek: 4800 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Coconut Creek 33073
Duffy's of Plantation: 811 S. University Drive, Plantation 33324

On the Gulf Coast:

Tamiami Ford: 1471 North Airport Road, Naples
Coconut Point Ford: 22400 South Tamiami Trail, Estero
Sam Galloway Ford: 1800 Boy Scout Drive, Fort Myers

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186)

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May 2, 2012

Marlins Park grass has tough first month - just like the team

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MIAMI Not only have the Marlins hit a rough patch on the field, so has their field.

Brown patches of grass were scattered throughout the playing surface at Marlins Park during the last homestand.

“I would say that the sod had as difficult an April as the team did,” Marlins President David Samson said after the Marlins lost three of four to the Diamondbacks and ended the opening month of the season 8-14.

The Marlins are considering bringing in grow lamps with the field getting less sunlight than anticipated.

“It’s been difficult because it’s only getting about four hours of sun when we expected it to be eight or nine,” Samson said. “It’s been raining a lot during the day, more than it normally would in April. That’s been causing the roof to be closed more than we thought it would be -- I’m talking about non-game times.”

Before Opening Day, the Marlins replaced sod in deep right field that was receiving more shade than the rest of the field. Moving into the summer months, that area will get better exposure as the earth shifts relative to the sun.

The problems with the turf became more widespread as the month progressed. If it cannot be corrected, it could be necessary to replace the whole field, Samson acknowledged. That has happened at other stadiums with retractable roofs.

Samson said there are no plans to switch to artificial turf.

“Natural grass will work here. If we need lights, then we need lights,” Samson said. “In summer it starts raining at 4. We always calculated the roof would be open untill then, and that would be enough sun. We still think that.

“We knew going in that other retractable-roof ballparks had to make adjustments for one or two years to get their field right. We hoped that we’d get it right the first time. So far it’s not right. We’re going to keep experimenting and find a way to make it better.”

The turf in Marlins Park is a strain of Bermuda grass called Celebration, which is commonly used in Florida on golf courses and athletic fields.

Celebration was chosen because it does well in shade, a consideration with the retractable roof. It was one of three types of grass the Marlins tested for nine months in full sun and partial shade.

With the Marlins away for 10 days, the field was due to receive intensive care in an attempt to nurse it to health. Within an hour after Monday’s game ended, a crew had begun work aerating the infield grass.

The top of the ballpark was also receiving attention after water leaked in several spot above right field during Sunday’s heavy rain. Samson said workers were up there sealing the joints between roof panels where the water was coming in. Their efforts appeared successful on Monday despite continued rain.

Asked what was done, Samson joked, “They put gum on it? I don’t know. They do something to seal it.”

The ballpark was the standout performer of the Marlins’ opening month, which was marred by manager Ozzie Guillen’s infamous endorsement of Fidel Castro and subsequent suspension, as well as the team’s lack of hitting and three blown saves by closer Heath Bell.

Announced paid attendance for the four games against the Diamondbacks was 31,949, 33,525, 34,918 and 31,006.

Actual attendance for Monday’s matinee was considerably less than announced, though 12,000 students for Weather Day created a lively atmosphere. The no-shows weren’t surprising considering the 12:40 p.m. start at the beginning of the work week and the second consecutive day of torrential rain.

The Sunday and Monday games could not have been played without the retractable roof, and Saturday’s game may have had delays.

After 11 home games, the Marlins ranked 14th in the major leagues and eighth in the National League with an average paid attendance of 30,681, according to Major League Baseball.

The Marlins are soliciting feedback about the ballpark and related issues. Visit Marlins.com, click on the “Marlins Park” and “Contact Us,” and select the feedback option. Or follow this link.

“Crowds have been great, our fans have been great. They’re reacting well to the ballpark. We’re drawing well,” Samson said. “When we mapped out April, with two exceptions, it’s been an April that has been what we had planned for. We expect May to be better on the field.”

Hopefully, for the field as well.

May did get off to a promising start for the Marlins on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory at San Francisco. Heath Bell, reacting well to returning to the West Coast, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his third save. He has converted all 10 of his save chances in AT&T Park.

Photo: The Marlins and the grass on their field needs improvement, but Marlins Park has been a hit during its first month. (Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (34)

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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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