Bust, Boom, and Hope: NFL, MLB, Golf, NBA, and NHL

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

January 18, 2013

Bust, Boom, Hope: NFL

Bust: A poll of Georgia voters found 72% of respondents opposed to using hotel/motel taxes to fund a new Atlanta Falcons stadium. Although the financing package isn’t expected to go in front of voters, state legislators will have a tough time approving the plan with so much public opposition.

Boom: Electric utility company FirstEnergy Corp. bought the naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium, becoming the building’s first corporate naming sponsor since opening in 1999. Finding a naming partner was a priority for new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who bought the team for $1 billion last year.

Hope: A panel of arbitrators has begun hearing arguments from the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission and the Rams over long-term renovation plans for Edward Jones Dome. The arbitrators will choose between the CVC’s $125 million plan, the Rams’ $700 million plan, or they’ll create their own plan.

What it means: Previous Browns owner Randy Lerner, who was responsible for bringing the team back to Cleveland in 1999, didn’t believe sports facilities should have corporate names. Renaming the building FirstEnergy Stadium is a direct repudiation of the Lerner-era, a positive sign for Browns fans.


Bust, Boom, Hope: MLB

Bust: Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is being sued by his ex-wife Jamie for allegedly misrepresenting the value of the team in their divorce. Jamie is asking for $770 million to bring her total settlement to $900 million. The Dodgers sold for $2.15 billion in auction.

Boom: Opening day payrolls are expected to exceed $3 billion for the first time in MLB history, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The total is a 7% increase over last year’s opening day payrolls of $2.94 billion, with more than half of the growth attributed to the Dodgers’ offseason spending.

Hope: Pittsburgh Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen will grace the cover of Sony’s MLB ‘13 The Show video game after beating out New York Yankees P C.C. Sabathia in an online fan vote. McCutchen was the only cover athlete finalist that topped 100,000 votes.

What it means: As many as 15 MLB teams could start the season with payrolls over $100 million, three more than the record set in 2011. With tons of money being poured into team by new national and local TV contracts, the economics of baseball might never be the same.


Bust, Boom, Hope: Golf

Bust: Oakley is suing Rory McIlroy and Nike over breach of contract after the golfer allegedly ignored Oakley’s “right of first refusal” of the Nike offer. Prior to accepting his $200 million endorsement deal with Nike, McIlroy reportedly was offered $60 million to resign with Oakley.

Boom: The 2013 LPGA Tour schedule has three new events, $49 million in total prize money, and a record 300 hours of TV coverage on Golf Channel and other networks. The prize money is $2 million more than last season’s purse and $6.5 million more than 2011’s.

Hope: Under Armour signed golfer Jordan Spieth to an endorsement deal weeks after the 2011-12 Big 12 Golfer of the Year turned professional. The deal, which is being touted as Under Armour’s most substantial golf endorsement, includes branding on Spieth’s headwear and bag, but doesn’t cover clubs.

What it means: Nike reportedly had its sights set on McIlroy long before he became an endorsement free agent, and Oakley earlier this month signed 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson to replace McIlroy. Regardless of what happens with the lawsuit, both Nike and Oakley will move forward with a new endorser.


Bust, Boom, Hope: NBA

Bust: The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center are suing a local limousine service for defaulting on a $4.5 million sponsorship deal. The team and arena in December 2011 signed a seven-year agreement with Pia Car Limo to be their official car service. To date, Pia has written only one check, which bounced.

Boom: The NBA signed Sears to title sponsor the Shooting Stars event at this year’s State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in Houston. Per the deal, Sears will receive prominent exposure on-site and in TNT’s broadcast of the event. Sears replaces Haier, which decided against renewing its NBA partnership for this season.

Hope: Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has received approval from the NBA to pursue a buyer interested in keep the Kings in the city. Johnson hopes to have a proposal for the league’s Board of Governors by March 1, which is the deadline for teams to apply for relocation next season.

What it means: The Seattle group interested in buying the Kings has a non-binding set of deal points to purchase the team for $525 million. Mayor Johnson has worked tirelessly to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and he has one last chance to put together an ownership group, but at this point, the team likely will relocate to Seattle next season.


Bust, Boom, Hope: NHL

Bust: The Carolina Hurricanes lost 7% of their season-ticket base during the NHL lockout from fans demanding refunds. As a result of the lost revenue, Hurricanes president Jim Rutherford said the team might have to increase ticket prices over the next few years.

Boom: While most teams took a hit during the lockout, the Chicago Blackhawks actually saw their season ticket waiting list increase by nearly 250 fans. The team, which struggled to draw fans earlier in the decade, has led the NHL in per-game attendance for four consecutive seasons.

Hope: The Florida Panthers are offering a variety of promotions as a way to lure fans back after the lockout claimed 40% of the NHL season. Among the promotions is a “7th Man” campaign, honoring fans with season tickets starting at $7 plus a free Panthers jersey.

What it means: The big news isn’t that the Hurricanes lost season-ticket holders – nearly every team did. What’s most impressive is that while fans were walking away from the NHL, interest in the Blackhawks increased. It truly is a testament to owner Rocky Wirtz, who turned the franchise around after taking over for his late father in 2007.

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