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Sports Business Update: January 20, 2014

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
January 20, 2014

Clayton Kershaw’s Record Deal
The perks of being owned by a private equity fund: a seemingly bottomless supply of money. Since Guggenheim Partners purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers out of bankruptcy in 2012 for $2.1 billion in cash, the team has spent nearly another billion dollars on free agents and player acquisitions. However, for all of the jaw-dropping contracts assumed by GM Ned Colletti, the deal just signed by star pitcher Clayton Kershaw tops them all. With an average annual value of $30.7 million per season, Kershaw’s contract is the richest in baseball history on a per-year basis. The seven-year agreement is worth a total of $215 million. The Dodgers’ 2014 payroll obligations currently sit around $230 million.

If the deal with Kershaw indicates anything, it’s that the economic of baseball are drastically changing. Fueled by multibillion-dollar local TV contracts, and without a salary cap, teams comfortably are able to give nine-figure deals. Kershaw’s contract is the second $200 million deal this offseason, and the 50th deal worth more than $100 million in MLB history.

NFL Selling Thursday Package?
It’s been rumored about for years. Now it seems the NFL is finally ready to pull the trigger on selling a primetime Thursday night games package. The league has formally asked its TV network partners and Turner Sports to submit bids for Thursday games. The league reportedly is auctioning off a one-year deal, and is giving bidders the option to put together a package for anywhere up to 13 regular season games.

As the league looks to establish a “Thursday Night Football” franchise, the winning party would have to deal with a quirky agreement. In addition to allowing the networks flexibility on the number of games in their bid, the league is requiring the winning bidder to simulcast the games on NFL Network, according to John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal. While this certainly would reduce the rights fee paid to the NFL, the league must maintain a certain number of regular season games on NFL Network to continue receiving its $1.20 subscriber fee. It’s unknown whether networks are seeking to air games on broadcast networks such as ABC and NBC, or own cable channels like ESPN and Fox Sports 1.

Gary Player: Golfer... and Rancher?
In addition to his passion for golf, Gary Player has had a great love for horses since his youth. Player first purchased his Colesberg-based stud farm in 1974, and in recent years, the Black Knight has turned his attention from the golf course to a successful horse business that has landed Gary Player Stud among the top of the National Breeders List. The Gary Player Stud Farm has received worldwide acclaim for breeding over 2,000 winning thoroughbred racehorses.

Player considers himself a rancher and farmer at heart. His passion for horses rivals golf. Player immerses himself in the day-to-day activities when at the farm, working from dawn to dusk with his team. You’ll often find him working throughout the farm pitching hay, testing the alfalfa, tending to the land or studying new farming technologies and horse bloodlines. This August, the farm’s hard work paid off during the Emperor’s Palace National Two-Year-Old Sale, where Player and his team earned first time accolades in all three top categories - top colt, top filly, and top vendor.

El Paso Chihuahuas Stadium
As the El Paso Chihuahuas near completion of their new $60 million ballpark, the construction team working on the project just reached two milestones. First, workers placed their last piece of steel, representing the stadium’s official topping out. But the real accomplishment was the installation of a 13-ton steel sky bridge, which the team says is unlike anything in Minor League Baseball. The bridge will provide fans with unique hospitality opportunities and views of the outfield and surrounding scenery.

Since the ballpark received voter approval in November 2012, business has been booming in downtown El Paso. Several new bars and restaurants have opened in what’s being called the city’s “sports and entertainment district.” And it isn’t just local entrepreneurs hoping to capitalize on downtown’s growth. Established national chains are exploring investing in the emerging downtown. When the stadium opens in April, it’ll be one of the crown jewels of the Pacific Coast League, and template for future cities to follow when seeking a new stadium.

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