Other Sports



Podcast Outline:


Olympics growth rate slowing down 


EverFi supporting STEM Programs through NHL's Future Goals Program


Pittsburgh Penguins trip to the White House


Las Vegas Golden Knights honoring the victims of the recent shooting tragedy 


NBA partners with Gatorade to re-brand developmental league into the "G-League"


Utah Jazz opening season with renovated arena


Need to increased safety precautions at MLB Stadiums


Texas Rangers break ground on their new Billion-Dollar Stadium in Arlington 


Los Angeles Dodgers using holograms of players to help direct fans to their seats


Comerica Park adds Virtual Reality stations where fans can attempt to hit off of their favorite Tiger pitchers 


Oklahoma Sooners new high-tech football training facility


University of Arizona may increase student fees to improve athletic facilities 


Phoenix International Raceway $178 Million track modernization


Interview with LPGA Tour Champion Morgan Pressel


Tease for Next Week

with Jamie Swimmer & Ron Socash

  1. Amidst a whirlwind of protests and demonstrations during the National Anthem before NFL games these last two weeks, many players around the league expect tensions to settle down going forward. According to the AP, during Week Three, some teams elected to stay in the tunnel during the anthem, while others linked arms and kneeled. In Week Four, however, teams were more united, with arm-linking common and tunnels largely empty during the anthem. President Donald Trump’s comments were cited as the fire that ignited widespread protests from so many teams and players across the league – and moved NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to convene a watershed meeting in New York with owners on the subject. “Moving forward, we will be on the field,” commented Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn. “We haven’t talked about it further as a team, but my initial response would be it would settle more back down.” Decisions regarding kneeling, standing, or not coming out of the tunnel during the anthem have become team choices, not necessarily individual ones. Many players have noted that they are ready to “focus on football” going forward instead of getting caught up in the pregame drama.

  2. PwC Sports Survey reveals leaders expect sports industry growth to slow. Sports industry leaders "expect the sector’s growth rates to slow down" from 8% to 6.4% per year, according to ISportConnect. While football "appears to be too big to fail" and esports is seen as a "key growth area," respondents view the Olympics as having a "less certain future." These are some of the key results of the 2017 edition of PwC’s Sports Survey. Respondents across the board "still expect the sports industry to continue to grow." However, they "foresee this growth to slow down" by over 20%. PwC Switzerland Sports Business Advisory Team Director David Dellea said that "the results of the survey confirm that the sports industry is reaching a decisive inflection point, where sustained growth will be the privilege of a few premium properties." While football and esports were viewed positively, the Olympics and winter sports are "showing signs of slipping," evidenced by their "apparent decline in TV ratings," especially among younger fans. More generally, 57% of respondents consider the shift in consumer behavior among younger generations as the "top threat faced by the industry." Even with a 20% slowdown, a 6.4% annual growth rate is one that most industries would happily accept. Not time to wring your hands just yet.


  1. Working with the NHL, NHLPA, and their Future Goals program, EVERFI is powering the world's largest digital STEM education program through Hockey Scholar, a web-based course that leverages hockey to teach foundational math and science concepts. Millions of students build critical life skills through EVERFI’s custom-branded digital education programs. Through partnerships with major sports leagues, teams, foundations, athletes, and entertainers, students thrive by using the game of sport, music, and entertainment to bring the programs to life. As the NHL works through its preseason, the no-cost Hockey Scholar resource covers topics such as rates and ratios, states of matter, force, and energy, and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today’s students have unprecedented access to the tools of the digital age — computers, mobile devices, and social media — but they are not being taught how to leverage that technology in a responsible and safe way. Upon graduating, these students will compete in an emerging global economy fueled by rapid innovation, but many will be unprepared to pursue STEM-based careers. Partnered with EVERFI, the NHL’s Future Goals program is committed to sparking student interest in STEM topics and helping students become college-ready, career-ready, and life-ready. Now that’s a real-life hat trick.


  1. Phoenix Raceway and ISM Connect, a pioneer in smart venue technology, announced a multi-year partnership that includes naming rights for the Raceway’s modernized venue as well as the installation of a leading-edge digital fan engagement experience. Beginning in 2018, the venue will be known as ISM Raceway. As part of the naming rights position and in support of the racetrack development project, ISM will serve as an IT consultant as the new business partners deploy technology solutions at the venue through their 360 degree digital engagement venue network. The $178 million modernization of the track will now include the launch of ISM’s interconnected, intelligent venue concept, where technology aspects like Wi-Fi, ISM Vision video boards, mobile, web, social channels, and more are connected and enhance the fan experience throughout the facility, and create a sports and entertainment environment like no other venue in the country. As NASCAR heads toward the season finale and its penultimate race in Phoenix, the Can-Am 500 on November 12, it’s only fitting that Phoenix Raceway has some main-stage news of its own to share, adding to the excitement of the playoffs.


  1. Fans are clamoring to get their hands on tickets for the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ first regular-season home game in franchise history. According to the Globe & Mail, the NHL expansion club is currently the top team in the league in “terms of overall StubHub ticket sales headed into this season.” The average ticket price for the Knights’ home opener is $227, with the team set to square off against the Arizona Coyotes. A significant portion of the teams’ early ticket sales have come from Canadian hockey fans, including preseason games at the brand new T-Mobile Arena. The New York Rangers currently rank second in the NHL in early ticket sales, but the Golden Knights are on track to outsell them by a whopping 96%. The Golden Knights are “in seven of the top 10 most in-demand games in the NHL, including three of the top four.” Growing interest in the Golden Knights only continues to validate NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league into non-traditional hockey markets – and Bettman will now forever be known as the first pro sports commish with the guts to take on “taboo” Vegas.


  1. The Utah Jazz are set to welcome the new NBA season with a completely renovated Vivint Smart Home Arena. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the upgraded facility features a J-Note statue in front of it, which team owners “regard as a future iconic spot” for the upgraded, modern arena. Besides the statue, the upgrades include a new box office, team store, and automated ticketing entrances to a “more open arena bowl.” With the renovations, the capacity of the facility has shrunk by over 1,500, from 19,911 to a more intimate 18,200, with all seats being converted from hard plastic green to “upholstered, cushioned blue.” “We wanted to ensure that both [the Jazz and the arena] would survive for many, many generations,” stated Jazz Owner and Chair Gail Miller. “This is a new beginning and we’re proud to say that we’ve accomplished that purpose. The Jazz and the building cannot be separated: They’re here to stay.” As Salt Lake’s only pro sports franchise, it’s only fitting that the Jazz put forth a more premium experience for their fans – most of whom are long-time, diehard, and well-deserving of a little more pampering.


  1. NYCFC has started to narrow down potential sites to build a new soccer-specific stadium, with Belmont Park racetrack emerging as a favorite site. According to Newsday, the MLS club is preparing to submit a proposal to develop a stadium at the racetrack site. If the team officially places a bid for Belmont Park, it would be “in competition with the Islanders’ plans to develop their own new hockey arena” on the same piece of land. Even if both teams submit proposals, a decision on which team is allowed to start building is not expected to come for months. The state-run property in Elmont, just outside the Queens border, is not NYCFC’s first choice for a site to build on due to its location. The team currently plays its home matches at Yankee Stadium, and is looking at a “handful of other spots within the city limits.” New York’s biggest problem: an embarrassment of sports riches, and limited available land to house them. Most cities would consider this a good problem to have.


  1. After a foul ball struck a girl at Yankee Stadium last week, more MLB teams are now planning to extend safety netting down the line at their stadiums. According to Mlive.com, the Detroit Tigers recently noted that they are currently developing plans to add more netting before the 2018 season, with their ballpark operations department taking the lead. Season ticket holders have historically been the ones to oppose additional netting, saying that it could obstruct their view of the playing field. The Baltimore Orioles have also stated their intent to add more netting, with team physician Bill Goldiner saying that plans are “being made and that the nets almost certainly will be going up sometime after the end of the regular season.” Additionally, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres all announced that they would “expand netting” for 2018. Fan safety is paramount – there’s really no such thing as a premium fan experience in an area of the stadium where fans are placed in jeopardy. For their own good, those in baseline seats will need to learn to adapt.


  1. In the wake of the Texas Rangers breaking ground on their new ballpark in Arlington, city council members are highly critical of the stadium’s design. According to the Dallas Morning News, the $1 billion retractable roof ballpark has drawn criticism for looking “too much like a shed,” among other things. The stadium’s interior design drew positive remarks and praise from council members, but the outside was likened to Lucas Oil Stadium, which looks like “a field house.” “It looks like you hit a home run with your design on the inside, but on the outside it seems that it is wanting some other details,” commented council member Charlie Parker. “I don’t feel like it is giant steps ahead of the old ballpark.” The team surveyed fans about what is most important for them in a new ballpark, and results revealed that “mass transit was key to improving their ballpark experience.” City council members, take note.


  1. Nashville’s MLS bid is moving forward without Vanderbilt University signing on. According to the Nashville Tennessean, Nashville’s push to land an MLS team requires a soccer-specific stadium; organizers of the bid hoped that Vanderbilt would “join on a proposed shared-stadium concept.” In joining forces, Vanderbilt would have moved all of its football games off campus to The Fairground Nashville – a move the university did not support. Vanderbilt still might play “one or two football games a year” at the stadium if it is built, but that remains up in the air at this point. Even without the university’s support, the city’s MLS bid is not expected to lose traction, though Vanderbilt could have provided an additional source of funding for the stadium. Meanwhile in Cincinnati, USL club FC Cincinnati is continuing its push for a public-private partnership to build a $200 million soccer-specific stadium. Numerous projects are still being floated – the city is far from building anything.


  1. With the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics simultaneously, sponsorships are expected to be more expensive than usual. According to the Bloomberg, companies usually sign on to multi-year Olympic sponsorship deals without knowing all of the host cities they will be sponsoring, causing some ambiguity for participating corporations. This time around, sponsors know that two lucrative markets will host the 2024 and 2028 Olympics – Paris will host the former Games and Los Angeles the latter. “The presence of Paris and Los Angeles tells Western sponsors that the games are going to be really good in seven and 11 years,” said former USOC CMO and current professor of sports management at Syracuse University Rick Burton. Early bird sponsors are beginning to sign long-term deals now at cheaper rates, for sponsorship prices are only expected to increase going forward. The only big hole in the long-term Olympic corporate sponsorship plan remains the un-awarded 2026 Winter Games – which will likely not be held in the U.S. despite interest from Salt Lake City, Denver, and others.


  1. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is receiving a significant amount of criticism from some supporters following his decision to visit the White House. According to the Associated Press, the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions recently accepted an invitation from President Trump to make the trip to Washington D.C., though Coach Mike Sullivan “insists the franchise’s decision…does not mean the team is wading into the increasingly charged intersection of sports and politics.” Sullivan defended Crosby in this situation by stating that everyone expects the sport’s preeminent player to take a political stance here. “The Penguins, as an organization and our players, have chosen not to use this platform to take a stance,” said Sullivan. “There appears to be a perception that we have, and it is wrong.” This development comes in wake of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors declining an offer to go to the White House, the typical tradition for champion sports teams. While there are clearly much bigger issues at stake, it’s a downright shame that what should be a bucket list triumph for top athletes and their teams is now so mired in political muck that many are simply choosing to forego the experience altogether.


  1. Domestic ticket sales for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics have been less than stellar thus far, but that might change with the help of the Korea Federation of Banks. According to Reuters, the South Korean banks federation pledged to buy nearly $900,000 worth of tickets “as part of its social responsibility efforts.” The first phase of sales for the upcoming Olympics was “utterly underwhelming.” The proximity of the Olympics to North Korea has been noted as a primary safety concern for potential ticket-buyers. Just recently, only 30% of the “1.07 million total target” tickets have been sold, with nearly 60% of those coming from overseas customers. The Korean Federation of Banks is attempting to spur a domestic movement to buy more tickets and increase interest among South Korean citizens. Additionally, the federation announced it would donate $17.6 million to Olympic organizers “to help the Games run smoothly.” Noble gestures, to be sure, but unless the Korean Banks can exert influence on Pyongyang and help ensure Olympic-goers’ safety, fear of missile strikes will continue to impact travel decisions by fans and athletes alike.


  1. The English Premier League, the world’s wealthiest soccer league, is facing some internal conflict amongst clubs regarding the current revenue sharing agreement. According to Bloomberg, the top six clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham – are beginning to argue that their popularity “helps drive international revenue, so they should get a bigger slice” of the pot the Premier League gets for international media rights. That “pot” totals more than $1.3 billion annually. Conversely, smaller teams want to keep the current revenue-sharing agreement since they all receive the same amount as the heavyweights. One alternative being considered is paying teams based on how long they had held a spot in the league, which would favor the EPL’s longstanding teams. If a change were to take effect, at least 14 of the league’s 20 clubs would need to vote in favor of it. In this respect, despite its enormous wealth, the EPL is no different than any other pro sports league on the planet. The “pot” always stirs trouble.


  1. University of Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke has found funding to build $66 million in overdue capital projects. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Heeke asked the university’s Board of Regents for the funding, which will primarily come from “the upcoming student fee and donor contributions.” Every year, each University of Arizona student pays $100 to the athletic department; the renovations will help prove to students that their money is being spent appropriately. The $66 million would go toward four major renovations: $25 million to re-do Arizona Stadium’s lower east side, $12 million to completely remake the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, $18 million to construct an indoor practice facility/fan-engagement center at Kindall-Sancet Stadium, and $8 million to give the Hillenbrand softball stadium a major facelift. “Approval [by the regents] won’t determine the start dates,” noted Heeke. “It’s just that we can move forward to fully develop plans as well as budget and make logical construction schedules.” Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium is one of many Arizona athletic facilities supported by Mr. and Mrs. William G. Hillenbrand.


Five Top Tech


1) Gatorade has partnered with the NBA on re-branding the developmental league formerly known as the NBA D-League. The league’s name is now the NBA G-League after the partnership deal with Gatorade.  The G-League will also be using the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as a way to better understand and physically equip players before, during, and after games. Kenny Mitchell, Gatorade’s Head of Consumer Engagement, said this about the partnership: “The premise for the deal was to allow us to push on our innovation agenda and doing that with basically — this will sound a little off — but, using professional athletes as a part of like our lab. So if we want to showcase a protein-enriched shake, we may test it with the Gatorade developmental league and then we might be launching it with NBA players.” The G-League provides fans with NBA-level talent to watch and enjoy play on a smaller scale. For NBA teams, the league serves as a great way to identify and acquire talent they may not have seen play otherwise. Over the past few years, star players like Hassan Whiteside and Danny Green have found their way onto the NBA landscape through the G-League. With its Gatorade partnership, the developmental league takes another step in legitimate brand recognition.

2) The dangers and fear of CTE continues to affect youth football across the U.S. today. However, new technology continues to be introduced that could save thousands from long-term brain injuries. Jake Merrell, a student at Brigham Young University, has developed a type of smart foam to be place inside players’ helmets and shoulder pads. Merrell said this about the specifics of his invention: “The standard measurement systems on the market today directly measure the acceleration, but just measuring the acceleration is not enough and can even be erroneous. Our XOnano smart foam sensors measure much more than just acceleration, which we see as a vital key to better diagnose head injuries.” By placing the foam in the shoulder pads along with helmet, Merrell is able to give each football player an added layer of protection that many have not targeted before. To further prove the usefulness of the product, Merrell has also begun working with the U.S. Army to create more protection equipment. With CTE growing as a major concern and youth football numbers shrinking, every added benefit through new protection technology can make a big difference.

3) Virtual Reality continues to grow as a form of entertainment for consumers everywhere. For Major League Baseball, VR could lead to a new form of entertainment for fans both inside and outside of the stadium. Inside Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers have placed virtual reality stations where fans can take swings against their favorite Tiger pitchers. Monsterful VR CEO Jarett Sims told Crain’s Detroit Business where he sees VR heading in the very near future. “We want to tie it directly to the team in a way that builds fan loyalty and connects to what’s going on on the field,” Sims said. “There are plenty of cool activations that provide fans entertainment, but we strive to be more than that.” The interactive experience puts fans right in the middle of the action, where they feel like they actually are hitting against major league pitching. The use of VR may also make its way down from MLB to youth and high school leagues. VR could prove to be a very useful training tool to give players a better feel for different angles, ballparks, and arm angles from different pitchers. It will be fascinating to see how VR affects the entire sport of baseball in the next few years.


4) Soon, fans entering Dodger Stadium will be directed to their seats by their favorite Dodger player. VNTANA is a company that specializes in augmented reality that helps brands connect with their customers. For the Dodgers, VNTANA is looking for new ways to engage fans during their ballpark experience. According to SportTechie, “The experience enables fans to interact with a hologram that appears inside the glass box of a kiosk, which will talk back to users in natural language and pick up on cues from their facial expressions to detect emotion and adjust the tone of its responses. The brains powering the artificial intelligence were built by Satisfi Labs, a maker of virtual assistants.” Adding holograms to MLB stadiums would be a leap into the future for a sport that is often considered old-fashioned. Engaging fans is the best way to keep them coming back, and in this creative use of augmented reality, the Dodgers are taking a step ahead of the rest of MLB.

5) The Oklahoma Sooners are not going to be using traditional stopwatches to time the 40-yard dash any longer. Through a partnership with Zybek sports, the Sooners are now going to measure speed through force plates that lie underneath the turf at their new 70-yard performance center. Mike Weinstein, founder of Zybek Sports, told SportTechie about the new technology. “When you’re running the 40-yard dash, the time is an effect of what you’ve done, it’s not the cause,” he said. “The cause of an athlete running fast is the ground base forces that the athlete’s able to generate. Now we’re able to quantify the forces the athlete is generating and then overlay those on the video to show exactly what’s working and what’s not working — in real-time feedback.” Specific features of the new performance facility include 2,000 pounds of force plates that will measure speed, distance, and other features of each player as they complete different types of physical assessments. For the NCAA, this is another step toward a new age of technology and analytics to better figure out what their athletes go through on a daily basis. The data boom is not slowing down, especially for the Sooners.



  1. In March Madness’ biggest upset ever, 16-seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County shocked the nation in its lopsided 74-54 win over No. 1 Virginia. UMBC became the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1. In other Cinderella stories, 11th-seeded Loyola upset third-seeded Tennessee 63-62 Saturday night and on Sunday, seventh-seeded Texas A&M stunned No. 2 North Carolina, the tournament's reigning champ. While UMBC lost to Kansas State in Sunday’s Round of 32, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski was "thrilled about the attention the school is receiving from around the country." Hrabowski told the Baltimore Sun, "People began to Google us and to see the academic achievements… from a potential employer like Amazon to other university presidents to elected officials." UMBC's official athletics Twitter account "had about 5,400 followers" before Friday's game against UVA and now is up to over 92,000. Meanwhile, because a 16-seed knocked off a 1-seed, Little Caesars is offering a free lunch combo to all comers on Monday, April 2, National Championship day. During March Madness, apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch.

  2. If your bracket is busted, you’re in good company. The 21st ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge collected 17.3 million completed brackets, the second-most ever behind only last year’s explosion of 18.8 million, which surpassed the previous mark set in 2016 by nearly 6 million, according to the network. At the peak period of entries shortly before the start of Thursday’s first round games, fans registered 33,472 brackets per minute. ESPN also set new all-time records for fan sign-ups and completed brackets on a tip-off Thursday. On Wednesday, ESPN set a new all-time record for completed Tournament Challenge brackets in a single day, with more than 5 million. At the end of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Marathon on Tuesday, ESPN had collected more than 8.2 million brackets, as well as two of the top six sign-up days in the 21-year history of the game. While the network had not announced how many of those eight million brackets were busted as of late Sunday night, with massive upsets over the weekend including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Michigan State, you can bet it is the majority.


  1. The Pac-12 task force has revealed its recommendations to reshape college basketball, most notably stating that the NCAA should end its one-and-done rule. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the task force was created in the wake of the ongoing FBI scandal that has shaken up college basketball this season. The task force stated that changes should be made to the recruiting process and championed the adoption of college baseball rules, where players either turn pro right out of high school or commit to staying in college for at least three years. These recommendations will only be implemented with the support of the NBA and the NBAPA, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has supported the need for change in wake of the scandal. One of the biggest current problems with the notion of paying players is AAU basketball and its impact on recruiting. The task force “recommends to start making recruits, and their families, aware of the rules early in high school” while removing the AAU system entirely. Dispensing with the AAU system also includes the side benefit of giving the shoe companies that fund the tournaments a lot less sway over basketball and its players.


  1. University administrators are beginning to voice their opinions on the current state of college basketball and the NCAA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, NCAA President Mark Emmert, and Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir joined NCAA.com’s Andy Katz for an interview regarding the ongoing FBI scandal that has ripped through college basketball. “To hear this type of thing going on in the game itself gives us pause and concern, and we want to, hopefully, eradicate it as quickly as possible,” said Muir after hearing news of the FBI’s involvement. Emmert’s comments were more directed toward player marketing and how student-athletes can make a name for themselves: “If you’re a college basketball player with professional aspirations, whether it’s in basketball or just whatever your profession is going to be, I can’t think of a better marketing device than playing in the NCAA tournament.” The panel agreed unanimously that it would be “pure chaos” if players were allowed to sign individual endorsement deals. With so much support at the top levels of the NCAA and the NBA it is clear – major changes are likely coming to college basketball during the off season.

  2. Tiger Woods is once again showing his value to the PGA Tour and its partners. NBC drew a 5.1 overnight rating for the final round of the Valspar Championship, which saw Woods finish one shot behind winner Paul Casey. That number is up 183% from a 1.8 rating for the final round last year, and marks the best overnight rating for any regular PGA Tour event or major, excluding the Masters, since the 2015 PGA Championship. The 200 brands that aligned themselves with the Valspar telecasts generated 1.3 billion TV impressions in U.S. households – nearly 1 billion more than the 275 brands that advertised during the 2017 event on NBC and Golf Channel, according to data from iSpot.tv. Meanwhile, ticket sales for this weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which Woods competed for the first time since 2013, "were up" more than 50% from 2017 according to the Orlando Sentinel. Woods tied for fifth place, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy; tournament COO Marci Doyle said was likely "the largest event in the 53-year-history of our tournament." With Tiger ascendant and McIlroy netting his first PGA Tour win since 2016, the countdown to The Masters officially begins.

  3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ new deal with the Minnesota Vikings has the potential to revolutionize the way NFL teams negotiate player contracts. According to the Washington Times, the three-year, $84 million deal is fully guaranteed, marking a huge break from the traditional way executives have negotiated contracts with players over the years. Normally, “teams routinely pull the plug early on players and contracts deemed cost-ineffective,” which will not be the case for Cousins in Minnesota. News of the deal sent shockwaves through the league, with many players commenting on the change. “Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception,” tweeted Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. Critics of the deal say that guaranteeing contracts will “diminish” the game, meaning that players will not have the same incentive to earn their paychecks as they do now.


  1. With the Dallas Cowboys set to host the NFL Draft in April, plans for events at AT&T Stadium have been announced by the team. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the draft will be held from April 26-28 in the NFL Draft Theater, which will be built on the stadium’s field. More than 250,000 fans have already registered for a chance to win free seated tickets inside the space at AT&T Stadium. Last year’s NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia was considered a massive success, and also marked the first Draft to be held outdoors, but the 250,000 registered fans “represents a 50% increase over last year” at this point. A State Fair-like setting is expected to be set up to complement the Draft itself, with the Cowboys offering “a cornucopia of attractions outside of the stadium that they hope will keep fans occupied throughout the three days.” While “everything is bigger in Texas,” the 2018 Draft also continues the NFL’s ever-growing ambitions to make the sport a year-round appointment event and provide entertainment to everyone in the family.


  1. MLB has created a new two-day FoodFest in New York that will feature food items from all 30 major league ballparks. The first-ever MLB FoodFest will be held April 21-22 near New York’s Bryant Park, with each club selecting one concession item to represent the franchise. The event will also feature interactive exhibits and art celebrating baseball’s ties to popular concession items such as hot dogs, and incorporate MLB sponsors Nathan’s and Coca-Cola. Among the more notable club items featured will be the D-backs’ churro dog -- a churro inside of a donut topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel and whipped cream -- the Astros’ chicken waffle cone that features popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes inside of a waffle cone, and the Royals’ brisket nachos. Tickets will be priced at $25 for food only, providing samples of all 30 club items, and $40 for food and beer. Development of the MLB FoodFest was led by the league’s internal marketing and social team with logistical assistance from New York-based agency MKG. The FoodFest sold out in just two days, and is already proving so popular that MLB is taking names for a waiting list for future locations.

  2. Acting USOC CEO Susanna Lyons told the IOC that three American cities are interested in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. According to SportsBusiness Daily, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Reno/Tahoe, respectively are the three parties that have expressed a desire to be included in talks going forward. While none of the cities was noted to have an interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games, which has a bid deadline of March 31, the IOC is considering awarding both the 2026 and 2030 Olympics simultaneously – similar to what the international governing body did this past Fall when it awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles at the same time. The Salt Lake City bid group did note that the city could be ready in 2026 “if called upon,” but 2030 remains the preferred cycle to host. Meanwhile, the Utah bid leaders “don’t believe Colorado can produce top-flight Olympic facilities for anywhere close to the cost of what Salt Lake City can provide.” Another factor in Salt Lake’s bid may be the recent relocation of Mitt Romney to the state – Romney served as the savior CEO of the 2002 Games held there.


  1. Former NFL COO Tod Leiweke is expected to join the Oak View Group in Seattle as a top executive to help bring an NHL expansion franchise to the Pacific Northwest. According to the Seattle Times, KeyArena is currently being renovated by OVG in Seattle with the hope of landing both an NHL and NBA team in the coming years, though neither has been announced by the respective leagues. An NHL team would likely begin play in October 2020, but a decision is not expected on that until a league Board of Governors meeting in June. Leiweke served as CEO of the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-2010, “doubling their season-ticket base” and advancing them to their first-ever Super Bowl following the 2005 season, so he has prior success in the region with professional sports teams. As noted by a city sportswriter, “He is quite simply the most successful sports executive Seattle has ever known.” If anyone can successfully bring at least one of these pro sports back to Seattle it’s the brothers Leiweke – Tod and his brother and OVG founder Tim, long the AEG CEO.


  1. The Canadian government has officially announced its support for the joint North American World Cup bid for 2026. According to the Toronto Sun, the bid from the United States, Mexico, and Canada faces opposition only from Morocco, yet the North African country’s bid is “making a late charge” to win the elusive bid. Canada’s official support is a last push to “coax the FIFA Congress away from selecting Morocco.” “It’s good for our athletes, it’s good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader,” said Canadian Minister of Sport Kristy Duncan. The competitor’s bid proposes a more compact tournament, with stadiums and venues within driving distance from each other, as opposed to the North American bid that would require flying between almost all potential host cities. The Moroccan bid is also being viewed as more favorable for viewership in the European market due to the time zones it encompasses – the European region clearly drives the majority of TV revenue for FIFA.     


  1. In the wake of some of the NBA’s biggest stars acknowledging personal struggles with mental health, the NBA and NBAPA have decided to create an independent mental wellness program. According to NBA.com, the two entities are on the precipice of naming a Director of Mental Health & Wellness, a new role that will be jointly funded by the league and the union. Most recently, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love have publicly stated that they were dealing with mental health issues while playing this season, prompting the league to take official steps to help. The new program, which is the result of almost a “year of discussions” between the two sides, “will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams.” The mental outreach program will extend beyond the NBA, as it will also be part of the Junior NBA World Championships in Orlando in August. Player health and safety is a key tenet of all pro sports leagues, including mental health. It’s great to see the NBA and its players association take this important step.


  1. MLS and Liga MX have officially announced the first stage of a strategic partnership between the two North American soccer leagues. According to Pro Soccer USA, MLS and Liga MX clubs will begin competing in the Campeones Cup, the first competition solely between U.S. and Mexican soccer clubs since SuperLiga ended following the 2010 season. “The Campeones Cup is only the first step,” said Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla. “It’s a big step, as [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] said it’s going to be the Super Bowl of soccer in North America…We’re going to work with minor, we’re going to work with best practices …and we’re sure we’re going to have better football for great fans we have in the U.S. and in Mexico and in Canada.” The new partnership also has the aim of going beyond the sport, with hopes that the cup between the two nations will help ease any cultural divides that have arisen in the current political climate. Once again the healing power of sport should prevail, both on the pitch of the Campeones Cup matches and outside of it.


  1. As MLS continues to grow in size and popularity across North America, some of the league’s longstanding clubs have started to lag behind. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, MLS Commissioner Don Garber is not worried about the viability of Philadelphia as an MLS city going forward, despite lagging attendance numbers over the past years. “It’s a huge market,” said Garber. “It’s an influential market. We continue to have great faith in the club, its ownership and the market.” Since 2010, the Union’s attendance has declined steadily year over year, going from an average of 19,254 in 2010 to only 16,812 in 2017. As part of the club’s Talen Energy Stadium lease, “if after 10 years the team’s attendance is in the bottom 25% of MLS, the team can pay the county $10 million and leave the venue.” The team has insisted that this will not happen, but the club is running out of time to turn around its downward attendance trend. The team’s success in attracting fans now further impacts the city’s bottom line – expect to see the Philly government lending a subtle marketing hand.


  1. The 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer will not be attended by the British royal family or any government ministers from the United Kingdom. According to ESPN.com, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the absence in wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. Moscow has refused to explain how the domestically-made nerve agent was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter, prompting U.K. politicians to directly address the country and its leadership. If Russian involvement in the poisoning is in fact proven, “it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at the World Cup will go ahead in the normal way…” The England national team remains a lock for this summer’s tournament, but should tensions escalate between the two countries, it will remain to be seen if further boycott action is taken by the British. This marks the latest example of how politics have had a direct influence on sport, as seen last month with North Korea’s positive inclusion at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea.



Tech Top 5

  1. Turner and Intel deliver March Madness in virtual reality. Through the NCAA March Madness Live VR, Turner Sports this year is selling live virtual reality access to games throughout the NCAA tournament for $2.99 a pop. The app, which was developed in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA and built on Intel’s True VR technology, is offering VR games from the first and second rounds as well as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship – 21 games in all. When accessing the games through the VR system, users can either pick a camera angle to watch a game or opt for “fully produced” coverage that involves multiple cameras and sounds from the arena. During the first and second rounds, audio included game commentary from the telecasts across TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV. In addition to the VR games, the NCAA March Madness Live VR provides interactive bracket updates, full length game replays, highlights, and video-on-demand. Turner’s offering this year expands on the initial multiyear deal it signed last year with Intel, CBS, and the NCAA.

  2. Arlington to build America’s largest esports stadium. Arlington already has the largest local monopoly on professional sports with Globe Life Park, AT&T Stadium, and the University of Texas at Arlington's Maverick Stadium. Arlington officials last week announced a plan to build the largest esports complex in America, a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot facility called Esports Stadium Arlington that would transform the Arlington Convention Center into a space dedicated to housing competitive gaming bouts. "Being on the forefront of new ideas and setting trends is in our DNA and part of who we are as the American Dream City," Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement. "Esports Stadium Arlington will further cement our city's status as a national and international tourist destination." The project will be a joint venture of the city, sports architecture firm Populous, and Esports Venues LLC. The entertainment marketing firm NGAGE Esports will manage the new facility once construction is complete. Esports Venues will have a 10-year lease, with a 10-year renewal option, with the city. The city plans to recoup the money it will spend through lease payments, event revenues, and naming rights.

  3. Kevin Durant adds Suzy to tech portfolio. Kevin Durant is increasing his portfolio of tech investments beyond sports and health. In November, The Durant Firm invested in promoting startup Suzy as half of a bigger $5 million funding spherical for Suzy’s parent firm, Crowdtap, led by enterprise capital agency The Foundry Group. Suzy CEO Matt Britton informed The New York Enterprise Journal that the addition of Durant and associate Wealthy Kleiman is part of the company’s efforts to hunt likeminded companions and buyers who provide “a differentiated perspective on the enterprise panorama.” Crowdtap was previously within the enterprise of influencer advertising. At SXSW, the company shifted its focus by rebranding to Suzy. Now, as an alternative to selling its relationship with creators, it is specializing in synthetic intelligence that lets manufacturers construct surveys that may gain tens of millions of shoppers in seconds. Earlier this year, The Durant Firm invested in Yoshi, an app that delivers on-demand fuel and oil modifications for parked automobiles. Durant’s investments come as more Warriors players use their proximity to Silicon Valley to position themselves as tech influencers.

  4. Warriors partner with SyncThink to monitor concussions. The Warriors became the first pro sports team to work with Palo Alto-based SyncThink, producers of a virtual reality headset that uses eye-tracking technology. The SyncThink headset provides real time objective data on how a subject’s brain is functioning. The Warriors and SyncThink will use that data to determine if any of their players have concussion symptoms. Unlike the NFL, NBA teams do not monitor concussions on a near daily basis. But a handful of NBA players have suffered concussions in recent years, including Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the 2015 NBA playoffs. In 2011, the NBA passed a concussion protocol that required players to pass a series of tests symptom-free before returning to the court, including stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping and agility drills, team drills with limited contact, and returning to the court without limitations. “We have a lot of really great return-to-play protocols and I think the NBA has done a terrific job in being overly safe,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said.

  5. New Jersey will implement replay for high school football. New Jersey high school football will experiment with voluntary video replay review in the 2018 season, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday. Officials will be able to access replays using Hudl Sideline, an application that syncs live game film across devices, such as tablets or smartphones used by players and coaches, to review game tape and potentially reverse calls made on the field. Coaches frequently use the replay software to gain a competitive advantage during games. Replays are available on devices about four seconds after the whistle, quick enough to run a no-huddle offense and still see instant replays. NFL and college teams can use tablets to view still photographs but not live video. Previously, teams printed out photos for in-game scouting. State football officials will determine the policies to govern the review process by the end of the month, said Jack Dubois, the state’s associate athletic director.

Power of Sports 5


  1. Rickie Fowler wears Arnold Palmer tribute shoes. Although he didn’t pull off a win there this year, Rickie Fowler honored the life and legacy of Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill by wearing specially-designed PUMA AP Ignite Hi-Tops and a limited edition Arnie’s Army hat during play. Fowler has always been a huge fan of Palmer, and last year during the API he raised over $25,000 for charity. This year, Rickie is trying out something similar with shoes and hat with Palmer’s famous umbrella logo. "I feel privileged to have known Arnie and be able to call him a friend," Fowler said. "I wanted to do something to celebrate what he did on the course, and more importantly, how he used his platform to benefit others through his Foundation!" The shoes were created for Puma Golf by Dominic Chambrone, known as "The Shoe Surgeon." Puma is also giving one lucky golfer the chance to own the same shoes Fowler has in his possession. Currently up for auction on eBay, the second pair of Palmer-inspired spikes come signed by Fowler, with all proceeds from the auction going to support the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.

  2. Former MLB manager Tony La Russa hosts “Dinner of Champions” in Phoenix. Founded in 1993 after he saved a stray cat during a game at the Oakland Coliseum, La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) works to keep pets out of harm’s way in public pounds. The organization has also partnered with veterans and people with traumatic brain injuries to come together with service-related issues to create a happy and healthy lifestyle. “We have a great cause, and in this case, it’s bringing our dogs together with veterans who have PTSD,” La Russa said. Steak 44 in Phoenix hosted the gathering, and among the athletes in attendance were Hall of Famers Jim Thome, George Brett, and Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks. A’s relief pitcher Liam Hendriks was also present, and he felt particularly strong about the cause at hand. Hendriks has six pets: three teacup Chihuahuas and three cats, including his “newest acquisition,” a displaced cat from Hurricane Irma. With roots in the Bay Area with the Athletics, La Russa underwrote a 37,700 square foot ARF shelter in Walnut Creek in 2003, and Hendriks has helped him with local events in recent years.

  3. Oklahoma City Thunder help fight hunger. Last week, the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization spent the afternoon at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma packing meals for the second annual Thunder Day of Service. The full roster from the Thunder and Blue, as well as staff members, packed meals, packaged dry goods, and filled boxes with food to go to Oklahomans facing food insecurity. In total, the Thunder organization packaged 12,144 pounds of food, which will feed approximately 10,120 Oklahomans. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of the Feeding America network of Food Banks, is the largest hunger-relief charity in the state, providing enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans every week, 37% of whom are children. In 2017, the Regional Food Bank distributed 52 million pounds of food through a network of 1,300 community-based partner agencies, charitable feeding programs, and schools throughout 53 central and western Oklahoma counties.

  4. MLB stars bartend for charity. Billy Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Dee Gordon were among ballplayers slinging drinks at the eighth annual Celebrity Bartender Night in Scottsdale to benefit Amyloidosis Support Groups and Cruz's Boomstick23 Foundation. They gathered to support Erica Brooks, whose firm Issues Concerning Athletes finds temporary housing for many Major Leaguers who spend February and March in Arizona, and whose father passed away from the rare disease amyloidosis. "It means a lot to me, it means a lot to Erica and her family," said Hamilton, who has been attending since at least 2014. Amyloidosis is an incurable disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in a person's organs. "I do housing for them, but this is where I get rewarded," Brooks said. Cruz added additional weight to this year's event by involving his Boomstick 23 Foundation, which focuses on youth sports and education. "Where we're coming from, we know the importance of giving back," said Cruz. "I learned it from my dad. Any cause that I can help, especially stuff like this, I'm glad to do it."

  5. Former NFL players help nonprofit. On April 7, members of the NFL Alumni group will host a clay shooting fundraiser for Champions for Champions. The Champions for Champions nonprofit offers activities for children and adults with special needs. Former Miami Dolphins Running Back Don Nottingham, Super Bowl VIII Champion in 1973, partnered with local resident Marisa Rodriguez, who has battled the effects of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. “Some people said I would never walk on my own, but I proved them wrong,” said Rodriguez. She has overcome the need to use a walker or a cane, which she had used from age 3 until her early teens. Rodriguez was one of several members of Champions for Champions of Ocala who gathered, along with Nottingham, for the group’s most recent Friday “Dance Like a Champion” session. The nonprofit Champions for Champions aims to “actively enhance the quality of life” for adults and children with “intellectual, physical or developmental disability,” such as autism and Downs syndrome, according to the group’s commitment statement. Champions for Champions formed in 2016 and now includes about 40 members and their families.

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Ryan Donato scored two power-play goals and Troy Terry dominated with his speed as college players led the United States to an important 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Friday at the Olympics.

Donato, who plays for his father Ted at Harvard, delivered the kind of offense USA Hockey wanted when it picked four NCAA players for its no-NHL Olympic roster. Donato, Terry and American Hockey League scoring star Chris Bourque were all additions to the U.S. after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November, during which the U.S. struggled to score, particularly against Slovakia goaltender Jan Laco.

Laco was on top of his game, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Only this time, the Americans' young skill that coach Tony Granato hoped would bring energy and spark the team came through.

Goalie Ryan Zapolski made 21 saves for his first Olympic victory, which is crucial considering only the top four of 12 teams avoid the qualification round Monday. With the regulation win, the U.S. vaults to the top of Group B with four points. Slovakia was second with three, followed by Slovenia and Russia.

The U.S. faces Russia in each team's final preliminary-round game Saturday night.

The Americans didn't have a shot on net until six-plus minutes into the game when defenseman Noah Welch finally got the puck to Laco.

All it took to get the U.S. offense going was a Slovakia penalty that gave Terry and Donato some room to operate. Terry sped through the offensive zone and took two Slovakia defenders with him, dropping the puck to a wide-open Donato for his first power-play goal of the game to put the U.S. up 1-0 at 7:10.

Just 25 seconds later, Andrej Kudrna scored on a tip of a Tomas Surovy shot that slipped under Zapolski's right arm for a tying goal the 31-year-old goalie probably wants back.

Bobby Butler had a semi-breakaway late in the first and Laco got his blocker on it. A couple of second-period power plays yielded offensive-zone time but not a goal, and a borderline goalie interference penalty on Boston University's Jordan Greenway made penalty killers work hard to keep it tied.

After a too many men on the ice call on Slovakia, Bourque, another son of a former NHL player, fed Donato, who spun around in front and went five-hole on Laco to score the game-winning goal with 17:09 left.