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
15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BUSINESS/
MARKETING/TECH ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 2
with Jamie Swimmer & Ron Socash
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.