15 to watch (Week of 9.5.16)
Rick Horrow's "15 to Watch"
CSN Bay Area Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow takes you off the field with his 15 top Biz Ball trends for the week of September 5.
Tip of the iceberg?
1. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem during a preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers may just be the tip of the iceberg for the QB’s protests, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Kaepernick defended himself by stating that he did not have any intention of “bashing the military” with his protest. "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” said Kaepernick. “To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand." Despite receiving harsh criticism and backlash from his actions and remarks, Kaepernick defended himself and made it clear that his decision not to stand during the pregame ceremony “wasn’t made spur of the moment.”
Bruins, Lakers link up
2. The Los Angeles Lakers have signed on UCLA Health as the team’s official naming rights partner for their new practice facility, according to the L.A. Times. The facility will be completed next summer and it will be down the road from the team’s current facility. Perks at the new building will include a "bigger practice area and weight room, plus a 15-person cold tub," a movie theatre, and a ‘fan-centric’ exhibition court with 750 seats. As part of the deal, UCLA Health will serve as the team’s in-game medical provider and the company will have a full medical staff from UCLA at the facility. The new complex "will be three times as large, put all basketball and business operations under one roof and offer players cutting-edge training facilities and amenities." The Lakers plan on having a team store at the facility for fans visiting the building.
Expanding the fan experience
3. The Portland Timbers have one of MLS’s strongest fan bases, but the team’s current stadium in Providence Park is struggling to meet demand from fans. According to the Portland Oregonian, the Timbers face some “major challenges as they look to expand their fan base.” Their city-owned stadium holds only 21,144 fans, “which is a real limitation for a city and organization that claims such a large stronghold of soccer supporters.” The team recently drew up a new expansion design that could potentially add up to 3,500 more seats for the Timbers Army. The club is still "exploring the feasibility of the plan and no potential renovations would take place" until after the '18 MLS season. Timbers President of Business Operations Mike Golub said that the club "adds about 150 season tickets a year, which hardly puts a dent in a season ticket waitlist of 13,000."
4. The Miami Dolphins played their first game in their newly renovated and renamed home, Hard Rock Stadium, and the facility drew rave reviews, according to the Miami Herald. Two "major facets of this makeover – the 'shade canopy' that will protect a vast majority of fans from sun or rain and the gigantic video screens positioned at the four corners of the field – register as enormous upgrades." Both renovations were fully financed by team Owner Stephen Ross, leaving local taxpayers without a dent in their pockets. In total, the renovations cost Ross $500 million. Speaking about his decision to self-fund the renovations, Ross said, "Whatever I do, I want to be best in class. That's what this (stadium) is about." Heat-resistant translucent panels still need to be installed on the west and north ends of the shade canopy, but they are expected to be finished by the team’s home opener on September 25.
'Yeah, that surprised me'
5. Arthur Ashe Stadium’s new retractable roof has done a great job keeping rain out, but it has also kept the noise in. According to USA Today, multiple players have noted the stadium being unexpectedly loud with the roof closed. Rafael Nadal said of the heightened noise after his second-round win at the U.S. Open, "Yeah, that surprised me." With over 22,000 spectators packed into the stadium under a closed roof it was expected to be louder that previous years, but "even when it’s open, the roof makes Arthur Ashe Stadium louder." Marcel Granollers played against Andy Murray under the closed roof in the rain and expressed his irritation. "With the rain, it was so annoying and it was difficult to play because when you hit the ball, normally you feel that you are hitting,” said Granollers. “When I hit, I didn’t feel nothing. It was also difficult (to) concentrate during the game.” Another ongoing noise issue in Ashe now – the constant buzz of thousands of fan conversations, albeit quiet ones.
Boycott on the beach
6. Star U.S. beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings recently boycotted the AVP Chicago Open, noting her dissatisfaction with two rules experiments put in place that weren’t “honestly or meaningfully” discussed with players beforehand. One rule to be tested would "give a server another service attempt if their first one hits the net and falls inbounds, much like on a serve in tennis." The three-time Olympian made a post of Facebook about her boycott, stating that there is a "major disconnect between AVP ownership & the players and it affects the legitimacy and integrity of our sport." Walsh Jennings followed up her comments by stating, “It's crazy to me that the AVP would choose their 'Championships' to test out some new rules. I wonder how the MLB athletes would respond to the rules of their game being changed for the World Series." Walsh Jennings recently won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.
7. More than 450 dump-truck loads of gravel and an AstroTurf field have been put down in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway in preparation for the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol, and speedway GM Jerry Caldwell has been pleased with the transformation process thus far. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the September 10 matchup between Tennessee and Virginia Tech “won’t be the last event of its kind that the speedway hosts.” The following week, East Tennessee State will host Western Carolina in a less-publicized event, but more high-profile games are expected to be added for years to come. “The comment or word they use is breathtaking, to walk in and see this place completely converted,” said Caldwell. “And it feels like a football stadium, it really does.” An additional 5,000 seats are being added just for the game, while infield buildings are being converted into locker rooms.
Breaking down the new deal
8. The Chicago Sox recently agreed to a deal with mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate, giving the company naming rights to their ballpark, but the new deal is "worth a fraction of the team's previous contract with U.S. Cellular," according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Financial details were not released when the story first broke, but it was revealed that the 13-year deal is worth $20.4 over the next 10 years. The $2 million that the White Sox are set to receive annually dwells in comparison to the $3.4 per year that they have been getting from U.S. Cellular since 2003. This number is also "substantially less than the average fee for naming rights to MLB venues." But naming rights alone "may not paint the full picture of the value the Sox get from the Guaranteed Rate deal." The two parties signed an additional deal regarding “various branding, promotional and hospitality benefits, along with marketing opportunities.”
Game, set, match
9. The “distinctive” Australian Open logo has made its final court appearance and is now set to be retired, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The tournament’s original “Serving Man” silhouette is believed to have been modeled on former tour player and Australian Open Deputy Tournament Director Peter Johnson. The shift away from the iconic logo comes as an attempt to keep up with current modernization and the digital world. Australian Open Head of Marketing Jo Juler said, "It's a bit of a refresh. Serving Man was never made for the digital age, he was designed for print, and he doesn't translate very well. And obviously having a serving man representing a tournament that is equal for men and women is no longer relevant.” The major’s attendees are around 65% women, so this transition is welcomed by all. The search for a new logo in Melbourne will continue after “Serving Man’s” January retirement.
Premier League pays up
10. This past offseason marked the Premier League’s most expensive transfer window in league history, according to Deloitte’s Sports Business Group and reported by Reuters. The preeminent global soccer league spent a record $1.54 billion, smashing last year’s number by 34%, which was the previous record for money spent. Deloitte Sports Business Group Partner Dan Jones said in a statement, "This is the fourth consecutive year the summer transfer spending record…has been broken. At the start of the 2013-2014 season the summer transfer spending record stood at 500 million pounds and the fact this record has more than doubled since then is a clear indicator of the financial growth of the league." In the final day of the transfer window alone, EPL clubs spent an astounding $206 million combined on fees. Manchester City led the way though, spending a remarkable $231 million alone. Manchester United followed with $198.4 million invested.
Big 12 getting bigger?
11. The Big 12 has “narrowed its list of expansion candidates to at least 12 schools,” according ESPN.com. Of those 12, eight of them are currently in the AAC, two in the Mountain West, and one in Conference USA. The final school on the list is BYU, which is Independent in football. Potential schools are located all over the country, from Air Force in Colorado to UConn in the Northeast to South Florida. Sources said that the schools that "did not" make the cut included Boise State, San Diego State and UNLV. The conference is aiming to offer invites to selected schools following its regularly scheduled BOD meeting in mid-October. The Big 12 "trimmed its group of potential candidates by nearly one-third," as almost two dozen schools that were "interested in joining the league conducted video conferences" with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby over the past two weeks.
Still the king of DFS
12. Despite a tumultuous past year for the daily fantasy sports industry, DraftKings recently closed on an impressive $153 million round of venture capital financing, according to SportsBusiness Daily. The DFS company was assisted by Revolution Growth, the investment firm co-founded by Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chair & CEO Ted Leonsis. Revolution Growth supplied its investment from a $525 million fund designed to invest “speed-up” capital in disruptive businesses. “The new valuation for DraftKings as a result of the new funding was not disclosed, but is believed to be below the roughly $2 billion mark pegged for the company last year, but that was prior to political and regulatory issues arising for DFS across the country.” The company has an impressive list of existing investors, even after the industry was hit by strict regulations, including “Fox Sports, MLB, the NHL, MLS, MSG, Legends Hospitality and the Kraft Group.”
13. Phase II of Arizona State’s renovation of Sun Devil Stadium is almost complete, according to the Arizona Republic. The entire renovation process cost the school $268 million and included a “demolition of the stadium’s west side and the construction of a building that will house football and other athletic facilities on the north end.” ASU Vice President/Athletics Ray Anderson said he is "very pleased with where we are because I think we're going to deliver something that our friends will be proud of." The renovations include seating capacity going "down to 56,232," after once being "over 70,000." And in the lower bowl on the west side, more than 13,400 gray seats with backs (and cup holders) "replace bleacher seating." Phase III of the project includes a demolition of the stadium’s east side and the completion of the football facilities on the north end. It will also include a 48-foot-by-113-foot video board "on the north end."
New name on the way
14. The PGA Tour Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston is getting a new title sponsor next year. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts-based EMC next year will "assume title sponsorship," but the tournament’s new name will be “announced at a later date, following the merger of EMC and Dell. EMC has been a local presenting sponsor and one of the founding partners of the event since it began in '03. EMC Senior VP/Global Business Operations Anne Ristau said, "Obviously we're committed to it, given that it's right in our backyard. It's such a great event in New England and this brings a ton of excitement. The tournament at TPC Boston has served as the second of four FedEx Cup playoffs ever since the FedEx Cup’s inception in 2007. Merging partner Dell currently sponsors the WGC/PGA Tour match play event in Austin, Texas.
'Greatest athlete ever'
15. A new Nike advertisement calls Serena Williams the “greatest athlete ever.” The world’s best women’s tennis player and Nike brand ambassador is featured in the company’s 60-second commercial, according to Adweek. Nike used Williams’ press conference from Wimbledon "as inspiration" for the spot. Williams was asked "how she felt about going down in the history books as 'one of the greatest female athletes of all time.'" She responded, "I prefer the words 'one of the greatest athletes of all time.'" The advertisement comes as part of Nike’s “Unlimited” series from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, and was timed to coincide with the opening rounds of the U.S. Open. Williams spoke about this ad and Nike, saying, "I really feel vindicated that a company so big as Nike can recognize just athletes and not put a sex behind it."