This week, “Last Week in BizBall“ is divided into two editions. The first on the new CBA is here. And this is the second, the weekly tidbits.
- Tim Epstein practices sports law in Chicago. LWIB, the Sports Law Blog included a post from Tim on the politics of baseball stadia in the Windy City. Tim contrasts the political circumstances and outcomes experienced by owners of both Chicago teams. The way Tim depicts the situation, the White Sox have been treated very generously by state and city governments while the Cubs haven‘t (so far). Renos to US Cell, along with maintenance of the ballpark, are paid for with public money. When the state’s stadium authority came up short this year due to a shortfall in projected hotel tax revenue, Chicago taxpayers made up the difference. In addition, the stadium authority paid for the construction of a new restaurant “right outside” US Cell but the White Sox keep all the profit it generates. By comparison, Tim outlines the inability of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to obtain public investment in a renovation of Wrigley Field (so far). As well, he explains how Wrigley Field’s “landmark status” restricts the Cubs ability to increase ballpark revenues. Just read it.
- LWIB, the Sports Law Blog linked to this post by law professor Edward Zelinsky. Zelinsky’s specialty is tax law. He argues that Albert Pujols is worth every penny of his new deal and that, in addition, he is not undertaxed one bit. Most of the analysis of the Pujols deal has focused on how much incremental revenue it will generate for the club and predicting his on field production over the duration of the deal. Zelinsky’s take is more political and philosophical. “Pujols is not a poorly-performing CEO whose salary has been inflated by a compliant compensation consultant and ratified by a passive board of directors the CEO himself has selected. Pujols’ salary was established in a transparent and open marketplace by purchasers seeking his services on an arms-length basis against other bidders, baseball teams trying to win more games. Pujols has earned the rewards of the marketplace in a truly competitive fashion.”
- The re-branded (what an awful word) NBC Sports Network officially launched January 2. One sports biz story we are all monitoring is NBC Sports Net’s expected challenge to ESPN’s dominance of sports media. Obviously, in order to compete with ESPN, NBC Sports Net must acquire the rights to more high profile properties. The present offering of NHL, Olympics, PBR and Tour de France isn’t very frightening to ESPN. But, Comcast has lots of dough and an over-the-air channel to broadcast marquee events, so…might they bid on MLB rights when the present deals with ESPN, Turner & Fox expire after the 13 season? LWIB, Michael Bradley wrote at the Indiana University Sports Journalism Blog, “The key to any kind of long-term survival is the continued acquisition of quality content. With the MLB contract up for grabs, NBC could well make another pitch for weekly national and post-season broadcasts, using the argument that putting the World Series on ESPN could potentially hurt ratings, since the four-letter network is only in 86% of U.S. households. (NBC Sports Network is in about 67%, but NBC is in 100%.) That could give the fledgling network a chance to air some baseball games during the summer, when hockey is on hiatus.”
- LWIB, Eric Fisher reported that MLB has still not officially announced the site of the 13 ASG, expected to be played at Citi Field. Eric finds that notable because the 13 game is 18 months away and typically MLB announces the site “23 to 31 months ahead of the event..” My immediate reaction was that it is another sign that Wilpon and Katz are set to lose control of the Mets but Eric reports that isn’t the case. “But just as the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was not announced until January 2007, industry sources said MLB is once again dealing with the complex logistics of staging its midsummer jewel event in the country’s largest market.”
- LWIB, Eric Fisher reported that the HOF recently filed their 10 tax return and it lost money. That marks losses in 7 of 9 years. Lies, damn lies and accounting, but perhaps more telling about baseball’s current place in American popular culture is attendance. “Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.”
- Stadium politics are always in the news, if for no other reason, the negotiations between governments and franchise owners last years, even decades, until deals are struck. And, on that note, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is scheduled to meet with the mayor of St. Petersburg on January, 17. Read Roger Mooney. More of the same on the west coast, where Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is scrambling to keep the A’s and Raiders in her city. LWIB, Angela Woodell reported on a novel stadia financing idea. Evidently, via something called EB-5, Quan is offering Chinese investors green cards in return for investing in multi use developments which include new stadia for the Oakland pro sports teams. Seriously.
- Last off season the Rangers invested $13 million to upgrade video and audio at Rangers Ballpark. This off season they are investing another $12 million, which will result in, “A new sports bar and concession stands, air-conditioned children's play area and additional club seating with spectacular views of the field…” The city of Arlington owns the park and is giving the Rangers a tax break on the construction. The Rangers pay the city $2 million annually to lease the stadium. And you can read Susan Schrock’s report for all the details.
- Are you an Alaskan baseball fan? If you are, do you know that Alaska cable provider GCI has dropped Roots Sports Northwest and replaced it with MLB Network? Mariners games on MLB Net will be blacked out for GCI subscribers because Alaska is part of Seattle’s broadcast territory. Mike Reynolds has the details.
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Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.
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