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Oakland Raiders Hopes of Relocating to Las Vegas Dwindling

After picking up so much momentum in such a short period of time, the Oakland Raiders’ hopes of relocating to Las Vegas are beginning to dwindle quickly. According to the L.A. Times, Goldman Sachs, the bank that originally said it “would finance” the Raiders new stadium, “pulled away from the project.” The Raiders told the NFL that the bank would fund their planned $1.9 billion stadium despite Las Vegas Sands Chair & CEO Sheldon Adelson withdrawing from the deal last week, but that is no longer true. Sources close to the deal reported that Goldman Sachs pulled out because Adelson rescinded his support of the stadium. Nevada state Senator Aaron Ford yesterday suggested that public money for the stadium “could be diverted for other purposes if the situation isn’t quickly resolved.” Those that know Adelson well confidently stated that there is very little hope of the businessman reentering the deal. Marc Davis, city of Las Vegas and state of Nevada will surely scramble to replace the “missing equity piece.” The public funding commitment and the NFL allocation provides a solid foundation from which to build, however.

Ravens Invest $120 Million to Renovate M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens are planning on investing $120 million as part of a three-year project to renovate M&T Bank Stadium. According to the Baltimore Sun, the project is set to become the team’s biggest investment in facility upgrades to date; the project will “add elevators and escalators, enlarge the end zone video boards and improve the sound system and kitchen facilities.” On top the the Ravens’ investment, the Maryland Stadium Authority also pledged to chip in $24 million to the project. “We need to keep making improvements,” said team President Dick Cass. “We won’t stop here. You can’t ever stop. You have to keep putting money into your stadium.” The 19-year-old stadium had its Wi-Fi improved back in 2013 as part of a $45 investment that saw concourses and concessions upgraded as well. In today’s current NFL landscape, teams are continually opening new mega stadiums and renovating slightly older ones; the Ravens are playing catch-up. M&T Bank Stadium renovation is the next in an endless line of major upgrades around the league – as leases with stadiums built in the 1990s come up for renewal or renegotiation. Also, technological needs and fan comfort coalesce in new improvements.

Cities Compete for MLS Expansion Team

Twelve cities have formally applied for MLS expansion bids, but only four of these hopeful markets will eventually land a team. According to Soccer America, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa are all vying to join the budding domestic soccer league. The bid groups “include owners with interests in the NFL, NBA and MLB,” while eight “have had interests in teams” in NASL and the USL. An MLS expansion committee is expected to begin reviewing applications later this month focusing on three areas: “Ownership, stadium details; and financial projections, corporate and soccer support.” Two of the selected franchises will hopefully begin play in 2020, with the other two starting in the years following. Speaking of the 12 applicant cities, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “All great cities, support of proven leaders, and passionate fans.” The MLS now faces the standard tradeoff that all leagues analyze: significant expansion revenue and higher franchise values vs. the long-term harm of overexpansion. Let’s see how the MLS plays this one.

USA Football/Pop Warner Adopt Safety Measures, Contact Restrictions to Attract Kids Back to Youth Football

In a push to make the game safer and more popular for kids, USA Football “intends to introduce a drastically altered youth football game.” According to the N.Y. Times, there has been a sharp decline in youth football participation over the past few years in response to the concussion crisis sweeping through the sport. The organization has “created a new format that brings the game closer to flag football and tries to avoid much of the violence in the current version.” Teams will now play with between six and nine players on the field instead of the traditional 11, the field will be shrunken and all kickoffs and punts will be eliminated. “There are, legitimately, concerns among parents about allowing their kids to play tackle football at a young age,” said Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy, who is on the USA Football Board of Directors. “So they can look at this and say they’ll be more comfortable that it is a safer alternative.” All youth football organizations (including Pop Warner and USA Football) are experimenting with various safety measures, format changes, and contact restrictions in order to “stay ahead of the concussion science.”

Focusing on the Environment 2020 Tokyo Olympics Will Use Recycled Materials for Medals

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will have a weirdly unique feature: the medals that will be awarded to athletes will be made from recycled materials. According to Reuters, organizes in Tokyo said that the medals will be “forged from recycled metal from old mobile phones and appliances donated by the general public to give them a sense of direct involvement in the Games.” On top of keeping the general public involved, this move will also save costs after the initial budget “ballooned” to more than $26.4 billion at one point. The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee hopes to gather as much as eight tons of metal – 40kg of gold, 2,920kg of silver and 2,994kg of bronze – to meet the required amount of materials needed to properly make the Olympic medals. Several million units of mobile phones will be required to meet the “8-ton target,” the organizing committee said. A national recycling effort will officially begin in April. A symbolic but important effort to focus on environmental concerns – that will be one of the Tokyo Olympic legacies going forward.

Mexican and American Border-Region Soccer Teams Plan “Wall” Protest Tournament

Sports have recently acted as a popular medium for athletes and teams to express themselves politically and socially, and “The Bridge Tournament” is set to become another example of just that. According to Xinhua, border-region Mexican and American soccer teams are planning to “play a tournament to protest the wall United States President Donald Trump plans to build along the two countries’ shared border.” The new president drew a significant amount of criticism during his campaign for his proposition of a wall and how to fund it, and the criticism has only escalated since he announced his intention on following through with the initial plan. No date has been set for The Bridge Tournament yet, but invitations have already been sent out to potential participants. “The event will pit three teams from each country, including Ascenso MX side Correcaminos, Tampico Madero and Reynosa from Mexico, against U.S sides Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas and Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.” A welcome symbolic and practical attempt to maximize “hands across the border” given the obvious political concerns. In this case, sports may help show the way for better regional cooperation.

The NFL Looking To Expand International Games in Canada

According to the Toronto Sun, the NFL scouted four Canadian stadiums in 2016 as “candidate sites for possible future regular-season games.” Rogers Centre and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, and B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver were the four venues looked at, as confirmed by NFL Executive Vice President/International Mark Waller. The league was primarily evaluating the locker rooms and whether or not the venues met the NFL’s technological standards. Waller noted that the NFL has “not yet reached a conclusion on a Canadian venue,” nor does it “disclose findings of such information missions”, but the league will be heading back to Mexico next year regardless of what happens north of the border. The NFL recently confirmed a game between the Raiders and Patriots will be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City next season. Inevitable and positive news by the NFL to expand its reach north of the border while continuing to work with the CFL.

Tennessee Titans and NFL Are At Odds About The Team’s Ownership Structure

The Tennessee Titans and NFL are at odds about the team’s ownership structure and as to whether or not it “complies with league rules.” According to the Nashville Tennessean, Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk took over for her sister, Susie Adams Smith, back in March 2015 and each own 33% of the team; the remaining third of ownership stake is “split among three other family members.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the ownership situation in Tennessee by saying, “The fundamental aspect of our policy is to make sure that we have an individual who has the ultimate authority over the franchise, and to make those decisions, including league-vote decisions, as well as locally, and it’s clear – it’s clear to the ownership group and it’s also clear to the membership.” When Amy Adams Strunk took over in 2015, the league levied a six-figure fine on the franchise, but that did not ultimately change the situation. Look for these ownership and transition issues to be resolved as soon as possible, especially with the evolving estate tax laws and the need for stability and clarity in the Nashville market.

National Women’s Soccer League Will Stream Matches on Lifetime

The National Women’s Soccer League will now have its games streamed on Lifetime after A+E Networks “purchased an equity stake” in the league. According to the K.C. Star, weekly matches will be streamed on the network and there are plans to launch NWSL Media, “which will oversee live streaming of all matches.” NWSL Media will “serve as the commercial branch for the league, overseeing its broadcast and sponsorship rights.” It will also “administer a new website and phone app.” The TV deal with the NWSL and Lifetime is set for three years, marking the “top broadcast arrangement in the league’s history.” Another part of the deal will see Lifetime’s logo placed on all official league jerseys with a patch on the right sleeve. Due to the 4:00pm ET slot that NWSL games will have on Lifetime, NWSL games and MLS games will “go head-to-head at least 10 times this year” when men’s games will be airing on ESPN. Lifetime may have phoned a “life line” to the league – with the hopes that the product and demographic appeal can carry the day and reenergize momentum.

San Diego State University Struggle’s With No-Show Rate for Students at Basketball Games

San Diego State’s impressive 80-game regular-season sellout streak is over and the university is now struggling to keep its students interested in the team. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, last season saw a 10-15% no-show rate for students at basketball games at Viejas Arena, with the trend escalating this season. Around 700 students “failed to collect free tickets” to SDSU’s game against Wyoming, equating to around 30% of the 2,500-person student section remaining empty during games. It has been “seven seasons since all student tickets were not claimed for a conference home game with school in session.” The university has begun to float the idea of converting 500 of the student section seats into season tickets for paying fans, but no move has been made yet. The “cash-strapped athletic department” seems likely to make this switch in the near future because these additional season tickets “could generate an additional $500,000” for the university. The team has been consistently successful both on and off the court. Long-term marketing techniques are sometimes necessary to sustain interest between championship caliber teams.