Chicago Cubs Bids to Host the 2020 MLB All-Star Game

Coming off their first World Series title in over 100 years, the Chicago Cubs are now submitting a bid to host the 2020 MLB All-Star Game. According to the Chicago Tribune, Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts is working with city officials to put together an “attractive bid” to bring the event to Wrigley Field. Logistics are still being worked out, for the entire weekend spans “essentially five days of festivals and events.” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said that the team has “been in contact” with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office and MLB “regarding efforts to fulfill requirements to host the game.” The last time Wrigley played host to the All-Star Game was 1990, so the team hopes that its recent on-field success and ballpark renovations will lure the game back to the Windy City. Baseball’s major “event leverage” comes with the All-Star Game annually. They award new ballparks, renovations, civic accomplishments, and (in the Cubs’ case) the end of monumental frustration. The game goes to South Florida this year amid rumors of an impending Marlins sale.

Philadelphia Prepares for NFL’s First Outdoor Draft

The NFL’s first outdoor draft is being hyped up weeks ahead of the selection show. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia is “expecting 200,000 football fans” to show up to the outdoor theatre being constructed in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The theatre will only seat around 3,000 people, and tickets are limited, yet the event should bring hundreds of thousands to the city center. To keep fans engaged, standing room on the Parkway will be “transformed into a festival the size of 25 football fields, open free to the public before and during the draft.” Staging the three-day event is said to cost around $20-25 million, though most of that will be covered by the NFL. The Draft joins the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl as the NFL’s “rotating mega-events.” Each year it is expected to outdraw, outhustle, and outperform the predecessor – leading to more leverage, better public support, and more choices for NFL public/private partnerships.

MLS Opens 2017 Season and Welcomes Newcomer Atlanta and Minneapolis

MLS is off and running as it opens its 2017 season bookended by two new expansion franchises. Newcomer Atlanta United has sold more than 30,000 season tickets, appealing to millennials and Hispanic fans alike. Atlanta United will host eight games at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium before moving into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 30. In Minneapolis, Minnesota United is “confident the club’s first home match” as a MLS franchise will “exceed 30,000 tickets sold,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. United has “sold out the lower bowl” at TCF Bank Stadium for the March 12 match against Atlanta United, and is “closing in on 11,000 season tickets sold, with a team-imposed limit of 11,842 (tied to state’s lake total).” Elsewhere in the league, Orlando City SC moved in to its new home as it hosted NYCFC for its 2017 MLS season opener. The game at Orlando City Stadium was “sold out for weeks” and was broadcast nationally on ESPN. In front of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Real Salt Lake drew 19,519 fans for its match against Toronto FC. And a would-be expansion franchise in San Diego announced Landon Donovan as a new member of its ownership group. San Diego could well be a test case – is soccer chipping away at the NFL’s American sports dominance?

Fortress Continues Effort to Keep the Raiders in Oakland

Fortress Investment Group is not giving up on its goal to keep the Raiders in Oakland. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the investment group sent “the NFL and the Raiders a proposal to build a new stadium for the team next to their existing venue.” The team is currently committed to relocating to Las Vegas, but league owners still need to meet and vote on the potential move “as soon as the end of March.” “It is unclear how different the proposal Fortress sent in is from the model it agreed to with Oakland in December, which the NFL has rejected.” Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL declined to comment on the proposal or the previously rejected bid, but those close to the matter note that under the last proposal, “Fortress would have developed the land and kept key revenue streams.” To many, this proposal is viewed as the last effort to keep the Raiders in the Bay Area. The Las Vegas deal has a much stronger financial foundation – public support and NFL/Raiders equity. What Oakland has is a tradition of fan support and the presumption that the process be given “one last best chance” to work.

LA 2024 Ramps Up Olympic Promotion Efforts

With the 2024 Olympic bid down to only two cities, LA 2024 is ramping up its promotion efforts overseas after signing PR firm Weber Shandwick. According to Ad Age, the PR firm is tasked with providing the bid group with communications support in international markets “where Olympic stakeholders live and work, as well as providing strategic insight into the entire process.” Weber Shandwick “helped support winning Olympic bids for the 2022 Beijing Games, the 2020 Tokyo Games and the 2014 Sochi Games.” Unlike past projects, this firm will not have to roll out a domestic campaign in Los Angeles to win over public support because 88% of the city already supports the bid. This move to hire an international PR agency marks another significant step for LA 2024 to land the Olympics after Budapest recently withdrew its bid; Paris is the only other competing city. While we all know that the Olympic selection process is inherently political, the PR message will focus on legacy, infrastructure support, and an “expectation” that the U.S. should participate in a Summer Games sooner than later. Look for drama in the boardroom between now and the end of the summer.

English Premier League Clubs Set to Earn up to $12.4 million on Uniform Sleeve Sponsorships

What is already the wealthiest soccer league in the world, the EPL is still finding new ways to bring in millions of dollars annually. According to the London Daily Mail, Premier League clubs are now “set to earn up to $12.4 million more from sponsorships after talks” to add sleeve sponsorships for next season opened up between league and team executives. Sleeve sponsorships are valued at around one-fifth of a main kit sponsor, which means that clubs such as Manchester United, which receives “$58.3 million-a-year from Chevrolet to be on its shirts, could see a further $11 million invested in the club” on a yearly basis. Contract stipulations with main kit sponsors for a couple of the EPL’s best teams mean that a few notable clubs “will not be able to participate in the deal for next season,” though they will be able to sign a secondary sponsor in following years. Purists beware – the EPL is looking more like NASCAR every day. Why wouldn’t it? Especially if an unused square inch of clothing should now command over $12 million annually for each club.

United Center New Renovation Aims to Make Arena 12-month Destination

With the goal of turning their arena into a “12-month destination,” the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks have unveiled the newly-renovated east side of the United Center. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, renovations include a new office building, fan atrium, restaurants, and a team store. They also provide an “indoor, climate-controlled space for fans to visit the Michael Jordan statue, and to use the ticket windows.” The new atrium is 190,000 square feet and will be open every day from 10:00am-6:00pm, year round. The Bulls and Blackhawks never have much trouble filling seats at the United Center for home games, but this marks a great step for the premier Chicago sports franchises to engage with their fans outside of just game days. Adding the store and restaurants should create a significant amount of buzz around the United Center, as well as a nice bit of extra revenue for the teams. Facility renovations all over the country enter new phases: lease renegotiations; financial creativity; high-tech tweaks; and new space for merchandise and concessions. Obviously, better for the fans.

International NFL Series Success in Mexico City Encourages Increased International Expansion

On the heels of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, an economic impact study from the league’s International Series game in Mexico City revealed an “incremental increase” in the city’s GDP. According to the Sports Industry group at EY, the Mexico City game this past season between the Texans and Raiders supported “2,840 jobs in the city” and contributed toward $43 million of total domestic and international tourist spending; the overall economic impact was $45 million. The sellout crowd at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium consisted mainly of domestic fans, though over 9,500 international fans attended and 21,500 fans traveled from other parts of Mexico to get in on the action. These numbers come as great news for the NFL, which has tried to expand its international footprint in all directions. The league currently has more games planned in Mexico and throughout Europe in the coming years. Most recent news about Mexico has not been good. However, the combination of the WGC Golf Championship and the long-term interest for the NFL in Mexico is welcome news for our southern neighbor.

Las Vegas Golden Knights officially Join NHL

The Las Vegas Golden Knights are officially an NHL team. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Owner Bill Foley made the third and final $500 million expansion payment on behalf of the franchise. “This is the most extensive transaction I’ve ever done, and I’ve made $5 billion deals. Even my wife had to sign 20 documents,” noted Foley. Other NHL team owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman were quick to congratulate Foley on officially joining the league. The Knights are the most recent expansion team in the NHL, bringing the total team count up to 31 for next season. The teams’ final expansion payment was not supposed to be completed and processed until April 5, but the league expedited and finalized the transaction five weeks ahead of time. Team General Manager George McPhee was thankful for the quick response on behalf of the league, meaning that the Golden Knights can now participate in transactions before the trade deadline. Las Vegas went from being “radioactive” as a franchise location to the home of one (and maybe two) in the not-too-distant future. Fan orientation, significant public money, and tourism infrastructure all add to the possibilities for success.

NFL Seeks to Bring Fun Aspects Back to Games and Generate New Fan Support

Following a poor year of ratings, the NFL is looking to win over a few more fans this coming season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, one key way the NFL is trying to garner more public support is by possibly relaxing its laughable touchdown celebration rules. The Competition Committee is in talks to let players “have fun again” after scoring touchdowns – an area they have cracked down on in recent years following the likes of Chad Ocho Cinco and Terrell Owens. The league’s reputation and ratings plummeted this past season following a series of events. “You think of concussions, you think of serious injuries, you think of domestic violence, you think of people protesting the flag and other things,” noted EPSN’s Israel Gutierrez. “Maybe if you introduce some fun into this and not maintain yourselves as the ‘No Fun League,’ then maybe there are different ways to get your product a little more desirable.” While the NFL aspires to $25 billion per year in revenue, there is always the need to generate new fan support – diverse demographics, superstar promotion, and fan enthusiasm.