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1. Getting your hands on a ticket to Super Bowl LII will be a bit more affordable than initially projected. According to ESPN, ticket prices were expected to be priced at record-breaking heights if the Minnesota Vikings had beaten the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship, which would have given a team home field advantage for the first time in Super Bowl history. “Get-in ticket prices on resale sites hovered above $4,500 all week with the Vikings having a chance to play on Feb. 4 in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. But when the Vikings went up on the Eagles 7-0 in Sunday’s game, asking prices soared to more than $5,400.” Ticket prices fluctuated hundreds of dollars over the course of the game depending on the score on secondary ticket sites like StubHub and Vivid Seats. Flight prices have continued to stay high though. The lowest price for direct roundtrip flights from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, leaving Thursday, February 1 and returning Monday, February 5, cost $1,502. Another thing not projected to drop despite the Eagles’ defeat of the Vikings to claim the NFC Big Game spot: the incredible warmth and hospitality Minnesotans are known for.

2. United Way Worldwide, Greater Twin Cities United Way, and the NFL have teamed up to produce a Character Playbook booth at Super Bowl Experience (SBX) as a part of Super Bowl LII’s seven-day takeover of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Powered by education technology company EVERFI, the interactive booth highlights the United Way’s year-round digital education program, NFL Character Playbook, which teaches students in Grades 7-9 key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning (SEL), and building healthy relationships. The booth will engage fans with the virtual reality game “It’s In Your Hands,” which will give participants of all ages the chance to put their character to the test in a 360-degree virtual-reality football field. One scenario at a time, individuals will answer questions and make decisions by throwing footballs at various target answers. The scenarios will be presented by NFL players, including Minnesota Vikings stars Adam Thielen, Case Keenum, Everson Griffen, Kyle Rudolph, and Stefon Diggs. The booth will also feature virtual photos with players and giveaways. The Character Playbook booth is a great example of purpose-driven experiential: at the NFL Experience and elsewhere, fans can walk away with valuable life lessons even as they play.

3. If sports betting is legalized, the NBA is asking 1% of all money gambled, which equates to 20-29% of 2017 NBA revenue, according to JohnWallStreet. In 2014, Adam Silver became the first American sports commissioner to back the legalization and regulation of sports gambling at the federal level. Last Wednesday, the NBA set their price – 1% of all bets, not just on NBA games – to help lobby Congress. The league is seeking legislation that would authorize legalized gambling from mobile phones and kiosks in addition to casinos and racetracks. It also want to limit prop bets that can be easily fixed, implement an age restriction, and ensure a “rigorous licensing plan” is in place for sports betting operators. The NBA will allocate gambling revenue to real-time wager monitoring. League attorney Dan Spillane touted the NBA’s plan as a solution that would offer “sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions.” In 2017, Las Vegas took in $4.5 billion-$5 billion in wagers, just a fraction of the $400 billion Silver believes is gambled illegally each year. The average Vegas casino earns a 3.5-5% profit. The NBA’s proposed 1% fee amounts to roughly 12% of the league’s 2017 revenue of $5.9 billion. If even $50 billion is bet on NBA games, the league would take in $500 million in new revenue.

4. Now that former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been handed his prison sentence, all eyes are turning toward Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. According to USA Today, Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison for his systemic sexual abuse of USA gymnasts for decades, but more people are being held accountable for their lack of action against the former doctor. Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon resigned after serving in her role for 13 years; Athletic Director Mark Hollis resigned as well. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun went as far as to demand that all remaining members of the USA Gymnastics BOD resign or else he would “decertify the organization if that and other demands for change are not met” – the entire board announced that it would resign as a result. The USOC now plans to hire a private investigator to look into how such extensive abuse could have gone undetected for so long. “This investigation will include both USAG and the USOC, and we believe USAG will cooperate fully,” Blackmun said. “We will make the results public.” The public indeed deserves answers as to how such a horrible crime could go on for so long without detection and restitution.

5. The XFL is making a comeback in early 2020. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the league will be re-launched in two years’ time, marking WWE Chair and CEO Vince McMahon’s second attempt at turning the XFL into a legitimate football league. As opposed to the XFL that was launched in 2001 and lasted only one season, this time around the league will be more “wholesome and family friendly.” The first XFL relied heavily on WWE-style marketing tactics, emphasizing “sex and violence” more than anything else to attract and build a fan base. McMahon noted that the new XFL will not have cheerleaders, nor will it hire players who have arrest records. “We want to entertain – that’s what we do,” said McMahon. “There are not going to be any politics involved with this thing…People want to be entertained. It’s the entertainment value that sometimes is lost.” The league will start during the winter following the Super Bowl, with eight yet-to-be-determined markets expected to be announced in the coming months.

6. The San Francisco 49ers, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), and CAA are teaming up to create Elevate Sports Agency. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the new agency is being formed to focus on premium seating, PSLs, and corporate hospitality sales, but is expected to evolve beyond that in subsequent years. Current 49ers President Al Guido will serve as CEO and Managing Partner of Elevate, while HBSE CEO Scott O’Neil, CAA Sports co-Heads Howard Nuchow and Michael Levine, and CAA Sports Global Head of Sales Paul Danforth have been named co-Managing Partners of the new venture. Elevate will have offices in Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, and London. “We believe the assets of the combined entities give us a strategic advantage,” said Guido. “Our backgrounds are vast. I’ve spent a lot of time in the NFL, Scott (O’Neil) has been in the NBA for a long time, and the CAA guys have been in the agency space for a while.” Look to Legends. A really good idea was bound to begat really good competition.

7. MLS is closing in on its next expansion franchise, as hinted by Commissioner Don Garber. According to Planet Futbol, Garber hopes that the league’s newest expansion club will be announced ahead of the 2018 season, which will kick off on March 3. Garber noted that despite not having announced which city will be receiving a team, at this point the league is “just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.” The new franchise will be MLS’s 25th after Nashville was introduced on December 20 as the 24th team in the growing league. Sacramento is largely expected to be named the winner of this race, though Cincinnati is seen as a formidable competitor. Sacramento is still looking for a “billionaire lead investor after acknowledging last month that it did not have the financial heft to land an expansion spot.” The league’s current expansion fee is $150 million, reflecting its increasing worth.

8. The L.A. Memorial Coliseum is ready to welcome United Airlines as its official naming rights partner. According to SportsBusiness Daily, United has signed a 15-year, $70.5 million deal to put its name on the historic venue right next to USC’s campus. The partnership, which is valued at $4.7 million annually, comes as the richest naming rights deal among college football stadiums – surpassing Alaska Airlines’ 10-year, $41 million deal with the University of Washington for Husky Stadium’s naming rights. The contract has been in the work for several months, as news first broke last May about a potential deal between United and the Coliseum. United has strong ties to USC and the city of Los Angeles; airline CEO Oscar Munoz graduated from USC’s business school and L.A. International Airport currently serves as one of United’s U.S. hubs. The Coliseum is planning a $270 million renovation, with revenue from the naming rights deal and other sponsorships, along with donations and premium seating, expected to cover the costs.

9. PeacePlayers in Baltimore’s Park Heights uniting police and community through sports. By night, Joseph Bannerman works as a detective for the Baltimore City Police Department. But during the day, kids around Park Heights know him as “Coach Joe.” As one of about two dozen volunteer coaches for PeacePlayers International in the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood, Bannerman helps elementary and middle school students polish their basketball skills. But off the court, he acts as a mentor, along with about 15 other city officers who help out during police shifts or on their own time. PeacePlayers, which uses basketball to unite communities in conflict, launched in Baltimore last summer with a camp at KIPP Ujima Village Academy. It now offers programs four days a week in Park Heights, at the community center and at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary/Middle School. On Saturday, the after-school program celebrated “equality through sport,” in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend with a skills clinic at Langston Hughes Community Center. Dressed in black T-shirts that read “equality,” students jammed the community center’s gym, lining up to make bank shots, pass to teammates and dribble two balls at once around cones. Initiatives like these are the cornerstone pof PeacePlayers presence in Baltimore.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder Look To Help Boost Tech Investment In The State. Duties of the Oklahoma City Thunder extend further than just the basketball court. With OKC being a smaller market than most, the Thunder are working to boost business development within their home state. Their latest initiative is called “Thunder Launchpad,” which seeks to boost local tech investment: The initiative is in partnership with StitchCrew, a local firm seeking to help tech-based entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Thunder Launchpad’s physical space is located in OKC’s Midtown neighborhood. It will play host to events and programs giving entrepreneurs the space and resources they need to impress potential investors. “We’re proud that the Thunder has become such an integral part of our community, and we are invested in the future of our home state,” Brian Byrnes, senior VP of Sales and Marketing for the Thunder, said in a statement Thursday. “Creating the Thunder Launchpad is a unique and forward-looking way to reinforce the exceptional ties we have formed across the region and to foster growth and development in Oklahoma.”

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