When it comes to tracking stadium funding and development, no one has covered it more closely than Neil deMause. Whether through his Field of Schemes website, the book of the same title, or through his days prior at Baseball Prospectus, deMause has highlighted the massive disparity between public and private investment in facility development.
Business of Sports Network staffer Rob Smith interviews deMause on a number of topics around the Florida market including the new Marlins Stadium set to be the location of MLB’s Opening Day broadcast via ESPN on April 4th, as well as the situation with the Rays’ efforts to gain a new ballpark in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area.
It's over... Frank McCourt has officially left Dodger Stadium
The sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers took an extra day to complete, but it’s finally over. With it, Frank McCourt is out and new ownership that sees Ervin “Magic” Johnson and former Braves and Nationals exec. Stan Kasten, is in.
The Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “The Dodgers emerge from the Chapter 11 reorganization process having achieved its objective of maximizing the value of the Dodgers through a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all claims will be paid. The Dodgers move forward with confidence - in a strong financial position; as a premier Major League Baseball franchise; and as an integral part of and representative of the Los Angeles community.”
Three-thousand and fifteen days. Or, eight years, three months, and two days. That’s how long Frank McCourt owned the Los Angeles Dodgers. His tenure now over, $1.588 billion cash has been moved out of escrow from Guggenheim Baseball Management, making the sale final. As part of the sale, GBM will assume $412 million in debt that the Dodgers have incurred under McCourt’s watch, and with it, the new owners get the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, and the land upon which Dodger Stadium is built. In a separate deal for $150 million, GMB will partner with McCourt to develop the land around Dodger Stadium. But while McCourt is a partner, he does not get the revenue from the parking lots; that will go to GMB.
The deal had been set to close on Monday because McCourt owes his former wife, Jamie, $131 million as part of his divorce settlement. McCourt had wisely set up “bridge funding” for $140 million in case the deal did not occur on time. Due to the complexities of the deal—one that has been called the most complex sports franchise sale ever—an agreement was not reached until Tuesday. After settling with his former wife, Jamie, Frank McCourt will walk away with $1.457 billion outside of the $150 million land sale. They say you should never reward bad behavior, but apparently, McCourt didn’t get that memo.
He stands 6’ 8”, has an 86” waist, a long snout and is a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. Who is he? None other than the Phillie Phanatic, also dubbed the most sued mascot in major league sports. And he’s at it again.
A suburban Philadelphia woman recently filed a lawsuit claiming the Phanatic got a little too rough during a comic routine when he picked her up – while she was sitting poolside in a lounge chair – and tossed both her and the chair into the pool. The antics occurred at a pre-wedding party in 2010. The plaintiff claims she suffered injuries to virtually every part of her body, including “severe and permanent injuries to her head, neck, back, body, arms and legs, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and tissues…”
This isn’t the first time the Phanatic, who debuted in 1978, has been sued, either for activities he engaged in at the ballpark or in one of the approximately 300 public appearances he makes annually. The Phanatic has a history of litigation stretching back decades. In a 2002 article in the Cardozo Law Review, Bob Jarvis detailed several suits against the Phanatic, including a jury award for $2.5 million to a man who suffered back injuries after being hugged too hard by the Phanatic at the 1994 opening of a paint store; a pregnant woman who was awarded $25,000 after she was accidentally kicked in the stomach by the Phanatic at a 1993 Phillies game; and a retired bus driver who won a judgment for $128,000 after the Phanatic knocked him over at a 1991 church carnival. And those are just some of the jury verdicts against the Phanatic. They don’t include any settlements that may have been made by the furry creature’s insurance company.
The Phanatic isn’t the only mascot who has been involved in litigation. The Famous Chicken has been involved in his share of lawsuits. In one memorable action, TFC was sued by a Chicago Bulls cheerleader he tackled during a gig in 1991, resulting in a judgment for $300,000.
In 2006, New Orleans Saints quarterback Adrian McPherson sued Tennessee Titans mascot T-Rac for $20 million after the oversized raccoon ran over him with a golf cart during halftime of a pre-season game. The case was resolved outside the courtroom and because McPherson never made the Saints – or any other NFL roster - it’s doubtful the settlement approached the amount claimed in damages.
Kansas City Royals mascot Sluggerrr the Lion was sued for hitting a fan in the eye during a free hot dog promotion at a game in 2009. The plaintiff, John Coomer, asked for $200,000 in damages after undergoing three surgeries for a detached retina, claiming the team “failed to adequately train its agents… in the proper method in which to throw hot dogs in the stands…” After deliberating for an hour, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Royals, although the man in the Sluggerrr costume was fired after the incident.
Burnie, the Miami Heat mascot, once got into hot water during an exhibition game in Puerto Rico when he pulled the wife of a local federal judge out of the stands and included her in his on- court dance routine. The woman injured herself when she fell and sued Burnie for a million dollars. He was also charged with aggravated assault and faced a prison sentence of 20 years. The case was ultimately settled for $50,000 and the criminal charge was dismissed.
T-shirt guns are all the rage at sporting events, but they are accidents waiting to happen. Florida Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin was sued for $250,000 when an elderly fan claimed he was knocked unconscious by a T-shirt launched from Billy’s air-cannon. A jury found Billy was not negligent after evidence indicated the fan was injured not by the flying T-shirt, but during the frantic scramble for the T-shirt after it fell to the ground.
Sports teams are constantly seeking ways to both attract fans to the event and to keep them entertained during the contest. Mascots are a tried and true way to do that. Players come and go, but the mascot is a constant, both in-season and out. But as the Phillie Phanatic and other mascots have proven, the rewards are not without risks.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
Yu Darvish will have his first US interview tonight on MLB Network
Maybe the excitement will abate at some point, but not for now. Baseball fans of every stripe are watching closely to see how Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish is transitioning to MLB with the Rangers.
Darvish talks with MLB Network's Tom Verducci about playing baseball in the United States today in an exclusive interview on MLB Tonight at 6:00 p.m. ET. In his first one-on-one TV interview with a national U.S. network this season, Darvish talks about the adjustment of playing in Major League Baseball compared with playing in his native Japan. Darvish also discusses his ability to throw all of his pitches left-handed, the difference of the feel of the ball in the U.S., his relationship with teammate Josh Hamilton, and his taste for American food.
Highlights from the interview that was taped Wednesday at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards are available below via MLB Network. Following MLB Tonight, the interview will be available for viewing at www.MLBNetwork.com.
Yu Darvish on how the attention he receives in the United States compares to the attention he received in Japan:
“I think in Japan, all of the attention that I received over there, also being Japanese, I understood it. It was natural. But over here, it’s a different culture, different country. They’re saying ‘Yu Darvish.’ The way they ask for autographs, the way they cheer my name like, ‘Yuuu,’ those are a little bit different, but I’m thankful for those and I enjoy it.”
Darvish on the hitters in MLB:
“The power is a little bit different. More power hitters over here, whereas in Japan, there are more contact hitters. Over there, you might have players who will see a lot of pitches and put the ball in play. Whereas over here, I have to be careful of not making too many mistakes. Everyone has the strength to hit for power.”
Darvish on his walk rate and strikeout rate being higher in the U.S. than in Japan:
“The higher rate of walks [means] I’m still not completely adapted to this baseball here. I think the higher rate of strikeouts, maybe the hitters over here, they’re not used to or they haven’t seen a pitcher like me where I have several secondary pitches and still can throw in the mid-90’s. On top of that, they haven’t seen me at all. It’s the first time around. So I think all of that [combined] maybe is resulting in a higher strikeout rate.”
Darvish on Josh Hamilton:
“Just one word: amazing. Actually being there and watching [his four-home run game], I don’t think I’ve ever seen a three-home run game. And the fact that he’s such a nice person, a great teammate, he’s one of the many guys who actually helped me out, I was more happy to see him accomplish that. Since he’s such a nice guy and we get along very well, I believe he’s going to hit five home runs for me next time I pitch.” Source: MLB Network
This past week, in conjunction with the 2nd annual Green Sports Summit in Seattle, the NRDC released “Game Changer” to highlight pro sports sustainability and environment efforts. The report, Game Changer: How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment, presents 20 case studies of teams, venues and league events that have led the green sports movement by adopting sustainable solutions to their energy, water, and waste needs.
Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, director of NRDC’s green sports project had the following to say in regard to the initiatives taken by teams: “A cultural shift in environmental awareness is needed in order for us to address the serious ecological problems we face, and the sports industry, through its own innovative actions, has chosen to lead the way. Pro sports are showing that smart energy, water and recycling practices make sense. They save money and prevent waste. That’s as mainstream and non-partisan as it comes.”
Based on the timeline provided in the report, The Philadelphia Eagles can be seen as pioneers in the movement. Last year ,Biz of Baseball interviewed Tim Sexton about the partnership with the Eagles that helped enable the first dominoes to begin to fall for the green sports movement. Additionally, we spoke with Jack Cassel (Players For The Planet Co-Founder) and Mark Andrew (Greenmark Sports Founder) last Earth Day. Now, of the 126 professional North American sports teams, 38 teams use renewable energy and 68 have energy efficiency programs. There are now 15 LEED certified North American Stadiums, 18 onsite solar arrays, and all teams use some sort of recyling or composting program.
The strides can be seen across all major sports leagues in the report, especially MLB. In the report MLB Commissioner Bud Selig writes “In my two decades as Commissioner, I have seen our sport take important strides forward on this essential issue” . Additionally, Selig was honored with the Environmental Leadership Award at the Green Sports Alliance Summit Gala at Safeco Field in Seattle on September 6.
Venues, teams, and events highlighted in the report include:
Atlanta’s Philips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks
Cleveland’s Progressive Field, home to MLB’s Cleveland Indians
Houston’s Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets
Los Angeles’ STAPLES Center, home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles KINGS and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks
Miami’s American Airlines Arena, home of the NBA’s Miami Heat
Minneapolis’ Target Field, home of MLB’s Minnesota Twins
Montreal’s Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens
Orlando’s Amway Center, home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic
Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles
Portland’s Rose Garden Arena, home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers
San Francisco’s AT&T Park, home of MLB’s San Francisco Giants
Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and MLS’s Seattle Sounders
Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of MLB’s Seattle Mariners
St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, home of MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals
Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors
The MLB All-Star Game
The U.S. Open, United States Tennis Association (USTA)
The NHL All-Star Game, The Winter Classic and the NHL draft
The NBA All-Star Game and Green Week
The NCAA Final Four
Martin Tull serves as executive director of the Green Sports Alliance. The GSA is a non-profit organization with a mission to help sports teams, leagues, and venues enhance the environmental performance. The alliance represents over 100 sports team in 13 sports leagues. Tull, who authored the afterword the report, believes that “With the release of this report the world will learn about this good work. Hopefully this report will encourage and guide other teams and venues to follow suit."
David Simmons is a graduate of the University of Central Florida who worked in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers over 4 seasons and has a decade of ticketing experience.. He serves as CFO for Players For The Planet and currently resides in Baltimore. You can follow David on Twitter @davidesimmons