Moag and Company Sports Notes (1 March 2019)

Date: Mar 2019

Trivia

Who was the first hockey player to be named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated?

Last Week’s Answer: In 1969 Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers became the first NBA player to win the MVP award for the NBA finals. He is also, to date, the only player from the losing team to win the MVP award.

Football:

New AAF Chair Tom Dundon, contrary to reports, has not invested $250M into the league, but has only “committed” to fund that amount over an undisclosed period of time. Two sources said Dundon can stop funding if he decides the investment is no longer worth it. Through an AAF spokesperson, Dundon did not directly answer whether the agreement allows him to stop funding and whether the money is due in increments, writing in response, “I have committed to investing $250 million into the Alliance of American Football. We now have the necessary capital to accelerate growth. We have the capital to make this a sustainable and profitable league.” The words they used were “committed”, so that typically means in the business a commitment over time, not a one-time investment. It may have conditions so that certain milestones have to be achieved over the period of time, whether revenue, attendance, it could have milestones for each increment of investment.

Baseball:

Sinclair President & CEO Chris Ripley said the new partnership with the Chicago Cubs to create Marquee Sports Network is expected to generate "about $40 to $50 million of free cash flow" annually for the company. The estimation came during the company's earnings call and represents the first on-record comments regarding any financials of the joint venture. Ripley also said the Marquee Sports Network model may be replicated with other teams. “It is a model for other partnerships going forward,” he said. “That’s definitely high on our mind, in terms of how we can create additional value. We love partnering directly with the teams and getting alignment of interest there." He added, "We are a perfect match for any team who wants to do this, so we’ll certainly be looking for other opportunities and there will be some coming up.” Ripley said Marquee Sports Network is not comparable to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ SportsNet LA and can avoid some of the distribution issues that channel has faced. “There was a very, very high sub fee ask associated with SportsNet LA. that was essentially needed to make the financing work for the purchase of the Dodgers, so it’s sort of a leveraged play,” he said. “We don’t have that situation here. We’re not buying a team. We don’t have a huge ask on the table.”

Basketball:

Minnesota T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor said that Chinese investor Lizhang Jiang is selling his 5% ownership in the team "back to Taylor," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Orbach Group Chair Meyer Orbach, who bought 9.5% of the team in '16, is "in line to buy any shares Taylor sells." The value of the T'Wolves "keeps going up," something Taylor "never expected." Asked if he was interested in selling the team, Taylor said, "No. ... If I sell any, it will be a little more to [Meyer]." A positive trend early during interim coach Ryan Saunders’ tenure has been an "increase in attendance." The T'Wolves "averaged 14,765 fans per game in 21 home contests" with former coach Tom Thibodeau and have "averaged nearly 800 more fans per contest with Saunders at 15,511 fans per game in 10 home contests." Meanwhile, Taylor addressed the team's salary cap situation. The T'Wolves’ "biggest question heading into next season" is they have $110M allocated to nine players, including $27.5M for F Andrew Wiggins and $27.3M to C Karl-Anthony Towns. Taylor: "It is stretched a little bit just because of Karl and Wiggins’ salary. They both will be on the max next year".

The Indiana state Senate approved a measure to extend the Indiana Pacers' arena lease for "another 25 years," and the team would have "skin in the game" regarding upgrades to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, according to the Indianapolis Star. Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Ryan Mishler said that the Pacers were contributing $115M for "facility upgrades." Former Indiana state Sen. Luke Kenley said that about $63M of that $115M would be "new money for improvements" to the arena and "related facilities, such as the parking garage," while $52M of the $115M is cash the team already spent on its practice facility. The bill, which now heads to the state House, would "allow the Marion County Capital Improvement Board to raise money from special taxing districts." The Pacers and CIB have until April to "negotiate a long-term lease extension, which would include cash for upgrades and operations." The CIB also would "use money authorized in the bill for more minor improvements to Lucas Oil Stadium" and the Triple-A Int'l League Indians' Victory Field.

Soccer:

FC Cincinnati announced that it “officially became the third MLS expansion team to hit 20,000 full season ticket holders” in its first season, joining the Seattle Sounders in ’09 and Atlanta United in ’17, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. To recognize the milestone, FC Cincinnati will “plant 20,000 blue and orange flower blooms around the city” as part of the Keep Cincinnati Beautiful effort. Sales for FC Cincinnati's March 17 home opener at Nippert Stadium against the Portland Timbers have "already topped the team's record home-opening crowd" in the USL of 25,667, and that number "will keep rising." FC Cincinnati President & GM Jeff Berding said, "We're hoping for over 30,000 at the inaugural game." Meanwhile, the Cincinnati City Council's approval "paves the way for FC Cincinnati to begin construction" on a new $250M stadium in the West End. Updated designs "should be available in June or July," and the "topping-out ceremony on the structure is scheduled for the first quarter" of '20. The stadium's 50 suites will be the "most in a soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and Canada." Capacity is "still targeted for 26,000 seats".

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