BOB: All-Star Game Ratings and the Cubs Sale Heat Ups

Yankee Stadium All-Star Game a success

From just about every perspective, this year’s All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was a success. Things got off to a nice start that Monday when more people tuned in to see this year’s Home Run Derby then any other past derby. The average audience was 6,184,000 homes and the Home Run Derby was both the highest rated and most-viewed telecast on cable television in 2008. Even the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game, which aired after the home run derby, had its best showing since 2002.

Then, of course, there was the game itself. The average audience for the All-Star Game was 14.54 million viewers and that was the best showing in six years. MLB also set a record for All-Star merchandise sales with an impressive 75 percent increase over the previous year’s sales total.

Reds finalize spring training move

Add the Cincinnati Reds to the list of teams who are defecting from Florida to Arizona. They finalized a deal last week that will have them training at the Goodyear facility beginning in 2010. They’ll share space with the Cleveland Indians, but the facility was built specifically to house two teams. The agreement with Goodyear includes a 20-year lease as well as two five-year options. The current spring training home of the Reds in Sarasota will have to come up with a new option after 2010 as they’re left holding the bag after city officials failed to timely pass a stadium renovation package that might have kept the team in Florida.

Bidding begins for Chicago Cubs

As of this past weekend, Tribune Co. has already received three bids for the Chicago Cubs. Sports Properties Acquisition Corporation, led by Andrew Murstein, who made his fortune in New York in the taxi-financing business, was one of the bidders. Another group was led by John Canning, who’s the head of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC, a private equity firm. The third and final bid came from a group led by Tom Ricketts, the chief executive at the investment firm Incapital LLC.

The team is being sold along with Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in the team’s regional sports network for a couple of different reasons. The first is that Tribune owner Sam Zell also has a stake in Chicago White Sox and just as important is the fact that Tribune is swimming in debt. It’s expected that the entire package will net in excess of $1 billion. Unfortunately for Tribune, this amount won’t even put a dent in its $13 billion in debt. As part of the deal, it’s expected that Tribune will hold on to a small piece of the team in order to defer a large tax obligation that would go along with the deal.

Marlins’ projected stadium opening in jeopardy

It appears that the Florida Marlins weren’t quite out of the woods when they got approval from the government for a $525 million stadium deal on the current site of the Orange Bowl. Everything seemed to be in place when local businessman Norman Braman filed a lawsuit saying that the municipalities were trying to do an end around with regard to a taxpayer vote. The stadium’s projected 2011 opening is in jeopardy.

The big issue is the use of tax-increment financing (TIF) to finance some of the debt that’s being used to finance the stadium. It’s basically an IOU from the municipality that earmarks future taxes towards the current redevelopment. Braman claims that the because a TIF is being used, the public should be allowed a vote in the matter.

Tiger Stadium on its last leg

Last week, the Detroit Economic Board approved the complete demolition of Tiger Stadium. At first glance, this would be the end of the road for historic Tiger Stadium, but it also flew in the face of an August 1 deadline that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had given to the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy to raise money to show it can come through with its redevelopment plan. The vote was taken ahead of time in the event that the August 1 deadline could not be met by the Conservancy.

In the meantime, there was some good news: $4 million was earmarked by the United States Senate in the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill for the renovation of the park. In addition, the Conservancy is also doing its part. If you want more details on the Conservancy’s plan or to make a contribution towards saving the stadium, I highly recommend you visit the Conservancy’s website.

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