Business of Baseball Report

End of the Line for Tiger Stadium

This is tough to write about. For the first 29 years of my life, Tiger Stadium was the home of the Detroit Tigers. I have fond memories of that ballpark, as do several other Detroit natives who have frequented the park far longer then I have. Ty Cobb played in Tiger Stadium, as did Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg and Alan Trammell. You’d have to be 94 years old to have been alive when Tiger Stadium opened in 1912. There was no better place, in my mind, to watch a game than Tiger Stadium. You were closer to the action than at any other stadium, and while the support poles were a nuisance, you lived with them.

I have several Tiger Stadium stories that I’d like to share, although this really isn’t the place for it. Probably the most unusual story happened the last time I set foot in the stadium, which I wrote about yesterday at Tigerblog.

Now it sounds like Tiger Stadium is going to be torn down. Up until now, the city of Detroit has been paying Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to provide maintenance and security at the stadium. At the end of this month, that money is going to run out, so a decision has to be made whether to develop the stadium as is, or to raze it and start fresh.

While I can see why most people want it demolished, I was also hoping, deep down, that something would be done with the old ballpark. Plans for a minor league team playing there were squashed pretty quickly, and it looks like whenever an idea pops up, there’s no money following it to make the plan happen.

MLB Inks European TV Deal

MLB and the North American Sports Network (NASN) recently came to an agreement that would allow NASN to air more than 275 baseball games each season in Europe. The deal begins this year, and NASN will air 10 regular season games each week along with the entire postseason. NASN can be seen in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Iceland, and they hope to add more countries in the near future.

Speaking from experience, Europe’s coverage of MLB is lacking. At least it was when I traveled there in 2002. It was during the postseason, and I was happy to get scores, much less highlights of the games. I missed some great games, although I have a feeling my wife would have frowned on me watching too much baseball during our honeymoon.

Brewers Popular With Sponsors

The Milwaukee Brewers had their best season last year since 1992, and whether you believe they can compete in the National League Central this year or not, the sponsors appear to be lining up to take advantage of any spike in the team’s popularity. The Brewers have renewed 95% of their sponsors from last year, when their average has been 80% the last few years, and they’re very close to coming to an agreement with Miller Brewing Company, the team’s largest sponsor. The Brewers have also signed on several new sponsors to their current portfolio.

The team is also trying to sell the naming rights to a new picnic area that’s currently set to open this season. Rick Schlesinger, the team’s vice president of business operations, says he hopes to have the naming rights in place early this upcoming season.

Cleveland Hits Another Snag With RSN

With teams like the Yankees and the Mets cashing in on regional sports networks, it probably seemed like a good idea for the Indians to start their own network, SportTime Ohio. The problem is that they’re still having a hard time getting cable and satellite companies on board. Two weeks ago I talked about how Cox Cable had rejected the Indians’ television deal, and now it’s DirecTV that’s saying the Indians’ asking price is way too high.

DirecTV has several hundred subscribers in what’s been deemed the Indians’ TV territory. So not only will the local broadcast not be shown to people with the dish, but only those games showed by the Indians’ opposing team’s network will be shown on its MLB Extra Innings package.

D.C. Stadium Design Unveiled

Washington, D.C. Sports Commission chairman Mark Tuohey and D.C. mayor Anthony Williams led the unveiling of the stadium design for the Washington Nationals’ new home. Groundbreaking is expected this spring and officials are still hoping that the stadium will be finished by the 2008 home opener.

You can view renderings of the new stadium at Maury Brown’s site, The Baseball Journals.

Mets and Yankees Get Preliminary Approval on Bonds For New Stadiums

New York City’s Industrial Development Agency gave preliminary approval to the Yankees’ and Mets’ bids for bonds that would finance the construction of their prospective new stadiums. The Yankees’ share comes to $930 million, $866 million of which would be considered tax exempt for their new stadium. The Mets will get $632.1 million, of which $527.6 million will be tax exempt.

The bond deals still need the approval of the city council. Both teams are hoping to have their new stadiums ready for the 2009 baseball season.

San Juan Lobbies For Marlins Games

Prior to their move to Washington, D.C., the Montreal Expos played 44 “home” games in San Juan, Puerto Rico through the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Now with the World Baseball Classic rolling through town, San Juan wants to have either the Florida Marlins or Tampa Devil Rays play some of their games in Puerto Rico.

MLB met with San Juan officials about the prospect, although MLB President Bob DuPuy indicated that getting anything done in time for the 2006 season would be unlikely. The Marlins front office stated that they haven’t been contacted yet, although DuPuy said that based on the lack of support for a new stadium, the Marlins would most likely be open to the idea.

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