SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 23, 2023

Episode Summary

Why the Royals are worth watching; Jerry Reinsdorf's big - and surprising- move; the LPGA adds to its sales force and AT&T Stadium set for refresh

Episode Transcription

I will be at the US Open next Wednesday and Thursday opening week of the Open. If you plan to be at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, please let me know. Love to say hello. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, August 23rd. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

Just one day after a report that the Chicago White Sox are considering future locations, including possibly moving out of Chicago to the suburbs or even to another state. And that owner Jerry Reinsdorf is even considering selling the team. The 87-year-old Reinsdorf made some of the most stunning moves I've seen him make. He is undergoing a massive renovation on the player personnel side at the White Sox, and that just doesn't happen at that organization. Jerry Reinsdorf is well-known for being incredibly loyal, but here, at the end of August, he made a move in the middle of a terrible season for his baseball team. So it's hard to overstate just how surprising this is as the White Sox parted ways with longtime executive vice president Ken Williams and also general manager Rick Hahn.

Now, there was speculation about their future because of the team's poor season, but for Reinsdorf to make such a move with a month left in the season was eyeopening. The moves come as the White Sox have one of the worst records in the American League. They're 49 and 77, but it was still surprising to move away from Ken Williams who Reinsdorf said "is like a son to me" in a parting statement. Reinsdorf called the moves incredibly difficult because of the two executives long-term relationship with the White Sox organization.

Ken Williams is 59 years old. He has been in the White Sox organization for 38 of the last 41 years since he was drafted by the White Sox in 1982. He was in his 11th season as executive vice president. That came after 12 seasons as general manager. So add that up, more than 23 years in top management positions for the White Sox. You can see Reinsdorf's loyalty there.

Now, it hasn't always been a negative story around the Chicago White Sox. Ken Williams and Rick Hahn helped the team win a World Series in 2005. The White Sox also won their division in 2008 and made the playoffs in 2020 and '21, but the franchise definitely has underperformed the last two years. A big change here. The White Sox hope to have a new baseball leader in place by the end of the year, but I bring this up today on the Buzzcast because it does make you wonder if these moves are part of any other major moves that Reinsdorf may be considering about the future of the White Sox organization.

Staying with baseball, keep your eye on the Kansas City Royals and owner John Sherman. They are moving aggressively to try and secure a new ballpark. And on Tuesday, the team unveiled renderings of the two final sites for their proposed new venue and mixed use entertainment district. One is in the East Village near downtown Kansas City and one is in North Kansas City in the suburbs. So the key to me is there are two dramatically different sites at play here.

Like I said, the first location East Village. That would have a ballpark be the centerpiece of a 27-acre development just blocks away from the city's power and light district. That's where the T-Mobile Center already sits. If you've been to Kansas City, you're probably well aware of that very urban location in the heart of the city. So that's one. The second location is a 90-acre plot near the Missouri River in a different county where the royals would have more ability to develop a mixed use complex on their own and in their own vision. The Royals originally considered more than a dozen sites in and around Kansas City. They selected these two, and the team is scheduled to select a final site by the end of September.

Now remember, the team has been playing in Kaufman Stadium. That's about 10 miles east of downtown Kansas City. That facility opened in 1973, so this is a big move for the Royals. Populace is the Royal Stadium Architect. And the early estimate is the new ballpark and the district would be about a $2 billion project. John Sherman said he has committed to contributing a billion dollars in private funding, so the rest would have to be through public sources. There are still a long ways to go here, but the Royals are making steady progress and closing in on potentially securing a new ballpark for that organization's future.

Let's move on. Recently, ESPN executive Burke Magnus said that he could see great growth around the LPGA. I think he called it a Sleeping Giant. And new LPGA Commissioner, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, has been working hard to amplify the players, the tour and the brand. Now the tour is bringing on some outside sales help to drive sponsorship sales, reaching a partnership with Fenway Sports Management that will see Fenway Sports Management assist the LPGA on sales, specifically around its corporate sponsorship program.

Now, the sides first made contract about a year ago, and they'll begin formally working together. For the LPGA, it gets them in front of a number of top brands it may not have access to. And Fenway Sports Management has a deep Rolodex and deep relationships across the industry. Now, Fenway Sports Management will have the opportunity to share in the revenue of any deals that are signed. And the agency has dedicated a sales team for LPGA partnerships, which will be led by Senior Vice President Ryan Fisher. On the LPGA side Chief Sales and Partnerships Officer, Nicole Metzker, will lead the effort for the tour. Now, the LPGA has a global sales staff of around 10, and they want to add to that, but again, bringing on a group like Fenway Sports Management just gives it more horsepower as it goes to the marketplace to look to sell corporate sponsorships. CSM Sports and Entertainment was the LPGA's agency of record.

SBJ's josh Carpenter's on the ground in Atlanta for the Tour Championship. And he reported yesterday as PGA tour Commissioner Jay Monahan met the media, and Monahan said he is confident that a deal with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund would be reached by the tour's self-imposed deadline of the end of this calendar year. So Monahan said, in fact, he was certain that a deal would get done. He said, "PGA tour leaders and leaders of the PIF are meeting multiple times per week to hammer out the deal." And Monahan also said, "Relationships with the PGA tour players are starting to improve as more details come out about the framework of the agreement and that more conversations are being had with the players and they are understanding the reasons for the relationship with the public investment fund." And that's the key for Jay Monahan, right? He needs to get the players on board. He needs to get the players to understand what the goals are of this new agreement. Finally, and this is great news, Jay Monahan said he has never felt better physically or mentally. So Jay Monahan giving himself a clean bill of health at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

All right, I bet you've heard this before. Are we seeing a race for the biggest video boards in sports? It seems like every week we have another story or item on one organization developing a larger video board in their venue. Every time you turn around, there is one board that is setting a new record. We've already talked about the huge board that has been installed at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough that fans will see this season. Well, now comes word that the video board at Texas Motor Speedway, already seen as the world record holder for the largest video board, now is under construction to be even bigger.

The new screen on the back stretch of Texas Motor Speedway will be 10% larger than the old board. It'll increase from 20,600 square feet to 22,700 square feet. Now, the board at Gillette Stadium, which was deemed the largest jumbotron at an outdoor stadium in the country, is roughly 22,200 square feet. So now you see Texas Motor Speedway just edging out the board at Gillette Stadium. And who knows, maybe that record won't last very long, but this new board at Texas Motor Speedway will have a 20% higher resolution and be 16% brighter than the old board. Now, GoVision is the company that's in charge of installing the new board. It's called Big Hoss TV, and it will be in place for the race over September 23rd and 24th at Texas Motor Speedway. So the arms race for the biggest video board in sports continues.

And let's stay in Texas as we know how AT&T Stadium, the house that Jerry built, is one of the most trendsetting and high profile sports venues in the world. Now the Cowboys are looking to make changes to AT&T Stadium. They're going to change and overhaul the entire premium club and suite level. That is part of $180 million in renovations. They will refresh that premium level. Renovations there are to begin in January and go through July of 2025. HKS is the architect for the upgrades. They, of course, designed AT&T Stadium. SBJ previously reported that NFL owners approved the Cowboys' plan to devote almost $300 million towards total improvements to the 14-year-old venue.

It's hard to believe that AT&T Stadium is coming up on 15 years, but now you see the plan about, $180 million earmarked towards the premium level. There'll be other renovations throughout the rest of the building. The Jones family is looking hard at keeping this venue up to date and contemporary as the venue is one of the most sought after for big industry events. And remember, it's already going to host matches for the 2026 World Cup. And of course, the Cowboys are hoping that AT&T Stadium is selected to host the World Cup final match that is yet to be determined. But the bottom line is these renovations will go a long way to showcase the facilities continued viability to host big events and host premium experiences.

And finally, we have this week's episode of The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. That drops today on Wednesday. It features fantasy sports leader Matthew Barry, who raised $2 million recently for his fantasy life business with an all-star roster of investors, including Casey Wasserman and Tony Kahn and Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. Also, Andrew Marchand and John Ourand discuss the biggest sports media news of the day. So that's this week on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. Find it on or wherever you listen to your podcast.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, August 23rd. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.