SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 30, 2023

Episode Summary

Revenue growth continues at the U.S. Open; The long-tail of Messi's Influence; Kroenke Sports eyes changes at Ball Arena and the ACC formally sets foot in Charlotte

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

Make your plans for our DRIVE Conference in Saint Louis, September 19th to the 21st. If you work for a team, a league, a venue, or are doing business with any of these entities, you will want to be there as the conference will cover facility operations, franchise management, ticketing and ticket revenue, and business analytics. It's going to be a great week, so I do hope you'll join me. Sign up on our website to register to the event, or just let me know if you have any questions.

This is your Morning Buzz Cast for Wednesday, August 30th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope you're all doing well. I'm in New York City for the US Open. Walking around after dinner last night, you could tell it was Open week as the city was brimming as it always is, but even more so with international visitors, which is a staple during the tennis championships. I'm heading out today and tomorrow, and the early indications are setting up for another very successful US Open for the USTA. Remember, the US Open last year was named Sports Event of the Year at the Sports Business Awards.

SBJ's Rob Schaefer noted that the early line shows this year's tournament outpacing last year's financial performance. Last year saw operating revenue increase 16% from $406 million in '21 to $472 million in '22. So you're seeing how much of a cash cow this event is for the USTA. This is a real revenue driver. The USTA said it saw an amazing 95% renewal rate of event tickets, and as of mid-August it was up 8% in tickets sold and ticket revenue year-over-year. Hospitality suites, always a key indicator of the premium audience, also, not surprisingly, sold out well in advance of the start of the tournament.

This tournament, face it, is the place to go and see and be seen in the last two weeks of summer in New York. I've said before, racket sports are seeing a very strong resurgence and tennis is no different. There are a number of young players who are aiming to take the mantle of some of the generational legends we have watched for years, and fans continue to love coming to this event, the US Open in late August. I'll give you a recap of my day on tomorrow's Buzz Cast.

Moving on, the Messy Effect, let's face it, it's real and it could be a long tail. I believe we could have a messy item each morning in the Buzz Cast because no matter where I go or what meeting I have, he is always part of the conversation, and his impact on MLS is always brought up. The latest indicator of his influence is that construction has begun on a new stadium for Inter Miami at Miami Freedom Park. Now, this is a big deal. Inter Miami has suffered through fits and starts of trying to get a facility built and now it's actually happening after years of negotiations.

The new stadium footprint includes a 58 acre public park and an entertainment district, and it sits on 131 total acres and it's scheduled to open in 2025. Now by all sources I've spoken with, they firmly believe that Messy will still be playing when the new facility opens, and you can understand what a huge revenue driver that will be for Inter Miami as they sell sponsorships and tickets around this. You have to understand what a huge revenue driver this will be for Inter Miami as they sell sponsorships and tickets going into this new venue. It really will be a game changer. I know that's overused, but you can't underestimate the impact of this new facility.

This will take a team that was largely one of the most underperforming financially and put them into the top five, I believe, in MLS. The official groundbreaking of this facility will take place later this year, and talks are underway to bring in retail partners and other tenants at this 131 acre project that is scheduled to open in 2025. Let's stay on facilities, because Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Denver Nuggets, the Avalanche and the Los Angeles Rams, among others, is exploring renovations to Ball Arena. That's been home to the Nuggets and Avalanche in Downtown Denver since 1999. There hasn't been any significant work really done on this venue since it opened, but now it looks like Kroenke Sports is eyeing a significant development plan.

They're looking at 55 acres of parking lots around Ball Arena. There is no timetable for the renovation, and organization executives have been on tours recently of NBA and NHL arenas that have been recently renovated for ideas. Kroenke Sports will also be sending out a survey seeking fan feedback to help determine the future of the facility and what could be done. We've said it on the Buzz Cast before, it's a good time to be in the facility development business as we're seeing countless renovations and a number of ambitious new buildings as well. It is a real building boom happening right now.

Let's shift to college sports. Many of you know that Sports Business Journal's offices are right in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, and we'd love to welcome you whenever you're in this great city. And now, we're excited to have a new Sports business neighbor. Yes, the ACC celebrated the opening of it's new Charlotte headquarters on Tuesday with a ceremony, and the move marks the official shift for the ACC from its home in Greensboro, where it had been since it was founded in 1953. ACC Commissioner, Jim Phillips, was of course on hand as the conference will move into the most impressive new buildings in all of Charlotte. The ACC will be on the 12th floor of Bank of America Tower in the Legacy Union Development in Uptown Charlotte.

It is a beautiful brand new building. It's an easy walk from SBJ's offices, and the ACC has developed a production studio and a game day operation space where the league can oversee games. There's offices of course, and conference rooms. It's going to be a beautiful space for the ACC. About 20 to 25 employees are relocating to Charlotte. Another 10 to 12 have been hired from Charlotte, and there are other openings that will soon be filled. The ACC anticipates being in the range of 50 employees overall very shortly. Now, the state of North Carolina gave the ACC $15 million to remain in the state for the next 15 years. There was a requirement. The conference had to hold at least four men's basketball tournaments, four women's basketball tournaments and four baseball tournaments in North Carolina within the next 10 years. That's in addition to any championships in the state already on the conferences schedule. The ACC, firmly and officially planting its flag in Charlotte for its new headquarters.

We've talked about the interest in women's volleyball on college campuses. It's real. And if you need further proof, we may see it tonight, Wednesday, as the University of Nebraska is hosting a celebration of volleyball at the Story Memorial Stadium and is shooting for a worldwide attendance record. Yes, there will be first an exhibition women's volleyball matchup between two Division II rivals, and then a regular season match between Omaha and the fourth ranked University of Nebraska Corn Huskers. And after the games, there will be a performance by country artists, Scotty McCreery. Nebraska Athletic Department officials are hoping and believe they can draw 90,000 fans, which would be near the record for a women's sporting event around the world, as just over 91,000 fans were at a Champions League Women's soccer match in 2022 at Camp News Stadium. So Memorial Stadium's official capacity is just over 85,000 fans for football, but there will be seating available on the field. And the love of volleyball is well known, as Nebraska has sold out 306 consecutive regular season matches. 90,000 fans sounds very ambitious, but that's their goal and we'll see how they do.

A reminder that leaders in college football will meet today on Wednesday in Dallas to work through the remaining unresolved issues of the 12 team college football playoff. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reports that these will be tough meetings to make any decisions because administrators don't have any clarity on the current landscape such as knowing how many conferences there will be or who will be in them. So don't be surprised if nothing major gets decided here in Dallas, that instead they have discussions and models are floated, but nothing formally voted on because of the great unknown of the current conference landscape.

Let's end the Buzz Cast around people. A noteworthy move for LA 28, yes, the Olympics is getting more and more on the front burner here in the United States as LA 28 has named longtime Los Angeles sports executive Vanessa Shea as its new vice president of sales. She was most recently team president of the WNBA LA Sparks. She left last May and she will now lead LA 28 Team USA's West Coast sales efforts. She'll report into Chris Pepe as they work to grow LA 28's very ambitious commercial program. There is a lot of sales inventory to sell for LA 28, so they need a lot of sellers out in the market trying to hit their goals. Vanessa Shea spent 13 years at AEG in the global partnership team, so she's very familiar with global property sales and that should help her in this new role.

And finally, ticketing technology company Logitix has named Travis Apple as its new chief revenue officer. Many of you know Travis Apple. Most recently, he was at General Sports Worldwide, but he had stints at the Marlins, at NBA Team Bow and with the Sons and Mercury. He also does a really nice job as the host of the 52 Weeks of Hustle podcast in which he interviews sports business executives. It's a good listen. Now, he joins Logitix, which works with teams and properties on their event ticketing technology and analytics. So Travis Apple, Chief Revenue Officer at Logitix.

That is your morning Buzz Cast for Wednesday, August 30th. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope you have a great day. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.