SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: August 4, 2023

Episode Summary

Inter Miami CF lands more investment, Arizona inches closer to leaving the Pac-12 and Dragon Seats debuts new hot/cold combo football benches.

Episode Transcription

If you thought the start to your summer weekend was going to be short on TV sports options, think again thanks to the annual ESPN8, The Ocho run of programming on ESPN2, where you can watch the likes of arm wrestling, cornhole, dodgeball, and horseshoes. In total, 43 hours of alternative sports programming started last night and continues through Sunday afternoon.

Also, congratulations to Team Heartfire, which picked up the $1 million prize last night in Philadelphia as champions of the basketball tournament. A winner take all event that features the Elam Ending, which removes the timing element late in the fourth quarter in favor of a target score that needs to be reached. Alternative sports and the different ways to play some traditional ones are alive and well as 2023 rolls on.

Good morning. It's Friday, August 4th. This is your SBJ Morning Buzzcast. I'm David Albright filling in for Abe Madkour. Alternative investment firm, Ares Management has made its second big bet on Inter Miami CF in the form of an incremental $75 million preferred equity investment in the MLS Club. The capital infusion for the South Florida Soccer Club comes in the wake of the historic signing of superstar Lionel Messi.

As a preferred equity investor, Ares is not involved with day-to-day management of the club. Though the firm is expected to provide strategic advisory as the team moves forward on plans to build Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village, a $1 billion mixed use development that includes a new 25,000 seat stadium. Ares has now invested a total of 225 million in Inter Miami. The firm previously closed on 150 million of preferred equity back in September of 2021.

The University of Arizona is in deep discussions about joining the Big 12 with a deal expected to be finalized in the near future. According to ESPN, the school is amid the final steps, including detailing the move in an Arizona Board of Regents meeting Thursday night. Big 12 presidents and CEOs met Thursday to vote on approving the move, another sign of the likelihood of it happening.

The spotlight would then quickly shift to Pac-12 members, Arizona State and Utah, which could take a few days to determine their future. The Big 12 also has courted them, but they always have been on a separate timeline from Colorado and Arizona, which both had meetings with the Big 12 in recent months before jumping aboard. If Arizona makes the move, its final season in the Pac-12 for all sports would be this upcoming academic year. And there are reports out of Portland that the University of Oregon is prepared to accept an invitation to the Big 10 if the conference decides to expand.

ESPN's talks with potential strategic partners and investors have touched on several roles ESPN can play in the fragmented streaming industry from carrying local broadcasts for pro sports teams to serving as an industry-wide hub to stream any live game. MLB has had early talks with about having the network stream local baseball games in certain markets. ESPN could offer those baseball games as an add-on to its ESPN Plus service, but it isn't interested in paying a big fee for the media rights as TV broadcasters have done. ESPN sees the potential for similar arrangements with other pro sports leagues and has reportedly had talks with the NFL, NBA and NHL. Also ESPN could tie up with more than one strategic partner.

After years of setbacks, the lion's share of retail and restaurants near the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio are opening for business during Enshrinement Week. That's a huge win for the Hall of Fame Resort and Entertainment, the publicly traded development of the mixed used project. The troubled project was supposed to open in 2019, but a series of setbacks, reorganizations and downsizing delayed it for years.

Despite the improved position, the development is still touch and go. As of March, the company had 192 million in debt with 58.6 million of that maturing by next year. Quarterly revenue and cash on hand is in the seven figures, reports our Ben Fisher. With a large class of inductees and the Browns playing in last night's hall of fame game, will draw big crowds this year. The Hall of Fame Village's future depends on regular week to week activity, so the venue needs more wins like hosting the USFL championship and use sports events. It also has plans to open a waterpark and a hotel in late 2024.

Dragon Seats unveiled its new heated and cooled benches on both sidelines of the Pro Football Hall of Fame game last night between the Jets and the Browns, reports our Bret McCormick. The bench resulted from six months of focus work by Dragon Seats founder, Frank Floyd Jr. and Athletic Recovery Zone founder Brian Cothren, whose company was acquired earlier this year by Dragon Seats.

The new benches are manufactured in northeast Ohio and include new adjustments to move cool air. Dragon Seats history was in heated benches. ARZ brought the industry's best cool benches to the fold. The new bench is perforated, allowing air to get to the player's legs. And features a vent strip aimed at the back of players' necks from which to blow air. Dragon Seats now also has a shade over the bench that attaches to it and is removable and flexible.

This past off season, Dragon Seats met with 20 equipment managers from NFL teams at the company's Ohio headquarters, collecting feedback on everything they'd want to see in a sideline bench to maximize safety and comfort of their athletes. This fall, the Browns, Jags, Bucs as well as Texas A&M, Clemson, Mississippi State, and a few other programs on the college side will have the new combined heated AC benches, which will be rolled out more broadly in 2024.

Gregg Clifton, a veteran of Wasserman, Omaze and Fenway Sports Management, has launched his own advisory firm whose core focus will be around partnership development, brand strategy, talent procurement, reports our Austin Karp. His firm will also work on revenue strategies, content and marketing. Clifton, who will be working solo. To start, will focus on early stage companies seeking to grow in sports and entertainment. Clifton sees work around Gen Z as a particular area of opportunity as well as women's sports and emerging sports like pickleball or leagues like the PLL or SlamBall.

And that's your SBJ Morning Buzzcast for Friday. I hope everyone has a great day and even better weekend, and we'll see you back here Monday morning.