SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 14, 2023

Episode Summary

A look at Monumental Sports and Entertainment's potential move to Virginia; the NFL's global growth plan continues and two facility naming rights deals extended.

Episode Transcription

A very impressive event celebrating U.S. Soccer's formal announcement of its 200-acre, $200 million national training center and business headquarters. It'll be based in Fayette County, Georgia, which is about 25 miles south of downtown Atlanta and 15 miles south from the city's airport. Now, the event last night and the exact location of the center will be in Trilith and it will cover more than 200 acres of land. And Trilith is an interesting master plan residential and mixed use community, with a school, restaurants, retail and office space. This should end up being quite the complex and quite the home of U.S. Soccer. It was my first time in Fayette County and there's a lot of interesting development in that area.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, December 14th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour coming to you from Atlanta today where I will be part of a U.S. Soccer summit, talking about some of the issues in soccer and opportunities. But first, it was the talk of sports business yesterday as Monumental Sports' Ted Leonsis announced a non-binding deal to move the Wizards and the Capitals from downtown Washington DC across the Potomac to Alexandria, Virginia. Now, this move was celebrated in Virginia. That is the most populous state without any major league sports teams. And the two teams could play at the heart of a proposed two billion, 12-acre entertainment complex as soon as 2028. But no doubt about it, any move would be a blow to Washington DC, as its downtown is still struggling to recover post-COVID.

Now, Ted Leonsis has long been frustrated by the city's lack of investment in Capital One Arena and the area surrounding it. Capital One Arena was built in 1997 by Abe Pollin and is one of the older arenas in the NBA and NHL. And Leonsis was also frustrated about an increase in crime around the area as well. He had been talking to the district about a financial investment and more security. But while these talks were going on, the city was also publicly trying to lure the Commanders to Washington DC, which I'm sure frustrated Ted Leonsis.

What has struck me about this deal is how fast this all moved, all within eight months, reportedly, when Leonsis started talking to the State of Virginia. It does make me wonder if the DC administration took the threat that Leonsis would follow through with a deal to build a whole new facility in Virginia seriously enough. But in terms of the Virginia plan, it would be right off the George Washington Parkway, just south of Reagan Airport, right along to Potomac. Monumental hopes to break ground in 2025 and have both teams open in 2028. Now, the team's lease at Capital One Arena expires in 2027, and they're free to move at any point after that. But interestingly, the plan would be to continue to use Capital One Arena for other events and concerts. Now, no papers are signed and this deal is non-binding. And we've seen ownership and deals fall apart, owners walk away, and deals just never come to fruition.

But here is what I see. Ted Leonsis did not build Capital One Arena, the late Abe Pollin did. Ted hasn't been happy with the way the neighborhood has developed, and he's been frustrated by the city's lack of assistance. Now he has an opportunity to go right across the river to Virginia and put his stamp on a building with his vision, which will be part of the trends we're seeing in sports as owners want to build massive mixed-use entertainment complexes near their teams' facilities to capitalize on the connection between these work, life and play neighborhoods right next to sports arenas. Yes, this deal could unravel, but I do think Ted Leonsis and Monumental Sports is eager to move forward with this plan to relocate to Virginia.

Let's move on. What else is moving fast? Well, the NFL is moving fast on its global growth plan. Last night I was talking to a former, really connected NFL executive and he agreed that the NFL is moving much faster and putting more games around the globe than he anticipated. The league will nearly double its international schedule in 2025. Just think about that. Within the next two years, double the number of games. And next year the league will play a regular season game in Brazil, dramatically increasing the league's global footprint. I'm just really surprised how quickly Roger Goodell and owners are moving games to an international schedule. And it's impressive. Brazil will be the fourth foreign country to host the NFL.

The Brazil venue will be Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena, which has hosted matches for the World Cup and the Olympics. And that's always an issue. Are there the proper facilities to host the game? Sao Paulo, Brazil beat out Madrid, Spain in an NFL evaluation of where to play next. So the league took international growth very gradually at first. Remember, they played in London, Mexico City, then they went to Germany. Germany was a huge hit.

Now Brazil has been added. In just a couple of years, you've seen this footprint really grow. So starting in 2025, NFL teams must give up a home game every four years. There'll be eight foreign games every year instead of four, and that doesn't include the Jags' separately negotiated deals with Wembley Stadium in London. So the bottom line is this is a swift acceleration of the NFL's global strategy. Staying with the NFL, the league will be going back to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl. LA and SoFi Stadium have won the right to host the game Super Bowl 61 in February 2027. That comes just five years since it hosted its first Super Bowl. That would be the quickest return to the same venue for the Super Bowl since Miami hosted the game in 2006 and 2009.

So what does that indicate? Well, it indicates that the league was very happy with the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in 2022. By all measures, that was a financial hit for the league, and people and corporate partners loved being back in LA. So the Super Bowl is now set for the following years: Vegas, obviously, this February, New Orleans in February of '25, Levi's Stadium Santa Clara in '26, LA in '27. My colleague Ben Fischer reported that the new, enclosed Nissan Stadium in Nashville is projected to open in February of 2027. And don't be surprised if that facility could be hosting the Super Bowl in 2028. They surely will be interested.

Yesterday, on Wednesday, there were two big naming right deals renewals, one in my hometown as the Carolina Panthers renewed its stadium naming rights deal with the hometown Bank of America, extending the 20-year-old deal just weeks before it was set to expire. Now, terms of the extension are not yet known, and it's unclear if Bank of America will have the right of first refusal if Tepper Sports & Entertainment begins to build a new venue. But Bank of America has been on this building for a long time, since 2004. It's been paying about $7 million a year. This relationship started between Hugh McColl and Jerry Richardson, and it has been a healthy relationship.

However, in looking for a new long-term deal over the past year, it was known that Tepper Sports & Entertainment was seeking a substantial increase in any naming rights partnerships. Their argument was there are more events being held at the facility and it's still a great, viable stadium in a perfect part of town, even at 27 years old. But at the end of the day, Tepper Sports & Entertainment, Bank of America agreed to continue this partnership. I think it's smart, it's a safe play for now, and the relationship has always been a positive one amongst Panther fans and community leaders. So Bank of America will remain on the Charlotte football stadium for the foreseeable future.

Also, the St. Louis Cardinals ballpark will continue to be called Busch Stadium, and isn't that perfect? At least through 2030, and that's part of a naming rights deal extension announced yesterday on Wednesday. The agreement between the team and Anheuser-Busch. It maintains Anheuser-Busch's exclusivity in all alcoholic beverage advertising across all Cardinals radio and television broadcasts. And you will also see Anheuser-Busch keeping the rights to advertise in Ballpark Village over the next five years.

Now, terms were not announced, but again, a long-term partnership between the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch around Busch Stadium will continue through at least 2030. So two long-time naming rights deals will continue in both Carolina and St. Louis. And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, December 14th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Friday.