SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 15, 2022

Episode Summary

Empower Field gets makeover; Commanders sale moves forward, as does UCLA's move to Big Ten and two new docu-series to get on your calendar

Episode Transcription

Sports Business Journal said goodbye to our talented controller of nearly 25 years yesterday. Mary Baranowski is not a name you would ever know, but she was the straw that stirs the drink. And it's really hard to say goodbye to such a critical figure to the growth of Sports Business Journal over all these years. We will certainly miss her, but we hope she thrives and we know she will enjoy her well-deserved retirement. So congratulations, Mary Baranowski, and thank you for all you did for SBJ. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, December 15th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

Well, it's official, as UCLA is cleared to join the Big Ten after receiving approval from the University of California Board of Regents Wednesday. The Board of Regents approved the move by a vote of 11 to five, and it comes nearly six months after UCLA, along with USC, surprised the world of college sports by stating their intention to join the Big Ten in 2024. But the board did attach some conditions. UCLA will have to increase its investment in student-athlete resources and might have to provide a subsidy to the University of California, Berkeley once a Pac-12 media deal is completed, depending on the amount of the deal. The other stipulations addressed funds for academic support, nutritional support, and mental health services for student-athletes. Now, the Board of Regents did have the authority to block the move, but few saw that as a reality. And the bottom line is, now the timing and the path is clear for UCLA's move to the Big Ten.

Let's shift to some news out of the NFL owners meetings in Dallas. First, the Washington Post is reporting that Bank of America, the investment bank hired by Commanders owner, Dan Snyder, is moving forward with the process to sell the team. So Bank of America is set to send a prospectus or financial details around the Commanders to qualified potential buyers who agree to the required confidentiality provisions. So this is a big step and another indication that Snyder is serious about selling a stake in, or selling the entire team. Most sources tell the Washington Post, they believe a full sale of the Commanders is the most likely outcome, and that would certainly please many Commanders fans and many at the NFL's league office.

Also at the meetings, there was more clarity to the $100 million in improvements in renovations to the Denver Broncos' Empower Field, which are the first major project initiatives under the new team owners, the Walton family, and new team president, Damani Leech. It also represents the largest investment in the 21-year-old venue's history. So that building, now north of 20 years old. Work will begin immediately after the season, the team won't make the playoffs, and league funding for the project was approved by the league on Wednesday. So details include an expansion of the video board, an expanded team store, refurbished suites, and additional concessions.

The Broncos will fund much of the improvements. The league will contribute funds as part of its G4 financing stadium initiative. And the Metropolitan Football Stadium District also approved $12 million as part of the project. So the work is slated to be completed over the upcoming off-season. So like I said, the biggest item is a 70% larger video board. That's the trend we've seen with the size of these boards. This one will be 31 feet taller than the current version and will check in at 225 feet wide and 72 feet tall. So it will be a massive board. It's done by Daktronics and Colorado-based Arrow Electronics. They are working on that new video board. So again, $100 million, the largest investment in this facility's 21-year history, or the largest new investment in this facility's 21-year history. And the Broncos' Empower Field will look far different when the season opens in September of 2023.

If you watch NASCAR or watched the docuseries, Race For The Championship, you will know that Justin Marks is one of the more interesting new owners in the sport. He has big ambitions, he's young, he's aggressive, and that has become more clear as his Trackhouse Entertainment Group has raised seven figures in private equity to launch a new division called Trackhouse360 that will become a content and event company focused on racing. And it has brought on a new executive, Dean Stoyer, who was a longtime chief marketing and communications officer of the Phoenix Suns, but also has a history at Nike and Under Armour to run the new group. Trackhouse360 will be the second division under Trackhouse Entertainment Group. The other, of course, is the two-car NASCAR Cup series team that counts Pitbull as a partner.

And remember, they had a great year. One of its two drivers finished second this year in the championship in just the second year of their racing. So, again, Justin Marks doing a lot of interesting things. He wants this company to create content experiences. It will be based out of Nashville where Justin Marks lives and runs the parent company. Justin Marks compared this new initiative to Barstool Sports, storytelling, digital content, live events, apparel, and merchandise. So there's a lot of interesting things going on there. Justin Marks was just named the National Motorsports Press Association's Person of the Year for his contributions to racing. He has been very public about his interest in growing motorsports globally. So bottom line is he's someone to keep your eye on. And like I said, Dean Stoyer, who will run this division at Trackhouse, spent three years with the Suns. He had a couple of years at Under Armour. I first met him as he spent nearly two decades at Nike. So some interesting things going on with Trackhouse Entertainment Group.

And speaking of content, you know I love the intersection of sports and entertainment. And there are two new projects worth keeping your eye on, and they both debut January 13th. So mark that on your calendar. First, the trailer drop for the new Apple four-part documentary, Super League: The War for Football, around the failed attempt to launch the Super League last year. Like I said, it debuted January 13th. Jeff Zimbalist, who, of course, was behind The Two Escobars and is the son of noted sports economist, Andy Zimbalist, is directing the film. The executive producers are Connor Schell and Libby Geist. We all know what they've done. Connor was a co-creator of 30 for 30. Libby Geist was behind The Last Dance and O.J.: Made in America. So some very talented people behind this project. It looks at the powerful figures who tried to launch the Super League and the tensions and the betrayals that came from that failed launch. It was one of the most compelling stories in soccer and the trailer, check it out, it's intense and powerful. This should definitely be on your watchlist.

And second, we've talked about how Netflix is trying to recreate the success of Drive to Survive, and that will be hard, but its first attempt is the docuseries Break Point around professional tennis. It, too, will debut January 13th just before the Australian Open. So the first five episodes focus on the Aussie Open, Indian Wells, Madrid, the French Open, and the other five episodes focus on Wimbledon and the US Open and the ATP and WTA Finals among others. The show, of course, is done and produced by Box To Box, which also made Drive To Survive. And Box To Box is also working on a series around golf and surfing. So of course, they're trying to replicate the success around Drive To Survive. There will be comparisons to Drive To Survive, but certainly, in this first one, the pro tennis world is hoping to get a boost to the sport from the success around Break Point debuting January 13th.

And finally, let's close the story around the tragic death of soccer writer, Grant Wahl. We talked about his death on Monday's Buzzcast and his wife went public yesterday on Wednesday to confirm that Grant Wahl died of an aortic aneurysm, something she said had likely been brewing for years. She posted on the web some details about his death and she did push back on much of the speculation surrounding his death. She wrote, "No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death." She also added she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support around the world that she and her family have received since his passing last weekend. And I'll say, it's still so hard to believe his death has really happened. So that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, December 15th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other, I'll speak to you tomorrow.