SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: May 17, 2023

Episode Summary

Coyotes future uncertain after Tempe defeat; San Diego ready for MLS victory lap; Legends gets closer into business with the Bills

Episode Transcription

One week from today, Wednesday, May 24th, the Sports Business Awards will be at the Times Square Marriott Marquis in New York. There is limited seating still available. It's a celebration of the industry and a room you really want to be in. Go to our website or let me know if you'd like to learn more. I'll be in New York all week next week. It'd be great to see you. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, May 17th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast.

A disappointing day for the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes. There's no other way to put it. As Tempe voters rejected, the Coyotes proposed $$2.1 billion development pretty handily on Tuesday. There were three ballot items, all of which needed to receive a majority of yes votes in order for the project to move forward. And each one was losing by about a 56% to 44% margin, so not very close. There is no doubt this is a stinging defeat and one can clearly argue that the future of the Coyotes in the market is certainly not assured. Not assured at all. The team was making a big, big bet on this $2 billion development, which featured a new arena and an entertainment and residential district. Of the $2.1 billion cost, at least $1.9 billion would've been privately funded. So again, this was a big surprising defeat for the Coyotes.

In a statement, Tuesday night, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would review with the Coyotes what the options might be going forward. We know the journey for the Coyotes has not been easy. The team played first in Phoenix, then in Glendale from 2003 through last season. This season they played at Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State. They shared it with the Sun Devil's Men's Hockey Program. So that is not a long-term solution for this team. And we will begin hearing about interest from markets like Houston, from markets like Atlanta, Kansas City, Quebec. They are all interested in landing an NHL team, and the Coyotes now could be in play.

Let's move on. Legends will be doing more work for the Buffalo Bills. The sports firm already has been helping the Bills design their new stadium, and they'll help the team with sales and ticket sales at the stadium. And now its Legends Hospitality has won a long-term partnership to handle the food and beverage rights at the new stadium. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2026. This was a very competitive bid for this business. Legends Hospitality, beat out Sodexo, Levy Restaurants and Buffalo based Delaware North Company, which has held the Bill's Stadium contract since 1992. So it's a big win for Legends Hospitality, even though that company's been pretty embedded in the Bills project for a while.

Like I said, they're overseeing PSL sales, they're overseeing naming rights at the stadium. They've been handling feasibility studies about the marketplace and the stadium. But now they will also do food and beverage, and it's a tough loss for Delaware North, like we said, a Buffalo based company that has been with the Bills for a number of years, and they will continue to run the food and beverage program at Highmark Stadium through the 2025 season. Now, Legends had previously taken over operations of the team's merchandise store from Delaware North as well. That's a year round retail shop at Highmark Stadium. So the bottom line, Legends is proving to be a very, very close partner in the development of the Buffalo Bills new stadium project.

I'm sure you caught it last night. Certainly a big night for the San Antonio Spurs who won the NBA draft lottery and the rights to draft the French star, Victor Wembanyama, and so he will likely go to San Antonio. You could see the jubilation on the face of Spurs managing partner, Peter Holt, who represented the team. This will surely result in a big ticket sales increase for the organization, and the team will certainly expect full sellouts AT&T Center this coming season and hopefully for years to come. This comes at an interesting time for the Spurs as they're trying to broaden their regional appeal. Remember, we've talked about this on the Buzzcast. They played that big game at the Alamo Dome earlier this season where they drew nearly 70,000. That was a harken back to the team's roots. They want to play more games in Austin, Texas. They're really trying to expand their reach in Texas, and certainly landing a potentially generational star like Wembanyama will certainly help that effort. But a big night, and I'm sure a big day today for the San Antonio Spurs.

Speaking of a big day, Thursday will be a big day in San Diego for the city and Major League Soccer. Yes, this is a story we've talked about on the Buzzcast for a while. MLS will announce San Diego as its 30th team on Thursday at a news conference at Snapdragon Stadium. Remember, for the longest time, it seemed that Las Vegas was the clear favorite, but that bid was slowed by increasing stadium costs, supply chain issues and other factors. And San Diego's bid continued to gain momentum. So this expansion franchise will begin play in February of 2025. They'll play at the 35,000 seat capacity Snapdragon Stadium. And the ownership group is headed by the London based Mansour Group, which is led by Egyptian billionaire, Mohamed Mansour, and also it'll be owned by a local Indian tribe. So getting a team won't be cheap, as the expansion fee that league sources say is in the $500 million range, $500 million for this expansion team.

Now, the last expansion team was right here in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. David Tepper paid $325 million for the expansion fee for Charlotte FC. Now, just a couple of years later, San Diego, $500 million. Now that would be a significant increase. That's a significant franchise fee. There will be plenty of critics who say that the math doesn't add up to pay that much considering the revenue around the franchise. But regardless, that is the marketplace right now. This move will bring the league to 30 teams where MLS could settle and halt a bit. But remember, there could be more expansion in the future as markets like Phoenix and Las Vegas among others would still be interested in an MLS franchise. But MLS set to announce its 30th team in San Diego on Thursday.

Staying with soccer, get ready for another women's soccer league in the United States. The USL Super League is a pro woman's league. It will kick off in August of 2024. And the USL plans to pursue Division 1 sanctioning from US Soccer. That is a change, and that would put the Super League on the same tier as the NWSL. Earlier, it was believed that the USL would seek Division 2 status, which would be not competing with the NWSL. So this is a shift in their plan. The first eight markets confirmed for the 2024 season are Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington DC, Lexington, Kentucky, Phoenix, Spokane, Tampa, and Tucson. There will be more franchises announced for the inaugural season. They want to get to a total of 10 to 12 teams to start in 2024. They're already at eight.

The reason they're going for Division 1 status is that they believe there is enough demand to fill these teams, and they think their markets will be complimentary to the 12 NWSL markets. But it seems they'll be going after the same player pool. So talent is certainly an issue to watch. Unlike the NWSL, the Super League will follow the international calendar. So their season will begin in August. They'll take a break through the winter months, they'll finish in June. They'll allow their players to play internationally. So what else to watch? Well, you have to watch, will the Super League get Division 1 status? As obtaining Division 1 status requires approval from the US Soccer Federation's Board of Directors. And we know that the soccer world is small, it's political, and so that too bears watching. But the USL Super League, a new women's soccer league set to launch in August of 2024.

And finally, we'll end on another big deal. A lot of big deals today on the Buzzcast. This is one we've talked about, and it's ESPN placing a big bet on Pat McAfee as he will join the network in the fall. Terms of his deal are not known, but it does mean McAfee will move beyond his four year, $120 million contract with FanDuel. McAfee will have the daily Pat McAfee show on ESPN, on ESPN+, he'll continue to be an analyst on college football for ESPN. AJ Hawk will continue to co-host the show with McAfee. They'll do it from the same location in Indianapolis. So this is a big move for Pat McAfee, a big move for ESPN. McAfee has a really strong, strong following of young viewers particularly. McAfee said that he had serious conversations with four networks before choosing ESPN. And like I said, he'll start formally with Disney in the fall. But again, a big move for both Disney and Pat McAfee.

And that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, May 17th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.