SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 2, 2022

Episode Summary

The U.S. Open's massive opening week; the Bears set to pull curtain back on Arlington Heights and the Braves continue to roll on the business side

Episode Transcription

The likes of Billie Jean King and NBA commissioner Adam Silver were on hand to watch the Williams sisters play their first match together in over four years on Thursday night, but Venus and Serena Williams lost in the first round of The US Open doubles in front of a packed pro-Williams capacity crowd at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The focus continues as Serena plays in her third round match tonight, Friday night, and let's just say the first week of this US Open has been an overall smashing hit from ratings, to attendance, to weather, to revenue. This is shaping up to be a very, very good event for the USTA and ESPN, where viewership is up 80% from the same period in 2021, and yes, it's all about the William sisters. And it's rare for me to lead with the US Open when the 2022 College Football season really kicks off in full swing Saturday, with a number of high-profile games scheduled for opening weekend. So yes, it's starting to feel like September when it comes.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, September 2nd. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. You know, it's one of the biggest projects in sports and everybody is interested in it, and so you want to keep an eye on it, and that is the Chicago Bears moving to Arlington Heights and taking the next step toward building a new stadium. The Bears announced they'll hold an informational community meeting to discuss the purchase and development of Arlington International Racecourse. So, the Bears plan to present conceptual ideas next week for a mixed-used entertainment district anchored by a stadium in Arlington Heights that would be one of the largest development projects in Illinois history. Yes, you heard that right, it will be one of the largest development projects in Illinois history, and that's what makes this deal so fascinating.

This type of deal is not like the McCaskey family, and it likely takes the McCaskeys out of their comfort zone. Don't underestimate the size and scope of this project. It's not just a stadium, but a massive $5 billion mixed-use project rivaling the SoFi Stadium development in Inglewood. But the McCaskeys are not Stan Kroenke. They don't have Stan Kroenke type of wealth. They're not developers, and the McCaskeys will not over-leverage the franchise or the future of the franchise. So keep your eye on what type of financial assistance they can get from the state, as they will need the funding, and they have to effectively position this as a real economic development stimulus driver, creating jobs and creating growth in a state that certainly would welcome that. So we'll begin to see more details of this much talked about development plan of the Chicago Bears next week.

Let's move on. Not everybody is taking today off before the long weekend. The College Football Playoff Board of Managers will meet today, Friday, to propose an expanded Playoff bracket for as soon as the 2024 season. So yes, expansion of the College Football Playoff is clearly back in play. The most popular concept is 12 teams in the Playoffs, however, there is some support for a 16-team Playoff. But the key here is the vote must be unanimous by the 11 members of the board, and that's the hard part, remember. But things have changed a bit since the last failed attempt at CFP expansion. The Big Ten is entirely different. There is no more alliance of the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC, and so there could be now more of an appetite for expansion. Now, this board would only approve the concept. It would then be up to commissioners that comprise the CFP Management Committee to oversee approval and implementation. But again, we could see a big step towards CFP expansion today.

Another big step today, the Braves, the Atlanta Braves are set to break the Truist Park regular season attendance record tonight on Friday, pending any rain-outs. The club should go over 2.6 million in home attendance for the season. That's second only to the Dodgers. They average well over 38,000 per game, and they'll break their record that they set in 2019. The Braves of course won the World Series last year, they were a nominee for Sports Team of the Year at the Sports Business Awards, and they are marking the occasion on Friday by gifting every fan in attendance with a free sandwich courtesy of club sponsor Chick-fil-A, in addition to a commemorative NFT in partnership with Candy Digital. So, for the season, the Braves are on pace to host three million fans at Truist Park, and those are numbers from the Braves heydays of the 1990s and early 2000.

But again, I often wonder if the Atlanta Braves get the credit they deserve. Remember the scrutiny they faced when they left Turner Field, but the move to Truist Park has been a financial hit for them. The team's business performance is really off the charts. How about this? The team reported an operating profit of $57 million. Yes, an operating profit of $57 million for the second quarter of 2022 alone. The team won the World Series, is on pace to top three million fans, has signed its homegrown stars to long-term contracts, its real estate development at The Battery Atlanta is the model for all other sports organization. So this organization has clicked on every level, but at times I don't think it really gets the national attention it deserves, but the Braves set to top a major attendance mark sometime tonight, or certainly this weekend.

Let's move on to some news from private equity. Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein is one of the most influential voices in finance and private equity. He has been mentioned as a possible buyer of the Orioles or the Nationals, so it was telling that he was on CNBC and admitted he's changed his tune about sports team ownership. He used to think it was a bad idea, in fact, he's one of the few people in private equity that doesn't own a sports team, but he admits now he was wrong. As he told CNBC, "It's very difficult to buy a sports team and lose money. Some people have done it, but it's very rare. In baseball and basketball, you make your money when you sell the team. In the NFL, you make your money all the time because it's so profitable." He predicted in the future, teams from various leagues will combine in one company and ultimately go public, but David Rubenstein sounds like he's a little bit more open, of course, to buying a sports team and has been mentioned as a possible buyer of the Orioles and the Nationals.

Let's shift to golf. LIV Golf tees off with its fourth event near Boston, kicks off this weekend, and two agencies have a massive stable of players competing for the LIV Golf Tour. So a review of all player agency relationships by Sports Business Journal's Josh Carpenter shows that GSE Worldwide and Wasserman both had the highest or the most number of players on the LIV Golf Invitational Series. So, of the 48-player field at The International in Boston this week, 11 players are repped by GSE Worldwide, or its subsidiary, Impact Point. Now, GSE represents some of the biggest names at LIV, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio GarcĂ­a, among others. Meanwhile, the agency Wasserman represents seven golfers in the field, including LIV Golf's highest ranked player to date, Cam Smith. So, pretty interesting. This, again, marks LIV Golf's fourth different field in as many events. The series next year is set to have a 48-player field set for each event. Again, that's for next season, but it's interesting that GSE Worldwide and Wasserman, those are the two agencies with the most players participating on the LIV Golf Series.

A couple of quick hitters as we finish up the Buzzcast on this Friday. First, in a welcome move, and not a surprise, Peyton and Eli Manning are back on Monday Night Football. Their alternate Monday Night Football Telecast will be seen 10 times during the Monday Night Football schedule. Story two, are you ready for some more jolt out of your Gatorade? Well, Gatorade is entering the energy drink category with a caffeinated drink called Fast Twitch. Yes, that is designed to give athletes an extra boost before their workouts. Now, the new drink will launch in February, but expect to see NFL players drinking Fast Twitch on the sidelines during the upcoming season as part of Gatorade's exclusive deal with the NFL.

And finally, a long-running and unhealthy dispute between the City of Santa Clara, California and the San Francisco 49ers appears to be over, as the City of Santa Clara has agreed to a settlement with the 49ers that lets the 49ers continue to manage the publicly-owned Levi's Stadium. Now, this dispute has gone on for too long, and it's really soured the relationship between the team and the region, so this is a very positive step that they are turning the page to a healthier relationship. 49ers, City of Santa Clara looking to work better together in the future.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, September 2nd. I'm Abe Madkour. I hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend. Enjoy it no matter what you do. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you next week.