SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 27, 2023

Episode Summary

The smooth succession at CBS Sports; Why the Warriors ownership is perfect for the W and Thunder arena to go before voters in December

Episode Transcription

Well, my older brother Steven loved Brooks Robinson growing up, and a family of Red Sox fans in Vermont, he was somehow drawn to the third baseman from the Orioles. Robinson had that type of influence. 23 seasons in an Orioles uniform, 18 all-star appearances. He's called the most beloved figure of the most successful era in Orioles history. And while the Orioles celebrate a great season this year, the legacy of Brooks Robinson, who passed away at 86 on Tuesday, will also be celebrated the rest of the way. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, September 27th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is doing well. Another day, another change in leadership at a sports network. CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus will step down after the Masters in April. The 68-year-old McManus will be replaced by his longtime deputy, David Berson, who will become president and CEO of CBS Sports.

The well-respected McManus said the timing was right for him, both personally and professionally, and that the timing is right for the CBS Sports division. Sean McManus is all class, he's so well-liked. He has spent the last 27 years running CBS Sports. He was hired in 1996 to really revitalize a sports department, and his first big deal was to bring the NFL back to the network. And under his leadership, CBS Sports was known for its relationships with Marquee Sports properties. Just think of them, CBS and Augusta, CBS and the NCAA, CBS and the PGA Tour, CBS and the PGA of America. Sean McManus grew up in sports. He's the son of legendary broadcaster Jim McKay. He spent time working for the legendary executive Barry Frank at IMG.

He learned under the tutelage of Dick Ebersol. And now, at 68, Sean McManus can step aside and enjoy some hopefully free time, some casual time, a lot of golf, and time with his family. And he moves on during a time of great uncertainty in the sports media landscape. As far as David Berson, he was an obvious choice to be Sean McManus's successor. In fact, Sean McManus handpicked Berson to be his successor. David Berson was an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree in 2009. He started his career as an intern at ESPN before spending 16 years with the company. McManus hired Berson in 2011 and promoted him to president two years later. And Berson has been McManus right hand, second in command, and the two really play off each other well. They balance each other well. And this is very successful succession planning, and David Berson is certainly ready to lead CBS Sports. And when you think about it, this is the second big change at a network sports department in the past few days.

On Friday, Mark Lazarus picked Rick Cordella to replace Pete Bevacqua as the head of NBC Sports. So when Sean McManus leaves in April, that'll leave Fox Sports' Eric Shanks as the longest-tenured head of a sports department, and he's been running Fox Sports since 2010. So more changes in the dynamic media landscape, and I know we'll have more on Sean McManus, but I'll just say what a class act. And I know that CBS Sports would not be where it is today without his leadership. Let's move on. We have talked a lot about expansion on the Buzzcast. We know each league is looking at it. The NBA is looking at it, baseball is looking at it, and we know that WNBA has openly mentioned their plan to add teams.

Well, the Athletic reported that the Golden State Warriors are close to landing a WNBA franchise for the Bay Area. Several details still need to be worked out, but if a deal does get done, the team would play at a Chase Center and be headquartered in Oakland at the team practice facility. Now this just makes great sense. It would be fantastic for women's basketball. The Warriors are one of the premier organizations in sports, and owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber would make sure this franchise is done right and done successfully. I never knew until reading the Athletic that Joe Lacob was a key person in starting the American Basketball League. Yes, the ABL that started play in 1996, it folded in 1998 after the launch of the WNBA.

So you see, Lacob has a history in women's basketball. As far as the WNBA, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, has said, the league wanted to add one or two teams by 2025. And I would assume they still have another market potentially to add. There are enough solid markets with really strong ownership groups out there, but this would be, sorry, a slam dunk to have a women's basketball team in the Bay Area under the ownership of the Golden State Warriors. Let's shift to some arena news. In looking to build a new arena, most teams want to avoid having any public referendum or vote. They don't want the issue to go to voters because, most times, voters reject spending public funds on a new arena. So that will make the case in Oklahoma City very interesting, as the issue of a new arena for the NBA's Thunder will go to voters in December, a special election that will need a simple majority from voters.

Voters will decide if they want the new arena to be funded by a one-cent sales tax that will last for six years. That would go to fund the public share of the new arena, which is expected to cost at least $900 million. Now this is tricky for the Thunder. They obviously hope they have enough goodwill and capital in the market to get this measure through, but you never know if voters do approve the new arena. The Thunder have committed to playing there for 25 years. The city will own and operate the venue, and the Thunder will pay to lease it. During those 25 years, the team will contribute $50 million to the new arena, but they will not be responsible for any cost overruns unless the team requests changes that would raise the budget after the design is finalized. That's an interesting point. So a lot can change between now and December, but the bottom line, the Thunder will appeal to voters in Oklahoma City and hope that the message of keeping the NBA in that city is enough for voters to approve this new facility.

More renovations at major arenas, the Stars and the Mavericks unveiled $20 million worth of upgrades to American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas. The most notable upgrade is the 30% larger LED center video board. That alone costs $10 million. We are seeing larger and larger video boards. We know that. What else did they do? They also changed out video boards, and they replaced all 19,000 seats in the arena. The Mavericks and Stars are 50/50 partners. They share the cost on improvements to the facility. And right now, those expenses have hit about $100 million. There is a difference. The Stars want to continue to upgrade American Airlines Center and remain there for the future and potentially even beyond the team's lease that expires in 2031. So they like where they're playing, they like this facility. But the Mavericks and Mark Cuban want to build a new arena.

They want to build the new arena as the centerpiece of a destination resort and casino. So some differences in approach and opinion in Dallas, the two teams lease that expires in 2031. So there is time, but not a lot different visions. We'll have to see if the Mavericks and Mark Cuban eventually go off on their own to try to build a new arena in Dallas. And finally, let's end the Buzzcast around names. And one well-known name in the sports business industry is Angela Ruggiero, Sports Innovation Lab's co-founder and CEO. While she announced that she's ending her run as CEO of Sports Innovation Lab and that co-founder and president Josh Walker will take over that role. Now, Angela is still involved. She will serve as chair of Sports Innovation Lab and executive director of the Women's Sports Club.

Now, Ruggiero is an SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree in 2018. She is well-known, she started Sports Innovation Lab seven years ago, and it's certainly become an influential player in the industry with its data-based approach on the business side of sports. And now co-founder Josh Walker will take the lead from here. Ruggiero is a hockey Hall of Famer, currently serves as a hockey operations advisor for the New York Rangers. So a passing of the baton at Sports Innovation Lab from Angela Ruggiero to Josh Walker.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, September 27th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.