First & Goal Hospitality Launched

March 11, 2017

First & Goal Inc. announced the creation of First & Goal Hospitality (FGH), which took over the management and operations of all concessions at CenturyLink Field and related venues as of March 1st.  FGH takes over from Delaware North, a big, long time player in the hospitality business.

It makes sense for Paul Allen’s F&G to do this as a way to increase incremental revenue at a facility the group already operates.  FGH is also believed to be the first locally team owned organization to break into the hospitality sector.  It’s a competitive sector nationally, from Delware North to Yankees and Cowboys’ owned Legends Hospitality to Centerplate (Safeco Field, Tacoma Dome), to Levy Restaurants (KeyArena, Moda Center), to the big heavyweight, Aramark (UW facilities), with over $14B a year in revenue and a market cap of $9B, dwarfing any sports franchise multiple times over.  And these groups have long branched out from concessions, ranging from marketing and sponsorships to ticketing and consulting.

The local venues noted above serviced by the national players make obvious targets should FGH look to expand.  None more so than Allen owned Moda Center in Portland.  And just as the more established hospitality businesses broadened their product offerings, it wouldn’t be surprising to see FGH eventually go that route as well.  So Seahawks and Sounders fans can look forward to new concession offerings this year, knowing that the genesis for those options are indeed, created close to home.

 

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Why The Arena Decision May Slide To 2018

February 27, 2017

The KeyArena RFP calls for proposals by mid April, with a city decision by the end of June.  Concurrently, the MOU with Chris Hansen’s SoDo project expires at the end of November.  Though with Hansen offering to essentially scrap the MOU by privately funding the arena, that date isn’t as significant.  However, the city says the new proposal triggers a new review, estimated to be completed in late summer or early fall.  This despite the only major change being the financing.

With a mayoral election this November, along with two city council seats, one held by retiring pro SoDo Burgess and the other by anti SoDo Gonzalez, it’s quite possible that any second look at the SoDo proposal gets pushed to next year.  That could even be the fate of the winning RFP bid, favored to be current KeyArena operator AEG.  Because while a decision by early summer may be preferred, action on that bid may be delayed as the city “process” grinds on, taking every and all possible KeyArena constituents into account.  That’s why some have estimated the winning bid may not see completion of the project until 5-7 years out.  Entertainment and sports facilities understandably don’t rank high on elected officials’ agendas, though there is something to be said for acting within a reasonable time frame on private offers that other cities would elevate immediately.

And while SoDo naysayers such as the Seattle Times believe this whole process is rushed, with no prospective NBA or NHL teams on the horizon, those with an understanding of the situation know that such claims are ridiculous.  Right now, NHL clubs in Brooklyn, Raleigh and Phoenix are actively looking for arena or ownership solutions in their home markets, for now.  Just over the past few years, NBA or NHL teams experienced sudden ownership turmoil that led to the sale of teams in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Atlanta (to Winnipeg).  Stuff happens.  It’s imperative for a region that wishes to host teams to be prepared for such situations, to say nothing of the cleaner expansion possibilities.

But Seattle, under current elected officials, is not such a city.  That’s why the process has dragged along.  And it’s why the likely winning bid to renovate KeyArena will be focused around turning the old, temporary, 1962World’s Fair building into a midsized concert venue.  If the NBA or NHL and prospective owners don’t like that, well, that’s not the city’s problem.

So we wait, and wait and wait.  After having over 10 years to consider KeyArena’s future, the city is forced to react only when a legitimate proposal emerges in SoDo.  Given the city’s intent on slowing or stopping the SoDo plans, barring a miracle, sports fans are left hoping a serious arena proposal emerges outside the city limits.  That would be a miracle in itself, likely on par with city politicos giving Hansen’s plan the green light any time soon.


Times Red Cards the Sounders Beat

January 22, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, The Seattle Times Sounders beat reporter Matt Pentz announced that his position had been eliminated as part of wider cuts at the Times.  This followed on the heels of a similar situation last summer for Don Ruiz at the Tacoma News Tribune.  So just like the that, the two major daily papers in the region eliminated the position of Sounders beat reporter within a handful of months.

It’s not a great look for the papers, who are struggling to survive.  Nor for the Sounders or MLS, who appear to be not important enough to have beat reporters covering their defending champion.  As Seth Vertelney of GOAL.com notes, it’s part of a wider trend in the league:

There is an air of legitimacy that daily newspaper coverage still provides to an MLS team. When MLS news is pushed off the pages of major metropolitan periodicals and onto websites with more niche followings, it sends a message to those casual fans: MLS isn’t big-time quite yet.

That’s the message the Seattle Times is sending, whether it’s intended or not. In Seattle, the Sounders are big-time though, so a larger swath of the readership suffers there when Pentz and Ruiz leave the beat.

Just as he relates, the loss of newspaper reporters is in some cases being picked up by coverage from blogs, local websites and team sites.  And this is happening in other sports as well.  It’s a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going to reverse itself anytime soon.

It’ll create some new opportunities, though undoubtedly the casual fan who depends on the local daily will lose out.  Certainly this will be the case in Seattle, where local sports talk radio, another avenue of casual fans, mostly neglects the club.  And a less informed fan, or potential fan, is a loss for the team and league as well.


The Arena Debate and Local Sports Talk Radio

December 30, 2016

Since the SoDo arena was first proposed, dividing lines have been drawn between those supporting the plan and those opposed, whether on an economic development basis, political views, the future direction of Seattle, etc.  That has extended to sports talk radio as well, with KJR 950 supporting the plan, and in many ways actively campaigning for the arena.  As such, the station has interviewed Chris Hansen multiple times, along with other arena supporters.  In contrast, the potential redevelopment of KeyArena and any other regional arena proposals, often get quickly shot down as not feasible by those at the station.

Meanwhile, 710 ESPN, likely influenced by the Mariners and Seahawks, their broadcast partners, has barely mentioned the SoDo proposal.  Essentially, they’ve practically ignored the plan over the last couple of years, using arguments that the anti SoDo groups have applied.  This position stands out, because early on in the SoDo developments, 710 was not so indifferent.  And especially recently, they’ve taken the banner of KeyArena redevelopment and ran with it.  This included an interview with Tim Leiweke, the public face of one of the two groups planning to respond to a city issued RFP for renovating KeyArena.

Expect this situation to carry on into 2017, until one plan finally stands above the other.  Then both stations will likely support whatever arena plan that is, because only then can progress be made towards the ultimate goal, which is getting NHL and NBA franchises to fill that arena.


Pac-12 Football Championship Game

November 30, 2016

It’s the early ’90s all over again, as #4 Washington takes on #8 Colorado in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game in Santa Clara on Friday.  Both teams are having renaissance seasons reminiscent of 25yrs ago, when both programs were national powers.  This is the third consecutive year the title game will be held in the neutral home of the 49ers.

Since neither school has played in the title game previously, and boast numerous Bay Area alumni, it’ll be interesting to see the attendance for the game.  The previous two games had 45K (on a Fri.) and 58K fans; with Stanford playing in the second one on a Saturday, and undoubtedly helping bump up attendance.  This year’s matchup is also the second best in terms of national college football playoff rankings, after 2014’s #2 Oregon vs #7 Arizona (yes, hard to believe).

The neutral site game can still work. But the conference may want to consider playing the game at the Rose Bowl.  These days, the conference champion isn’t assured of playing in the Rose Bowl Game, so it’s not guaranteed the conference winner would play two consecutive games there to end the season.  The Rose Bowl has an aura that not many venues have in college football, something the conference should take advantage of by staging its premier game there.  Los Angeles is a recruiting hotbed, so two programs would be rewarded by gaining additional exposure to those athletes.

The area wasn’t great for the conference basketball tournament, but football might be a different story.  And while so many conferences are playing their championships in modern NFL stadiums, there’s an intrigue factor about playing a conference championship in a historic stadium that speaks to college football.  Even for a conference that sees itself on the tech and media cutting edge.


Local Aspects of AT&T – Time Warner Deal

October 29, 2016

The proposed purchase of Time Warner by AT&T includes local aspects for sports fans.  First, AT&T is the minority partner in the M’s ROOT Sports Northwest.  That is one of four RSNs that AT&T has an ownership stake, via its purchase of DirecTV last year.  Analyst opinions have been split over the years as to whether DirecTV/AT&T would seek to expand their RSN portfolio or sell it off.  Given the sports rights that may be acquired thru Time Warner, AT&T may now see those assets as something to capitalize on, especially in the mobile space, going forward.

Second, the Pac-12 Network has yet to agree to a carriage agreement with DirecTV/AT&T.  That’s been a thorny issue since the network débuted.  And now that AT&T is the largest pay TV operator, this lack of carriage remains detrimental to the conference.  As the merger agreement moves through the regulatory process, the standoff between AT&T and the Pac-12 may be an item that gets attention (and resolved) before approval is granted.

There is a long way to go between now and government approval, which is no certainty. Approval would make the new AT&T an even bigger provider and distributor of content than Comcast.  With a sports portfolio likely eclipsing it as well.  And as such, could impact fans throughout the Puget Sound region.


Sounders Valuation Again Tops Forbes List

September 29, 2016

The Sounders once again topped Forbes’ MLS valuation list.  According to the magazine, the club’s value increased from $245M to $285M over the last year.  As with last year, Forbes bases the valuations on a multiple of assumed revenue.  It’s not the clearest way to value a team, as a multiple of operating profit would be preferable.  But in Forbes defense, MLS financial figures are not easily found.

Still, it’s a bit hard to believe the Sounders are worth more than any of the New York or Los Angeles franchises.  With MLS even more of a socialist model than the NFL, one would expect valuations to roughly equate to market size, as with the NFL minus some unique exceptions (Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, etc).  But MLS clubs still have wide differences in stadium revenue generating opportunities as compared to the NFL.  So as a result, it’s quite possible that an upper middle market team could be more valuable than at least a few large market franchises.