Soccer Business Bits: Portland Stadium Update, DC United Lawsuit Update, and More

pgeAccording to a Tuesday afternoon story in the Oregonian, the revamped PGE Park will have a soccer capacity of about 17k.  Interestingly, this is similar to the current capacity even though the renovation will add about 5,000 seats.  According to the story, 5,000 existing seats will be blocked off for games and used either for advertising or other display purposes.  Because of predictions that 17k will suffice for soccer crowds, this will allow Portland to keep the “worst” seats blocked off, although they will be available for bigger events.  For more on Portland’s stadium efforts, click here.

We wrote a few weeks back about the lawsuit brought against DC United by two gentlemen seeking a commission from the introduction of VW as a sponsor.  While the lawsuit contained some interesting business tidbits about the business of MLS, the real action in the lawsuit is now just starting.  As of today, the summons has been “returned to court” and thus a deadline of October 5 has been set for DC United to reply.  A copy of the Complaint was served upon Michael Williamson, the CFO of Macfarlane Chang DC Soccer on September 14 by a private process server.  As of yet, no attorneys have appeared on behalf of DC United.  We will continue to monitor the case as it moves forward.

Finally, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about Dave Checketts’ thoughts on operating a sports franchise in this climate.  While the story does not focus on RSL, it does give an interesting perspective on how Checketts thinks a team ought to operate when times are tough.  The piece also notes that RSL attendance is up about 8% this year. rsl

Soccer Business Bits: Mexico/US 3, Portland Expansion and Shirts in Seattle

us-soccerA recurring theme of this blog is the importance of soccer businesses interacting with soccer fans.  Whether it be MLS franchises, WPS, US Soccer or soccer media, we frequently advocate for open lines of communication between fans and those in charge.   Through the years, American soccer officials (from all leagues and teams)  have done an outstanding job of making themselves available to fans and “new media”.  Given soccer’s lack of presence in mainstream media (an improving situation), the web is the most important resource for soccer news and these same officials have historically been receptive to the internet soccer coverage and reporting.

Along these lines, we offer kudos to NBC Universal for reaching out to a number of soccer bloggers and websites to present their side of the debate over the televising of the Mexico/US match.  Specifically, Kevin Dugan of NBC Universal reached out with an offer to answer any questions about Mun2.  He also offered this brief promotional video and announced that the station will be available on Direct TV and Dish Network as part of a preview on August 12.  Longtime soccer broadcasters Phil Schoen and Marcello Balboa will handle the English broadcast (from a studio).

The situation is obviously not ideal, yet we certainly appreciate NBC Universal’s efforts to reach out and make the best of the situation.  Far more native English speakers will now have access to Mun2, yet are they the intended audience of Mun2?  From a business perspective, the decision to show the game on Mun2 (instead of a different NBC English language channel) should still be analyzed.  Mun2’s intended audience is the English speaking offspring of Spanish speaking parents.  Will the provision of this network to a larger population of native English speakers for the Mexico/US game really increase the audience for Mun2 over time?  We have put these questions to Mr. Dugan and eagerly await his response.

In Portland, the improvements to PGE Park were approved last week by the City Council.  We will address this story in depth going forward, but for now, please see our previous stories on expansion in Portland.

Finally, there is this nugget from the New York Times about MLS merchandise sales.  As part of a promotion putting MLS jerseys in Toys R US, MLS shed some light on merchandise sales in the League.  Seattle is number 1, followed by TFC and the Galaxy.  Not suprisingly, Designated Players are the most popular jerseys.sounders

Expansion Update: Portland in Trouble?

pgeWe have discusssed Portland’s expansion bid on multiple occassions.  Recently, these stories have focused on the “funding gap” between the money promised by Merritt Paulson, the City of Portland and other sources.  Specifically, there is more than a $28 million hole, even if the City is able to sell more than $35 million in bonds in a tough market (if not, the gap is much larger).  Now citizens in Portland opposed to the deal are speaking out in an effort to kill the deal.  The Oregonian is reporting that a number of local architects are working to preserve Memorial Coliseum by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places.  If that effort is succesful, it would block the two-step required to get the Timbers their own stadium.  Portland’s minor league team is supposed to get a new stadium in place of the Coliseum while the Timbers are supposed to move to PGE Park.

Sensing the shifting winds, Mr. Paulson submitted an op-ed piece to the Oregonian in support of the deal.  In the article, he discusseds the proposed improvements to PGE Park, the importance of the Beavers and Timbers to Portland and the financial benefits of the new construction.  Also important is the connection between the stadiums, the Rose Quarter and downtown Portland.  At the same time, other columnists are taking a different view.

Just a few weeks ago, MLS fans were ecstatic about the prospect of a three team rivalry in the Pacific Northwest.  Now, the Portland deal is facing a number of hurdles that might slow down the process.  These challenges are typical for stadium construction projects nationwide.  Building multi-million dollar public/private projects is difficult and such efforts rightfully face significant amounts of scrutiny.  We will continue to monitor the efforts in Portalnd; it will certainly be a developing story over the next two years.