New name for D.C. college bowl could prove to be game changer

By Liz Farmer, Examiner Staff Writer

Move over, EagleBank Northrop Grumman is now the main sponsor of the Districts rebranded Military Bowl, a move officials say will bring national recognition and boost attendance and spending for the college football game.

The financial details were not disclosed, but D.C. Bowl Committee Chairman Jeffrey Fried said the defense contractor has made a very large commitment, and it is tied to the USO, which supports U.S. troops abroad and is the games primary benefactor. The sponsorship agreement runs through 2013.

The nonprofit USO will receive proceeds from game revenue and Northrops sponsorship support. The company, which announced this year it was moving its corporate headquarters to Falls Church, is also providing services like transporting wounded soldiers to the December bowl.

Nation's Football Classic is coming to RFK in 2011

September football is returning to RFK Stadium next year -- and with it could come millions of dollars of spending in the region and much-needed revenue for the District.

The Washington Convention and Sports Authority board on Thursday approved a marketing contract to bring a match-up between two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to D.C.'s RFK Stadium next Labor Day weekend.

A new type of marketing blitz for Stevenson

On a steamy turf field in Owings Mills, more than 100 young men are baking in the nearly 90-degree heat while coaches run drills like army sergeants and a few fatigued players stand on the sidelines sipping water under the watchful eye of a team trainer.

Welcome to Stevenson University football — the newest marketing tool for a school aiming to shed its small-time image since it changed its name from Villa Julie College two years ago.

Men’s football is the second athletics team the school has added since it changed its status to a university (women’s golf is the other), and Athletics Director Brett Adams said investing in sports is part of the plan to attract more students, offer a well-rounded college experience and keep alumni connected.

“It helps develop a passion for the university, and down the road those people give back,” Adams said after a news conference in which Stevenson unveiled its new Mustangs logo and football helmet. “In the short term, you can’t get better marketing [during the off-season] than happy football players wearing their Stevenson shirts at the beach.”

Collectors say the value of truly rare items has increased


Rick Currence, owner of Sports Card Heroes in Laurel, will be exhibiting at the National Sports Collectors Convention beginning Wednesday at the Baltimore Convention Center.The 31st annual National Sports Collectors Convention begins in Baltimore on Wednesday, and the uncertain economic climate hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for a sometimes pricey industry — local collectors say this is still one of their busiest weeks of the year.

Exhibitors say the demand for sports memorabilia since the 2008 recession has gone two ways — while interest has dropped for the “manufactured” memorabilia, the value of the more rare items has increased.

“We didn’t see a change in interest in the older, true collectible stuff,” said Bill Huggins, co-owner of Huggins & Scott Auctions in Silver Spring. “The ‘true’ stuff is stuff usually [manufactured before] 1970 and it didn’t have a value before. Hence if you’re cleaning out your house, those are first things that get thrown away. Those have really held value through the economic recession.”

The items that have taken a bigger hit are collectibles like limited edition prints or autographed items that don’t have historical significance. (Think Nolan Reimold bobble-heads.)

Md. National Guard expands its Baltimore Ravens deal to include practice jerseys

After saying last season they could afford to be picky, the Baltimore Ravens have made their selection — the Maryland National Guard gets to be the first entity in Baltimore to take advantage of the NFL’s new rule allowing sponsorship patches on practice jerseys.

The Guard is paying a total of about $350,000 this year as part of an expansion of its sponsorship of the team, according to the Guard’s public affairs office. The cost is being split equally between the Maryland National Guard and the national organization.

The expansion in sponsorship includes the Maryland National Guard logo on Ravens practice jerseys, a tent at training camp and Ravens home games and more signage at M&T Bank Stadium.

New ESPN deal will help Terps, but how much?

The University of Maryland’s financial future just got a lot more stable, but how exactly that will help the school build up its athletic programs remains to be seen.

Thanks to a 12-year, estimated $1.86 billion television deal the Atlantic Coast Conference made with cable sports giant ESPN, the conference’s member schools stand to see nearly double their television revenue and get more exposure for their sports than ever before.

While the greater exposure will help Maryland’s lesser-televised sports, just how the Department of Athletics can benefit from extra money depends on the economic climate.

“A lot of it’s going to depend on where everything else is at that time,” said the university’s interim director of athletics, Randy Eaton. “If tickets and donations are still down, all it’s going to do is keep us whole.

The business of being Mel Kiper

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

When NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. began working with ESPN back in 1984, neither one remotely resembled the powerhouses they are today.

Just a few years prior, in 1981, Kiper made his draft report public, punching it out on a typewriter and selling 550 copies. Meanwhile, ESPN was still a fledgling sports network, just five years old.

“The NFL wasn’t king of all sports back in those days,” said Kiper, 49. “They were doing the draft on a Tuesday morning. Now the draft has become a huge event with television coverage on every pick and it’s broadcast at night so people can watch.”

As much as the draft’s popularity has grown, so has Kiper’s Baldwin-based business, Mel Kiper Enterprises Inc. Over the last three decades, Kiper has become the face of a massive draft empire complete with radio shows, television appearances, Web sites and publications.

But with popularity comes competition.

Reserving Ravens tickets early, for a price

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Want a guaranteed seat to watch the Ravens take on the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints or division rival Pittsburgh Steelers this season at M&T Bank Stadium?

You can grab one today — as long as you’re willing to pay extra.

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to a one-year sponsorship deal with OptionIt, a ticket broker that sells the rights (or options) to buy face value, single-game tickets. The cost of an option to reserve tickets for Ravens home games on OptionIt’s Web site ranged Friday from $17 per seat for Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets to $68 per seat for Steelers tickets.

The company’s promoters say what used to be the luxury of Baltimore Ravens season ticket holders — or those fast enough to snatch up the 6,000 face value tickets the Ravens sell before the season — is now available to anyone.

Owner says Ravens will not be hurt by a non-salary capped year

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

From left, Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass, owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh speak to the media Wednesday during the team’s end-of-season news conference.Facing the uncertainty of a non-salary-capped season, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team’s business is in good health and he is looking forward to the challenges next year will bring.

At the team’s season-ending news conference, Bisciotti said the team is prepared financially for a non-salary capped season in 2010 as the National Football League’s players and owners are still trying to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires after the 2010 season.

According to the current agreement, if a new CBA is not reached by this March, the salary cap system will not be in place for 2010. It’s a scenario Bisciotti said many owners have been preparing for and assume will happen.

And the Ravens are in a position to spend money, he said.

WMAR outsourcing its 11 p.m. sportscast to PressBox

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

After months without a sportscaster of its own, Baltimore’s WMAR has turned to a local sports media company to produce sports segments on its nightly television newscasts — a move some say is a financial win for both companies but a potential loss for viewers.

PressBox, a Baltimore company with a monthly newspaper, a Web site, and weekly television and radio shows, started producing the script and voiceover for WMAR’s sportscasts more than a week ago and plans to officially announce the new relationship Monday.

A handful of PressBox writers — including company founder Stan “The Fan” Charles and managing editor Kevin Heitz — serve as the nightly voice of the sportscast. A 90-second voiceover of highlights and news is recorded and sent to WMAR, where the video is later edited in and aired during the 11 p.m. newscast.

Oher’s new multi-year deal is with AirTran

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

The face of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher will be coming to a billboard near you this summer as the rookie player has signed his first major endorsement deal.

AirTran Airways has reached a multi-year agreement with Oher, who finished second in the running for The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The terms of the deal, announced Tuesday by AirTran, were not disclosed.

“AirTran is very involved in the communities we serve, and to partner with someone like Michael Oher, who’s such an inspiration on and off the field, is a match made in heaven,” said AirTran spokesman Christopher White.

Ravens fans ponder making the playoff road trip

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, right, celebrates with linebacker Ray Lewis, center, and safety Ed Reed after Ellerbe intercepted Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell in the third quarter of Sunday’s game.Despite the relatively easy logistics of making the trip from Baltimore to Foxboro, Mass., Ravens fans this year may not be traveling in the same hordes as they did for last year’s first-round NFL playoff matchup.

After all, why sit for hours in the cold to watch your team try to steal one on the road from an opponent it has never beaten before?

“I think the Ravens can expect to see but a fraction of the fans that were there last year,” said Tony Lombardi, founder of the blog ProFootball24×7 and co-host of a Ravens talk show on Baltimore’s Fox Sports Radio (WVIE-AM), of the Ravens’ game against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Last year, thousands of Ravens fans traveled first to Miami, then Nashville, Tenn., and finally bitter rival Pittsburgh as the Ravens advanced in the playoffs.

That year was a surprise gift for fans. In the face of low expectations, the team, its rookie quarterback and first-year coach gave fans a run for their money before losing to the Steelers in the AFC Championship — one game shy of the Super Bowl.

But this year’s expectations were higher. And with the economy still slow, fans are more hesitant about their purchases.

Sports Legends Museum sales up

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Thanks to a little help from its friends, Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards posted a nearly 30 percent increase in its combined store sales and admissions revenue in 2009.
The museum, home of the Ravens and Orioles team store, increased its store and admissions revenue by more than $200,000 to $920,000 for the 2009 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
It’s the biggest year-over-year increase for the Baltimore sports history and memorabilia museum since it opened in 2005.
Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation Inc., which operates the museum, said most of the revenue boost came from increased store sales in 2009, while the attendance total inched up about 1.5 percent.

Cass works to maximize the Ravens

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

It’s been an unprecedented year for the National Football League.

Thanks to a national recession, the year for some teams has been marked by television blackouts, empty suites and undersold stadiums.

But not for the Baltimore Ravens. It was a tight squeeze, said Ravens President Dick Cass, but the team sold its last suite the day before it hosted its first game. And despite raising ticket prices this year when many other teams did not — Cass called that one a “painful” decision — M&T Bank Stadium quickly sold out for the season, as it has since it opened in 1998.

For Univ.of MD., keeping Friedgen the safe business move

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Maryland’s football team has a 66-46 record in nine years under Ralph Friedgen, but four of the last six seasons have been sub .500.On the heels of a 2-10 season, one high-profile college football coach being fired and another resigning under pressure, University of Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen was given another shot Tuesday in what many are calling the safer business decision.

Friedgen, who has $4 million and two years left on his contract as head coach of the Terrapins, said he was thankful for the opportunity to continue as coach and was optimistic for the future of the program.

“Hope I wasn’t just judged on this year, and I think this shows the confidence the administration has in me,” he said.

But it’s likely a short leash he’s been given.

NFL joins slots and racing in Delaware, but Md. officials aren’t worried

Fans at the sports book at Delaware Park in Wilmington keep track of their wagers during Sunday’s games.WILMINGTON, Del. — It’s about 30 minutes before kickoff of the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday. NFL jerseys dot the landscape, and lines swell to 20 people deep as fans rush to get everything in order so they can get back to their seats for the game.

But this isn’t M&T Bank Stadium — it’s Delaware Park, a race track and gaming venue just 65 miles up Interstate 95.

“I really wouldn’t come here without sports betting,” said Brian Taylor, 35, who came from Reisterstown with two of his friends to bet and watch the Ravens game. “I’ve been to [Las] Vegas to do some betting, and a one-hour drive is much easier than a five-hour flight out there.”

In the time between February, when Maryland accepted applications for slots operators, to last month, when the state awarded its first license, Delaware passed a bill legalizing sports betting and had it up and running for the National Football League’s opening weekend.

But Maryland officials say they aren’t too worried about one of its neighboring states offering yet another gaming option before slots arrive here, despite the number of Marylanders crossing the state line and wagering in Delaware on Sundays.

Despite recent dip, Ravens PSLs have been a good investment

September 10, 2009 8:22 PM
The Ravens have sold out every regular season game in Baltimore — this season included — since the franchise arrived from Cleveland in 1996.Between October 2007 and October 2008, the stock market lost more than 37 percent of its value. Investment funds were crushed and stock portfolios were shadows of their former selves.

Also in October 2008, a pair of Permanent Seat Licenses in a lower-level end zone section at M&T Bank Stadium sold for $3,550 each — about 8 percent more than the price for comparable seats sold the previous year.

“We don’t have a dollar invested in the stock market,” said Pat Smart, a contractor who has been buying and selling seat licenses for the last five years with his wife. “In a good year at any time we’ll have close to $150,000 invested in PSLs. We might have broken even a few years but we have never lost a dollar.”

Over the last year, however, the recession has taken its toll on the open market for permanent seat licenses at M&T Bank Stadium: The average price for a Baltimore Ravens PSL fell from $4,200 in 2008 to $3,400 this season, according to a Forbes team valuation.

In 2010, see TDs in HD at M&T

Daily Record Business Writer
July 17, 2009 7:42 PM

By next football season, Ravens fans will be able to enjoy instant replays and team videos in high definition at M&T Bank Stadium as the stadium’s landlord has started the search for a contractor to build Proposals to replace the SmartVision screens at M&T Bank Stadium are due to the Maryland Stadium Authority by the end of July.two new video boards.

This month, the Maryland Stadium Authority issued a Request for Proposals to replace the video boards at the stadium and hosted a meeting for applicant contractors last week. The proposals are due at the end of the month and the work would begin immediately following the 2009 season, according to Roy Sommerhof, vice president of stadium operations.

According to the RFP, the video board should be finished by May 2010 and testing the new board with the new control room will take place during that summer to be ready in time for the first regular season home game next year.

The stadium authority recently finished overseeing a $9.1 million high definition video board and control room project at its neighboring property, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Colts history on block again with Club 4100 auction

Daily Record Business Writer
May 26, 2009 8:07 PM

On Friday, the future of an aging Baltimore sports institution gets left up to fate — or, more accurately, the highest bidder.

Owners Meenawatie (left) and Rajcoomar Harkie with just some of the memorabilia at Club 4100 in Brooklyn. The old Colts hangout will be sold at auction Friday.Club 4100 dates to 1958 when its original owner George Coutros, Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas’ godfather, opened a bar underneath a house he bought in Brooklyn. Up until the Colts left Baltimore in 1984, the club served as a pre- and post-game hangout for fans and players, and the establishment’s walls are littered with photographs and signed memorabilia to prove it.

Its current owners, Rajcoomar and Meenawatie Harkie, who bought it in November 2007 for $950,000 from Manny and Dino Spanomanolis, don’t want to sell to just anybody. But that’s what they’ll face this Friday at the landmark’s auction.

“If they can treasure it and continue the club the way it’s been here for the last 50 to 60 years, that’s what I would hope for the new owners,” said Rajcoomar Harkie. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

Ravens to raise ticket prices by $5 to $15

Daily Record Business Writer
February 6, 2009 4:12 PM

Despite the recession, the Ravens will raise ticket prices by $5 to $15 per game next year.

A letter was sent to season-ticket holders Thursday to notify them of the changes, according to Kevin Byrne, senior vice president of community and public relations. The Ravens’ policy is to raise prices every two years, although Byrne said consumers’ tight budgets were considered when making the decision this year.

“It’s never done willy-nilly; it’s done with a lot of thought, and you work from a budget and the need for it,” he said Friday. “It’s almost directly related to player costs and the cost of doing business. But in this economy, the decision [to raise prices] was a little slower.”

Some seats in the upper deck will be raised by $5 while other upper-deck seats and most in the lower bowl of the stadium will increase by $10. Club seats and lower-level midfield seats — locations in the highest demand — will increase by $15 per game, said Byrne.