Monday, October 31, 2011

NBA Lockout Takes Toll on Boston Economy

By Zach Baru

How can 41 basketball games a year effect the lives of 600,000 people in Boston?  It's simple.  It's economics.

You don't really need to know anything about sports.  And no, you definitely don't need to know the number of fouls a player is allowed in a basketball game.  All you need to know is that the Boston Celtics generate a substantial amount of money for the Boston economy.  So much in fact, that if one was to attempt to determine a value, it would be more of a lie than an estimate.  

The Boston Celtics were scheduled to play 41 home games this season.  With the loss of 18,624 fans entering the TD Garden, a downward effect begins on the Boston economy.  So much has been made of the effects to the North End, but the impact is felt in areas where the arena is nowhere to be found.  

The effects begin with the loss of state tax revenue being generated from any sale relating to the game.  Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority takes a hit from the loss of ridership on its subways and commuter rail, both of which carry fans directly into North Station and the TD Garden.  Outside the arena, restaurants and bars count on the games to bring in fans before and after games.  The neighborhood also includes hotels which attract fans and media looking for a place to stay within walking distance from the Garden.

As the North End economy takes quite a hit, the people working in it do as well.  The pain can be felt by more than the business owners, but by the many employees as well.  This is where the problem starts to hit home.  The NBA lockout is much more than a sports related story, this is a true economic issue. 

Sports can often be overlooked as simply a game.  But indeed, it is much more.  In fact, the business of sports can be important to more than just the franchise owners and their players.  Sports business and economics are very much related to one another.  Each playing their own roles in the Boston economy. 

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and emailed at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Arena Football Needs to Come to Boston

By Zach Baru

It is pretty obvious why ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, spends so much time talking about one city.  It’s the very same reason why this city, Boston, was one of the first media markets to receive it’s own dedicated ESPN affiliated website,  No one is arguing the dramatic presence Boston, the seventh largest media market in the U.S., has in professional sports.

At the very same time, the Arena Football League is trying to rebuild itself from its collapse in 2009.  And it certainly has.  Its small market teams from the 2010 re-branded AFL have moved for larger markets, as Bossier City, Louisiana moved to New Orleans, and Huntsville, Alabama moved to the Atlanta area in Duluth, Georgia. 2011 saw expansion to Pittsburg and the return of Kansas City, San Jose, and the popular Philadelphia franchise.  Which leaves the question, what is the state of the AFL?  The answer is better, but certainly not great.

Of the top ten media markets in the U.S., the AFL only has franchises in four of them.  The largest market the league currently has a franchise in is Chicago, the third largest market in the U.S.  However, this team does not even play in the United Center, Chicago’s major arena.  They play at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.  Right here is the problem.  If the AFL truly wants to make a national presence, it has to do just that, and bring the sport to the nation’s major cities.  This is where Boston comes into play.

Boston not only has the demand, a market starving for football, but also has the right venue.  The TD Garden would be a perfect fit for arena football.  We've seen an indoor sport such as lacrosse at the Garden as recently as this past winter, when the Boston Blazers of the National Lacrosse League played their third season in the arena.

With Boston's major sports media outlets of NESN, CSN, WEEI, and 98.5 FM, there would be no shortage of potential broadcasting deals for both television and radio.  The most recent AFL franchise in New England was located in Hartford in 2000, when Fox Sports Net New England carried some of the team's games on television.  The New England Sea Wolves played in the Hartford Civic Center from 1999 to 2000.

As the AFL's improved business model matures, this creates an excellent opportunity for a large market such as Boston to get involved.  There has already been serious consideration from both the league and local investors.  It is in the best interest for the league that a franchise is landed here.  The AFL should not, and can not, continue to ignore a market as significant as Boston.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and be reached at

Arena Football League's Lack of Large Market Presence - Top 10 U.S. Media Markets:

1. New York
2. Los Angeles
3. Chicago*
4. Philadelphia*
5. Dallas-Ft. Worth
6. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose*
7. Boston
8. Washington, DC
9. Atlanta*
10. Houston

* Markets with current Arena Football League franchises

Source: Nielsen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Public Relations Mistakes Lead to Red Sox Problems

By Zach Baru

Public relations is never a guarantee that a problem will simply go away, but when executed correctly, it always makes the image of the organization better.  Such was not the case with the Red Sox over the last month, where a lack of honesty, information and basic communication have lead to the current public relations nightmare on Yawkey Way.

Staying one step ahead of the media is so important for a professional sports franchise, and making sure you don't fall behind is key.  This was the biggest problem for the Red Sox, who simply took a back seat to all their issues, allowing the media to take them down. 

And although Red Sox Nation hasn't completely fallen apart, the peices are surely beginning to crack.  No venue in any professional sport can sell out every game, every season. It is inevitable that the Red Sox sell out streak will come to an end, and with games in 2011 selling out slower, it gives signs that day is near.  With the end of the sell out streak could be a downward effect on the organization, when broadcast ratings, merchandise sales, sponsorship sales and everything in between begins to decline. 

This is without question a very important time for the Red Sox organization to maintain fan support, which has been such a key factor in driving the franchise to new heights since the new ownership took over.  Honesty needs to be a priority, as the Red Sox can no longer let the media break stories from within the organization.  The public can easliy be angered, but will always be easier to please when telling the truth.

What is so bothersome is that the Red Sox are not using the massive Boston media market to its advantage.  When small market franchises make mistakes, they often anger fans, but are not able to be resolved in the media due to a lack of exposure.  The Red Sox have a much different situation than most other franchises, in that they can use the media to their advantage.  More honesty, more admission of guilt, and less dancing around the issues that fans want answers to. 

This mess won't go away in the media, it will only grow bigger.  But with the right PR moves, it can be fixed. 

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Slap Shots: Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots

By Zach Baru

At Monday's sold out Bruins game against the Avalanche, there sure was a lot of gold to be seen, unused gold seats that is.

Can Boston support an American Hockey League franchise?  In Agganis Arena they can.

I'm not giving up on arena football in Boston.

If the Patriots want to find new ways to ease the traffic flow in and out of Gillette on gamedays, why don't they work with the MBTA and increase commuter rail service?

The Revolution might not have won many games this season, but one thing that was a success was the new seating configuration. 

Kuddos to John Henry, for doing the right thing and appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub Friday.

The loss of the Celtics and Blazers, combined with a poor concert season, makes for a light schedule of events of the TD Garden through March (54).

Fenway Sports Group reaches their one year anniversary as owners of Liverpool FC on Saturday.  Now it's time to bring them to Fenway Park.  

If you're looking for sports business news on television, check out CNBC Sports Biz, Fridays at 7 p.m. on Versus.

What effect will the Red Sox public relations problems have on ticket sales next season?

In tribute to Garry Brown.

Zach Baru can be followed in Twitter @zbaru and reached at