Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Do the Celtics need a big trade to protect their brand?

By Zachary Baru

With non-stop chatter about what the Celtics could do during the off-season, the expectation for something "big" seems to be growing more and more from Celtics fans.  There is, of course, the possibility that nothing at all happens.  No trade, no Kevin Love, just a number six draft pick, and possibly another year of rebuilding.  But could Celtics fans take it, and what would it mean for the Celtics brand?

One thing that Celtics ownership should not worry about is the long-term stability of the brand, which undoubtedly would remain strong.  But should another year of rebuilding occur, attendance could start to dip, similar to 2006-07 levels when it finished at 16,843.

And then there are those ratings.  Especially the radio ratings, for which a new contract was signed during the 2013-14 season with WBZ-FM 98.5 The Sports Hub.  Another rebuilding year would mean a second consecutive year of low Celtics ratings with the new flagship station of the franchise.

Sure there are some draw-backs, but should the Celtics go through the summer without making any big-time deals, another year of rebuilding would arguably be the best option for the franchise, and the brand long-term.  Unless the Celtics are sure they can go deep into the playoffs and make some serious noise, rebuilding just might be the direction to take in a market that demands championships.

Making it to the playoffs and reaching the second round is not enough for fans in Boston, who have high expectations for not just the Celtics, but for all of its franchises.  So can the magic of the 2007 off-season happen again?  Celtics fans will just have to wait and find out.

Should nothing happen, the Celtics brand will not be seriously affected.  Just expect to see some extra black and gold seats at TD Garden.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

NFL Draft in Boston? Where, why, and how?

By Zachary Baru

Imagine football-crazy Boston hosting one of the sport's most popular events.  No, not the big game, the big made-for-TV event: the NFL Draft.

According to a report earlier this month by the New York Post's Bart Hubboch, Boston was one of seven cities to apply to host the NFL Draft.  The other six cities include New Orleans, Philadelphia, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles and Canton, Ohio.

While some people may laugh at the possibility of the NFL moving the event out of New York, this year's draft was pushed back two weeks due to scheduling conflicts with the venue.  The city of New York has hosted the draft since 1965, and the 6,015-seat Radio City Music Hall has served as the host for the past nine years.  National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell has said that he does not want to give up on Radio City entirely, but what if the decision to move was made?  Would Boston be a suitable host?

If the concern is over venues, Boston has that covered.  Whether it is a large venue like the 17,565-seat TD Garden - which will begin a two-phase $70 million renovation this summer - or small venues like the 3,600-plus seat Wang Theatre, Boston has multiple options to host such an event.

Mass transit would certainly not be an issue in Boston between its subways and commuter rail, and Logan Airport's close proximity to downtown adds to Boston's claim as a candidate with potential.  Boston has no shortage of hotel rooms, perfect for the thousands of media members, and both league and team officials who will be attending the weekend-long event.

As the NFL continues to take applications for the draft, don't count out Boston as a potential host city for football's most popular non-sporting event.

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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bruins-Canadiens at Gillette in 2015? It just might happen

By Zachary Baru

When hockey fans found out last year about about the league's inaugural Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, there was a lot of skepticism about the success of four additional outdoor games.  Would it saturate the market, and would they even be able to sell out four stadium-sized games?  National Hockey League fans quickly found out the strong demand for outdoor hockey, as the four games between the three cities of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles all sold out.  The 220,000 tickets for the games meant more than $40 million in revenue according to SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily, leading the league to look for continued success in 2015.
This is where Boston comes into the picture.  According to the same report by SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily, a game at Gillette Stadium between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens has been discussed.  Fortunately for Boston, the franchise has a lot of reasons to persuade the league to include them in next year's Stadium Series.

First comes the demand.  The Bruins currently have overwhelming demand, and a game such as Boston-Montreal would easily sell out 68,756-seat Gillette Stadium.  As for the venue, it is perfectly suitable for hosting such an event, as the increased amount of media members could be accommodated well both at the stadium and at the hotel on the property.   Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel & Spa is conveniently located within walking distance from the stadium, which is not only ideal for the media, but also for fans traveling in who want to make a weekend-trip out of visiting Patriot Place.  The lifestyle and entertainment center includes dinning, shopping, concerts and a movie theater, making it an ideal site for an event such as the Stadium Series.

In addition to hospitality and entertainment options, Gillette Stadium can also be accessed by public transportation via MBTA Commuter Rail.  The MBTA has run special trains for years to the Foxboro Station during Patriots games.  While the rail line is not part of any MBTA revenue service lines, the CSX-owned tracks can connect to MBTA's Franklin line to serve Boston's South Station, and also to MBTA's Providence/Stoughton line south to Providence.  The MBTA has already announced continued service for the "Football Train" to Gillette Stadium for all Patriots home games in the fall of 2014.

So could it really happen?  All signs point to outdoor hockey finally coming to Foxborough.  The site has the demand, the venue, and the accessibility of public transportation.  Cross your fingers hockey fans, a Bruins-Canadiens game with 68,000 of your closest friends just might become a reality.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily

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