THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
Will Charles Wang uproot his Uniondale, New York based National Hockey League New York Islanders franchise and relocate the business to Brooklyn and join Mikhail Prokhorov's New Jersey Nets National Basketball Association franchise in a Brooklyn building that Prokhorov has put up a sizeable amount of cash in construction costs?
The answer will eventually come but for one night in October, Wang's hockey team will play the New Jersey Devils in a pre-season game in the new building. One day and night in Brooklyn won't be the ultimate deciding factor in Wang's search for a new arena for his hockey team beginning in 2015 when his present lease at the Nassau County owned arena ends. Wang wants out of the building but Nassau County has said no to an arena plan and the Town of Hempstead have spiked his plans for an arena-village.
In the normal course of "the stadium game" a place like Brooklyn is like manna from heaven, a huge gift of leverage for a sports owner looking for a shiny new arena that is funded by taxpayers with huge revenue streams and the possibility of keeping 92 cents out of every dollar generated in the venue.
Brooklyn has some real positives and some big negatives for Wang. The positive is the possibility of getting new customers with wealth buying upscale tickets while maintaining some of his old fan base. Additionally there is a mass transit hub sitting by the Brooklyn building that does not exist in Uniondale. The negatives include a small seating capacity which is supposed to be 14,500 chairs in the building and how much revenue will actually be available to him as a tenant in the place.
But the seating capacity may not be that much of a real concern if Wang reads the writings of economist Bill Sutton or does a little research into the early 1970s sale of the National Basketball Association Chicago Bulls franchise to Bob Block. Both men could provide a great deal of insight into the potential move of the NHL franchise from Uniondale to Brooklyn and how to make a building with a smaller seating capacity work.
Bill Sutton, now a professor at the University of Central Florida and sports economics consultant, coined the phrase the "Fenway Principle," to describe how a ballpark or arena with reduced capacity can create a shortage of tickets, forcing customers to purchase tickets months in advance if they want to attend a game. Sutton based his theory on Fenway Park, the home stadium of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox.