I picked up on a couple of fascinating developments in pro sports today that should make people in all parts of the business stop and think.
First, there’s the (to me anyway) startling news that the New York Yankees could be for sale. Team management denies it, but that may mean little more than that it’s early and nothing has been decided.
Second, the Golden State Warriors of the NBA are leaving Oakland and a fairly decrepit, unappealing and out of the way Oracle Arena and moving to a pier in San Francisco, which they are going to renovate. It’s so early there aren’t even sketches or plans being shared publicly.
What I think that sports franchises are doing better than in years past is to find ways to weave themselves into the fabric of the places where they’re based. Baseball stadiums in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were typically built far from urban centers, where parking and land were plentiful, with the goal of making it an easy driving experience and not having a big rent burden. But in the 90s, that changed so that the new stadiums were built right in town, often right on the street, in places like Baltimore, San Francisco, Houston and others. In Los Angeles, the Staples Center was followed by LA Live, which practically breathed life into the downtown area, and it’s all at street level. Of course, this has been true in New York at Madison Square Garden, for a long time, and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn adds to that.
Being visible, accessible, and even inevitable for people living in a city has enormous value to the organization. I mention the Yankees because (even though they’re in the Bronx and not as much about street level interaction as the others I’m mentioning here) if ever a team has woven itself into the identity of a city, it’s them. George Steinbrenner and some investors bought the team from CBS in 1973 for…brace yourself…$8.7 million. Even if you accelerate that number to account for inflation, it’s barely over $40 million. The sale, if it happens, will probably come off at $3 billion, possibly a shade higher or lower. Possibly way higher.
Sure, it took 40 years, but that’s staggering, and it’s the result of obsessing about how to be part, to be almost in fact synonymous with, your community.
Weave yourself into the fabric. It might not make you $3 billion, but it might still make your dreams come true.
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