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Minnesota Aurora FC: Community-ownership model generates $650K

May 27, 2022

The GIST: Women’s soccer’s rising tide lifts all boats. The USL W-League’s Minnesota Aurora FC played its first game ever last night, and garnered $650K in commercial revenue, tickets and merchandise sales before even taking the field.

  • Even more impressive? The team did so while operating under a community-ownership model. Script flipped.

The context: The USL W-League just launched this month. The pre-professional league’s two-month season takes place over the summer in order to be an offseason home for college soccer players. It has no affiliation with the NWSL, but falls under the umbrella of the USL, which oversees multiple men’s developmental leagues.

The details: Aurora raised $1 million through a crowdfunding effort last year, picking up over 3K owners in the process. The journey to taking the pitch was full of wins — the team sold all 5.6K seats to its first match at TCO Stadium, including 3K allotted season tickets.

  • With ticket sales and merch flying off shelves, and signing deals with so many partners, the club had to add more staff and upgrade its budgets.
  • Many of the club’s sponsors are local. Aurora counts Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism arm, as its jersey sponsor and has a streaming deal with its regional CBS affiliate.

Zooming out: The club’s community-ownership model bucks the pro and amateur sports trend, in which a small number of wealthy people call all the shots. This alternative model does have its success stories — the NFL’s Green Bay Packers operate similarly, as do a majority of teams in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top men’s soccer league.

  • Aurora’s early successes highlight its innovative way of capitalizing on the USWNT halo effect — and how far that effect can go: clubs at the top may not be the only ones with valuable inventory.

🏒PWHPA: Billie Jean King in ownership talks

May 27, 2022

The GIST: The PWHPA’s goal to create a sustainable cross-border pro women’s hockey league is coming to fruition. On Tuesday, Billie Jean King Enterprises and The Mark Walter Group inked a letter of intent with the association, officially entering a formal relationship.

  • The PWHPA has also been working with Deloitte and Scotiabank to launch the new league in January. Talk about a stacked roster.

The details: Working as unnamed consultants for the past year, professional services giant Deloitte and Canadian financial services company Scotiabank have been helping the PWHPA build a business plan for the new league.

  • Part of that plan? Booking major investors, like gender equity trailblazer King and LA Sparks and new Chelsea FC owner Walter. Their consortium will be co-captained by BJK Enterprises CEO Ilana Kloss and former WTA chairman and CEO and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Zooming out: With backing like this, the league aims to be a rare example in women’s sports — one that launches ambitiously, with 32 games, six teams and an average salary of $55K, rather than meagerly.

🏒NHL conference semifinals: Blues come back in Game 5

May 27, 2022

The GIST: Two down, two to go! The Conference Finals may be halfway set, but there’s still a lot of action ahead. Who’ll be forced to hit the golf course next?

Eastern Conference: As the Tampa Bay Lightning rest up for the Conference Finals, the Carolina Hurricanes are one game closer to joining them after defeating the NY Rangers 3–1 last night — with Teuvo Teräväinen coming in clutch on the power play. Next: Game 6 tomorrow at 8 p.m. in New York.

Western Conference: Stop drilling, they’ve struck oil! The Edmonton Oilers claimed a 4–1 victory — thanks to Connor McDavid’s overtime game-winner — over the Calgary Flames last night to win the Battle of Alberta and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2006. Good luck extinguishing those tears, Flames Fans.

  • In the other conference semi, the Colorado Avalanche are looking to finally eliminate the St. Louis Blues after the Avs allowed St. Louis to knock out a wild 5–4 overtime comeback win on Wednesday. The Avs will look to get ’er done in tonight’s Game 6 matchup at 8 p.m. ET. Pitter patter.

🏀NBA Conference Finals: Warriors top Mavs

May 27, 2022

The GIST: The NBA Finals matchup is halfway set after the No. 3 Golden State Warriors eliminated the No. 4 Dallas Mavericks last night. And the Warriors’ opponent could be decided tonight. Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, Game 6.

Western Conference: Golden State secured their sixth Western Conference title in the last eight years (show offs) by thumping the Mavs 120–110 last night. Dallas’ Luka Dončić (28 points) gave it his best all series long, but the Warriors’ Klay Thompson (37 points) and Steph Curry (35 points) proved too much to handle. The Splash Brothers are officially back.

Eastern Conference: Though Wednesday’s Game 5 started close, the No. 2 Boston Celtics ran away with a 93–80 victory over the No. 1 Miami Heat and earned a 3-2 series lead. Now Boston is one win away from its first NBA Finals appearance since 2010, and they can clinch it on their home court, tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET.

  • That said, you better believe Heat star Jimmy “Barista” Butler has a comeback brewin’, especially after a dismal performance on Wednesday.

Serena Williams trading card sells for record $266K

May 25, 2022

The GIST: Serena Williams doesn’t even have to play to break records. On Saturday, a signed NetPro trading card of the GOAT sold for $266K, the highest-ever amount paid for a trading card of a female athlete. The jaw-dropping sale demonstrates consumer demand for women’s sports — and for trading cards.

The details: The sale of the 2003 collectible is just the latest in a string of recent splurges on Williams keepsakes. A 1999 SI For Kids rookie card of the 23-time Grand Slam champion sold in January for $117K — the previous record amount — while another trading card went for over $91K in March.

  • Before Serena Wililams trading cards started flying off shelves, it was soccer legend Mia Hamm who ruled the scene. Her rookie card sold for $34K just last year, besting the $16K a card featuring USWNT striker Alex Morgan fetched.

Zooming out: Though folks aren’t yet spending the millions on female athletes’ trading cards that they’ve dropped on men’s, the recent sales reflect a rising trend in the sports memorabilia space. Last year, eBay said that interest in women’s sports cards was climbing on its site — and that was before the winning $34K bid on Hamm’s trading card.

  • The growth of women’s sports is coinciding with the trading card boom. Tangible collectibles are still earning serious change, even under the bombardment of NFT drops.
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