The partnership between Philadelphia-based New Era Tickets — an offshoot of the sports and entertainment giant Comcast-Spectacor — and the Virginia Destroyers, an expansion team in the struggling United Football League, might seem to be an ill-fitting match. But Comcast-Spectacor has built its empire on acquiring smaller assets and turning them into powerhouses, so the partnership with the Destroyers could be a positive sign for a UFL in desperate need of some good news.
The UFL, which began play in 2009 as an unofficial minor league of the National Football League and appeared to be in fine position to benefit from an extended lockout this year in the NFL, has lost a reported $82 million in its first two seasons and owes creditors $5 million in unpaid bills. The league still plans to play its third season this fall, but it will be with a five-team alignment playing an eight-game schedule and not the six- or eight-team alignment and 10-game schedule the league originally planned.
The Destroyers are an appropriate symbol of the league’s difficulties: The franchise relocated to Virginia after two years as the Florida Tuskers but has already gone through one general manager (Doug Williams left to become the head coach at his alma mater, Grambling) and two head coaches: Joe Moglia went to UFL rival Omaha while Jay Gruden departed to become the offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
Into this uncertainty steps New Era Tickets, which announced this week it will supply ticketing services to the Destroyers as well as access control at the Destroyers’ home facility, the Virginia Beach SportPlex. Such moves are common for New Era parent Comcast-Spectacor, which formed in 1996 when Comcast bought Spectacor, which owned the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Spectrum.
Over the last 15 years, Comcast-Spectacor has bought Global Spectrum, which manages the facilities for nearly two dozen arenas nationwide, as well as Ovations Food Services, which handles concessions at facilities, and New Era Tickets. Last year, as part of the conditions for the Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger, Comcast-Spectacor bought the Paciolan ticketing division from Tickemaster. With New Era Tickets and Paciolan — which handles ticket sales for more than 100 Division I basketball teams and more than 70 Bowl Championship Subdivision football teams — Comcast-Spectacor is one of the nation’s largest ticketing companies, behind Ticketmaster and the AEG/Outbox partnership.
Each of Comcast-Spectacor’s acquisitions have thrived: For example, Ovations now generates $200 million in revenue annually, up from $5 million in 2000. The Destroyers are just one UFL team, but Comcast-Spectacor’s track record with investments has to provide some encouragement for the fledging and flagging league.