Friday, February 27, 2009

New Nashville Sounds Owners Receive Final League Approvals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – MFP Baseball is the official owner of the Nashville Sounds AAA baseball franchise today following approvals of a purchase agreement by the Pacific Coast League and Minor League Baseball, and review by Major League Baseball.

MFP Baseball partners Masahiro Honzawa, Steve Posner and Frank Ward have been seeking this final approval since reaching an agreement to purchase the team in October. The leagues’ approvals hinged on an extensive application and background check process.

“We are looking forward to the 2009 season as the new owners of this great franchise,” Ward said of the approval. “Nashville has a great baseball tradition, and our goal as owners of the team is to continue that tradition and gain the support of our loyal fans and the business community. We hope our work will spur ticket sales.”

The new ownership group has spent the past several months planning and investing in upgrades to 30-year-old Greer Stadium. The improvements include repairs or upgrades to restrooms, concession stands, the scoreboard, the sound system and damaged seats. MFP has also agreed to address some safety and handicap-access issues during construction, and it is re-painting the entire stadium.

MFP was granted a lease extension from Metro Government for Greer Stadium in December that allowed it to continue to make improvements. More than $2 million will go into upgrades at Greer.

Posner, Ward and Honzawa are working with and will continue to hire Nashville professionals to oversee accounting, banking, legal and other services required by the baseball operation.

The 2009 season begins at home on April 9 against the New Orleans Zephyrs. This game will mark the opening of the Sounds’ 32rd season of competition at Greer Stadium and its fifth season as an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

George King Named Sounds General Manager

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville Sounds co-owner Frank Ward announced today that George King has been named as the team’s new general manager.

King, who was formally introduced by Ward at a press conference this afternoon, comes to Music City after spending 12 years working in the Pacific Coast League office, the past four as the league’s Vice President of Business & Operations.

“Today is an exciting day for the Sounds,” Ward said. “We have spent the past few months reviewing a list of well-qualified individuals to become our new general manager. George is very respected throughout the industry, and we look forward to his leadership of professional baseball in Nashville.”

“A city of Nashville’s standing deserves a club and ballpark it can be proud of,” King said. “We look forward to being Nashville’s very own stimulus package of fun against today’s headlines and my family is tickled to death to now call Music City home.”

In his role with the PCL, King supervised all on-field baseball operations for the league – including MLB PDC-affiliate relations, player roster and procurement compliance, MLB Rules and Policy adherence, on-field discipline, umpire deployment and management, and facility matters – as well as team travel procedures and League rules, administration, and finance. He was also involved in marketing and communications, including League-wide promotions and sponsorships, and was an ad hoc member on several league committees.

“In addition to the professional expertise that he brings to Nashville, George possesses a contagious spirit which will result in Sounds fans realizing the high level of fun a trip to the ballpark entails,” said PCL President Branch Rickey. “He brings a perspective of familiarity with all of the other PCL franchises as well as a sharp sense of many of the successful endeavors that the other clubs have accomplished around the league.”

“I am pleased with the appointment of George to this key post in an important city like Nashville. He’s demonstrated an innate ability to get things done throughout his career in baseball,” said Pat O’Conner, President of Minor League Baseball. “George’s broad experience and ability to get the big picture will mean good things to the club and to baseball in Nashville.”

King’s 15-year professional baseball career began on the operations staff of the Phoenix Firebirds in 1995, where he later worked as the media director until the team was forced to fold and relocate with the arrival of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has held media positions with the San Francisco Giants and Major League Baseball’s Arizona Fall League. King also served as the vice president & general manager of the Valley Vipers, an independent minor league club, where his duties not only included overseeing sales, operations and marketing, but player scouting and development as well.

In 2000, King was named Director of Baseball Operations of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Fall League, filling the position left by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson’s promotion to the Office of the Commissioner. His duties there were expanded to include player personnel management and on-field operations for all 30 Major League clubs.

Prior to working in baseball, George served nine years in the U.S. Navy, including five overseas while forward deployed in Japan. Following dozens of ports of call and sea duty exercises around the globe aboard the USS COOK (FF-1083) and USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52), George was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for distinguished service. After his discharge, he was a general manager with the Tosco Marketing Corporation in Phoenix, Ariz., overseeing the daily operation of three retail markets in the Phoenix area.

King and his wife, Tiffany, have three children: two daughters, Abigail and Ava, and one son, Joshua. The East Texas native holds a B.S. in Business Management (Finance and Management emphasis) from the University of Maryland University College (Asia).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

League OKs are Remaining Hurdle for New Sounds Ownership

NASHVILLE – The Metropolitan Council gave unanimous consent Dec. 16 to an agreement which will allow MFP Baseball, a group of investors applying for ownership of the Nashville Sounds AAA baseball franchise, to lease Greer Stadium and begin upgrading the 30-plus-year-old ballpark.
The Council’s approval at a special meeting was needed to extend a lease that had been granted to the team’s departing owner, but which was due to expire December 31. The new lease allows MFP to stay in the stadium for up to five years, and it stipulates that the new owners will make some badly needed improvements.
While the lease leaves the new owners some latitude in prioritizing the improvements, they have stated that they intend to do repairs or upgrades to restrooms, concession stands, the scoreboard, the sound system and to damaged seats. There also are some life safety and handicapped access issues that MFP has agreed to address.
Contracts for the work are expected to be secured by next month, and construction will begin around Feb. 1.
“We hope to have as much of the work as is possible completed by opening day, which is April 9,” said MFP partner Frank Ward, who is buying the team along with Masahiro Honzawa and Steve Posner.
The ownership group will proceed with the work as it awaits final approval from the Pacific Coast League and from Major League Baseball for its acquisition of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league franchise. In all, at least $1.75 million will go into upgrades at Greer, the lease states.
The leagues are expected to issue their decision about MFP’s ownership by late January, Ward said, adding that settling the short-term stadium lease issue should help with the approval process.
“We appreciate Mayor Dean and the Council moving quickly to get this lease approved,” Ward said. “It will allow us to make significant progress before the 2009 season starts. This stadium is old and will never be a perfect environment. But we will do all we can to make it clean, safe and accessible. Hopefully, someday soon we can begin discussing a new ballpark, but for right now our focus is on Greer.”


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank you for your thoughts!

From Frank Ward, Masahiro Honzawa and Steve Posner at MFP to fans who have posted on this blog:
"Thank you for your thoughts about the organization and the ballpark. We obviously can’t make promises or take any action while we wait for the league to review our application. In the meantime, we are listening to fans like you to get a first-hand appraisal of what could be done to make the fan experience better at Greer Stadium. We very much appreciate you sharing your opinions with us. Please keep them coming."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nashville Sounds on October 31st, 2008

MFP Real Estate, LLC, an East Coast-based team of investors, is excited about the agreement it has reached to purchase the Nashville Sounds baseball team and looks forward to the opportunity to deliver a much improved baseball experience to fans. Next steps toward assuming control of the team include an extensive application and background check process and an approval perhaps as soon as December, during baseball’s annual winter meetings, MFP partner Frank Ward said. The group also must ask Metro Government to renew a lease of Greer Stadium to the team. “We are very excited,” Ward said of himself and partners Masahiro Honzawa and Steve Posner. “We will begin immediately reaching out to the community and letting folks know that we are serious about improving the Nashville baseball experience. I personally plan to have a house here and spend much of the year in Nashville. We will be very visible in Nashville and at the games and will be accountable to our fans,” Ward said. The trio of investors brings both business know-how and a love of sports to the Nashville sports landscape:

􀂄 Ward is a successful real estate manager and investor who has spent many years working for and with the Honzawa family on New York transactions. He is a baseball fan who has taken part in rotisserie baseball leagues for 25 years, and is an avid baseball card collector. He said he became interested in the Nashville community after frequent visits to see one of his four children, who is now a junior at Vanderbilt University.

􀂄 Honzawa, a native of Japan, has had extensive experience with New York real estate investments. His education includes an MBA from Columbia University.He sold his interest in the family-owned business and co-founded MFP with Posner and Ward early this year.

􀂄 Posner is a certified public accountant and attorney, a former Arthur Andersen partner, and a noted tax adviser. His real estate experience includes office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, condominiums and apartments. His experience with baseball includes everything from selling hotdogs and soft drinks as a teen at Yankee and Shea stadiums, to serving as a financial and tax consultant to the New York Mets for many years. Posner’s other former sports-related clients include the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class-A minor league baseball franchise, and SportsNet New York, a regional sports network.

“We know we face many challenges,” Ward said. “Assuming the city is agreeable to having us lease the stadium, we will begin renovations aimed at making it more user friendly. We obviously would be interested at some point in reopening discussions of a downtown stadium site, but our priorities are to gain baseball regulatory approval and then upgrade Greer so that it is comfortable for Sounds fans next season.”

The Nashville Sounds began in 1978 as a Double-A franchise for the Cincinnati Reds. The team has played at Greer Stadium since its inception, and has served as a minor league franchise for several major league teams, most recently as the Triple-A franchise for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Posner, Ward and Honzawa said they are working with and will continue to hire Nashville professionals to oversee accounting, banking, legal and other services that will serve the baseball operation. “Like many of today’s Nashvillians, the three of us didn’t grow up here,” Ward said. “But we are eager to be a part of the community. We are very excited.”