Study: Eagles rank among top 10 richest sports franchises

The Philadelphia Eagles’ abundance of riches goes beyond the talent that takes the field on National Football League game days. 

The National Football Conference Eastern Division champions and top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Eagles are listed No. 10 on the list of America’s richest sports franchises, according to a new research study conducted by Sidelines.io. 

The Eagles earned the final spot in the top 10 with a valuation of $4.9 billion, revenue of $547 million, and a Rich Index of 14.77. Sidelines.io notes that team owner Jeff Lurie’s franchise has an average wage bill compared to the rest of the NFL but it’s less than other teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. 

Founded in 2017, Sidelines.io provides sports betting odds and comparison. Its site states that Sidelines boasts “one of the most extensive and inclusive odds comparison platforms” on the legal market. 

“Sports in America has become a very lucrative business for investors and owners over the years,” a spokesperson for Sidelines said in a statement. “There has been exponential growth in the value of teams and the money they are able to invest in players and state-of-the-art stadiums and facilities, which only further secures the idea that sports in America is going to continue to grow and become even more popular.” 

The study conducted by Sidelines.io included franchises in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. It analyzed each franchise’s value, annual revenue, and the total money spent on player payroll. Each team received a score out of 10 for each factor and was then totaled to produce a score on the rich index. The higher the score, the richer the franchise. 

The Eagles’ rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, ranked No. 1 on the list with an estimated worth of $8 billion. Team owner Jerry Jones’ club also boasts the highest average attendance with 86,000 fans filling AT&T Stadium on game days. The Cowboys’ annual revenue exceeds $1 billion, and they have a $162 million payroll, which has increased in 2023 to $214 million. The Cowboys led all teams with a Rich Index of 23.45. 

The dynastic New England Patriots, who have six Super Bowl victories, rank second with a Rich Index of 17.34, and the New York Yankees, whose 27 world championships are the highest in American sports, are third at 16.39. The reigning Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams rank fourth (15.90), followed by the New York Giants (15.64), whom the Eagles host this Saturday night in the NFL’s Divisional round of playoffs. 

The remainder of the top 10 lists the Washington Commanders (15.46) at No. 6, followed by the New York Jets (15.27), San Francisco 49ers (15.14), Los Angeles Dodgers (14.77), and the Eagles.

Pennsylvania latest state to approve NIL for scholastic athletes

Pennsylvania on Wednesday became the 21st state in the country to approve NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) on the high school level. 

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) voted 25-4 Wednesday in a meeting in Mechanicsburg to allow scholastic athletes to maintain amateur status and accept compensation for the commercial use of their NIL. The motion to approve passed in its third and final reading. It was first proposed in July and passed in a second reading in October. 

The ruling took effect immediately and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that within hours Laurel Highlands High School senior football star and West Virginia University commit Rodney Gallagher took to Instagram and announced the PIAA’s first NIL deal to his 99,000 followers. 

The Tribune-Review reported that Gallagher’s deal is with The Pavement Group, a paving contractor founded by a graduate of Laurel Highlands High School. 

Three of the four votes against the NIL deal were registered by high schools in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL). Reportedly concerned with new expectations now facing schools and their athletic departments and how NIL deals are managed, three WPIAL representatives voted against the motion, as did a rep for the state’s athletic directors. 

The PIAA ruling allows high school athletes to gain compensation for social media presence, product advertisement, commercial endorsements, and promotional activities. At the same time, no NIL deals or payments can be arranged by high school employees or persons associated with high schools. The list includes administrators, alumni, booster clubs, and coaches. 

PIAA guidelines prohibit students from referencing the PIAA, a PIAA school, or its moniker. The PIAA also prohibits students displaying school’s team logos, wearing school uniforms, or donning school-associated apparel. The wearing of NIL-associated insignia, logo, or identifying mark during team or school activities is also prohibited by the PIAA. 

Regarding the possibility of athletes being recruited through NIL opportunities, the PIAA motion states that contracts and agreements “need to come from analysis of the value an athlete brings for providing a specific service/activity, not an incentive for enrollment decisions or membership on a team.” 

The PIAA declared seven categories of products or services off-limits to students: 

  • Adult entertainment 
  • Alcohol 
  • Casinos and gambling 
  • Controlled dangerous substances 
  • Opioids or prescription drugs 
  • Tobacco or electronic cigarettes 
  • Weapons, firearms, or ammunition 

Students planning an NIL deal must notify their school’s athletic director or principal within 72 hours. PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi cautioned high school students to be careful when considering accepting compensation for their NIL. To that end, the PIAA is seeking a source to work with to aid in NIL education, with Team Advance of Philadelphia reportedly being considered. 

Lombardi called it “phase 2” of the process. Establishing a policy constituted the first phase, and the PIAA is now seeking what he called “an educational advisory component” to aid athletes and their families. Lombardi added that he expects the second phase to be accomplished in a short time. 

In allowing NIL compensation for high school athletes, Pennsylvania joins Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Samuel Balliet Stadium receives state money for upgrades

State grant money totaling $50,000 has been secured to help make improvements at historic Samuel Balliet Stadium in Coplay, state Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, announced Monday.

Coplay Sports Inc. had requested funds to replace broken and unsafe bleachers and for upgrades to the field. The grant will provide $30,000 for new bleachers and $20,000 for infield and outfield materials and equipment.

Built in the 1940s, the stadium was named after Samuel “Sammy” Balliet, an American Legion Baseball coach for the Coplay Athletic Association throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His teams captured six state championships.

The field has hosted youth, American Legion and adult baseball games for more than half a century.

“Samuel Balliet Stadium continues to be one of the most recognized facilities in the baseball community in the Lehigh Valley and we need to support the efforts underway to breathe new life back into the complex, restore its legacy, and return it to its former glory as the crown jewel of baseball stadiums in the area,” McNeill said. “As the stadium is getting ready to install a completely new lighting system, it is critical that the bleachers and stands will be safe for the patrons who will be attending games and events.” McNeill also recently helped secure over $243,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development that will be used to replace the stadium lights destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Arizona Cardinals choose Shift4 as payment processing partner

The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals are the latest sports franchise to select Allentown-based Shift4, a leader in integrated payments and commerce technology, as a payment processing partner.

Shift4 will process payments for Cardinals’ ticketing transactions at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona – including Super Bowl LVII in February 2023 – through an integration with SeatGeek.

“We are always committed to enhancing our fans’ gameday experience at State Farm Stadium and are thrilled to welcome Shift4 and its powerful platform to do just that,” Steve Ryan, Cardinals’ senior vice president of business development, said in a release. “Shift4’s cutting-edge technology will make transactions easier and quicker to deliver a more convenient payment experience for our guests.”

Anthony Perez, Shift4’s head of enterprise, added: “We are excited to partner with the Arizona Cardinals to provide their fans with a better commerce experience. It’s always our goal to reduce cost and complexity for venue operators while delivering an enhanced experience for fans.” Last month, pro football’s Tennessee Titans chose Shift4 to process payments for its food and beverage concessions and retail sales at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. And in May, the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, home to the NHL’s Flyers and NBA’s 76ers, selected Shift4 to process payments for all of its online and in-person ticketing, food and beverage concessions, and retail sales.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

$50 on the shark? Gamblers getting creative with no sports to bet on

With few traditional sports to bet on, sportsbooks are offering odds on such unusual things as the migration pattern of sharks. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES 


While there were still virtually no sports to bet on because of COVID-19 shutdowns in May, Pennsylvania’s nascent sportsbook industry did see an increase in bets over April.

The Pennsylvania gaming control board reported that online sportsbooks generated $77.5 million in wagers in May, up more than 68% over April, which saw only $46 million in wagers.

According the gaming analyst PlayPennsylvania.com much of the betting was on NASCAR, which began racing last month, European Soccer League games and some futures betting on football and basketball.

There are also some more obscure sports gamblers can place wagers on such as South Korean baseball.

An online website MyBookie is also launching wagering on the migration pattern of sharks.

Gamblers can watch the migration on line and at ocenrch.com and will be able to wager on an assortment of odds pertaining to the specific migration patterns of individual great white sharks.

After being tagged with a tracker, sharks ping on Ocearch when they come to the surface. Based on these pings, MyBookie will offer gamblers a variety of ways to place bets, such as how far a shark will travel between pings, whether a shark will enter a certain body of water, and what date a shark will ping next.

“Over the past few months – because most major sports are shuttered because of COVID-19 – we’ve had to be creative when it comes to providing our users with something to wager on. We’ve offered odds on everything from pro table tennis to simulated NFL games to politicians (who would secure the Democratic Presidential nomination) to various stock indexes (an over-under on the S&P 500) to pop culture (who would play the Penguin role in the next Batman movie),” said David Strauss of MyBookie.

Of course that doesn’t make up for the betting that would occur on traditionally popular sports.

“A normal menu of sports would likely mean an almost instant recovery for online sportsbooks, though we may still be a few months from that happening,” said Valerie Cross, analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com. “Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks have been savvy in keeping their customers engaged with sports well outside the mainstream. That will only help when things begin to return to normal.”

While sportsbooks are off, Cross said online casinos – also relatively new to Pennsylvania – are gaining momentum with bricks-and-mortar casinos shuttered since mid-March.

Cross said online casinos and poker rooms set a new record with $55.9 million in gross revenue, up 29.7% from $43.1 million in April and nearly triple the $19.5 million they too in for February. That comes from a total of $1.8 billion was bet on online table games and slots in May, up from $1.4 billion in April.

While that sounds like good news, and certainly gives a leg up to the new online gaming offerings, it should be noted the state’s casinos still missed out on the $286.1 million land-based casinos generated in May 2019.


Without sports, sports betting industry tumbles

With no sports to bet on Pennsylvania’s nascent sportsbook industry took a big dive in March.

The industry took in only $131.3 million in bets in March. Before the COVID-10 virus shut down most sports across the globe it had been estimated that the state’s sportsbooks would take in more than $350 million.

Dustin Gouker of PlayPennsylvania, a gaming industry research company, said the figure accounts for about two weeks of sports betting in the state.

“Sports were still going on in early March. There were still betting going on until then,” he said.

With virtually all sports shut down by April another sharp decrease in sports betting is expected, but he said it won’t be zero.

“People are still betting on some things,” he said.

He said there is some futures betting going on, such as bets on who is going to win the Super Bowl next year.

He noted that there are some sports being played in other parts of the world, including soccer in certain South American and Eastern Europe countries, that people can bet on. “Table tennis is one of the things people are betting on, strangely,” he said.

With the industry just starting to gain momentum the shutdown came at a bad time for Pennsylvania and it might take a while for that momentum to return when sports resume, Gouker said. Illinois and Michigan were hit slightly harder. Gouker noted that both statex launched their sportsbooks the week the shutdown started.

Without sports to bet on people with a yen for gaming turned to other online offerings including casinos’ slots and poker games, which helped revenue, he said. Casinos and poker generated $782,768 per day in the 31 days of March, up from $672,097 per day in the 29 days in February.

“It’s still a small amount of traffic. Poker is not going to make up for physical casinos or sports betting,” Gouker said. “But it is still money that wasn’t coming in before.”

He said he still sees hope for the industry, and so do others. He noted that Wyomissing’s Penn National is actively hiring for its Penn Interactive division, which handles online gaming and sports betting.

With Golf looking to resume in June, that should bring in some sports bets and, with good fortune, the sports world will have returned more to normal by the time football begins in the fall, which is traditionally the biggest sports for betting.



Pennsylvania reported highest sportsbook revenue in January

Pennsylvania’s sportsbook industry continues to grow with January reporting the highest revenue so far.

According to the state Gaming Control Board, bets made online or in casinos produced $31.6 million in gross revenue in January. That was up from $17.5 million in December.

All totaled, Pennsylvania generated $116.4 million in gross revenue from sports betting since the first sportsbooks launched in November 2018.

PlayUSA.com, which tracks legal gambling in the United States, said Pennsylvania is the third highest sportsbook market in the country after Nevada and New Jersey.

“Pennsylvania’s momentum is growing, and January shows that the state’s sportsbooks can sustain it even as the NFL season winds down,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayPennsylvania.com, the Pennsylvania branch of PlayUsa. “Pennsylvania will likely remain the nation’s No. 3 market for the foreseeable future. But it is becoming clearer that it will one day challenge Nevada and New Jersey as the largest legal sports betting market in the U.S.”

As for money wagered, Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks accepted a record $348.4 million in wagers in January, breaking the $342.6 million record set in December up dramatically from $32 million in January of last year.

Once again, online sports betting drew in the most money. $308.6 million, or 88.6%, of the state’s January wagers were made online.

PPL Center earns fourth spot on national arena ranking list

Allentown’s PPL Center recently earned a top spot among the world’s major concert venues following Pollstar’s 2019 Year-End Rankings. (File photo)

Allentown’s PPL Center recently earned a top spot among the world’s major concert venues following Pollstar’s 2019 Year-End Rankings.


Pollstar, a worldwide trade publication for the concert industry, released its year-end report revealing worldwide rankings for number of tickets sold for venues of all sizes across the globe. Among the arena venues reported worldwide, PPL Center ranked as the fourth highest arena in the United States with 10,000 seats or fewer, according to a news release.

Further, PPL Center has retained its title of Pennsylvania’s third highest arena on Pollstar’s chart for Top 200 Arenas for a second consecutive year, behind only Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

“We have welcomed a number of remarkable events to PPL Center in the past five years and we will continue to strive to provide a diverse line-up in the years to come,” said Gunnar Fox, vice president and general manager of PPL Center, in a statement. “We have built great relationships with promoters and agents who help us make the magic happen, and we are all looking forward to an exciting line-up for 2020 and beyond, continuing to turn events into memorable experiences for our guests.”

“To be listed among these amazing venues is an incredibly exciting honor for our team and downtown Allentown as a whole,” Fox said. “This recognition simply would not have been possible without the Lehigh Valley community who attends our events each year, in turn, supporting our ongoing efforts and the role PPL Center plays in the revitalization of the downtown.”

Many officials view the arena at PPL Center, which opened in 2014, as a major contributor to the revitalization and growth of the city’s downtown.

The arena draws more than 500,000 fans to downtown each year.

PPL Center closed 2019 as the busiest concert year since the arena opened.

Mount Airy launches online poker, gaming and sports betting

Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono. (File photo) –

Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono has joined the growing list of casinos in Pennsylvania to offer gaming and sports betting online. It has also become the first casino to offer regulated cash poker games online.

The resort launched a partnership with Fox Bet, which will allow in-state residents to make sports wagers and PokerStars, a gaming platform, to have online poker and other gaming options such as slots, roulette and black jack.

Through its partnership with Mount Airy, Fox Bet is the only operator to offer online poker, gaming and sports bets.

The online games and wagering became available at www.starsmtairycasino.com Monday afternoon.

“We’re constantly investing in our player experience, and in 2019 that means going beyond brick and mortar improvements to bring customers one of the most exciting gaming options available,” said Todd Greenberg, COO and general manager at Mount Airy Casino Resort. “Through strategic partnerships like our affiliation with PokerStars, Mount Airy is committed to offering the most cutting-edge gaming experience possible.”

In-casino wagering began last month at the casino with a soft opening, but the casino plans a grand opening celebration of its sports book on Saturday.

Gym aims to help people achieve optimum performance

Twenty-six years ago, the space served as a gym for women.

Michael Gaugler, co-owner of Optimum Performance Center in Bethlehem Township, demonstrates how to pull a sled. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

Today, it’s a gym once more, but this time, aimed at anyone looking to improve mobility, flexibility and strength through specialized training equipment.

Optimum Performance Center marked a grand opening today at 3817 Nazareth Pike in Bethlehem Township.

The gym specializes in powerlifting, Olympic lifting and athletic training in a 5,400-square-foot space in Bethlehem Commerce Plaza, a strip mall.

Michael and Michelle Gaugler of Palmer Township, the husband and wife team who own the gym, recently completed renovations to the interior to add 70 feet of AstroTurf for activities such as flipping tires and pushing or pulling sleds, as well as speed and agility training.

The gym also offers specialized training equipment that includes Rogue power racks, Rogue deadlift platforms and safety squat bars.

In addition, the gym will have two reverse hyper machines that provide traction and strengthen the spine at the same time, and a belt squat machine designed to take the load off the spine while squatting. The gym will also have an inverse curl machine to develop the hamstrings. Jump stretch bands and lifting chains for accommodating resistance aim to help users with increased speed and power output.

It also offers a competitive bench for powerlifting.

The gym offers several levels of membership, including adult training and fitness classes, youth training for sports and athletic performance, and general membership and personal training.

Michelle Gaugler said it was important to allow for open gym membership, so members can come in and train whenever the gym is open.

For new members, the gym uses technology that has a functional screen that examines the seven core movements of a person’s body to determine where each person’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

Gaugler handles the business end of the business while her husband conducts the training sessions.

“He can identify where your vulnerabilities lie and fix it and accelerate them [clients] through a program,” she said. “He’s always teaching athletes how to move through a movement.”

Whether they are top athletes or simply people who want to become more agile and mobile, Gaugler said the gym strives help people determine whether they are using proper form by feeling, rather than by sight. Most commercial gyms have mirrors throughout, but Optimum Performance does not have any.

“A lot of our equipment is meant to mimic how your body actually moves,” she said.

“He wants to get to the root causes of injuries,” so people can train to the best of their abilities, she said. “When I met his clients and they tell me how he helped them when no one else could, I was touched.”

Using evidence-based tools, Michael helped her get stronger because of his style of training, she added.

Before starting this venture, Michael, worked as a strength and conditioning coach with Coordinated Health for almost 13 years, and he started doing more research on sports performance. Gaugler, who has experience in working in business development, works locally as an administrator in the health care field.

When they began to find it difficult to find a good gym in the area to train the way they wanted to, they talked about starting their own.

“We looked at each other and thought, can we get a small business loan?”

They got some help from Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center, an organization that helped the couple with their business plan.

“It’s a humongous risk, but we believe there’s a market for this in the Lehigh Valley, and we believe in it,” Gaugler said.

While their gym does compete with the sports performance gyms of the large health networks in the region, Gaugler said she believes Optimum offers a more individualized experience.

As an example, class sizes are limited to 10 to 12 people.

For general membership the cost is $70 per month, for unlimited classes and general membership, the cost is $120 per month and for unlimited classes and six personal training sessions, the cost is $140 per month.

Colorado company closes on acquisition that includes Pa. ski resorts

Vail Resorts Inc. of Bloomfield, Colorado, said it closed on its acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. for a purchase price of $11 per share. With this acquisition, Vail Resorts added 17 U.S. ski areas to its network, including five in Pennsylvania.

Vail Resorts Inc. of Bloomfield, Colorado, said it closed on its acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. The ski resorts include Roundtop in York County, pictured, and two in Carbon County. (File photo) –

In Pennsylvania, the acquired resorts are Jack Frost Ski Resort in Kidder Township, Carbon County; Big Boulder in Lake Harmony, Carbon County; Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Franklin County; Liberty Mountain Resort in Fairfield, Adams County; and Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, York County.

Following the closing, Vail Resorts said it plans to invest about $15 million over the next two years in one-time capital spending to elevate the guest experience at these resorts. Additionally, the investment will increase the company’s annual ongoing capital expenditures by about $10 million to support the addition of the new ski areas.


“As the new owner of these ski areas, we are looking forward to spending the next few months learning more about each resort and what makes them unique,” said Margo Van Ness, spokesperson for Vail Resorts, in a statement. “Our first goal is to review and learn more about the specific operations at each resort to determine which capital projects will provide the greatest benefit to guests. On an ongoing basis, we will include the Peak Resorts ski areas, along with all of our other resorts, in our annual assessment of capital projects.”

Young professional launches semi-pro soccer club

The Lehigh Valley has professional hockey and baseball teams but no soccer.

That could change this fall.

A local executive is launching Allentown United Football Club, a semi-professional soccer team that is gearing up for its first season this September.

“I saw a great need here,” said Emmanuel Ntow-Mensah, 26, the club’s founder. “I figured, if I see the need, let me fill the need. I got in touch with the right people.”

One is Paul Hodges, co-founder and CEO of Soltech Solutions, a Bethlehem-based company that makes specialized lighting for indoor plants.

“Soccer has always been my passion,” Hodges said.

Hodges has been helping Ntow-Mensah and is a co-founder of the team’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor, Humanitarian Social Innovations, a South Bethlehem organization that is bringing in donations for Allentown United FC while it works to become a nonprofit in its own right.

Hodges is on the board of HSI and that’s how he was introduced to Ntow-Mensah, who works in the wealth management operations department at Guardian Life Insurance in Hanover Township, Northampton County.

The team has a head coach but is still working to find players, expected to range in age from 17 to 30. Tryouts were held in mid-June at Lehigh County Sports Fields in South Whitehall Township.

In the meantime, Ntow-Mensah said he has formed partnerships with colleges outside the region to help recruit players. He is waiting to hear back from some local colleges that also could help bring in players.

Sponsors sought

Once the team forms, it will play games at Cedar Crest College in Allentown as part of the United Premier Soccer League, which has more than 300 teams nationwide and several divisions. The season would run from September to December, to be followed by a spring season from March to July.

The team’s budget for the fall season is $50,000, Ntow-Mensah said. The money would pay for marketing, training, coaching and other needs.

He is looking for corporate sponsorships to help cover the costs.

Ntow-Mensah said there are no fees for players, only a $20 charge to participate in tryouts. The club will also not charge players any equipment fees.

“The thing I liked about it is it’s not a pay-to-play football club,” said Linda Rentschler, CEO of Humanitarian Social Innovations. “Anyone with talent, whether they have money or not, can play. We need things in our community for young people to do. Sports is a very positive outlet.”

Ntow-Mensah said a professional soccer team in the Lehigh Valley also can bring a community together.

More than 75,000 soccer fans gathered at SteelStacks in Bethlehem over several weeks in 2014 to watch the men’s World Cup, hosted by Brazil, demonstrating a strong local interest in the sport.

But when Bethlehem Steel FC, a professional soccer team, relocated from Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus to Chester, it left a void, Hodges said.

“You want to see games locally,” Hodges said. “Here’s a chance to have a local team for local supporters.”

Ntow-Mensah said soccer was a major part of his life growing up in his native Ghana.

When he moved to the U.S. in 2000 at age 7, he continued to play the game and eventually became captain of his high school soccer team in Maplewood, New Jersey.

He attended Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey and played for a year as captain of the school’s soccer team. He then started coaching at Parkland Area Soccer Club, a local club. He now lives in Upper Macungie Township.

His goal for Allentown United FC is to propel its players to the next level, but he also wants to make sure the team stays focused on giving back to the community.

Ntow-Mensah said he collected sporting goods for the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown, for example, and donated them to the organization.

A few people are helping him establish the soccer team, including his older brother, Daniel; his sister, Nancy Asamoah; and a co-worker, Al Beltre. Many others have reached out to volunteer their time, he added.

Ntow-Mensah and his volunteers hosted a tournament in March that drew six teams with eight to 10 players each. Many family members and friends came to watch, Ntow-Mensah said. Then, on May 26, the organization hosted a second tournament that drew 12 teams and 120 players, including many from out-of-state. The teams played seven on seven, he said.