Scott Controls The Mayhem

May 25, 2004
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MUSKEGON — The view from Jannie Scott’s office window offers a glimpse of why she’s embarking on a new business venture.

Looking out over Muskegon Lake, she points up the shoreline toward downtown, a business district that is in the early stages of a massive revitalization push and a period of major transformation.

“Every day I look out there and I think what a magnificent city this is going to be,” said Scott, who believes professional sports would represent a nice addition to the mix.

She was awarded a franchise last November by the minor league Continental Basketball Association and is now preparing for the inaugural season of the Michigan Mayhem, which will play home games in downtown’s Walker Sports Arena beginning this fall.

Scott’s goal in forming the team is to provide a new entertainment offering that will draw people to downtown and contribute to the business district’s rebirth.

The 55-year-old Scott wants to create jobs and help business development in downtown Muskegon, which in recent years has already drawn millions of dollars in new investments and has millions more pending, most notably the redevelopment of the Muskegon Mall property into a commercial and residential neighborhood and the development of the Edison Landing residential and commerce park along nearby Muskegon Lake.

“This is a masterpiece city. The potential is just …” Scott said, her words trailing off and her arms spreading apart as she looks out her office window up the nearby shoreline and toward the downtown Muskegon area.

“In my mind, your foundation of a community is your downtown. You can come down here, but what are you going to do when you’re here?” she said. “Why can’t Muskegon be a destination?”

In forming a sports franchise, Scott also sought to diversify her business interests. She’s now the vice president of JAAR Inc., a company owned by her husband, Arthur, that operates nine McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in the area.

“Like any business, when you get to a certain level, you try to venture out into other things. So we were looking for other things and this opportunity came about, and it just seemed like a perfect time to expand,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is something that is perhaps fun to do,’ so we went with it.”

The opportunity to own a sports franchise started with a friend introducing her to Peter Jackson, who at the time was working for the former Grand Rapids Hoops CBA franchise. Jackson initially was in Muskegon seeking sponsorship from JAAR Inc. for the Hoops.

Those discussions eventually led Scott to investigate and ultimately pursue formation of a CBA team in Muskegon. The efforts culminated with the November announcement that the Boise, Idaho-based league had awarded Scott a franchise.

She later hired Jackson, who’s from a small town in Louisiana near where Scott grew up, as the team’s general manager.

“We’re having so much fun. It’s a lot of work and there’s still a lot to do because it’s building from the ground up,” said Scott, who views the team as a kind of philanthropic venture that will help build up downtown. She receives no salary for her role as head of the franchise.

“If we make money, I get something at the end of the year. If not, oh well,” she said. “That’s just part of me as a person.”

A Mississippi native, Scott came to Muskegon a decade ago when husband Arthur, who previously worked for McDonald’s Corp. for 25 years in a number of executive positions, wanted to become a franchise owner.

The couple, married for 38 years, has moved often over the years, living in Grand Rapids, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans and Memphis before settling in Spring Lake to be near the water.

The couple travels often and Scott says they’ve seen many examples in other communities where a sports franchise has been a part of revitalizing downtown business districts.

“It’s just part of development,” said Scott, who’s trained in social work and previously worked in child development.

To succeed, the Michigan Mayhem needs to average about 3,500 fans per game at the 5,100-seat Walker Arena and pre-sell 1,000 season tickets. The Mayhem has not reached the goal of season tickets sold but, through the strong sale of premium courtside seats, has surpassed an equivalent revenue level, Scott said.

While sports is a decidedly different kind of business than any other, Scott believes the fundamentals are essentially the same: Give the customer a good product at a good price and they’ll come back for more.

“Any business to me is risky; I don’t care what it is,” Scott said. “You’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to do things correctly, and you’ve got to bring something people are always going to enjoy.”    

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