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The Grizzlies must sell 15,000 seats by January 1 or "else the NBA won't allow them to start their first season next fall." The team has sold about half that figure. Most of the court-side corporate seats have been sold, but now Arthur Griffiths, President of Northwest Sports which owns the team and "the dreamer who envisioned an NBA team in Vancouver," must convince fans that paying between $675 per season-ticket seat in the upper sections to $3,555 for good club seats, is a "worthwhile investment." Griffiths is going to "businesses for an indirect loan, asking companies to pay for employees' season tickets and recoup the loan through payroll deductions." Griffiths told one business group, "Not only is this a fantastic company-provided bonus to your workforce, but it comes at an extremely low cost to your company" (Gillian Shaw, VANCOUVER SUN, 9/30).
The Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission "approved all the major points of an agreement to buy the Target Center." This clears the way for Glen Taylor to complete his deal to buy the Timberwolves, which has been contingent on public acquisition of the arena. The agreement will keep the NBA team in Minnesota and "leaves open the possibility that an NHL team may return to the Twin Cities." Commission Chair Henry Savelkoul said Taylor is the most likely buyer of any NHL team, and called the odds of an NHL returning to MN in five years "pretty good." The agreement is for 30 years, but it would allow Taylor to break the deal in 10 years if the team has two successive money-losing seasons. Taylor could also opt out if the state legislature fails to provide the promised $750,000-a-year subsidy. "One unique feature" gives the commission an option to buy the team at the price Taylor is paying today -- $88.5M -- plus a compounded 3% increase for each year he has owned the team" (Patrick Sweeney, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/30). TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD The "legal scuffle" between Top Rank and "soon-to-be-former" Wolves owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner continues. Top Rank, the group wanting to move the Wolves to New Orleans, won a "minor" victory as U.S. Magistrate Franklin Noel "disagreed with Wolfenson and Ratner's claim that their sale contract was properly terminated" when the NBA blocked the team's sale to Top Rank. Wolfenson and Ratner must decide by next week whether to have a U.S. District Judge review Noel's recommendation (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/29). TWINS WATCH: Twins owner Carl Pohlad says he would like to talk with Taylor about the possibility of joint ownership of the Twins (AP, 9/30).
Rams President John Shaw "discounted reports yesterday that has Baltimore out of the running for the Rams." Shaw, asked whether the Rams had narrowed their choices to St. Louis and Anaheim: "I don't know where those perceptions came from. We really haven't had any conversations with St. Louis for a few weeks. They're trying to come in next week, but I'm not sure whether [those meetings] will materialize." The L.A. TIMES had reported that Wednesday's NFL vote to approve the Redskins move to MD seemed to "swing the Rams' pendulum toward St. Louis" (Baltimore SUN, 9/30).