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St. Louis' new Kiel Center attracted 14,153 to its opening night NBA exhibition game between the Bullets and Bulls. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, who represernts St. Louis: "We need an NBA team here. St. Louis is a major sports town. And a major sports town deserves an NBA team. ... [But] we've got to get football first" (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 10/15)....But St. Louis NBA exhibition promoter Joe Yates said fewer than 10,000 tickets had been sold the day before the game. The game didn't have the "drawing cards" the two previous preseason sellouts had, including a '92 game with Magic Johnson and the Lakers, and last year's game with the Bulls. Yates: "This is not good if you want to put the best face to the NBA," especially as the only sport playing in St. Louis. St. Louis Sports Commission's basketball subcommittee Chair Barry Cervantes said he recently met with NBA Operations VP Rod Thorn to "keep the city's foot in the door in case of expansion or relocation." Perkins and "sports officials unanimously agree" St. Louis has "situated itself as a potential basketball mecca" (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 10/16). DENVER A POTENTIAL HOCKEY HOTBED? Noting the IHL Denver Grizzlies' 16,215 sellout-crowd in McNichols Arena, Boston hockey writer Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Devils to return to CO (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16).
Former Mariners owner and "longtime" Rams board member George Argyros is leading a group trying to buy an option to acquire the Rams from owner Georgia Frontiere and keep the team in Anaheim. The group, which includes Carl's Jr. restaurant chain Chair William Foley, hopes to buy a minority stake with the right to become controlling owner if Frontiere sells the team. Argyros is operating the group on a "parallel but separate" track from the Leigh Steinberg-led Save the Rams organization (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/15). ANAHEIM ANGUISH: Anaheim City Council Member Bob Simpson asks, "Why should [the Rams] stay in Anaheim and accept less than they can get someplace else unless the deals aren't very, very close?" In St. Louis, Jim Thomas writes that efforts by Save the Rams have gone "about as far as" possible and the area's fan base has "eroded" to the point where a seat-licensing program "probably wouldn't fly." But while Simpson notes that Save the Rams is "a long shot," he feels the group has come "a long way in a short time" (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 10/15). WEIGHTY MOVES: Fox's James Brown: "With Rams owner Georgia Frontiere borrowing heavily against her teams NFL debt limit of $40 million, the club believes it must relocate, and it definitely will for the huge financial benefits. Now sources tell Fox that Baltimore remains a serious contender, along with St. Louis, for the Rams' future home" ("NFL Sunday," FOX, 10/16). WHO'S WHO IN ST. LOUIS: St. Louis businessman Stan Kroenke, instrumental in the city's expansion effort, is "low-key" enough to be a "better fit" as a Rams minority owner than "outspoken" Orioles Owner Peter Angelos, according to a profile by the POST- DISPATCH's Thomas. Kroenke still faces "hurdles" in acquiring an interest in the team: First, what percentage of ownership will be sold?; 2) at what cost?; and, 3) Will there be any option to buy out owner Frontiere? Kroenke and St. Louis booster group FANS have been on "parallel tracks," but FANS point man Tom Eagleton noted last week that he has never met Kroenke (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 10/16). SHAKING A BAD REPUTATION: In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes "don't get your hopes up" that the Rams will move to St. Louis, noting Rams President John Shaw has "negative" feelings about St. Louis but is "charmed" by Baltimore Colts' "nostalgia" (ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 10/17). COOKE CLOUT: Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has "appeared to be winning the perception battle" to keep an NFL team out of the adjacent Baltimore market, but owners are less likely to block a move to Baltimore than an expansion team because of possible legal battles and because many owners "condone" team movement: "Any anti-Baltimore lobbying efforts will have to be done behind the scene" (Vito Stellino, Baltimore SUN, 10/16).