SBD/3/Facilities Venues

BOB JOHNSON INCREASES PRESSURE FOR PRIVATE- OWNED DC ARENA

     BET CEO Robert Johnson vowed to try to build a 23,000-seat
sports arena in Washington, DC, regardless of whether Bullets
owner Abe Pollin agrees to move his teams to it.  Johnson said
Riggs National Bank is willing to lend him up to $172M to build a
new facility downtown.  If the Bullets and Capitals don't move,
Johnson said he will "seek to attract" an NBA team from outside
the area before building the arena.  Johnson's comments, made at
a lunch with WASHINGTON POST reporters and editors, "are part of
an effort to increase pressure on District officials to accept
his offer to privately finance the arena rather than use taxpayer
funds."  Pollin is now negotiating with business leaders and a DC
task force to move his teams from the USAir Arena to a downtown
facility.  Under a preliminary proposal struck before Johnson
made his offer, "construction of the arena would be financed by a
special city tax."  City officials are reluctant to go along with
Johnson's proposal because he cannot ensure the Caps and Bullets
would move to the arena.  Johnson would prefer to have Pollin's
teams move there, "but Pollin is unlikely to accept Johnson's
terms:  that if Pollin later decided to sell the teams, the
prospective new owner would have to renegotiate the arena lease
with Johnson" (Farhi & Mills, WASHINGTON POST, 10/1).       TWO-
TEAM CITY?  Two DC City Council members said the deal between
Pollin and the Nation Capital Development Corp. (NCDC) is better
for the city, because Pollin has teams to put in the arena.  But
Johnson claims he could lure another NBA team if Pollin does not
play in his arena.  Johnson suggested the following teams:
Pacers, Timberwolves, Supersonics & Clippers (WASHINGTON POST,
10/1).
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