After a successful first season and winning the league's title in their 2nd, the IHL's Atlanta Knights open their season "on a wave of popularity." Knights president Richard Adler expects a 25% increase in season-ticket sales over last year up to about 4,000. He's projecting a 10-15% jump in attendance per game. Last year, the Knights averaged 8,463, 2nd in the IHL. But Adler said he's "foregone his original plans to bring an NHL team here and will stay with the growing IHL." The IHL is adding franchises in Houston, Denver, St. Paul, Detroit and Chicago this year and plans to expand into Europe next year. "He shrugs about reports that Ted Turner wants to bring an NHL team here": "I'm just going to keep on doing my own thing" (Louis Mayeux, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/5). ARENA PLANS ON HOLD: The Knights, who last month unveiled plans to build a new arena, have reconsidered. Adler said the team will let its option on a 120-acre site expire and delay a decision on whether to build a new home. The Knights, since unveiling the arena plan September 9, have re-negotiated their lease with the Omni through '96-97. They are discussing an option for two more years, or through '98-99. The Knights decided "there were too many variables to proceed." One unknown is Turner Broadcasting, which owns the Hawks. TBS has said it will build a new arena but has not determined whether it will be downtown or in the Atlanta suburbs (Tim Tucker, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/5).
Hartford's AFL franchise will be called the Connecticut Coyotes, with midnight blue, silver and red as their colors. The Coyotes will play at Hartford Civic Center, beginning in May 1995 (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/5)....The ongoing sale of the Harrisburg Senators, a AA-franchise, has taken "far longer to complete than anticipated." Owners Jerome Mileur and Scott Carter had agreed to sell to William Collins, but they are reportedly turning to another unknown ownership group. Collins, whose group owns Class A teams in Greensboro, NC and Madison, WI, has threatened litigation if the team is not sold to him as promised (Harrisburg PATRIOT-NEWS, 10/3)....The first-year CFL Shreveport Pirates are asking taxpayers to guarantee a loan of up to $4.5M, but are getting a "cool response" from city and state officials. Team officials say the Pirates are expected to lose up to $2M more than anticipated (AP, 10/5).
Steve Stavro's bid to buy Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. has been challenged by the Public Trustee of Ontario. In a few months, the two sides will meet in court where a judge will decide if the sale goes through. The Trustee argues that Stavro "misused his position" as both MLG Chair and executor of the Ballard estate by selling himself" a 60% in MLG held by the estate (William Houston, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5).
In St. Louis this morning, Bernie Miklasz criticizes NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's "frivolous attempt at entering the stadium home-improvement business" and predicts that the NFL would get "slapped with the George Halas of all antitrust suits" if the league built a stadium for a "preferred" city such as L.A. and blocked efforts in St. Louis and Baltimore to attract the Rams. Miklasz also notes that despite the NFL's "double standard" which favors large-over medium-market cities, Rams President John Shaw is "shrewd" enough to realize that an NFL- sponsored stadium wouldn't be a "cure-all" for the Rams problems. L.A.'s apathy toward the Rams is "alarming" and team officials would miss a chance for a "sweetheart deal" in St. Louis if the team is "stuck" in L.A. should the Raiders move first. "The NFL can't give [Rams Owner Georgia] Frontiere a future in L.A. Build the stadium, sure. But will the NFL put the fans in the seats, too?" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/5). APPROVE THE MOVE? While many NFL owners are "less than thrilled" about a Rams move, their "collective opinions might not count for squat." Eight owners would have to vote to block and the Eagles' Jeff Lurie, Cowboys' Jerry Jones, and Colts' James Irsay have all "indicated" opposition. But Shaw is "inclined to ignore" any vote to block the move. Shaw: "I've given a lot of thought to what our options would be." The NFL's court record on franchise moves "isn't strong" and Anaheim's legal options are "thin." Leigh Steinberg, co-chair of Save the Rams, said once the NFL sees "how committed" Southern CA is to its team, "it will instantly change their perspective." Steinberg favors a grass- roots fan effort over legal action (Himmelberg & Mouchard, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/4). JUMPING THE GUN? The ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH also reports this morning that 12-15 sites are being considered on which to build a $15M practice and office facility for the Rams (Jim Thomas, POST-DISPATCH, 10/5). ANGELOS FRONT AND CENTER: Orioles Owner Peter Angelos met with Tagliabue in New York last month to "explain his interest" in bringing a franchise to Baltimore, according to a report in this morning's Baltimore SUN. NFL Spokesperson Greg Aiello: "I wouldn't construe it to be highly unusual." Angelos said he is "pleased" that NFL owners' approval of a new Redskins stadium in Laurel, MD, "doesn't preclude" a franchise in Baltimore. But he also noted that the MD Stadium Authority and his football investment partners have "sufficient" resources to "cover court costs" should a legal battle ensue (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 10/5). THE NEXT WAYNE HUIZENGA? Thomas Boswell predicts that either Angelos "is going to be a big man in America's games. Or he's going to get burned" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/5).