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"PARTNERSHIP" IS STRESSED IN UNVEILING OF UNITED LEAGUE
Published November 2, 1994
Backers of the United Baseball League, a new league to rival MLB, "unveiled their plans yesterday and said they were on track to start their ambitious and expensive project in 1996. But despite the optimism" of two of co-founders Dick Moss and Andrew Zimbalist, the UBL "faces major hurdles before getting to its first season, including signing quality players and finding first-rate stadiums" (Mark Hyman, Baltimore SUN, 11/2). At a news conference in New York, UBL founders stated that they would start with 10 teams in '96 -- eight from the U.S. and one each from Canada and Mexico. The long-term plans are to grow to 20 teams by '99 with franchises in Venezuela, South Korea and Japan. UBL co-founder/former U.S. Rep. Bob Mrazek said there are 20 cities "capable of supporting a team" and each is larger than Cincinnati and Milwaukee (WASHINGTON POST, 11/2). Moss: "We're not here to prod the establishment and we're not here to replace it. We're here to coexist with it" (Mult., 11/2). Former U.S. Rep./UBL co-founder Tom McMillen: "We have competition in everything in America, so why not baseball?" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/1). CRUNCHIN' NUMBERS: UBL founders "say partnerships among owners, players, fans and cities would avoid the labor troubles that plague the major leagues" (Simon Gonzalez, FT. WORTH STAR- TELEGRAM, 11/2). Projected starting costs for the UBL "are modest": Avg. salary: $520,000; Avg. crowd: 17,500; Avg. ticket price: $8. Franchises would be offered for $5M and player payrolls are expected not to exceed $13M per team. The players would split 35% of the equity of each teams' pretax profit. Franchise cities, in exchange for helping with facilities, would receive 15% of the pretax profit. League founders estimate that clubs could generate $31M in their first season (Thomas Stinson, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/2). Jerome Holtzman notes that the UBL plans a salary cap on management salaries to "put a lid on excessive owner compensation" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/2). MINORITY INVOLVEMENT: Eric Vinson, VP/U.S. Trust Company and a UBL co-founder: "Minorities in the [UBL] will be able to step from the batter's box to the owner's box." Former ballplayer Curt Flood: "We need an alternative league. America deserves an alternative league. ... I need an alternative league. Baseball's owners have shut me out for 25 years" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). POSSIBLE CITIES: In the U.S.: D.C., Phoenix, Charlotte, Long Island, Riverside/San Bernadino, Indianapolis, Orlando, Sacramento, Tampa/St. Pete, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Buffalo, Portland, Salt Lake, Northern NJ, San Antonio, Fresno, Columbus, Hartford, Raleigh/Durham and Louisville. Foreign cities: Mexico City, San Juan, Caracas, Vancouver, Monterrey, plus any cities in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China and Cuba (Mult., 11/2). Since the UBL says it "could fetch" a $49M national broadcasting contract, it will try for franchises in L.A. and NYC (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/2). Moss called that "imperative" (L.A. TIMES, 11/2). WHAT ARE THEIR CHANCES? MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr: "Obviously, you hope it will be a success" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/2). Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "We'll just wait and see what happens to it" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). Agent Ron Shapiro: "It's more viable than I originally thought -- because they're not trying to shoot out of the box and play this year. They're trying to do this right" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/2). Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Donald Trump tried a league that didn't work, and he's a very successful guy" (USA TODAY, 11/2). USFL Founder David Dixon, on their projected figures: "You just can't make it with that kind of arithmetic. ... I think they have a tough road." FINANCIAL WORLD's Michael Ozanian said "the key thing to this league, besides keeping the salary structure down, is to have good stadiums to play in. ... I'm talking about a lot of skyboxes and luxury suites and in-stadium advertising" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/1). Tom Boswell calls the UBL "all facade with nothing behind it" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/2).