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EXPANSION COMMITTEE HEARS PRESENTATIONS FROM FOUR CITIES
Published November 2, 1994
Members of MLB's Expansion Committee heard presentations from two groups from Northern VA, and one each from Tampa/St. Petersburg and Phoenix, all vying for a possible expansion franchise. The Arizona group "was the first to makes its pitch. Next was Tampa-St. Pete. Coincidence or not, these are the two front-runners for expansion" (Bob Cohn, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/2) PHOENIX: NBA Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo led the AZ contingent in making its first formal presentation, which included a scale model of the proposed stadium, with a working retractable roof that "reportedly wowed members of the committee." Colangelo said the committee was interested in his investment partnership, which includes Phil Knight of Nike, and some wanted assurances that it would not be fragmented and that Colangelo would "be in control of things." Colangelo: "They threw a couple of hooks out there, and I didn't bite. ... We will be one of the most successful franchises in baseball, if given an equal playing field, because we know how to market" (Bob Cohn, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/2). Colangelo also said construction requirements on a $273M stadium would make '98 the earliest possible start time (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/01). "Colangelo's group made the most impressive presentation" (Paul Sullivan, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/2). TAMPA BAY: Tampa Bay Baseball introduced two new investors in their bid: Florida Progress, a diversified utility holding company, and P.J. Benton, a minority businesswoman from St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay's managing general partner, Vince Naimoli, said the group was "delighted to have her (Benton), not because she is a woman or African-American, but because of her business acumen." The group delivered a video and oral presentation on what the area had to offer, "such as market, stadium [Thunder Dome] and ownership." Naimoli: "Everything we were asked we were 100% prepared for. ... We can be ready in 100 days." AL President Gene Budig said the presentation went "very well," and NL President Len Coleman said, "Tampa was great" (Mark Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/2). VIRGINIA: The "competition" between two Northern VA groups vying for an expansion franchise "took a surprising turn" when Washington attorney Bart Fisher, head of Capital Baseball, Inc., said a "syndicate of African-American investors would be the team's largest shareholder" if they were awarded a team. That group is led by venture capitalist Robert Johnson. Fisher and William Collins, head of Virginia Baseball Club, both made presentations. Sources said, of the two groups, Collins "received higher marks from the expansion committee." But Fisher's announcement "may place considerable pressure on baseball, which often has been criticized for its lack of minority interest" (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 11/2). Fisher: "We have laid down a challenge to major league baseball" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/2). Officials "familiar with the presentations questioned the strength of the Fisher group." One anonymous official on the Fisher plan: "It was heavy on demographics but short on specifics. The difference between the two groups was like night and day" (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 11/2). Phillies owner Bill Giles, without specifying which group he was referring to: "The most surprising thing was that Northern Virginia's proposal was better than most thought it would be" (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/2). In regards to a stadium, Fairfax, VA, County Chair Tom Davis said "a resident task force would be created to find a stadium site to showcase the team." The team would play at RFK Stadium on a short-term basis (Michael Scully, FAIRFAX JOURNAL, 11/2). WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Expansion Committee Chair John Harrington hopes the committee will make a recommendation to owners by January about whether to expand and what the franchise fee should be. If expansion is approved, committee recommendations on cities could follow as soon as a month later. Harrington "hinted" franchise fees could be around $140M per team. Harrington also said a decision will be made on two-tiered expansion, with two teams starting in '96, '97 or '98, and two teams playing later (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 11/2).