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         The next issue of THE HOCKEY NEWS, which hits the stands in
    a few days, reports that Wayne Gretzky might buy the L.A. Kings
    from Jeffrey Sudikoff and Joe Cohen.  The pair, which purchased
    the team from Bruce McNall, who is presently facing charges of
    bank fraud, could be facing their own criminal charges.  Counting
    endorsement income, Gretzky earns between $20-30M per year
    (William Houston, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13).

    Print | Tags: Franchises

         The dispute in Orlando over a proposed tax to support the
    construction of a stadium for a possible baseball expansion bid
    is close to settlement.  The Ornage County Commission votes today
    to approve the tourism tax increase and how it will be allocated.
    The prospective owners of an Orlando baseball franchise want the
    revenue to be put toward stadium maintenance, while county
    officials "were reluctant to promise additional dollars for the
    project."  On Monday, the county agreed to put a minimum amount
    of the revenue into a reserve account to pay for maintenance and
    improvements, with more funds available later.  Both votes today
    are expected to pass, a day before Orlando officials make their
    presentation to the MLB expansion committee in Chicago (Marc
    Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/13).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, MLB

         In an apparent contradiction, Rams President John Shaw said
    the team is "closer than ever" to signing a lease to play in St.
    Louis, but that "does not mean the team is ready to bolt from
    Orange County."  Shaw said Monday most details for a move "are in
    place," including selling a stake of the team to MO-based
    businessman Stan Kroenke, but that any move would signal the
    beginning to a long process.  Shaw mentioned  possible litigation
    after the team goes to the league for approval that would seek to
    force the team to stay in Southern CA.  To avoid that, Shaw said
    he is keeping open the option of signing a short-term deal to
    stay in Anaheim and wait to see if the league comes through on
    its proposal to build a football-only stadium in the area.
    County help in building a stadium remains highly unlikely, as the
    bankruptcy of Orange County has led to their inability to issue
    bonds for a new facility (Mouchard & Himmelberg, ORANGE COUNTY
    REGISTER, 12/13).
         PLEASE STAY:  Frank Bryant, President of the Rams Booster
    Club, met with Shaw and team owner Georgia Frontiere to discuss
    keeping the team in the L.A. area.  Bryant: "When I left, I was
    no happier about our chances of being able to keep the team."
    Frontiere told the group she needs to increase her income, and
    Shaw reiterated the team had "written" financial guarantees from
    St. Louis, something they don't have locally (ORANGE COUNTY
    REGISTER, 12/13).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, LA Rams

         The Raptors put 1,200 club seats in the SkyDome's 200 level
    on sale yesterday with the hope that would boost the team's
    season-ticket drive.  The seats "represent options not taken by
    the SkyDome's licensed club seatholders."  They are on sale for
    $58 without a license fee, and "if and when the Raptors' new
    building is constructed," 220-level ticket holders will be put on
    a waiting list for seats behind the basket within the lower bowl
    in the proposed new facility  (Chris Young, TORONTO STAR, 12/13).

    Print | Tags: Franchises, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Toronto Raptors

         Last year the NBA awarded the league's 27th franchise to
    Professional Basketball Franchise, Inc. of Toronto led by John
    Bitove, Jr.  It was the first franchise granted outside the U.S.,
    as the NBA planned this venture into Canada as the stepping stone
    to a more ambitious international expansion.  But it hasn't been
    easy for the expansion Raptors.  The NBA imposed an unprecedented
    sales mark -- 12,500 season-tickets to be sold by December 31 or
    the NBA will revoke franchise rights.  This steep number, along
    with questionable moves by team management, has left many in the
    Toronto area skeptical that the new franchise has the ability to
    meet the deadline.  Over the past week, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY
    spoke with members of the Toronto media and a team official on
    the job facing the franchise in the coming weeks.
         THE NUMBER: The Raptors need more than 3,000 ticket sales in
    the next 19 days to meet the goal.  A major reason the team has
    struggled is the lack of an arena.  The Raptors will play their
    first two years at SkyDome, but they do not have a site on which
    to build a new facility for '97-98.  Raptors Dir of Communication
    Tom Mayenknecht admitted the lack of an arena stadium has hurt
    sales, "the real question is how much, and that has been
    difficult to gauge."  The TORONTO STAR's Jim Byers said the
    Raptors have "scared away buyers of lower-end tickets because
    people are afraid of the SkyDome."  Byers also believes the team
    got off to a "bad start" by implementing a seat-licensing plan,
    that they have since dropped.  Byers: "They still have that
    stigma on the seats.  Ironically, they sold out their most
    expensive seats, but the cheaper ones have not been selling."
    Mayenknecht agreed: "Our biggest challenge has been to draw
    attention to the least expensive seats in the house, we have had
    no problem selling the high-end seats."
         THE MARKET:  Did the Raptors misread their market?  The
    TORONTO STAR's Jim Proudfoot said the team "couldn't have
    imagined that it would be such an ordeal" to create a fan base.
    Proudfoot:  "There is undoubtably enormous interest in basketball
    among young people in Toronto, whether that translates into
    ticket sales is another matter.  A 14-year old kid wearing a
    Shaquille O'Neal sweatshirt isn't necessarily a prospective
    customer for the season-tickets they need to sell."  Mayenknecht
    notes the challenge:  "Here we are nine months before opening
    tipoff and it is a new market to NBA basketball, not to
    basketball, but to the NBA.  We have the challenge of not having
    as much high level basketball background to sell our fans on."
         WHERE'S ISIAH?  The role of Isiah Thomas remains a point of
    controversy.  Originally thought of as the front man in the
    operation, his focus has been on scouting and basketball
    operations and he has not taken a high profile during the ticket
    drive.  Thomas is now on TV and radio, and the club last week
    unveiled a campaign featuring his plea to the fans to help bring
    a winner to Toronto.  The TORONTO SUN's Craig Daniels said Thomas
    has "been taking some heat for being somewhat inconspicuous and
    that may in part account for why he has been more visible of
    late."  But Mayenknecht counters that Thomas has been a key part
    of the process: "I would describe his role as multi-faceted."
         IS IT FAIR?  When asked if the 12,500 mandate by the NBA was
    fair, Mayenknecht said the team is "going into arguably the most
    successful sports league on the planet, and we understand there
    is an initiation fee involved as a entry requirement."  Stressing
    that the league will divide up its marketing and TV revenue to
    the Raptors, Mayenknecht said "the league needs to know that new
    franchises in a brand new business market have a strong core and
    one of the most important cores is the season-ticket base.  And
    we understand that is our part of the deal" (THE DAILY).
         For today's update on the Raptors.

    Print | Tags: Franchises, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, NBA, Toronto Raptors
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