SBD/14/Franchises

THE NBA IN CANADA, PART III: THE GRIZZLIES KEEP DRIVIN'

     The Grizzlies enter the final stretch of their season-ticket
drive to bring basketball to Vancouver.  Since awarded a
franchise by the NBA on April 27, owner Arthur Griffiths has led
a furious charge to meet the league's requirements.  Unlike the
Raptors, who began taking season-ticket orders in October, the
Grizzlies kicked off their campaign on April 28 with a season-
ticket hotline.  Two days later, 6,000 fans had called and
committed a $100 deposit toward a season-ticket.  Sales have
slowed, but the Grizzlies organizational efforts have met with
greater success than the Raptors.  Over the past week, THE SPORTS
BUSINESS DAILY spoke with members of the Vancouver media and Tod
Leiweke, who is charge of the development of business and
marketing opportunities for the Grizzlies.
     THE NUMBER:  The team is around 3,000 sales short of the NBA
mandated-minimum of 12,500, but reports this morning indicate
that deals could push both teams over the top this week.
Leiweke, Exec VP of Northwest Entertainment Group, parent company
of the Grizzlies and the Canucks, said the franchise "has made
progress," but refused to speculate on numbers.  The Grizzlies
announce their total on Tuesday.   THE MARKET:  Leiweke, who came
over from the Warriors in early November:  "The community has
really wanted to see this happen. It has largely been a community
initiative."  Leiweke mentioned "The Ambassadors," a group of 49
business leaders throughout the city who have organized the
business community.  He also praised business leaders who stepped
forward and purchased suites and club seats for the Canucks, and
then consented when asked by the Grizzlies to increase their
commitment on their suites.  Although Vancouver is a hockey town,
the SUN's MacDonald said, "The town is talking about the
Grizzlies."  Still, Tsumura calls the NBA a "brand new game in
town" and for Vancouver fans "it is almost like buying into
something on faith."
     ORGANIZATION: "The Grizzlies always knew they had a selling
job and they got their organization in place and went about their
business," according to MacDonald.  Griffiths, who is looking for
an investment partner for the team, received high marks from the
media for his organizational skills.  MacDonald: "They come
across as a very slick, well organized, franchise."   Tsumura
agrees that the organization is well run, giving kudos for
bringing in Magic Johnson for an appearance and an ownership
guarantee for a full refund if the customer is not satisfied with
the performance of the team.  Likewise, GM Stu Jackson has kept a
high profile, making appearances and being a front-man for the
team in advertising.  Tsumura: "Jackson has really done the job
and gotten out there."
     CORPORATE HELP: The team has been active in the corporate
community. Spectra Foods Restaurant Group signed a deal that
included the purchase of 300 season-tickets. Leiweke said it has
been untraditional corporate help, those "who might not buy a
media package or a sign in the arena."  Although Spectra is not
engaging in cross-promotions, Leiweke did say the deal "sparked
the imagination of other companies."  There are reports this week
that both Shopper's Drug Mart and Overwaitea grocery stores are
close to making a significant corporate ticket purchase.  The
team is currently in discussing a media deal, but nothing is
signed.
     OVERALL: Tsumura compares Vancouver with NBA expansion
franchises, such as the Magic.  MacDonald:  "Orlando had a full
year longer to sell 10,000 tickets and they went right to the
end. If you gauge it that way, for Vancouver being a non-
basketball town, the 9,000 they have sold is quite a good
number."  Lieweke on the NBA's deadline: "It is not fair for me
to sit here and pass judgement.  We only had one choice and that
was to rise to the challenge. ... Certainly, if you look at the
last expansion with 10,000 tickets and here you come into a
market where there has not been a ton of NBA exposure in the
market place, it is really quite amazing that they would rise to
this challenge" (THE DAILY).
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