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Despite saying he is the front-runner to buy the Buccaneers, Orioles Owner Peter Angelos would still "have a major hurdle to clear" if he wants to buy the team and move it to Baltimore. The Bucs three-man trust told Angelos that they would not accept an offer for the team that was "conditional on the NFL allowing the team to relocate." Because of that, Angelos could face millions of dollars in "additional costs in attempting to buy and move the Bucs." Angelos would have to pay roughly $9.5M to buy the team out of its current lease at Tampa Stadium, but he also could be assessed $15M by the NFL in relocation fees and face millions more in legal fees if the league seeks a court-ordered injunction to block the move. Bucs trustee Steve Story said Angelos could buy the Bucs and operate the team in Tampa while trying to seek league approval for the franchise to be moved. Story: "That's a possibility. Clearly, that is not his preference" (Rick Stroud, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/21). Angelos: "We don't know what kind of fight the NFL might put up to keep the team from moving. At this point, making the deal is not the tough part" (Henderson & Stebbins, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21). WILL HE OR WON'T HE? ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Angelos is "confident" he can buy the Bucs. Mortensen: "He is willing to fight the NFL (about moving) and even consider selling the Orioles if the cross-ownership issue gets too sticky." The "roadblock" is the "unconditional sale. In other words if Angelos fails legally to move the franchise, he'd still be stuck with the team" ("SportsCenter," 12/20). MD Gov. William Donald Schaefer believes the NFL will block a move to Baltimore. Schaefer put odds on the Bucs moving at "less than 50/50" (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 12/21). TAXES GUARANTEES SEATS: During a press conference today, scheduled to be held at the 50-yard line in Tampa Stadium, local leaders are expected to announce a proposal to have taxpayers and businesses paying for unsold seats at home games. The city of Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Tampa Bay businesses would "guarantee the sale of at least 55,000 tickets for each home game for one or two years." Enthusiasm for the idea by elected officials who might be asked to vote on a ticket guarantee was mixed. Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura was not "terribly excited" about public money being used to guarantee sales, but he would favor guaranteeing public support if the Bucs made the Super Bowl during the next five years. Chillura: "If you want to obligate the county to $150 million in debt, there has to be more than just having an NFL team in town. We want a winning team" (Koehn & Kenyon, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21).
After months of waiting and wondering, it was official yesterday -- the Grizzlies announced sales of 12,624 season- tickets, meeting the NBA's requirement of 12,500 before the December 31 deadline. The Raptors hold a press conference today at which they are expected to announce that they have also surpassed the goal. The key to both franchises was help from the Shoppers Drug Mart chain. Shoppers, which has 700 stores in Canada, bought 2,500 of the 12,624 season tickets sold by the Grizzlies, all in either the $21 or $28 range. It is reported that Shoppers purchased a "whopping" 4,500 for the Raptors, all of them in the SkyDome cheap seats that won't be available when the team moves into a new arena (Neil Campbell, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/21). GRIZZLIES: Shoppers Drug "pumped about $1.4M into the Grizzlies coffers for the bulk purchase." They were given a 10% discount on their order, and tickets will be sold at Shoppers stores on a per-game basis. Shoppers Drug VP Terry Morrison: "We see this as good for our youth, good for our economy, and good for our business. ... We will be offering the tickets for sale to customers through special promotion in our 42 Lower Mainland stores." The team announced that the general public had purchased over 8,000 tickets while 4,500 were sold to the corporate community. Grizzlies VP/GM Stu Jackson said the team hit "every fan base. We've hit the corporations, the general public, and we've hit the casual game goer with the Shoppers Drug Deal" (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/21). Jackson: "The dream is now a reality." Owner Arthur Griffiths called the ticket drive "a struggle," adding that "the league was very careful to watch us, to make sure our numbers were real." Jackson took a shot at the Raptors: "We've got the first victory. We kicked Toronto's butt" (Gary Kingston, VANCOUVER SUN, 12/21). NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik congratulated the team: "This demonstrates great support on the part of the community and it will help ensure a successful launch of the franchise" (Jim Byers, TORONTO STAR, 12/21). RAPTORS: The Raptors had hoped to make a simultaneous announcement on their ticket success and the finalization of an arena deal, but the arena deal was still in doubt as of yesterday. The team has increased its offer for a Canada Post building in downtown Toronto, but Andrew Gaddell, a spokesperson for Canada Post, said "the situation is still pretty fluid, but there will be no announcement today." The team must have an "agreement in principal" on an arena site by the end of the year, and they are confident details can be worked out soon (Bill Harrin, TORONTO SUN, 12/21).
ITT "insisted" that displeasure from the NHL and NBA over the company's acquisition of Caesars World would not prevent them from closing the $1.08B deal for Madison Square Garden. ITT and Cablevision are partners in a pending deal for the the Knicks and Rangers. Each league expressed concern over ITT's $1.7B offer for Caesars World yesterday, as both bar team owners from owning businesses that take bets on sporting events. ITT spokesperson James Gallagher said the company has discussed the issue with the commissioners of both leagues. Gallagher: "We are confident that we are going to be able to do the deals" (BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS/N.Y. POST, 12/21). ESPN's Steve Levy: "ITT is feverishly working on concessions to O.K. the MSG purchase which could include separating its holdings and not taking action on games in either the NBA or NHL" ("SportsCenter," 12/20). Sources say ITT could drop hockey and basketball betting, if necessary, but the company "didn't plan on selling either of the sports teams." Caesars' sports book is estimated to generate less than 5% of the company's total gambling revenue. John Rochs, an analyst with Wertheim Schroder & Co., says a settlement restricting sports gambling would have a "minuscule impact" on profits (Eben Shapiro, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21). However, Ron Pearlstein, an analyst at Loomis Sayles & Co., says "sport-betting salons are much too profitable": "My guess is the Knicks and the Rangers have got to go. ... The leagues might insist on it" (BLOOMBERG/N.Y. POST, 12/21). Both analysts agree that eliminating some sports betting could hurt overall profits. Rochs: "There is an unquantifiable aspect to it: How many people won't walk in the door in the first place?" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21).
ESPN's Mark Schwarz examined the Rams' troubles in Orange County as well as their declining popularity among fans. L.A. TIMES reporter T.J. Simers: "It's a bad team, it's not attracting anybody, there's no excitement. What do you get excited about with this team? -- Which quarter Chris Miller is going to get his concussion in?" Leigh Steinberg, who has organized a group to keep the Rams in Anaheim, said rumors of a move has exaggerated the team's lack of appeal: "The worst thing to do in Southern California, which is an area that appreciates the concept of something is hot, exciting, and the place to be, is to do what the Rams have done for the last two years, which is to say we really, probably won't be here." Another issue discussed was the declining amount of Rams merchandise being sold. Rams safety Anthony Newman spoke of how he once needed a couple of Rams caps for his football camp: "I went to every mall in Orange County almost, and I couldn't find a Rams hat. I couldn't believe it. I think you have to take some responsibility to do something like to market the Los Angeles Rams" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/20). SHAW PROFILED: Rams President John Shaw, the architect of the Rams move, is the focus of an extensive profile in this morning's ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Shaw, who was put in charge of the organization at the age 31, is praised for "his shrewd, indefatigable negotiating skills" (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/21).