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The trust in charge of selling the Buccaneers met separately with a group from Outback Steakhouse and Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner yesterday. Trustee Steve Story said more meetings were planned with both groups and termed the session with Steinbrenner as "somewhat preliminary." Tommy Shannon, along with Outback Founders Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham met with the trust early in the day. Shannon: "We didn't make an offer and I don't think we've all concurred that we want to make an offer. But it was a good meeting." Shannon still has no idea what price the trust has settled on: "All we know is that we read in the paper about a bracket between $175M and $200M. That is quite a bracket" (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/23). IF YOU WATCH THE BUCS, I'LL TAX YOUR SEAT: Nearly four out of five Tampa Bay residents want local officials to do "whatever it takes" to keep the Bucs from leaving. According to an independent poll of 300 residents of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by Phil Balducci & Associates, if that means a tax increase, a majority would support it. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 5.8%: CITY SHOULD DO WHATEVER IT TAKES 78% CITY SHOULD GUARANTEE "SUFFICIENT ATTENDANCE" 69% USE TAX $ TO GUARANTEE TIX FOR HOME GAMES 53% WILL PAY $50 IN TAXES TO IMPROVE TAMPA STADIUM 54% WILL PAY $25 IN TAXES TO IMPROVE TAMPA STADIUM 65% Pollster Balducci: "The results kind of caught me off guard. There's a lot stronger community support for the Bucs than I might have thought. It appears that as long as the tax increase stays small, the community is absolutely for it." Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman said the results show how important the team is to the area and that she has been working on "several funding options for stadium improvements or replacement, including a tax on restaurant sales" (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/23).
Save the Rams, the local group trying to keep the team in the L.A. area, held a press conference yesterday at which Co- Chair Leigh Steinberg admitted, "It has become abundantly clear to us in recent weeks that the Rams plan to make a move to St. Louis." The group announced "Phase II" of their strategy: They plan to meet the other 29 NFL owners, plus NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and representatives of Fox, to discuss their offer to the Rams and try to gather up the eight votes they would need to block the team's move to St. Louis. The booster group will explain their offer, which includes a list of companies that might build a $200M football stadium in bankrupt Orange County and names of people "willing to invest" in the team. Save the Rams will also ask CA political leaders to help, and a spokesperson for Gov. Pete Wilson said the governor -- who received a $20,000 contribution from Rams Owner Georgia Frontiere in his '94 re-election -- is working "behind the scenes" to keep the team in CA (Himmelberg & Mouchard, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/23). Rams President John Shaw could not be reached for comment, but sources close to negotiations said a Rams agreement with St. Louis will not be done before January (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/22).