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Jack Donlan, one of three members of the trust overseeing the sale of the Buccaneers, said the board has completed its first round of discussions with prospective buyers. Aside from local bidders, groups from Toronto, St. Louis, Orlando, Fla. and Baltimore remain in the running. Donlan, who did not say how many rounds of meetings there would be, said while the trustees would like the Bucs to remain in the area, they are speaking with groups interested in moving the team. Donlan: "St. Louis has a state-of-the-art stadium ready to go with great inducements, and Baltimore has money hanging out there. The trustees don't want to sell out of town, but we have a great fiscal responsibility." He said if the trust sells the team at a lower price to local ownership, "and after a couple of years, the new owner doesn't have the support he wants and he sells at a higher price and the team moves. Would we have done our job, selling at a lower price?" But he did acknowledge the "potential problems," including lawsuits, if the team is moved (Tom McEwen, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/3). Orioles Owner Peter Angelos, who is trying to bring the Bucs to Baltimore, said he "was pleased but not surprised" to be among the finalists, adding: "We expect to have very serious discussions." Tampa bidder/businessman Thomas Shannon said the franchise isn't worth the $200M price Angelos has reportedly offered. Shannon: "It sounds like this sale is being market-driven rather than driven by the economics of the team" (Vito Stellino, BALTIMORE SUN, 12/5). LOCAL NEWS: A survey of 546 randomly selected adults in Hillsborough County showed that 84% want the team to stay in Tampa, but 70% oppose using public tax dollars to build a new stadium and keep the team from relocating. 44% favor using tax funds to renovate Tampa Stadium (John Stebbins, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/5). Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura, Jr. will press Gov. Lawton Chiles and the FL legislature to let the county use sales taxes collected at stadium events to help pay for stadium renovations (Gilpin & Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/3).
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports the Rams "could announce their move any time to St. Louis, as early as [today], although a team official denies this." Mortensen also reported that it was possible coach Chuck Knox would not go with the team to St. Louis ("GameDay," 12/4). On Fox's "NFL Sunday" James Brown noted that several moving boxes were seen in the Rams scouting department last week. Brown: "Their mailing address? St. Louis" ("Fox NFL Sunday," 12/4). This set off a flurry of denials from FANS Inc., the civic group trying to bring the Rams to St. Louis. FANS spokesperson Al Kerth called the ESPN report "wrong, wrong, wrong." Rams officials also denied James Brown's report (Bernie Miklasz, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/5). TOO LATE FOR SAVE THE RAMS? Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly's presence at a meeting with Rams President John Shaw and Save the Rams spokesperson Leigh Steinberg was "the city's most public gesture" toward keeping the team in the L.A. area. Daly "assured" Shaw that Anaheim is "serious about keeping the Rams in Orange County, even if it means building a stadium for them." Daly said the idea of a new stadium was "discussed only conceptually and it could be several weeks before more details are made available." Save the Rams' latest proposal is to build a football-only stadium on the Anaheim Stadium parking lot and demolish the old one (Hernandez & Reilly, L.A. TIMES, 12/4). "Sources say a mound of details remain to be worked out," between the Rams and St. Louis. But the "three or four most pressing issues regarding the stadium lease and stadium operation have been resolved." The $260M domed stadium in St. Louis is 58% complete (Jim Thomas, St. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/4). ANAHEIM KEEPS ONE OF ITS TEAMS: Angels President Richard Brown is close to a deal with the city of Anaheim to build a new baseball-only facility that would open in 1998, according to Peter Gammons. "Heavy bidders are lining up to buy the club," including former Red Sox partner Haywood Sullivan (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/4).
The Lightning's "financial strength" and their "promise to stay in the area" was again questioned by FL media, as it was reported that "progress on the team's downtown arena suddenly was stopped because the team had fallen behind in paying for $658,500 worth of foundation work." Roy Cummings of the TAMPA TRIBUNE writes that until the team pays it's bills on time, "the public perception will continue to be that the Lightning are struggling to stay alive" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/4). Kokusai Green (KG), the Japanese company that runs the Lightning, has spent more money than they anticipated on the franchise, and word of a possible sale to Ted Turner and a move to Atlanta forced KG to change the team's president and take a more active role in the daily operations of the club (David Neal, MIAMI HERALD, 12/4).
The Panthers have "parted ways with the consultant who has been their liaison with minority and female business contractors since May '93." The responsibilities of Carol Lilly of LIL Associates in Charlotte will be assigned to another staff member, according to Panthers spokesperson Charles Dayton. But neither Lilly or Dayton would "explain her departure." The team is exceeding their goal of attaining 10%-15% minority participation in the construction of their $174M stadium, but Alfred Alexander, President of the Charlotte NAACP, intends to ask team execs about Lilly's departure (David Mildenberg, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/3).