The Hillsborough County Commission, the elected body that will try to keep the Bucs in Tampa, is faced with internal disagreements on how to help the franchise. Two staff members have been directed to monitor the sale and develop options on what can be done to help the team, but several "members also warned that they do not want to commit any public dollars to the project too soon." Much of the funding to renovate Tampa Stadium would come from the county (Kevin Walker, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/8). FOR SALE: Palm Beach millionaire George Lindemann said he will not enter a "blind auction" for the team and described the sale price of $175M-$200M unrealistic for a group planning to operate the club in Tampa. Lindemann: "I can't afford to match what Baltimore will pay" (Rick Stroud, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/8). If Orioles Owner Peter Angelos bids "high" and loses, "he'll go after the NFL and the Bucs in court," according to USA TODAY'S Gordon Forbes. Forbes also reports the NFL is working behind the scenes to keep the Rams and the Bucs from moving. "The fear is that a Rams move might be followed by a Raiders move, and the NFL also wants a Jacksonville-Tampa rivalry" (USA TODAY, 12/8).
John Labatt Ltd. may seek a partnership or joint venture in its bid to "spin off part of its sports and entertainment assets," according to company President George Taylor. Labatt "is mulling over a number of options in its selloff strategy and not only a public offering, as has been widely reported." Labatt's sports and entertainment assets include the Blue Jays, the SkyDome and TSN. Taylor said the company still intends "to control and drive the development of these businesses -- whether its 49% or 45 or 40, (that is sold off) doesn't much matter." Taylor acknowledged that the baseball strike, "which soaked up about" C$16M of Labatt's earnings, has delayed selloff plans. And the "sinking stock markets probably aren't as receptive to an issue as they were last June." Labatt has been hit by the NHL lockout as well, but to a much lesser extent (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8).
Raptors President John Bitove said the ticket office's phone lines continue to ring after Tuesday's open house at SkyDome. About 600 season tickets were sold from the event, and the team is believed to be about 3,000-3,500 sales away from meeting the NBA's mandate of 12,500 season tickets by December 31. The team is working on a "massive corporate sponsorship said to be worth multiple million of dollars." Rumors had GM signing on (Jim Byers, TORONTO STAR, 12/8). COLLEGE HOOPS STRUGGLES TO SELL: This weekend's U.S. college basketball games at Maple Leaf Gardens are having trouble selling. The poor sale of lower end seats have led to a $5-off coupon program, lowering prices from $7-12 for the Georgetown- Memphis game. Peter Allemang, organizer of the adidas Toronto Invitational and president of DWA Canada: "In reality, we're surprised. We feel we priced the event really well" (Jim Byers, TORONTO STAR, 12/8).