Although no definite decisions were made during a conference call Friday, MLB's expansion committee "is thinking 1998 for two new teams to begin play, rather than a year earlier." Also discussed were the expansion fees, which is expected to be between $125M and $140M, the timing of the payments, and when the new teams should start sharing national broadcast money. Favorites for expansion continue to be Phoenix and Tampa Bay. Vince Naimoli, who heads the Tampa Bay group: "It's not a surprise to me, I guess. I was optimistic it would be '97, but the obstacles proved to be too large" (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/11). In Washington, Mark Maske writes that Metro DC's chances "were dealt a blow." Northern VA stood the best chance of being included in the first round due to the fact that Phoenix can't have its retractable roof stadium ready until '98 (WASHINGTON POST, 2/11). "DONE DEAL" IN PHOENIX? Jerry Colangelo, president of the Suns and head of a group bidding for an expansion baseball franchise for Phoenix, said that he saw no possibility that Phoenix's bid could be derailed. Colangelo told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY: "We have the market. They've expressed their great interest in having us participate. I think on March 9th when the owners meet in Palm Beach it should be a done deal. We're looking forward to the future of baseball, not the present circumstances of baseball. And we're excited about building a $275 million facility that will be a world-class facility." Asked whether he had any concerns about joining the MLB's ownership ranks considering the game's present condition, Colangelo said, "I think baseball has a great future because it can't get any worse. It can only get better." Asked his position on the present dispute, Colangelo held up the NBA as a model: "You have a partnership that exists between the players and the owners -- a revenue-sharing plan. ... We've never had a work stoppage in the NBA. Why not look at that model and pattern yourself after it?" (THE DAILY). THE NHL, TOO? According to Friday's ARIZONA REPUBLIC, if one of Canada's small-market teams falters, it could end up in Phoenix. Phoenix Arena Sports President Bryan Colangelo: "We've had discussions with some NHL teams and that has been on public record. We've also had discussions with others who remain nameless and have been on hold due to situations working out locally and in those respective cities. But we are keeping a watchful eye on those scenarios and are waiting for something to come out of it." Jerry Colangelo is confident Phoenix will get an NHL team, and according to the REPUBLIC, Colangelo has been assured by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that the league wants a franchise in Phoenix. J. Colangelo: "The question is only when and how, whether it's two or three years, and whether it's through expansion or relocation" (TORONTO STAR, 2/11).
The Oakland Athletics Baseball Company announced the selection of San Francisco-based Hoffman/Lewis as its new ad agency. One focus of the Hoffman/Lewis ad campaign is the A's new ticket policy reducing ticket prices through April, regardless of whether replacements are in uniform. Ticket prices have been rolled back to '81 levels and reduced up to 78%. A's VP/Business Operations Alan Ledford: "These are unusual times for Major League Baseball. Given the current labor situation, our marketing challenge is to re-awaken fan interest in the A's and bring them back to the Oakland Coliseum." According to the A's, Hoffman/Lewis created a "unique, highly recognized campaign" for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Commission last summer. This effort raised awareness and support for keeping the A's in Oakland (A's). OTHER AD NEWS: According to NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay, new sales pitches for most MLB teams "essentially will cover three bases: the image of the game, lower prices and the ballpark atmosphere." The Tigers' current TV ads feature hot-dog vendors; the Dodgers portray a trip to the park as "enhancing family values"; and the Yankees promote a stadium tour including the field and the dugouts (NEWSDAY, 2/10).