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The franchise entry fee for each UBL ownership group is $5M and co-founder Bob Mrazek estimates start-up costs at $20M per team (THE DAILY). NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial held his own press conference following the UBL's tele-conference announcing the city's intent to assemble a local ownership group with strong minority involvement. Morial said the UBL franchise will give the city an economic boost during the "slack" tourism months of June through August (George Sweeney, New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/15). WASHINGTON, DC: Mrazek said the league has received a commitment from Jim Dalrymple, Exec Dir of the DC Sports Commission, that UBL will immediately conclude lease negotiations for the use of RFK on a multi-year basis with a "long-term" and "exclusive" lease -- if Northern VA is not awarded an MLB franchise by April 2, 1995. Former U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen is the designated leader of the DC franchise group (THE DAILY). In Washington, Mark Maske notes that the area's best chance of getting a professional baseball team "rests" with the UBL (WASHINGTON POST, 2/15). VANCOUVER: The UBL franchise would play in B.C. Place, a domed facility with a seating capacity of 55,818 for baseball and the potential for up to 110 luxury suites. Warren Buckley, President/CEO of the British Columbia Pavilion Corp., operators of B.C. Place: "The news of the UBL coming to Vancouver has received very positive reaction. City and provincial leaders are excited to host a big league baseball team" (UBL). According to Mrazek, Buckley has requested time to build a local ownership group, but the league is committed to providing help from its national investors. However, Buckley is quoted in this morning's papers saying it was not his job to find a local ownership group: "I've told the UBL my job is not to convince (owners) on their behalf but to get them the audience and let them do the convincing" (Terry Bell, Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/15). Mrazek said the UBL received a commitment for an exclusive lease with B.C. Place, in light of the Mariners' plans to play 8-10 games a year there (THE DAILY). Brent Imlach, GM of the AAA Vancouver Canadians, said the Japanese company that owns his club will not be involved (TORONTO SUN, 2/15). SAN JUAN: San Juan Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo: "Baseball is deeply rooted in the culture of our island and we look forward to being first in the Latin American baseball market." The franchise will be housed at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which hosted the Caribbean World Series (UBL). GREATER NEW YORK: Mrazek said the league has three different options for this area: Long Island, Brooklyn and Northern NJ, with prospective ownership interested in each locale. Mrazek: "The issue in New York ... is complicated by the fact that there is no adequate stadium." Any new stadium would have to have a minimum 25,000-seat capacity. The league has retained Dallas-based HKS, designers of The Ballpark at Arlington, to develop a prototype facility for the UBL. For '96, the league would need a temporary facility in New York, and plans are under way to develop facilities similar to those for Atlanta '96 (THE DAILY). Murray Chass notes Mrazek "didn't say, but the likelihood is that ultimately one team will play in New Jersey and another in Brooklyn or Long Island" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15). SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles or the Riverside-San Bernardino area are the two prospective sites, and UBL claims to have at least two prospective investor groups. As for Riverside/San Bernardino, there is no adequate stadium but Mrazek said there is a "definitive interest" to see a stadium built. Moss added that in discussions with the L.A. Coliseum Commission, they said the stadium would be re-configured to become a "true baseball facility" -- not like the way it was when the Dodgers used the venue in '58 (THE DAILY). In Riverside, Maureen Delany notes the 3,500-seat Riverside Sports Center exists in a residential neighborhood and could not be expanded easily. Meanwhile, Pat Lynch, GM of the Coliseum and L.A. Sports Arena, said he has spoken with UBL reps but is waiting for more information (Riverside PRESS ENTERPRISE, 2/15).
As expected, Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch, and Sens. Pat Moynihan and Bob Graham introduced the first bipartisan legislation to address MLB's antitrust exemption. The bill would permit players to sue if the owners again attempt to implement an economic system. Hatch: "This would not affect baseball's ability to control franchise relocation, nor would it affect the minor leagues." The bill would not impose a settlement, but the players have promised to return if it passes -- probably resulting in a lockout by owners (Steve Daley, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/15). LOW EXPECTATIONS: Reaction among Hatch's Republican colleagues was less than favorable. Sen. Trent Lott, No. 2 in the Senate leadership: "Totally insane. We're not going to get in the middle of a baseball strike." Lott, who says he backs the idea of ending the exemption, said he would "not be part of a deal that would force one side or another into an agreement." House Speaker Newt Gingrich echoed Lott: "I'm not sure I want to use [Hatch's bill] as a club to beat up the owners on behalf of the players." House Judiciary Chair Henry Hyde said he would be willing to hold hearings on the exemption, but not until "later this year" (Steve Daley, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/15). MLB General Counsel Chuck O'Connor on the Hatch bill: "It's a straw man. It's a false issue. It deserves no attention because it is special-interest legislation" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/15). TODAY'S HEARING: Scheduled witnesses for today's baseball hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Business and Competition: Moynihan, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, Graham, Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, Red Sox CEO John Harrington, former assistant Attorney General James Rill, MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, Royals Player Rep David Cone, Indians veteran Eddie Murray and former FTC General Counsel Kevin Arquit (USA TODAY, 2/15).
The United Baseball League announced its six location for charter franchises: New Orleans, Washington, Vancouver, San Juan, Greater New York and Southern California. The announcement was made by UBL co-founders -- former U.S. Rep. Bob Mrazek, player agent Dick Moss, U.S. Rep. John Bryant and economist Andrew Zimbalist -- from the league's headquarters in New York City. UBL's inaugural '96 season will be played with a minimum of eight franchises. UBL officials identified a number of locations as the other potential '96 sites: New England (either Hartford or Worcester), Sacramento, San Antonio, Honolulu, Miami, Orlando, Portland, OR, Jacksonville, Columbus, OH, Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico (THE DAILY). GAME/RULES STRUCTURE: The league intends to play a 154-game schedule. Noting changes brought about in other sports by upstart leagues, Mrazek said the UBL will make an effort to speed up the game without affecting its integrity. As for player development, the UBL hopes to develop their own minor league as well as work with independent minor leagues, including the Texas- Louisiana League, whose commissioner is John Bryant, a UBL co- founder (THE DAILY). Dick Moss: "Players in our league are going to share in profits, they will share in equity interests in teams and they will share also in decision-making as much as possible. There will not be this kind of a confrontational attitude where in the establishment now, the owners feel the players are the enemy, and vice-versa" (CNBC, 2/14). TIMING AND SCHEDULE: Expect the UBL to issue a series of announcements in the coming weeks, dealing with either new franchises, stadium construction or rule changes. TV DEAL/SPONSORS: Mrazek said UBL has had contact with two different national networks: "Essentially, their interest is in determining what our markets are going to be. ... There was a time when a network contract was in fact the only game in town in order to determine the viability of a new league. ... But with the growth of regional TV and cable TV and a whole range of wireless and satellite services and pay-per-view, there are a whole lot of things that we have to look at." Mrazek said the league is presently not in need of short-term income, and that it would be a few months before they begin courting corporate sponsors (THE DAILY).