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EXPANSION CITIES CELEBRATE, BEGIN OPERATIONS
Published March 13, 1995
Both the Devil (Manta?) Rays and Diamondbacks entered their first weekend of existence with celebrations planned and the drive for season tickets at a peak. A look at other happenings on the expansion scene: WELCOME WAGON: After MLB owners threatened to raise the franchise fee by $35M to $175M, Diamondbacks Owner Jerry Colangelo remarked to Rays Owner Vince Naimoli: "This is not the way we treat our future partners in the NBA. The new owners know months in advance they're getting a team. There are no surprises. We want them to feel good about joining us" (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12). JUST IN CASE: "Jilted seven times since 1984," Naimoli was ready with a response if MLB owners rejected Tampa for an eighth time. Naimoli had a letter in his pocket signed by FL Attorney General Bob Butterworth informing the owners that "legal action was commencing immediately on behalf of Tampa Bay against Major League Baseball." He didn't need to use it (Tracy Ringolsby, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/12). GIVE AN INCH, TAKE A FOOT: Already the owner of a lease with the ThunderDome that one former MLB owner called the "best lease in baseball," Rays officials say they "'may' revisit the lease's financial terms." But St. Pete city officials say the team may "find the well dry." The team already will manage the dome, its employees and receive all profits from non-baseball events. The Rays also have the rights to sell the Dome's name and keep the first $10M plus 40% of the remaining profits from that deal. Plus, the club will receive $1.4M from the city during each of the first three years of the lease. The city receives $.50 from each ticket sold (Noam Neusner, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11). State officials say improvements to the ThunderDome must help the Rays operate or make money to receive funding. FL Sports Foundation Exec Dir Larry Pendleton said a waterfall did not merit state fuding (Noam Neusner, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12). EASY FINANCING: In Phoenix, Former Maricopa County Supervisor Jim Bruner, the man who cast the deciding vote for county funding for the Diamondbacks' new retractable dome stadium, says the $253M debt generated to build the park will be serviced by the time the team takes the field. Bruner: "Basically, by the time the first (baseball) season comes around the debt will be gone." County taxpayers will pay for the park with a quarter-cent sales tax increase (Mary Joe Pitzl, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/12). NONE FOR YOU! If MLB decides to expand and bring the number of teams to 32, the Rays and Diamondbacks will not see any of the fees. As part of the expansion agreement, they were told they would be excluded from the next round of expansion revenues (Joe Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12). THE NAME GAME: By 6pm Friday, more than 15,000 people had called the hotline to choose between Devil Rays and Manta Rays for Tampa's team name. Four telephone lines were added to the eight originally set up to take calls because of the massive response (Bob Chick TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11). TAMPA TRIBUNE columnist Steve Otto on some of the reaction he's received from fans disturbed by the Devil Rays name: One "guy wanted me to know that Devil Ray spelled backward is 'yar lived' and that the word 'yar' is a satanic dog" (Steve Clark, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/11). GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT: Another 100 $50 season ticket deposits were received Friday, giving the Rays a total of 32,179. The team also received another $5,000 luxury suite deposit (Bob Chick, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11). VIRGINIANS UNITE! Northern VA leaders were told to "settle on one investor group" if they want to have a chance at MLB's next expansion. Both Virginia Baseball, led by William Collins, and Capital Baseball, led by Bart Fisher, represented the region in vying for the latest round of expansion (Eric Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 3/11). Fisher will "push for stadium plans to continue, even without a team" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/11). For news on a possible Expos move to Northern VA, See #14.