SBD/28/Franchises

MEC SAYS JETS DEAL IS DEAD; BETTMAN UNDER FIRE AGAIN

     The Manitoba Entertainment Complex, the group attempting to
buy a majority share of the Jets before May 1 in order to keep
the team in Winnipeg, said yesterday that the deal was dead after
the NHL "suddenly imposed" unacceptable conditions.  MEC Chair
John Loewen told a crowd gathered to hear about the new arena the
group wants to build that "the NHL has sabotaged" the MEC's
proposal (Nick  Martin & John Douglas, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS,
4/28).
     THE DEMANDS:  Toronto GLOBE & MAIL's David Roberts explains
the NHL's three conditions:  1) The MEC cannot sell the team
until they had lost at least C$25M; 2) The MEC would have to pay
a C$50M transfer fee if the team leaves before '99; 3) The MEC
cannot secure debts exceeding the value of the team -- currently
placed at C$50M.  Roberts writes that the MEC had planned to buy
majority owner Barry Shenkarow's shares for C$32M and build a new
arena for C$122M.  They were also asking for city, provincial and
federal governmental funding of up to C$130M in land, loans and
guarantees.  If the team could not turn a profit in a new arena,
they "planned to flip the franchise and repay the taxpayers for
their arena investment."  Roberts reports that the NHL "wants to
prevent teams from transferring to lucrative U.S. expansion
markets" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28).
     BLAME BETTMAN:   Canadian reports place the blame for the
failed deal heavily on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.  This
morning, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Columnist Brian Cole urges fans to
fax a coupon to Bettman demanding he reconsider the conditions.
Text: "Dear Gary:  Hockey is CANADA'S game.  I want the NHL to
drop the conditions imposed on the MEC and let Manitobans decide
whether the Jets will stay in Winnipeg."  Bettman's fax number is
included (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/28).  Winnipeg Mayor Susan
Thompson: "Mr. Bettman has said here's the reality of the NHL,
here's what it takes to play in the big league -- if you're not
in the big league -- then out" (David Roberts, Toronto GLOBE &
MAIL, 4/28).
     THERE'S STILL TIME:  MEC officials said they will not
concede the team until Monday's deadline, leaving WINNIPEG FREE
PRESS writer Scott Taylor to believe there is still hope for a
deal.  Taylor writes, "This soap opera isn't over."  Taylor
suggests that the MEC's refusal to agree to keep the team in town
until 2005 and not to move the team until it loses C$25M is
motivated by their desires for a "risk-free deal."  Taylor:
"Since when were losses during the next two years, a long-term
commitment to Winnipeg and rising player salaries big news" (WIN.
FREE PRESS, 4/28).
     HEADED FOR 'SOTA?  In Minneapolis, Jay Weiner examines a
possible Jets move to the Target Center.  Among the questions:
Can the team survive as second to the T-Wolves at the Target
Center? (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/28).
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