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An estimated 35,000 Winnipeggers rallied yesterday in a fund-raising effort to keep the team from being moved to MN. Meanwhile, CanWest Global TV head Izzy Asper, who is "spearheading the effort" to keep the team in Winnipeg, told the Winnipeg City Council yesterday that he has written commitments for C$32M and verbal commitments for C$30M to save the team, and that he will make a bid to Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow if he has C$60M "in writing" by Thursday (Tim Campbell, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/17). BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG: "Everything from the contents of childrens' piggy banks" to a C$10M commitment from a local businessman was poured into the campaign to save the team. Even prisoners got involved, as "more than 100" inmates at Rockward institution North of the city donated their C$5.28 daily pay to the Jets cause. Local McDonald's and Burger King outlets will donate C$1 for every large sandwich sold. Fans at last night's rally donated more than C$100,000 (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/17). ARENA FINANCING: The Winnipeg City Council's support to fund a third of the cost for a new arena for the Jets "looked solid last night, after a last minute flurry of proposals were raised that could spare homeowners from property-tax increases," according to this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. The Manitoba provincial government has already pledged to pay their third -- C$37M -- but, the federal government "remained non-committal." Winnipeg's share of the C$111M arena may be funded through an increase in the city's business tax, effective '97. According to a proposal by Winnipeg Chief Commissioner Rick Frost, the tax would rise from 9.8% to 10.3%. Mayor Susan Thompson predicted that all three branches of government would approve their respective tax plans by 5pm today. Thompson added that the proposed business tax increase "would not be necessary" if the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecom Commission approves a plan that would allow pay-TV for Jets games (Nick Martin, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/17). HELP IN MN? Richard Burke, who is trying to buy the Jets and lure them to Minnesota, has told MN Gov. Arne Carlson that he wants state help. Burke did not specify the amount he is seeking. According to the Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, Burke "strongly endorsed" a funding approach that would give the state a stake in the team. The MN Legislature is scheduled to decide on a plan before they adjourn Monday (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/16).
NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman "is maneuvering" to keep the Devils from accepting a lucrative deal to move to Nashville, according to Richard Sandomir in this morning's N.Y. TIMES. Sandomir reports that Whitman plans to meet with the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority today, and has assigned her husband, who is an investment banker, to "devise a proposal to satisfy the Devils, without giving away the store." In an interview Monday night, Whitman said she would consider adding more luxury boxes to the Brendan Byrne Arena. The Nashville Metro Council last night approved a resolution giving any team that moves to the city's new arena attractive lease incentives, including: A $20M relocation fee plus yearly rent of $750,000 or 5% of ticket sales; 100% of game ticket revenue, 100% of radio-TV revenue and 97.5% of luxury suite revenue; revenues from game-day merchandise, parking and concessions, scoreboard, sideboard, and 50% of all other arena advertising. In addition, Sandomir reports that "privately, the league looks favorably upon the possibility of the Nashville Devils. It would ease the three- team overcrowding" in the New York market, "and let the NHL establish the first major league sports team in Nashville" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/17). MUSIC CITY CHIMES IN: By a 21-12 vote, the Nashville Metro Council approved a measure last night allowing the arena to sell beer in the new arena after opposition from some conservative Christian ministers. Councilman Ronnie Stein: "I have been told our window of opportunity for the NHL is only three or four months wide. And at that time, it may close for years into the future" (Mark Ippolito, Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/17). However, while local politicos are enthusiastic about attracting a pro sports team, Nashville's pursuit of an NHL franchise "continues to be greeted with something less than enthusiasm by many sports- minded citizens," writes columnist David Climer of the TENNESSEAN. Climer reports that many residents are "shocked" by the cost of NHL tickets and are "concerned" about downtown parking (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/16).
"Barring some unforeseen event, it's all over for the Quebec Nordiques as an NHL franchise north of the U.S. border," according to Robert McKenzie in today's TORONTO STAR. The team "bluntly rejected" a C$50M "rescue package" proposed by the Quebec provincial government yesterday, and according to Quebec's two main TV networks (TVA and Radio Canada), the team could be sold to Comsat Video Enterprises and moved to Denver as early as Friday (TORONTO STAR, 5/17). ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH HOPES: A close friend of Nordiques Co-Owner Marcel Aubut told the DENVER POST that Aubut believes there is a "99 percent chance the team will move to Denver." According to Aubut's friend, the price of the sale to Comsat, reportedly $75M, is said to be more in the $65- 70M range. If the sale goes through, Aubut stands to clear about $15M in profit (Adrian Dater, DENVER POST, 5/17). The DENVER POST reported yesterday that a source who spoke with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was told that "Bettman would be 'shocked' if the team didn't move to Denver" (DENVER POST, 5/16). One source close to Aubut told the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS that Aubut "might continue to work with the team, as a consultant, once it is sold to Comsat" (Curtis Eichelberger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/17). Aubut: "The Nordiques' owners don't want what happened in Winnipeg to repeat itself in Quebec" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/17). PENCIL THEM IN? One NHL GM reports that he received a tentative '95-96 NHL schedule with Denver included (DENVER POST, 5/17). NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus denied such a schedule exists (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/17). THE DEAD DEAL: The Quebec government offered to pay up to $7M of the team's debts over each of the next two years, and to come up with another $7M for a third year should they decide to build a new arena. In addition, the government has also offered to cover 70% of the difference if the team must be sold in two years at a price lower that the current offers. But the offer did not come with conditions. Over the next two years, the team would have to show that it can sell 80 corporate boxes, get a "rein on rampaging player salaries" and show what measures the league would take to help small market teams. Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau said those conditions seemed to be the sticking point (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/17). Parizeau: "These are things you have to try, but you can't be taken by the ambition of certain people whose eyes become bigger than their appetite. It didn't work. I deplore it, but the episode is closed" (Adrian Dater, DENVER POST, 5/17). FAN REAX: In Montreal, Philip Authier reports that fans are planning a demonstration today in front of the National Assembly to "press the government." Yesterday, Urbain Johnson, one of the Nordiques founders, said he has a 75,000-name petition "urging more government help that he wants to give the Premier" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 5/17).
Officials close to negotiations said yesterday "the Oakland- rooted franchise is close -- but just short -- of an agreement to return north," according to David Li in today's OAKLAND TRIBUNE. Coliseum President George Vukasin and City Council member Ignacio De La Fuente said the East Bay offer to the Raiders "is gaining serious consideration," but both officials have denied that Raiders Owner Al Davis had accepted. The fate of the Raiders is expected to be decided next week at the NFL owners meeting in Jacksonville, and although he would not comment on "specific stadium issues," a Raiders spokesperson "hinted" yesterday that the meetings "could help settle the issue" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/17).