SBD/3/Franchises

WAS IT FAREWELL OR AU REVOIR FOR WINNIPEG FANS LAST NIGHT?

     The Jets may have played their last game in Winnipeg last
night, a 2-1 loss to the L.A. Kings.  According to sources cited
in this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, the team could be headed
to Minnesota "as early as today under a deal brokered by NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman."  The reported deal would be for $75M
and is said to have been negotiated over the weekend by Bettman
and Dana Warg, who manages Minneapolis' Target Center.  The MN
group "has apparently been told to get its financing ready by
today and that they could be selling season tickets in
Minneapolis by early tomorrow."  Bettman would neither confirm
nor deny that he has had contact with possible investors.
Bettman:  "People call me on a regular basis wanting to buy an
NHL team" (Douglas & Taylor, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/3).
     DON'T START THOSE MOVING VANS YET:  The Manitoba
Entertainment Complex (MEC), "refused to say die last night as
they worked to cobble together a last-minute deal to keep the
franchise in Winnipeg and build a new arena."  Jets Owner Barry
Shenkarow had extended his May 1 midnight deadline for MEC, which
had turned to the federal government for financial support.  MEC
is said to have attracted a new C$10M investor, but they "did not
get what they wanted" from federal Human Resources Minister Lloyd
Axworthy.  In addition, last night, Shenkarow said that MEC's
option to buy 64% of the team for C$32M had expired and that the
price is now doubled -- a development which MEC members disputed
(Douglas & Taylor, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/3).  Axworthy said that
MEC has applied for federal funds under a federal-provincial
infrastructure plan, but that any deal depends on the existence
of an "acceptable business plan."  The Toronto GLOBE & MAIL
reports that an emergency meeting of the Winnipeg City Council
will take place today to examine a new MEC plan.  An MEC source
said the group may be able to produce an extra C$18M to rescue
their bid for the team (Christie/Delacourt/Roberts, Toronto GLOBE
& MAIL, 5/3).
     FROM LAST NIGHT'S GAME:  Shenkarow held a press conference
between the 2nd and 3rd periods of last night's game, which was
carried by ESPN.  ESPN's Bill Clement:   "I think we can describe
it best as a non-press conference." Clement, on Shenkarow's
assertion that for the team to survive, it would need to have a
new rink built, play rent free and receive all concession
revenue: "Is that going to happen?  Unh-unh."  In a subsequent
interview, Jets GM John Paddock said of the situation:  "There
could be a chance, but it doesn't look good" ("National Hockey
Night," 5/2).
     BETTMAN READY TO PULL THE TRIGGER:  Bettman, on the Jets:
"If this team is pre-ordained to move, then I think we should get
it over with and not, at taxpayer expense, build a white
elephant" (Mary Ormsby, TORONTO STAR, 5/3).  Bettman, from ESPN:
"The problem we're having in Winnipeg is that nobody wants to
stand behind the franchise.  It's almost as if they want to make
a charitable contribution to the opera, and if it doesn't work,
have it go out of business.  Well, you can't do that with a
professional sports franchise" ("National Hockey Night," ESPN,
5/2).
     PLAIN SPEAKING:  Columnist John Dafoe notes that no MEC
member was willing to assume enough risk to convince the NHL that
the team would be secure.  Dafoe writes, "The message from that
is very simple.  If the private investors were not sufficiently
convinced of the soundness of the arena and Jets deal to invest
their own money in it, there was no way on earth that governments
should make their taxpayers take that risk" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS,
5/3).
     OFF TO MINNESOTA?  While Shenkarow denied having received
any formal offers for the team, one NHL source said "Barry's
ready to open his mail now" -- suggesting that there have been
inquiries.  According to this morning's Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE,
the Nederlander family from New York -- brothers Harry, James and
Robert, all partners in the Yankees and Broadway investors --
have joined the leading MN-based group, led by health care
entrepeneur Richard Burke.  A representative of the Nederalanders
is expected in Winnipeg today.  The Metropolitan Sports
Facilities Commission met yesterday to discuss possible public
funding, but MSFC Chair Harvey Savelkoul said any such talk is
"premature."  However, the Target Center's Warg called for some
"creative" public financing.  Warg:  "We could be playing 41
games and playoffs next season" (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR
TRIBUNE, 5/3).
     IT WON'T BE ATLANTA:  Both Turner Sports President Harvey
Schiller and Braves/Hawks President Stan Kasten said it is highly
unlikely that Ted Turner would bring an NHL team to Atlanta
before a new arena is built.  Schiller said there have been no
talks between Turner and the Jets -- or any other NHL team.
Recent reports have had Turner offering $65M for the Jets.
Kasten:  "Our first priority is the arena.  Anything else would
be putting the cart before the horse" (Tim Tucker, ATLANTA
CONSTITUTION, 5/3).
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