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The second-year Texas-Louisiana Baseball League, an independent operation outside the NAPBL, "might even turn a profit in 1995," according to Richard Alm of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The league projects revenues of $10-$12M, about double from last year, with a budget up to $9M. The league's opening weekend drew about 40,000 total for the first 20 games, average of 2,000/game. League President Doug Theodore: "Overall, we are very pleased, especially since we started a week earlier than last year" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/28)....Wimbledon officials will unveil a new, slower tennis ball this summer designed to make the tournament more attractive by taking away some of the speed of the serve. London's Sunday Mail said speed of serves will be reduced by 7-10% (Mult., 5/29)...3,397,951 fans attended AHL regular season and playoff games this season, topping last season's record high of 2,994,364, an increase of almost 14% (AHL)...The ATP Tour Smash Tennis, a mini-festival for kids, continues to draw crowds. In Paris last weekend, the Smash (presented by Reebok) drew a record crowd of over 18,000 at the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower (ATP)....The LPGA and DelWilber & Associates announced the introduction of the Sacramento LPGA Classic to the '96 LPGA Tour. The event will be held in early April at the Twelve Bridges Golf Club in Lincoln, CA (LPGA)...CNBC's Sue Herera reported last night that attendance at MLB games were down more than 21% over the Memorial Day weekend. Only four of the 13 games reported attendance of more than 30,000 ("SportsView," CNBC, 5/30).
The NBA and LA-based Top Rank have settled lawsuits against each other as a result of Top Rank's failed bid to buy the T- Wolves and move them to New Orleans. In a statement, NBA Commissioner David Stern said New Orleans is "an attractive, viable potential home for an NBA franchise," and that Top Rank "may pursue opportunities to attempt to purchase an NBA franchise or relocate an NBA team to New Orleans" (AP/Tacoma MORNING NEWS TRIBUNE, 5/31). Today's Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE reports that yesterday's decision by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was a "victory" for Top Rank, since it will allow the company to pursue its LA state case against former Wolves suitor Glenn Sexton and former Wolves owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner. The ruling has no affect on Glen Taylor's ownership of the Wolves. As for Top Rank's continuing legal action, Elliot Kaplan, the NBA's Minneapolis attorney, said, "The NBA is out of it" (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/31). BAD DREAM? St. Louis-based Dream Team Collectibles, Inc., has sued NBA Properties over the use of the term "Dream Team." The suit alleges the NBA "infringed on the company's trademark, which it says it began to use in 1986." The company, which makes commemorative sports items, said they applied for federal registration of the trademark in May '90, over a year before the NBA filed. The suit claims that since August '91, the NBA was "aware of the Dream Team's claim to the trademark. But in conjunction with the 1992 Olympics, the NBA began to use the trademark for its own purposes" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/26). THE WORLD ACCORDING TO M.L. Celtics Dir of Basketball Operations M.L. Carr denied "speculation around Celtics offices" that he will head a group to purchase the club. But Carr was "bullish on the NBA's earning potential." Carr: "I think pay- per-view is eventually going to come, and that's is going to open up a whole new world (of revenue). You take pay-per-view and put it with the globalization of the game and you can see how much room there is for growth. You look at the All-Star Game ... we had over 200 million people watching it around the world. Now, if you were doing that on pay-per-view at whatever number (cost), think of the money you would bring it for just that one event" (Steve Bulpett, BOSTON HERALD, 5/30).
A discussion paper by the NHL regarding European expansion, obtained by the CANADIAN PRESS, recommends the NHL and IIHF "establish an elite-league structure which would be on par with the top domestic leagues in Sweden, Finland, and Russia and would play interlocking games with already established top-level leagues." A second league, more of an expansion model, would feature a lower standard of competition and operate "in non- traditional hockey markets," such as Barcelona, Dortmund, London, Milan, Munich and Paris. The CP reports that some overseas partners "in the proposed venture are worried about the shoe- string approach under consideration." They feel the NHL's proposed salary structure "won't attract quality players and could wind up doing more harm than good in promoting the sport." The more advanced league would have a $48,000 salary cap, while expansion players would work under a $15,000 cap. Rickard Fagerlund, Chair of the IIHF-NHL working committee, said he was "not impressed with the plans and I have told them I'm not." Another European official: "With that kind of salary, what kind of player will you have? ... We have to bring to the big cites a good product." NHL VP Steve Solomon, the league's negotiator on European expansion, said the proposal "continues to be molded and modified ... I would call it a development approach." A tentative start date is September '96 (Alan Adams, CP/TORONTO STAR, 5/31). THE TURNER HIGH JUMP? In Toronto, George Gross examines Ted Turner's pursuit of an NHL team and indentifies two potential obstacles: Turner would have to build a new arena; and, financially, he would have to purchase "an existing, even floundering franchise. The NHL would not entertain an expansion team for Atlanta. The league's next two spots are reserved" (TORONTO SUN, 5/31). NEWS & NOTES: In Denver, Rick Morrissey of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS examines how the NHL has targeted the in-line skating boom to drum up interest in hockey. NHL VP of Corporate Communications Bernadette Mansur: "We've had market research that shows that 80% of the people watch the game for the action and the speed and skills. Less than 10% say it is for the fights." Morrissey writes that the NHL "has to find a way to close the gap between the excitement of a live hockey game and the difficulty of following it on TV" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 5/30)....Roller Hockey Int'l is profiled in today's N.Y. POST under the headline: "Roller Hockey Scoring Big with Young Fans in Third Season." by (Gersh Kuntzman, N.Y. POST, 5/31).