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  • BUCS GET NEEDED TICKET GUARANTEE FROM COUNTY

         The Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 in favor of a
    plan to guarantee attendance at Bucs home games for the next two
    years, according to today's ST. PETERSBURG TIMES.  The deal still
    "hinges on approval by the Tampa City Council."  County
    Commission Chair Jim Norman said the guarantee gives Tampa the
    "chance to prove itself worthy" of an NFL team:  "If this
    community does not put 55,000 fans in the stadium, we are all
    wasting our time."  The agreement stipulates that if the team
    does not draw 55,000 or more to a game, the county and city will
    make up the difference -- up to 10,000 tickets per game.  The
    county will pay 2/3 of the cost, the city 1/3.  If the Bucs only
    average 45,000, the county could pay more than $1.3M.  The last
    year the Bucs exceeded 55,000 was '90. Last year, the team
    averaged only 44,221.  The Bucs already has sold 30,000 season
    tickets, well ahead of last year's 23,000.  The team expects to
    reach 35,000 (Larry Dougherty, ST. PETE TIMES, 5/4).
    

    Print | Tags: Franchises, NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • QUEBEC CITY: CANADA'S NEXT SMALL-MARKET CRISIS?

         The Quebec provincial government said it will "bail out the
    financially strapped" Nordiques and build a new arena, "but only
    if it becomes a shareholder and the club agrees to a cap on
    spending," according to Rheal Seguin in today's Toronto GLOBE &
    MAIL.  Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau said the province would
    not "inject funds" into any team without having some control over
    how those funds are used.  As a partial owner, the government
    would get its money back if the team is sold.  Parizeau noted
    this is the government's second offer to buy an interest in the
    team.  The first offer was turned down by Nordiques President
    Marcel Aubut.  Parizeau gave no indication of what percentage the
    Province seeks or how much money was offered.  Aubut has
    "demanded" that the Province build a new arena that the team
    could use rent-free.  Aubut also wants the government to assume
    the club's operating debt for whatever time it takes to build the
    new arena.  If those conditions are not met by May 15, Aubut will
    sell the team.  He reportedly has a $75M offer from Comsat in
    Denver (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4).
         STRATEGY?  Key to Aubut's strategy, according to Seguin, is
    his belief that the Parti Quebecois government will not
    "jeopardize its referendum chances by allowing the Nordiques to
    leave Quebec."  And although Aubut has talked about selling the
    team, "many believe" that he is not willing to give up control
    (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4).
    

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  • SMITH BARNEY TO PUT TOGETHER BID FOR LABATT DEAL

         Smith Barney officials confirmed that the firm is working to
    assemble a deal in which Quilmes International SA would acquire
    John Labatt Ltd.  Labatt is owner of the Blue Jays, SkyDome, TSN,
    and the CFL Argonaunts.  Quilmes is a Luxembourg-based brewer
    operating in South America.  The deal would also involve Canada's
    Onex Corp.  The announcement confirms the fact that Onex, a
    leveraged buyout specialist, is "actively pursuing the purchase
    of Labatt, although the stock market seems to think the
    likelihood of a takeover is fading."  The stock has dropped
    almost C$2 since a 52-week high two weeks ago after news of
    Onex's interest in Labatt was reported.  Frederique Carrier, an
    analyst with Latinvest Securities Ltd. in London, said Quilmes
    has been interested in expanding into Mexico, and Labatt's Femsa
    Cerveza brewery would fit into Quilmes' "growth strategy" (Marina
    Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4).
    

    Print | Tags: CFL, Franchises, Labatt Brewing, Toronto Blue Jays
  • WHERE WILL THE JETS LAND? MINNESOTA CLEARS THE RUNWAY

         Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow said if the sale of his team to a
    group from MN is going to happen, "it's going to happen in the
    next week.  I'm a deal maker."  In the Twin Cities, Jay Weiner
    identifies two groups who want to bring the team to the Target
    Center:  One led by health care entrepreneur Richard Burke; the
    other, a non-MN group led by Yankees limited partners Robert,
    Harry and James Nederlander.  Burke "seems to have the inside
    track."  Meanwhile, Weiner reports that MN Gov. Arne Carlson
    "said, for the first time, he's willing to consider some state
    aid to lure the team to Minnesota."  Target Center Exec Dir Dana
    Warg said he believed a purchase "could come as soon as Monday."
    Burke's group includes former Nuggets exec Tim Leiweke and Robert
    Naegele III, of the National In-Line Hockey Association
    (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/4).  Burke is profiled on the front
    page of this morning's STAR TRIBUNE.  Tom Kennedy & David Phelps
    write, "While it is premature to say whether his group will land
    the Jets in Minnesota, area pro hockey fans should take heart in
    knowing that Burke often gets what he wants" (Minneapolis STAR
    TRIBUNE, 5/4).
         THE BIG QUESTION:  Vikings President Roger Headrick:  "The
    basic issue is can this community, given the present state of the
    Timberwolves and the Twins and the Vikings, support a fourth
    professional sports franchise?  I'm not sure" (Minneapolis STAR
    TRIBUNE, 5/4).  Yesterday, that question was examined in two STAR
    TRIB pieces.  Jay Weiner notes the return of the NHL to MN "could
    affect a half-dozen other issues," including:  $20M from the sale
    of the land from the old Met Center site; "the perceived
    obsolescence" of the Metrodome, with $40M in improvements "on the
    drawing board"; current and future demands of the Vikings and
    Twins, including a possible new $300M retractable dome baseball
    stadium; and the life expectancy of the Metropolitan Sports
    Facilities Commission (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 5/3).  Columnist
    Tom Barreiro compares the atmosphere now to two years ago when
    Stars owner Norm Green moved to Dallas.  Former North Stars
    President Lou Nanne:  "The key question is whether the corporate
    community supports the new owners with suite revenue and things
    like that.  That's what will make you or break you" (Minneapolis
    STAR-TRIBUNE, 5/3).
         CANADA'S SAVIOR?  Hamilton will try to pull together a bid
    to keep the Jets in Canada as a tenant of Copps Coliseum,
    according to today's HAMILTON SPECTATOR.  The bid is not only
    complicated by competitors from U.S. cities, but also by the fact
    that both the Maple Leafs and Sabres would "demand huge payments
    for territorial indemnification if a team moved to Hamilton."
    Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow:  "We're the only city in Canada with a
    ready-made facility in a market of seven million people who love
    hockey."  Gabe Macaluso, CEO of Hamilton Entertainment and
    Convention Facilities, has been in touch with three prospective
    ownership groups and contacted the NHL on the city's interest.
    Hamilton lost an NHL expansion bid in '90 (John Kernaghan,
    HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 5/4).
         MUSIC CITY TUNES UP:  The STAR TRIBUNE's Weiner reports that
    Nashville, backed by Gaylord Entertainment, owners of The
    Nashville Network, "is a new entry into the fray."  Weiner calls
    Nashville "a likely backup if Minnesota can't pull off the Jets
    deal" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/4).
    

    Print | Tags: Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Denver Nuggets, Franchises, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, New York Yankees, NHL, Southwest Sports Group, Toronto Maple Leafs, YankeeNets
  • WINNIPEG LOSES BATTLE TO KEEP THE JETS

         "Winnipeg's 23-year love affair with major league hockey
    ended yesterday in tears and recriminations," writes John Douglas
    in this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS.  John Loewen, Chair of the
    Manitoba Entertainment Complex, which had sought to buy the team
    and build a new arena, told a news conference, "This is going to
    hurt for a while but the facts are the NHL is not prepared to
    make hockey a viable sport in small-market cities like Winnipeg."
    Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson:  "We have reached the point where
    we are not prepared to pay the price, the NHL price."  Jets Owner
    Barry Shenkarow said he has given two interested buyers 48 hours
    to put together offers to move the Jets to Minneapolis.  Sources
    put the price at $70M (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4).  Shenkarow:
    "I've been trying for 15 years to keep this team in Winnipeg, to
    let the politicians know that without a new arena the team
    couldn't continue to be profitable.  Nobody listened" (Scott
    Taylor, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4).
         DEAL-BREAKER:  Analyzing MEC's last-ditch efforts, John
    Douglas calls the NHL's requirement that the new owners hold the
    team for seven years the "deal-breaker" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS,
    5/4).  In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman praised the
    Jets' "loyal" fans, but said:  "We have exhausted every avenue in
    the hopes that the Jets could remain, but it appears that no one
    in the private sector believes, after extensive analysis, that a
    team in Winnipeg is economically viable" (NHL).  Manitoba Premier
    Gary Filmon seemed to agree:  "If nobody in the private sector is
    willing to take the risk of maintaining it here even after we in
    the public sector are willing to virtually turn over a new
    facility debt free to them, you have to ask how viable is it for
    anybody to operate a team in the NHL in this market?" (David
    Roberts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4).
         COMMENTARY:  In Toronto, Gare Joyce blames the Jets' failure
    on the original decision to bring WHA cities into the NHL.  Joyce
    calls the team's move "not unexpected, just overdue" and "an
    adjustment in a business 16 years after an expedient decision"
    (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4).
         WHAT NEXT?  Winnipeg City Councilor Bill Clement said there
    will be a meeting between the Winnipeg Enterprises Corp.,
    operators of Winnipeg Arena, and the IHL.  IHL VP Communications
    Tim Bryant admitted that there have been "conversations" about
    the city, but not to the point where any finances were discussed.
    Bryant said that the fee for the next wave of IHL expansion will
    likely jump to $8M (Supleve & Lyons, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4).
    

    Print | Tags: Franchises, New York Jets, NHL
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