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Accompanied by local business leaders "prepared to guarantee the sale of loge and club seats in a refurbished stadium," Cleveland Mayor Michael White arrives in Atlanta today to make his case before NFL owners on the city's proposed Cleveland Stadium renovation. According to Len Pasquarelli of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, "How sympathetic an audience White encounters, however, remains to be seen." Pasquarelli notes of the 14 owners on the league's Finance and Stadium Committees, "eight either face stadium crises similar to those cited by Browns Owner Art Modell or have already announced that they are moving their teams to new cities" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/4). The owners are "eager" for White to present specifics of his $175M renovation plan, with much of the focus expected on Cleveland's corporate community and its willingness to purchase luxury suites and club seats. In response, White will have Harry Howell III, who was responsible for the successful marketing of Gund Arena and Jacobs Field boxes, outline his sales strategy. As for details, Nancy Lesic, White's press secretary, said they will keep specifics of the plan and the revenue projections secret until after the meeting of NFL owners on January 17 (Bart Hubbuch, Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 1/4). EARLY PEEK: Yesterday's Cleveland PLAIN DEALER notes the plan includes changes from the proposal offered the Browns days after the team's move announcement -- including an additional $6- 13M in costs to provide club seating. Frederick Nance, White's counsel on the stadium issue, said the added costs would be paid by club seat holders. The revenue breakdown: $140M from city sin and parking taxes; $26M from the state (although the state's 15% could mean more money under an expanded plan); $6M from the city Utilities Dept.; $3M from the Regional Transit Authority. Pre-renovations, the plan would guarantee the Browns $16.3M in new revenues in '96 and an average of $19M per year over 30 years (Heider & Koff, Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/3). DOUBTERS: According to several experts surveyed by the Baltimore SUN on the city's November 8 proposal to the Browns, it will not be an "easy sell." One source familiar with the new plan said it is "better" than the earlier proposal, but still follows "many of the same guidelines and assumptions." The SUN does note revenue estimates now could be as high as $200M (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 1/4).
The PGA Tour starts its season today at the Mercedes Championship at Lacosta on Carlsbad, CA. The Tour's 45 events feature a total of $66.6M in purse money. The LPGA, which gets underway next week, will have 39 events for $25.3M in prize money -- up $1M from '95. The Senior PGA Tour also has 39 events for $38.5M. In Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes that golf heads into '96 "in relatively strong shape" with World Tour and FTC problems settled. However, the controversy over CBS commentator Ben Wright still "lingers" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/4)....In an interview released by the Corel WTA Tour, Monica Seles expressed a desire for equal pay at future Australian Opens, but she said she still plans to play in the tournament. Seles: "I wish it wouldn't have happened ... [but] I always play because it doesn't matter to me" (Corel WTA Tour)....The CFL owes its Players' Association nearly $500,000 in overdue pension-fund payments at the same time they are trying to reduce roster sizes and cut pay. The CFLPA says it will not begin negotiations on a new CBA until the pension-fund issue is settled (TORONTO SUN, 1/4)....The NPSL announced its players will be allowed to participate in MLS combines to be held this month. NPSL Commissioner Steve Paxos said they are "glad to assist and cooperate" with MLS (NPSL).
While the baseball offseason has featured a "blizzard" of player movement, there is still no MLB labor agreement. Since it appears "unlikely" there will be a work stoppage during '96, MLB owners and players face a number of opportunities to announce labor peace, according to BASEBALL WEEKLY. Owners meetings scheduled for January 16-18 in L.A. will focus on revenue sharing, but Peter Pascarelli reports a framework for a new labor deal could be in place for discussion by then. Team GMs and managers will be at these meetings and they will draw significant media coverage setting a "stage" for labor news if it can be made. This would also coincide with the January opening of club season-ticket sales. The announcement of a new labor deal to open spring training would also be a "perfect PR sendoff" for the '96 season. If not done by then, Opening Day would be the next "crunch deadline" as Pascarelli notes MLB cannot go on indefinitely without a CBA (BASEBALL WEEKLY, 1/3-9 issue).
During the tenure of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, league GMs "have seen much of their power over league affairs ceded to the governors and league executives," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Past complaints focused on rule changes, but when they meet in Tucson on February 5, Shoalts predicts the issue will be scheduling. GMs are unhappy with the amount of travel and distribution of home dates. Maple Leafs President & GM Cliff Fletcher: "Each team has its own philosophy when it comes to the schedule. Some teams want to maximize gate receipts, so they'll ask for certain dates. Others want a maximum competitive advantage, and others want to maximize their TV schedule. Now the league has taken teams out of the picture on the schedule." Under Bettman, former NHL Dir of Administration Phil Scheuer was let go in favor of a fully computerized system. League officials note that teams are allowed to present preferred dates before the schedule is done and can request changes after. The league acknowledges the complaints, but the system is unlikely "to undergo any radical changes" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/4).