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The NFL's deal to return football to Cleveland not only includes a provision calling on local companies to guarantee they will rent most of the new stadium's loge and club seats for 10 years, it also states that Cleveland Tomorrow, a group representing the city's top corporations, will be responsible for providing a "cushion" against unsold luxury seats beyond that time. That cushion would come in the form of upfront cash -- a $3M deposit by December 31 -- or a $10M line of credit. But, according to the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, Cleveland Tomorrow Exec Dir Joseph Roman said his group learned of that commitment just this week when final documents were released by Cleveland Mayor Michael White. Kenneth Silliman, an Exec Assistant to Mayor White, stressed that other businesses would be asked for "seed money" in addition to Cleveland Tomorrow. He did not name a specific organization (Stephen Koff, Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/28). GIVE IT UP: Columnist Terry Pluto argues that those on the City Council who oppose the NFL's deal with the city should remember one thing, "It's over." Pluto writes, "You may not believe White secured the best deal, but hands were shook, papers were signed" (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 2/29). OSU WILLING FOR SHORT-TERM: OSU President Gordon Gee said the school would accommodate an NFL team in Columbus, but not for more than two years (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/28).
With a '96 start postponed due to stadium and ownership problems, UBL President Mike Stone reaffirmed the league plans to start with a 154-game schedule in March '97. Stone promises a "rather major announcement" next month, likely concerning experiments the league may be considering on the rules and speed of the game (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/29).... James Bassett III, President of Breeders' Cup Limited, announced that Hollywood Park will be the site of the '97 Championship (Breeders' Cup)....The AVP announced its '96 Miller Lite/AVP Tour schedule, with the outdoor season starting March 8 in Las Vegas. Five of the tour's stops will be franchised out to on-site promoters, including two to P.S./Stargames, the firm managed by AVP CEO Jerry Solomon (AVP)....So far this season, the NBA has levied 44 fines for $261,500 and suspended 28 players for a total of 31 games. Last season, there were 35 fines for $305,500 and 12 players suspended for 21 games (USA TODAY, 2/29).
Over 50 minor league baseball owners and execs met in Washington, DC, for their third consecutive "Congressional Day" to talk with Senators and Representatives on the future of the minor leagues. The NAPBL, the governing body of the minor leagues, has been lobbying members of Congress to keep the antitrust exemption that baseball now currently enjoys. Team officials discussed how the exemption impacts the minor league's relationship with MLB, noting that under the present PBA with MLB, minor league players salaries are paid by the Major League clubs. Many team execs believe the exemption is vital to the survival of smaller market clubs. INSIDE THE NUMBERS: NAPBL VP Pat O'Conner said while minor league clubs generated $242M in revenues in '94, they face similar big vs. small market problems of the major leagues. To stress this, O'Conner said 10% of the clubs -- 16 teams -- generated 70% of the operating income, while 37% of the NAPBL teams lost money or had negative cash flow. He called these "modest results," despite the popularity of the minors over the past two years. O'Conner said without the current PBA between the league and NAPBL, which expires at the end of this year, and MLB's antitrust exemption, only one in six NAPBL teams would survive. O'Conner: "Now is not the time to play politics with baseball" (THE DAILY).
The PGA Tours top players "are competing less and less as their business schedules are filled with more and more, and commissioner Tim Finchem is saddled with bylaws that render him virtually powerless to reverse the trend," according to the Jaime Diaz in the latest issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Diaz explains, "once a touring pro is established as a player of repute, he can put in as little as 15 to 25 competitive weeks a year -- most of it aimed at peaking for majors, the true career makers. In the remaining time he can play in lucrative unofficial events, collect appearance money overseas and design golf courses, and in the process he can make more, much more, than he would win on tour." Among the options facing Finchem: Raising beyond 15 the minimum number of tournaments required for Tour membership; mandating that no player skip more than five in a row; or making the release policy for foreign or TV events "more stringent." But Finchem is "unwilling to make any of these moves." He argues that the top players still play in about the same number of tournaments, and that TV ratings and attendance figures back the claim that better competition overall "adequately fills whatever void is created" when top stars don't show (SI, 3/4 issue).