SBD/7/Franchises

ROGER, HOUSTON -- OVER AND OUT? MCLANE TO STAR PROCESS?

     Astros Owner Drayton McLane meets with MLB's Executive
Council in Milwaukee today to discuss the financial condition of
his club and review negotiations with Harris County on a new
stadium, according to the WASHINGTON POST.  It is unclear if
McLane will ask for clearance to re-open talks to move the Astros
to Northern VA.  However, Astros Senior VP Bob McClaren said the
issue could come up if the Council is "receptive" to the club's
situation.  One MLB owner said McLane "almost certainly will not"
formally petition for relocation, noting such a move is "another
two weeks to a month away."  Yesterday, McLane and Harris County
Judge Robert Eckels met for the first time since Eckels' pitch
for a $250M ballpark last week.  McLane told Eckels the offer is
"unacceptable" because of the $8M a year club contribution (Mark
Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).
     RUT-RO:  Eckels is urging MLB to wait until a proposed
November referendum before deciding on a move.  As evidence of
voter support for a new facility, he cited a poll commissioned by
the county of 650 likely voters which shows 62% support for
building the ballpark on the terms Eckels offered on August 1.
Eckels:  "It would be foolish for the league to then turn around
and say, 'We're sorry Houston, we don't care what you think, we
don't care about your support for the sports, we're going to
leave you short.'"  Virginia Baseball Exec VP Mike Scanlon said
they would have no comment until McLane receives MLB's permission
to re-open talks.  Scanlon:  "We're not even mentioning the H-
word or the A-word."  Meanwhile, county commissioners approved
Eckels' request to hire Philadelphia-based Stafford Sports
Ventures and Houston-based Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton to help
with stadium planning.  Eckels had passed on Stafford because the
firm had a contract with VA's Baseball Stadium Authority.  Eckels
is now "satisfied" Stafford is not working for VA (John Williams,
HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/7).
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