SBD/11/Franchises

COUNTDOWN BACK ON IN HOUSTON? VA BASEBALL PONDERS OPTIONS

     Astros Owner Drayton McLane says he will decide by the end
of the week whether to put his team up for sale, but has publicly
asked to first meet with Houston Mayor Bob Lanier to discuss his
situation, according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.
McLane has said if he cannot strike a stadium deal in Houston, he
will resume negotiations with VA Baseball Inc., who last year
offered a reported $160M for the Astros.  Meanwhile, Houston
Property Rights Association President Barry Klein, a local
opponent of publicly subsidized stadiums, said he will not
legally challenge a November 5 ballpark referendum approved two
weeks ago.  Klein is, however, organizing a political action
committee to oppose the referendum (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/11).  In
D.C., Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST reports the Astros and
Harris County officials are "inching closer" to a stadium funding
plan that would keep the team in Houston.  Negotiations continue
to focus on McLane's contribution to the project and which party
would be responsible for cost overruns.  Astros Senior
VP/Business Operations Bob McClaren: "Hopefully, we can get an
understanding in the next few days" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/11).
Noting Houston's civic and political leaders have "started to get
together," ESPN's Peter Gammons said "things look very good" for
the Astros and Harris County to come to a stadium deal possibly
"as early as this week" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 9/10).
     VA BASEBALL NEWS:  The POST's Maske reports that VA Baseball
"plans to abandon" its effort to secure a MLB franchise for the
Northern VA/Washington area if it is not awarded a team by the
end of '97.  Maske also cites sources within VA Baseball who note
the group has made "renewed inquiries" about the status of the
Pirates and Expos (WASHINGTON POST, 9/11).  But VA Baseball Exec
VP Mike Scanlon told THE DAILY the Post story "needed
clarification" in that the organization has made "no
determinations" about its post-'97 future and that "no decisions
and no deadlines will be made without talking with Major League
Baseball first." Scanlon added the group's "long-term strategy"
is to get a team, "one way or the other" (THE DAILY).
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