SBD/17/Franchises

NBA OWNERS ON ICE, PART I: ALEXANDER JOINS HOUSTON'S CHASE

     Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander formally submitted an
application to bring an NHL expansion franchise to Houston,
according to Eddie Sefko of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.  The bid sets
up a "showdown" between Alexander and IHL Aeros Owner Chuck
Watson, who applied for a Houston franchise last month.  Sefko
writes at the "heart of the race" for a team is controlling
interest in a new basketball/hockey arena that likely would be
located in downtown "or in the Greenway Plaza area."  Sefko:
"Both owners have strong connections that could work in their
favor in a hockey battle that could develop into an interesting
ice show."  Alexander's current lease with The Summit runs until
2003 and he has expressed interest in managing the new facility.
Watson, however, owns the lease at The Summit, and any new arena
"would likely have Watson as an operator of the building in some
capacity" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/17).
     EARLY LINE:  The CHRONICLE's Sefko notes Alexander is "close
friends" with NBA Commissioner David Stern and that Stern remains
a "confidant" of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.  Insiders,
meanwhile, are "divided" on whether Alexander or Watson have the
better chance for the franchise.  Sefko cites some unnamed
sources who believe the NHL would prefer to have an owner who is
already "entrenched" in a city at the major league level. Others
feel "a deep-pockets owner like Watson, who may be able to
facilitate a new building more readily than Alexander, makes more
sense."  A third possibility also exists, as Gavin Maloof of
Albuquerque, NM has filed an application for a Houston team as
well.  Sefko notes Maloof's bid is an "extreme long shot"
(HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/17).
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Franchises, Houston Rockets, NBA, NHL

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