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Since the Expos launched the first phase of their stadium project June 21, the team has raised "just over" C$20M from PSL sales, having sold 25 1/2 of the loge licenses available, "including 23 at $110,000 each," according to Jack Todd of the Montreal GAZETTE. The Expos have also sold 2,213 of the 18,000 PSLs needed to be sold "if this stadium is going to become a reality." Most of the PSLs sold so far have been for the "more expensive" seats; 986 of 1,314 $10,000 seats have been sold, while "only" eight of those in the $2,000 category and 206 of the $500 seats have been bought. Expos President Claude Brochu also "confirmed" that he is "in the process" of negotiating a naming rights deal for the stadium for about C$40M. Brochu said that "at least" three corporations are "still in the running." Brochu also said that the team is "currently in the process of holding serious talks with the various levels of government" about some form of government assistance (GAZETTE, 11/27). In Montreal, Ted Blackman calls the $20M raised so far by Brochu "a loose commitment ... for front pews from the devoted parish" (Montreal GAZETTE, 11/30).
Sources close to Maple Leafs Owner Steve Stavro say that he "realizes ... that a partnership with the Raptors on a single arena is the best way" for his team to proceed, but that his "personal dislike" for Raptors Owner Allan Slaight is a "considerable obstacle," according to Shoalts & Grange of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. Shoalts & Grange added that Stavro "wants any partnership to be formed on his terms," and at present believes that he can "wait out" Slaight, and when the Raptors Owner "tires of the expense" of building an arena and maintaining his team, Stavro can "step in to buy majority control of the Raptors and the arena for a relative song." Another "scenario put forward" has Slaight selling control of the Raptors to MLG Minority Partner Larry Tanenbaum and selling the Air Canada Centre to a "new company that would jointly be owned by the Leafs and Raptors" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/29). Raptors President Richard Peddie "didn't rule out the Leafs coming into" the Air Canada Centre "at some future date," but he and Slaight "denied" that any talks were ongoing between the two franchises (Chris Young, TORONTO STAR, 11/28).
The opening of the MCI Center on Tuesday night was featured in a special section in Sunday's WASHINGTON POST. For Washington Sports Chair Abe Pollin, construction of the new facility was a "huge challenge ... a four-year struggle, slowed for a half year by contaminated soil, a paralyzing snowstorm and asbestos," according to Heath & Montgomery. Other setbacks included "so-called 'smart seats' that didn't work" and a successful lawsuit by the Paralyzed Veterans of America to increase the number of seats for wheelchair-bound spectators. Heath & Montgomery: "Through it all, Pollin has been financially stretched, keeping US Airways Arena going, signing basketball and hockey players to million-dollar contracts and footing the bill for the construction of the MCI Center." Pollin: "I've got everything I've ever done in my life on the line. I've pledged everything. My advisers think I'm nuts. But I wanted to do something special for my town" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30). Pollin added in a meeting with POST editors that tickets to sports events are "too expensive" and that leagues should examine player salaries "as a way to curtail" admission prices. Pollin: "It bothers me enormously that no longer can a family of four see a game. What's happened is the [player] salaries are so high, we have to keep raising ticket prices. I don't want to raise my prices again" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30). NOTES: With traffic a concern, MCI Center execs hope to keep the number of vehicles "under" 5,000 for each game. Pollin said that he hopes that half the fans, or 10,000 people, will take the Metro....The arena has 109 luxury suites costing $100-175,000 a year, with a minimum five-year lease. Those in luxury suites or the 3,000 premium club seats "will be provided separate parking, enter a separate entrance and dine in separate restaurants barred to the arena's 15,680 ordinary ticket holders."....Barry Silberman, President of Centre Management, which runs the MCI Center, said that the facility will host "about 200 events" a year. ...Pollin said that despite MCI's recent merger with WorldCom, he "expects" the name to remain MCI Center in accordance with the 13-year, $44M deal (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30)....Some 700 tickets for Tuesday's opener, the Sonics- Wizards on TNT, "were released for sale yesterday." The game had been listed as a sellout (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1).