The A's "have commissioned a study on the feasibility of Las Vegas supporting" an MLB team, according to Steve Kettmann of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The study was commissioned more than a year ago. While sources think that San Jose "remains a favorite" to land the A's if they relocate, with Sacramento also a possibility, the "rapid expansion of Las Vegas ... has turned it into a possible big-league city." A's co-Owner Steve Schott could not be reached, and A's President Sandy Alderson had no comment (CHRONICLE, 3/19).
Alberta Treasury Branches has accepted the local investors' offer to buy the NHL Oilers for US$70M, according to MacDonald & Stock of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Investor Jim Hole said that the group has bid for all hockey assets: the Oilers, the Hamilton Bulldogs farm team and the ability to use Edmonton Coliseum. Control of the building currently rests with Peter Pocklington's Coliseum Management Inc. (CMI), which acquired the operating rights to the arena through a license agreement with Northlands Park in '94. Pocklington said the local group's offer does not include CMI and that he wants additional compensation if it is include in the sale. But sources said that the local group "wants only to acquire the license agreement" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 3/19). Such a deal would give the local investors Northlands advertising and luxury suite revenues, plus arena naming rights. Northlands "would get overall control" of the arena "and take over concerts and other events currently booked through CMI" (Bernard Pilon, EDMONTON SUN, 3/19).
In a deal "that would stun the baseball world and give Cablevision an unmatched sporting empire" in N.Y., the company "has entered into discussions with George Steinbrenner about the possibility of buying the Yankees," according to Heyman & Zipay of NEWSDAY. Cablevision Chair Charles Dolan confirmed yesterday that he has met with Steinbrenner on several occasions over the past few months and discussed "all kinds of possibilities" and scenarios regarding a potential sale. Another source said that the sides have been talking about a sale for six months. While neither Dolan nor Steinbrenner would discuss a price range, two sources familiar with the discussions said that the potential deal would bring Steinbrenner and his partners "well in excess" of $500M, "perhaps close to double the Fox purchase price" for the Dodgers. Dolan said that Cablevision, owner of the Knicks and NHL Rangers, is "absolutely" interested in buying the Yankees, but "there has been no real progress with any of the different ideas that have surfaced" (Heyman & Zipay, NEWSDAY, 3/19). GEORGE ON THE RECORD: Steinbrenner yesterday did not "completely rule out" the possibility of selling the Yankees: "We've talked about a continuing relationship with them. Their TV contract with us [on MSG] is up in two years, and there are all sorts of rumors flying around because of that. There is nothing definitive. Naturally, if there is an interest in maintaining our relationship it stands to reason they'll have interest in extending the contract or owning the team." If the sale were to happen, sources say that the sides are discussing the possibility of Steinbrenner being paid "an annual management fee of at least" $5M to help run the club for five years after the sale. However, sources said that "there are still very real obstacles" to a sale, such as Steinbrenner's tax bill if he were to sell at $500M-plus profit. The situation "is further complicated" by the partners' decision to borrow against future earnings stemming from Steinbrenner's $486M MSG TV deal. Meanwhile, Steinbrenner also said that he has heard "from his league sources" about interest in the team from Westinghouse, CBS's parent company (NEWSDAY, 3/19).
THIS STUFF KIXX: In Philadelphia, the NPSL Kixx lead the league in attendance. The second-year team is averaging 8,751 fans, almost 1,000 more than last season. Kixx Owner Ed Tepper said that the team's popularity increased when Comcast SportsNet broadcast 12 home games: "That (TV) gave us a basis with the fans. ... It's been amazing. We've already had seven games with over 10,000 in attendance. This just goes to show that Saturday night soccer works in Philadelphia" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/19). NBA: SI's Jackie MacMullan reports that the Warriors have hired a PR firm "to help them accentuate the positives of their franchise" (SI, 3/23 issue)....In NEW YORK, Jacob Lewis reports that a Nets exec was spotted recently at a Knicks game "attempting to poach some of the celebrities who are treated to courtside tickets" at MSG. Lewis: "One well- known entertainer was offered choice seats at a Nets games and limousine service to and from the Meadowlands, as well as a ball-boy gig for his son." Nets Dir of PR John Mertz said that the team was not trying to "steal" anyone, but conceded that Nets would not be above "providing transportation to and from the game" (NEW YORK, 3/23 issue). NOTES: IHL Las Vegas Thunders part-Owner Ken Stickney denied reports that the team was involved in negotiations with Promotion Management Inc. about a possible move to Green Bay, WI, where PMI is the contractor of a proposed 11,000-seat arena scheduled to open in 2000. Stickney did say that PMI has been dealing with Mandalay Sports Entertainment, the parent company of the Thunder and other minor-league franchises. Stickney, on future plans for him and Mandalay Sports: "Our whole plan is to own 10, 15 teams in different sports, in different cities, at different levels. ... We're trying to look to expand our business" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/18)....In N.Y., industry sources said that the Yankees' payroll for the '98 season is an MLB high $72M, slightly more than the Orioles' payroll (N.Y. POST, 3/19). ...ESPN's Bob Ley reported that the NFL will award Cleveland an expansion team, and that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that "the approval could come Sunday at the league meetings in Orlando" (ESPN, 3/18)....The MLS Fire have sold "about" 3,000 season tickets (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/19).