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IL-based Sportsman's Park will be "transformed into a dual-purpose facility" and host a CART race on Labor Day weekend in '99, according to Skip Myslenski of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The $50M makeover will begin as soon as its current thoroughbred season closes June 30. Track officials also hope to "eventually" land a NASCAR race. The National Jockey Club, which owns Sportsman's, will retain ownership of the renovated track, but will put on the CART race in "equal partnership" with racing team Owner Chip Ganassi. Capacity will be expanded initially to between 60,000- 70,000, before "phase two," which will expand the track to "approximately 90,000" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/9). NO TO BALTIMORE: Despite efforts to build a new racetrack in the Baltimore area, NASCAR VP/Competition Mike Helton said, "There is no interest from NASCAR to move into that area with any races." He said the Baltimore-D.C. market "is serviced by other tracks with whom we already have long-standing relationships" (Baltimore SUN, 4/9).
In Boston, columnist Mike Barnicle writes that while Fenway Park "is a wonderful envelope of memories, and while nostalgia can be a nice emotion, the park itself is on life support. And it's time to pull the plug" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/9)....The MN Senate Tax Committee yesterday "narrowly passed a ballpark funding bill." Under the bill, a $284M open-air stadium would be built using customer and team user fees, with state money tapped only to back up the finance plan. In Minneapolis, Jay Weiner reports that "despite its revival, the stadium bill appears to be a long shot" (STAR TRIBUNE, 4/9). ESPN's Peter Gammons said last night the Twins situation "is a mess. Minnesota is not going to build Carl Pohlad a ballpark ... To make things worse, the [Greensboro, NC] triad area is considered too small for a major-league market. But the Executive Council says there may be an out. They say NationsBank will finance a downtown stadium in Charlotte if the Twins will consider moving there" ("SportsCenter," 4/8)....The NHL Panthers' new arena in Sunrise has "at least 100 dates booked during the year after the facility opens." Panthers Exec VP Dean Jordan said that 69 of the arena's 70 luxury suites have been sold, selling for $70,000 to $120,000 apiece (SUN-SENTINEL, 4/9).
In MN, the '98 legislative sessions "neared its conclusion" after leaders reached agreement on financing for a $130M St. Paul hockey arena, according to Whereatt & Brown of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The "main parts" of the plan include a $65M interest-free loan from the state, a contribution of $30M by the city and a $35M contribution from the Wild. Part of the state loan, $17M, would "be forgiven if the arena is opened for various public functions for 50 rent-free days a year. Wild CEO Jac Sperling said that he saw "no problems working out an arrangement for rent-free events." The team will also "still keep most of the money" from the facility, including naming rights, and suite and concession revenue. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, who had withheld support on the arena, said he "won approval for other major bills 'all in exchange'" for the arena deal (STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/9). Moe and House Speaker Phil Carruthers said repayment of the remaining $48M to the state "will be paid back by the team." The city will also get $750,000 per year for 20 years from the state, about the same amount paid to the Target Center. The agreement has the support of MN Gov. Arne Carlson (PIONEER PRESS, 4/9).