SBD/16/Facilities Venues

ASTROS AND SPORTS AUTHORITY CLOSE TO SIGNING 32-YEAR LEASE

          The Astros and the Harris County-Houston Sports
     Authority are close to signing a lease and two other
     agreements on Wednesday that will make it "virtually
     impossible for the Astros to leave Houston for 32 years,"
     according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.  The
     deal includes "stiff penalties" should the team try to move
     from the new ballpark under construction downtown.  The
     agreements allow the Astros to keep all revenues generated
     at the ballpark in return for paying the authority $7.1M
     annually for 30 years after it opens in 2000.  The team can
     also use it for events other than baseball.  The authority
     is expected to spend $9.5M annually in tax dollars to
     subsidize building the park.  The authority "put a strict
     performance lease in the contract saying home games must be
     played there" in exchange for a $3.4M annual lease payment. 
     The deal states that the only "way out of a performance
     lease is if the franchise were to go into bankruptcy."  To
     get around that possibility, the authority has crafted a
     license agreement allowing the Astros to keep all revenues
     from naming, advertising, telecom and broadcast rights in
     exchange for a $1.2M annual payment, and a nonrelocation
     agreement that says the team must pay $75-250M to the
     authority "if it wants to leave, depending on how much of
     the lease is left" (John Williams, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).
          BIG MAC HITS HOUSTON: Tickets for the Astros' first
     home series against the Cardinals "were selling at a brisk
     pace" as of late yesterday afternoon, and the Astros were
     projecting at least 100,000 in attendance for the three-game
     series that begins tonight (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).  

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