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NBA Senior Dir of Sports Media Relations Tim Frank said that the committee of NBA owners that will evaluate the Hornets' application to move to New Orleans "will be announced next week," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Frank added that the group of five-to-seven owners "likely would have its first meeting after" the NBA's February 8-10 All-Star Weekend in Philadelphia. The committee is expected to evaluate fan support, population base, median income, the TV market and quality of the arena. The committee also will evaluate the same criteria for the city of Charlotte to determine if there is a reason to relocate (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/23). Meanwhile, LA State Rep. Steve Scalise said that he will file legislation at the April 29 session to abolish a $4.2M "slush fund" that New Orleans lawmakers receive for a variety of hand-picked programs, and use the money to "help bring" the Hornets to the New Orleans Arena. Scalise: "It is time to get rid of this slush fund and use the money to close the deal with the Hornets." Scalise's bill would require that the money go to the Department of Economic Development to help finance tourism, sports, economic development and recreation programs. The money comes from part of the 1% hotel-motel tax collected in New Orleans that generates about $7.5M annually (TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/23).
ICE TIME: WCNC-NBC's Sonja Gantt reported Hornets co-Owners Ray Wooldridge and George Shinn "appear ready to sell" the ECHL Charlotte Checkers. NASCAR team Owner Felix Sabates "tells (WCNC-NBC) that he is interested in putting in a bid. Sabates says he and ... (former Hornets GM) Carl Scheer want to buy the team, but they won't pay the price that Shinn and Wooldridge are asking" (WCNC-NBC, 1/22).
Red Sox execs "factored in a potential 12-15[%] ticket price increase" into the '02 season budget before making the $700M deal to sell the team to Marlins Owner John Henry, which "could catapult the average Fenway ticket price past the $40 mark," according to sources of Scott Van Voorhis of the BOSTON HERALD, who notes the Red Sox "already charge the highest ticket prices" in MLB, averaging just over $36. Sources said that current Red Sox execs are expected to announce a decision on ticket prices in the next few weeks "in what could be one of their last major moves before selling the team" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/23). Meanwhile, in Boston, Jeff Horrigan cites four MLB sources as saying that Henry and partners Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino "are prepared to bring at least a dozen employees from their former clubs," the Marlins and Padres. Horrigan writes, "It appears that several key players on the business side of the Padres will be offered the opportunity to move east, while some of the Marlins' baseball operations people could be heading north." New Red Sox President & CEO Lucchino, who ran the Padres, "will almost certainly hire Dr. Charles Steinberg as his top assistant." Steinberg was the Padres' Exec VP/Public Affairs and "oversaw a successful campaign to win over a skeptical Southern California fan base, as well as earn public and political support" for the construction of a downtown ballpark. In addition, Padres Dir of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Marlins Assistant GM Al Avila "are expected to join the Sox in some capacity but are unlikely to replace" Red Sox GM Dan Duquette (BOSTON HERALD, 1/23). However, in Pittsburgh, Joe Rutter reports Pirates GM Dave Littlefield "is believed to be on the verge of hiring" Avila, as an announcement is expected to be made this week (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/23).
About 40% of Saints fans will pay less for season tickets in '02 "under a new pricing plan" announced yesterday, according to Aaron Kuriloff of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Though 60% of ticket holders "will see price increases of up to" $5 per ticket, "many more seats will be available at discounted rates than in previous seasons." Saints Dir of Sales & Marketing Wayne Hodes said that the new plan will make 26,236 tickets available for $40 or less. Hodes also said that "offsetting price hikes in seating areas along the sidelines and in the club level will be 1,000 new $8.75 tickets, ... and 9,000 season tickets for $25 per game." Hodes added that the updated price structure has the average Saints ticket valued at $50.94, about 10% less than the projected league average for '02. The $8.75 tickets "will be among the cheapest" in the NFL. Hodes: "We're trying to hit all ends of the community. We still want to offer those upscale opportunities for companies, but we're trying to accommodate people with less household income, too." Hodes added that a new seating configuration also "might make sellouts easier to achieve," as the team plans to "eliminate about 1,250 obstructed-view seats before next year in response to fan complaints." The move would make the Superdome's capacity 68,770 (TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/23).