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Cardinals RB Emmitt Smith is expected to announce his retirement and “join Reggie Fowler’s investment group that is trying to buy the Vikings,” according to Charley Walters of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. The group also includes Minneapolis-based automobile dealer Denny Hecker. Meanwhile, sources said that there “are just four major investors,” including T’Wolves Owner Glen Taylor, in Taylor’s group to buy the Vikings, “and one of them initially considered becoming general partner of his own group. But at the NFL’s suggestion, that investor has joined Taylor.” Taylor is considering adding a block of minority investors to his group (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/1). Also in St. Paul, Aron Kahn reports Vikings President Gary Woods yesterday visited state legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s chief of staff. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, on his meeting with Woods: “He said he had a couple of conversations with Fowler and a couple of conversations with Glen, but it didn’t sound like it was close” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/1).
Carmen Policy Considering
Involvement In NFL’s L.A. Situation
Former 49ers & Browns President Carmen Policy is “hoping to return to the NFL in an effort to put a team in [L.A.],” but he said that “neither the league nor anyone in the [L.A.] political structure has approached him,” according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. Policy: “The only way I’ll get involved in anything that has to do with the NFL in California is if the league thinks it’s the right thing to do, and I can be a contributor.” Policy last year arranged a dinner at the home of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison who has “explored buying an NFL franchise to play in Southern California” that included NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL COO Roger Goodell. Policy said setting up the dinner, is “something I’d do for any credible person in the same situation. I have no understanding, implied or expressed, with anyone. Nor has anyone promised me anything.” But Policy said he and AFL Avengers Owner Casey Wasserman, with whom he has spoken over the last few years about bringing a team to L.A., are “not only on the same page ‘but on the same paragraph’” in their desire to have an NFL team in the market (L.A. TIMES, 2/1).
The Patriots are selling a portion of their Super Bowl ticket allotment to California-based PrimeSport Int’l, which is “effectively charging four times face value for tickets included in trip packages,” according to Bruce Mohl of the BOSTON GLOBE. PrimeSport, which pays an annual fee to be the official travel partner of the team, is charging $1,099 for “same-day air packages to the game for people who already have their ticket.” But the same package with an upper-level end zone ticket included is $3,299. In effect, “a ticket with a face value of $500 was marked up to $2,200.” Mohl writes the team’s arrangement with PrimeSport is “not unusual in professional sports and is condoned” by the NFL. The Patriots received about 11,550 Super Bowl tickets, but 5,000 went to club and suite-ticket holders; others went to team players, coaches and employees, as well as sponsors; and season-ticket holders “have speculated that only about 1,000 to 2,000 were sold to them through a lottery.” Patriots season-ticket holder Steve George said, “They’re funneling the tickets away from the people who pay the freight all year long.” Mohl adds PrimeSport’s markups “appear to conflict with the team’s strict policy against the resale of tickets above face value,” which has “cost a number of season ticket holders their tickets.” But Patriots Exec Dir of Media Relations Stacey James said that the arrangement “does not violate the team’s policy because PrimeSport is selling its tickets as part of a package and not individually.” Mohl adds that PrimeSport, also an Eagles partner, is charging Eagles fans $4,749 for a three-night package including a ticket, $300 more than for Patriots fans, and a one-day package costs $1,300 more for Eagles fans than for Patriots fans (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/1).
BUYER BEWARE: Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation “has issued a consumer warning” that some Super Bowl travel packages do not include a game ticket (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/1).
Orioles Slammed With Ticket Requests
After Sosa Announcement
The Orioles and White Sox reported “brisk sales” of tickets this past weekend “that were directly related” to the announcement on Saturday that the Cubs were trading RF Sammy Sosa to the Orioles, according to Doug Padilla of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The Orioles sold 5,000 individual season-tickets over the weekend, “double any previous weekend in January.” The team’s previous top-selling weekend was “during its annual fan fest, when it moved 2,500 season tickets.” White Sox VP/Marketing Brooks Boyer said that the team sold 750 tickets for the four-game Orioles-White Sox series May 12-15, with the “majority of those seats being purchased in right field.” Padilla notes the trade has had a “negligible effect on ticket sales” for the Cubs, who “reached their season-ticket capacity last January and have had a 98[%] renewal rate this year.” The Cubs’ individual tickets do not go on sale until February 25 (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/1).
SHORING UP SHIP: In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic reported the Pirates’ annual fan fest this past weekend drew a total attendance of 14,000, double the amount of last year’s event. Pirates GM Dave Littlefield: “I’ve been on the job 3 1/2 years, and I haven’t seen anything like it. And it’s not just the turnout. It’s the enthusiasm.” Kovacevic writes the “surge in season-ticket sales this winter can be attributed partly to the pressure to guarantee seats” when PNC Park hosts the ’06 MLB All-Star Game, but “no such explanation can be given for the turnouts for the first leg of the team’s Winter Caravan last week” and the fan fest (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/31).
FEELING RANDY: The Yankees through last Thursday had sold 2,313,913 tickets for the ’05 season, “nearly 300,000 more than they had sold at [that] point last year.” The team had sold 225 individual-game Hall of Fame suites, up from last year’s 69 through the same period. Like last year, all Luxury Suites and Legends Suites are sold out (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/29).
CATCH OF THE DAY: The Marlins’ annual Select-A-Seat day at Dolphins Stadium Saturday resulted in sales of over $210,000 in season tickets, surpassing the previous single-day Select-A-Seat record of $140,000 set in ’04 following the team’s World Series victory (Marlins).
HHH-OT: Twins President Dave St. Peter said that “statistical and empirical evidence indicates the Twins can achieve their goal of attracting 2 million fans” in ’05, a mark they have not reached since ’93. St. Peter projects the team will sell 8,000 full-season equivalents by the start of the season. Last season the Twins sold 7,500 season-ticket packages and drew over 1.9 million fans (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 1/29).
ABA Nashville Rhythm co-Owner Sally Anthony on Saturday fired coach Ashley McElhiney after the two had an on-court dispute concerning the playing time of F Matt Freije, according to Billy Byler of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Anthony “approached McElhiney during the game and instructed her to bench Freije,” a former NBAer who had been signed to a two-game, $10,000 contract by Anthony’s co-Owner and husband Tony Bucher and GM Daniel Bucher. Anthony was escorted off the court by security. Following the game, Anthony told the players they had 24 hours “to decide whether they would side with her or McElhiney” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/31). Anthony: “If they’re willing to stick their neck out for Ashley, and that would be dumb, I would fold the team right now” (TENNESSEAN, 1/30). ABA Chair Joe Newman, who said that he will fine the team and donate the money to inner-city youth programs, said, “I have six, eight people who would move in there (and buy the team) in about six seconds. They can rescind (the firing). From a PR standpoint, it’s just the dumbest thing. I talked to Sally for a couple minutes [Monday] morning, but then I decided I didn’t want to talk to Sally. She’s a rock and roll singer ... who should stay away from games” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/1).
NOTE: In Nashville, Mike Organ reports paramedics were called to Anthony’s apartment Sunday morning after her sister-in-law called 911 to report that Anthony had overdosed on Xanax and alcohol. The caller said, “I don’t know if she really meant to kill herself. ... She definitely meant to hurt herself.” Anthony’s mother, Kathy Schroeder, called the alleged overdose “a total lie” (TENNESSEAN, 2/1).
In DC, Barry Svrluga reports American Baseball Capital (ABC) –- formerly the Virginia Baseball Club –- “submitted an application to buy the Nationals, just beating yesterday’s deadline.” The group is led by William Collins. ABC’s bid “brings the total to at least six applicants who have paid the required $100,000 fee to enter the bidding for the” team (WASHINGTON POST, 2/1).
KEEP THE FAITH: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports Anaheim officials in an open letter to Anaheim citizens “vowed to continue their court fight against the Angels’ name change but urged fans to support the team and its players.” The letter stated the players “are not a part of this misguided marketing effort and should not be punished or faulted for the decisions of the front office.” The letter, which was signed by Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and the city council, appeared January 27 as a full-page ad in the Anaheim Bulletin and the Anaheim Hills News (L.A. TIMES, 2/1).
RETURNING SERVE: In Boston, Bud Collins reports the Boston Lobsters, which folded in ’78, are back in World TeamTennis (WTT) under the ownership of Bahar Uttam. Uttam two years ago sold his technology firm, Synetics, and is “devoted to bringing pro tennis back to Boston.” Uttam: “We’ve got a logo, season ticket (packages), and sponsorship plans.” WTT co-Founder Billie Jean King said, “We’re glad to have Boston back in the league. It’s always been a good tennis town” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/1). Patriots Owner Bob Kraft owned the franchise from ’77-78 (THE DAILY).