SBJ/October 5 - 11, 1998/No Topic Name

Roller hockey league to hike franchise fees

With no television deal and many of its teams losing money, 2-year-old Major League Roller Hockey

wouldn't seem to be in a position to ask for big money from expansion team owners.

But that's precisely what the 14-team league plans to do. Starting next year, the cost of an expansion franchise will jump from $75,000 to $500,000.

The reason is simple: The league wants to pressure potential owners to sign up before the end of the year and to field teams in 1999, said the league's president, Bill Raue. The $500,000 fee applies to teams that commit after Jan. 1. The league expects to add six to 10 teams in the next few years.

"We are now looking at major markets, and our main thrust is to develop the West Coast division, where Anaheim plays," Raue said. Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver are likely expansion cities.

While $500,000 may seem a bit outsized, Raue pointed out that the league champion Anaheim Bullfrogs, the pre-eminent team in all of roller hockey, recently rejected a takeover bid of $2 million. Calls to the Bullfrogs were not returned.

"Five hundred thousand may seem slightly wacko, but based on interest in teams and investment in teams, if you were going to buy an existing team, I am sure they would be asking a minimum of $400,000," Raue said.

Rival league Roller Hockey International charges a $1 million expansion fee, though the league picks up $350,000 of each of its teams' operating expenses.

Major League Roller Hockey plans to broadcast and distribute its own games next season, Raue said. The league is also seeking a title sponsor.

While Major League Roller Hockey has become the top roller hockey league in the country — the struggling Roller Hockey International has not even played this year — most teams are losing money, Raue said. A few broke even, but many lost as much as $75,000 in the last season, which ended in August.

The league is also in discussions with Walt Disney Co. about leasing an arena in Orlando for its finals next year.

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