SBJ/June 19 - 25, 2000/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

 MLB names All-Star sponsors

Major League Baseball signed a number of corporate partners for the 2000 John Hancock All-Star FanFest, a five-day interactive baseball event that will be held during the All-Star Game festivities in Atlanta July 7-11. The following brands are primary sponsors: Adidas, Claritin, Fleer, Fleet, Lee Sport, Majestic Athletic, MasterCard, Oreo, New Era Cap Co., Pacific Trading Cards, Pepsi, Ritz Crackers, Russell Athletic, Topps and Upper Deck. FanFest, which will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, precedes the All-Star Game, which is scheduled for July 11 at Turner Field.

BALTIMORE

 Ripken, IBL deal not yet signed

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., who owns 10 percent of the Baltimore BayRunners of the International Basketball League, has yet to sign a deal to purchase the rest of the franchise. Sources said the estimated $1 million price tag on the deal, agreed to this spring, may be a sticking point. But team officials and Ripken's lawyer say it's only a matter of time before the deal is done. BayRunners President Greg Smith said the deal has not been signed by all parties, but it has been agreed to in principle. Ripken has had a handshake deal to purchase the team since he agreed to buy the initial 10 percent last October.

 Comptroller criticizes stadium plan

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's efforts to delay the razing of Memorial Stadium failed, but not before the former Baltimore mayor criticized the city's plan to build housing for the elderly instead of a high-tech research center proposed by local construction and development groups. Maryland Stadium Authority set today as the confirmation deadline for assuring lenders for the $47 million Stadium Place housing project that the demolition will take place. Schaefer dropped his case because he did not have the support of Gov. Parris N. Glendening or state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.

 Sale of Maryland track expected

William Rickman Jr., owner of thoroughbred track Delaware Park, reached a tentative deal to buy Ocean Downs near Ocean City, Md., according to Ocean Downs officials. The proposed purchase could be blocked if an owner of Maryland's other horse tracks matches Rickman's offer, which was undisclosed.

BUFFALO

 Team signs official airline

JetBlue Airways of New York City signed a two-year sponsorship deal with the Buffalo Bills. The deal makes JetBlue the exclusive carrier to the Bills, the Buffalo Bills Training Camp in Rochester, N.Y., and Ralph Wilson Stadium. The sponsorship is valued in excess of $750,000. Under the deal, JetBlue receives prominent stadium signage on the team's planned tri-vision electronic billboard to be built atop the Bills Administrative Building in the stadium's east end zone. JetBlue will provide the team with new aircraft and is outfitting the stadium's Maple Leaf Club with leather airline seats, each of which comes with DirecTV coverage of the games.

 Bills to host flag football event

The Buffalo Bills will host a flag football tournament July 8-9 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The tournament, sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods, will consist of three divisions of competition (ages 12-14, 15-17, and 18 and up) with co-ed participation. Winning teams in each division will participate in a pregame awards ceremony prior to a Bills' home game during the 2000 season. The winning team in the 12-14 age bracket will represent the United States in Toronto Aug. 16-21 for the World Flag Football Championship against Australia, Japan, Korea, Germany, Mexico and Canada. Proceeds from the tournament will be used in support of youth football initiatives.

 City creates youth field

A new youth football field has opened in Buffalo. As part of a nationwide effort by NFL Charities, which is investing $1.2 million toward community play areas, the project received $80,000 in funding

CHARLOTTE

 UNCC action raises $170,000

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte raised $170,000 at its Great Gold Rush Auction June 2, a $20,000 increase over 1999. The money will be used for athletic scholarships. Attendees were able to bid on everything from furniture and artwork to a day in the life of UNCC men’s basketball coach Bobby Lutz.

 Lowe’s begins Summer Shootout

The Wendy’s Summer Shootout Series began its 10-week schedule last Tuesday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The series, televised by Fox Sports Net South, includes several series of racing, including the speedway’s Legends race cars.

CINCINNATI

 Taxpayers aren't done yet

City taxpayers may still have to buy things for the Cincinnati Bengals' new home even after construction at Paul Brown Stadium is finished. A clause in the lease Hamilton County negotiated with the team keeps taxpayers, and future taxpayers, on the hook for any new gadget that catches on in other NFL stadiums during the next 30 years. If an expensive new technology is installed in at least 14 other NFL stadiums — or seven others where public money is used to pay for it — Hamilton County taxpayers must buy the same thing for Paul Brown Stadium.

DENVER

 Broncos raise ticket prices

The Denver Broncos are raising ticket prices for their planned new stadium. The average ticket price will rise from $42.50 at the current Mile High Stadium to $49.24 at the new stadium. The stadium is scheduled to open in the summer of 2001.

HOUSTON

 Rockets boost prices again

The Houston Rockets, coming off a season where the team saw its total ticket sales drop 6 percent, are raising ticket prices for next season by an average of 6 percent. The least expensive seats in Compaq Center, which sell for $10 and $13 a game, are the only ones that will remain unchanged. Team officials said the hike is lowest overall increase in seven years and third year in which the overall percentage increase in ticket prices has gone down.

INDIANAPOLIS

 Pacers, Colts tired of getting scalped

Indiana Pacers officials are promising an investigation into ticket scalping after the team's season concludes. Pacers general manager David Kahn said franchise officials would get together with city leaders to determine if a law is needed to restrict or ban ticket scalping in Indianapolis. Bill Polian, president of the Indianapolis Colts, agrees with Pacers officials and said ticket scalping is worse in Indianapolis than any other city he's worked in during his 35-year career in professional sports. Kahn said the issue goes far beyond sports and involves music concerts and many other entertainment events. Indiana has no law prohibiting or restricting ticket scalping.

 Gus Macker challenges sports group

The Indiana Sports Corp., which organizes events like the 2000 NCAA men's basketball Final Four, is in a dispute with Gus Macker Enterprises Inc. Officials with Greenville, Mich.-based Gus Macker, which holds three-on-three basketball tournaments nationwide, said the Indiana group backed out of a multiyear agreement to run the tournament in Indianapolis. Indiana Sports Corp. had run the tournament in 1998 and 1999. Macker President Mitch McNeal said the local group's decision not to run the hoops tourney this year forced his organization to run the event alone. As a result, McNeal said, marketing for the June 3-4 tournament started late and participation dropped slightly to about 500 teams. Macker officials said they are unsure what their next step in the dispute will be, but they would not rule out legal action. Indiana Sports Corp. officials initially claimed the termination was a mutual agreement and refused further comment, citing a confidentiality clause in the contract.

 Rats! Arena demolition slowed

City officials plan to demolish the 26-year-old Market Square Arena, former home of the Pacers, without the use of explosives to protect the surrounding city streets. However, city officials began instituting a plan this month to prevent a mass exodus of rats that are believed to be living in the bowels of the old arena. More than 50 boxes of lethal rodent vittles have been placed inside the arena, and the manager of the City Market next door said he is staying alert. Members of the Arch Neighborhood Association have even discussed cubing stray cat captures until the rodent threat subsides.

KANSAS CITY

 Jayhawks install new turf

The University of Kansas has begun installation of AstroPlay artificial turf to replace the old Astro Turf product at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas is the first Division I-A school to install AstroPlay, which looks, feels and plays more like natural grass. The installation, expected to be completed in early July, is budgeted to cost about $330,000 and will be funded by profits KU generated last year by playing Notre Dame in the Eddie Robinson Classic. Leander, Texas-based Southwest Recreational Industries Inc. produces AstroPlay, which is currently used by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

 MIAA tourney coming to town

The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association will play its men’s and women’s basketball tournament semifinals and finals at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City in 2003 and 2004. The MIAA, composed of 10 Division II schools in Missouri and Kansas, now plays its postseason tournaments on the campuses of participating schools.

MIAMI

 Marlins deep-six stadium plan

The Florida Marlins concluded that it is not feasible to construct a smaller, 25,000-seat baseball park that would later be expandable to up to 40,000 seats with a retractable roof. The team originally planned to build a 40,000-seat park, but Florida Gov. Jeb Bush opposed the team’s financing plan, which included a tax on the cruise industry. Design analysis for a smaller park conducted by HOK Sport showed costs of the initial phase of a major league-quality facility would be in excess of $180 million, far more than the initial projections of experts, or what the team could afford. The Marlins currently play at Pro Player Stadium, where they do not receive suite or premium seating revenue. The team had not announced any new plans for a stadium and continues to hope for increased public support.

 Fusion to open youth camps

MLS Miami Fusion Soccer Camps will debut in south Florida this summer with a team of international coaches. The cost of the camps ranges from $45 to $145. Each camp offers weeklong programs for players ages 5 to 18 with all campers receiving a personal camp evaluation, an MLS gift, participation in Major League Soccer’s New York Life Dribble, Pass & Shoot event and a free companion ticket to a Fusion game.

MILWAUKEE

 Rain hampers Miller Lite 225

Rain cost this year’s Miller Lite 225 about 10,000 fans. The CART race, which is run at the Milwaukee Mile on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair, was rained out on June 4 for the first time in its history. By the time the race was run a day later as a Monday matinee, around 20,000 fans showed up. Better than 30,000 fans had purchased tickets for the race on Sunday. The financial impact of the attendance decrease on the track will not be known until refunds are made.

 Bernie Brewer gets hooked up

As part of a promotional campaign for Midwest Sports Channel, the mascot for the Milwaukee Brewers is getting cable television installed in his chalet at Milwaukee County Stadium. Bernie Brewer is featured in a series of 30-second commercials with actor Clay Covert as the cable guy. Regional sports network Midwest Sports Channel hired Watts Communications, a New Berlin, Wis.-based video and audio production firm, to film the spots, which will run during Brewers games on the network. The spots were scheduled to start running this month. Bernie Brewer doesn’t speak, but he does give a “thumbs up” for his new cable connection before shaking the cable guy’s hand and exiting by sliding into the giant beer mug beneath his chalet.

 Nicklaus building area course

Jack Nicklaus plans to build a golf course in rural Sheboygan County. The Bull, which will be built on a 418-acre farm that was used for cattle breeding, is set to open in 2002. David Bachmann, whose family will continue to own the land, said the course will be open to the public, and greens fees for the course will be kept under $100. Sheboygan County is fast becoming a hotbed of golf courses, including Whistling Straights, which will host the 2004 PGA Championships, and Blackwolf Run, which hosted the U.S. Women’s Open two years ago.

 Badgers to battle the Panthers

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has signed a three-year agreement to play games against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dick Bennett, who coaches the Badgers, coached at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay before getting the job in Madison and is committed to playing the state’s other Division I programs. This year’s game between the Badgers and the Panthers is set for Dec. 11. The two teams faced each other in front of 4,323 fans last season at the Klotsche Center at UWM, the largest crowd ever at the facility.


MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Bobbleheads draw a crowd

The Minnesota Twins, last in the league in attendance with an 11,311 average through the first quarter of the season, drew 20,258 spectators for their June 9 interleague game against Milwaukee. Team officials said before the game that they expected about 18,000 fans, partially because of the first of four bobblehead doll night promotions. The bobbleheads are throwbacks to the popular 1970s souvenirs. The giveaways will feature faces from past popular Twins players. The first featured player was Harmon Killebrew. A number of fans were upset, however, because they didn’t get dolls — only 5,000 were given away. Twins officials said the team arrived at 5,000 in part because the promotion was more expensive than others. The 5,000 dolls were gone by 5 p.m., two hours before the game started. Kent Hrbek was scheduled to be featured in the second doll giveaway last Saturday.

 Wild, Hall of Fame strike deal

The NHL expansion Minnesota Wild have partnered with the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and unveiled the team’s inaugural season logo. The mayors of St. Paul and Eveleth, Minn., the home of the Hall of Fame, were on hand to announce the 10-year deal, under which exhibits from the hall will be displayed at the team’s New Saint Paul Arena. In return, exhibits from the city will be on display at the Hall of Fame.

 Saints hosting charity golf event

The St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League and the Muscular Dystrophy Association are hosting the first annual MDA Golf Classic July 24. The tournament will consist of five-person teams with a best-ball format. Each team of four will be joined by a Saints player. The proceeds will benefit future MDA-funded programs. The names of the players who will participate have not been announced.

NEW YORK

 Road Runners release new logo

For the first time in more than 20 years, the New York Road Runners Club, organizers of the NYC Marathon, has a different look with a new club logo. The basic design remains a runner inside the apple, but now the runner is better defined with a stronger stride. The logo was created by New York-based FDT Design, which earlier this year created a new NYC Marathon logo that was introduced in March.

ORLANDO

 Disney fills summer schedule

Disney’s Wide World of Sports will be the host site of 20 Amateur Athletic Union championships this summer, including the Super Showcase, an invitation-only boys basketball tournament, and the baseball championship. In addition, Disney will host the Snickers U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, which will bring 32 boys and girls soccer teams to the area, and the Disney Cup, an in-house tournament that will draw 60 teams from across the world.

PHILADELPHIA

 Eagles help build playground

Philadelphia Eagles players and front-office staff for the fourth consecutive year got together with residents in an inner-city neighborhood to build a new community playground. This year’s project was in north Philadelphia, where the Eagles worked with members of the Village of Arts and Humanities to build the new youth park. The project was funded as part of a $75,000 grant from the Eagles Youth Partnership.

 Study questions cost of stadium

A study conducted by legislative staff members for state Sen. Vincent Fumo found a new Major League Baseball stadium built in downtown Philadelphia would cost approximately $685 million, nearly $370 million more than building a ballpark at the city’s sports stadium complex in south Philadelphia. Last month, Philadelphia Mayor John Street said he wanted the stadium built downtown because it would provide the greatest economic impact for Philadelphia. Street previously estimated the cost of a downtown stadium at $545 million. The legislative staff estimate is based on $312 million in construction costs, $85 million for land acquisition, $110 million for parking-related costs and $62 million for utilities costs and environmental remediation. Approximately $73 million is needed for a variety of transit improvements and developments as well as general site improvements and other contingencies. The staffers added another $43 million for inflation factors tied to the extra time needed to build the stadium downtown. Street was scheduled to provide updated cost estimates for both the Philadelphia Phillies’ and Eagles’ new stadiums last Thursday.

PHOENIX

 Race may change venues

The Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Association is working to land an event at Lake Pleasant, located about 30 miles north of Phoenix, in September or October 2001. The organization currently is seeking event sponsors, said Rob Brondell, president and CEO of International Hydroplane Promotions in Las Vegas. The event, which features the fastest boats in the world, could end up replacing the race held in Lake Havasu, about 145 miles west of Phoenix. According to Brondell, Phoenix is a bigger market with the potential to draw more crowds. The race could draw as many as 40,000 spectators, according to Bill Scalzo, director of the Maricopa County parks and recreation department. Lake Havasu has averaged 30,000 spectators for its race.

PITTSBURGH

 Executive stands in against charges

Stephen Leeper, executive director of the Pittsburgh Sports & Exhibition Authority, said he will not quit even though some local lawmakers are calling for his resignation amid a controversy over the involvement of minority- and women-owned contractors in the construction of new stadiums for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers and a convention center. The authority is overseeing the construction work. At issue are charges that contractors offered payments to women- and minority-owned firms to publicly proclaim their involvement in the projects without actually receiving work contracts. Leeper said the authority does not control the certification process that verifies company ownership, nor can it police the hundreds of contracts involved in the three state-funded projects.

SAN DIEGO

 Padres donate scholarships

The 30-member Padres Scholars Class of 2000, the sixth class of middle school students to receive college scholarships funded by San Diego Padres players and owners, was introduced before the Padres’ game on June 12. Also honored were members of the inaugural Padres Scholars Class of 1995, who graduate from high school this month and begin college in the fall. The program has established 165 scholarships with $750,000 in contributions. Through the program, 25 middle school students are awarded scholarships each year. Players donate funds that ownership matches dollar for dollar. The sum, $125,000 annually, is awarded as $5,000 scholarships (plus accrued interest) to 25 academically talented, financially disadvantaged San Diego students. The students must maintain high standards in academics and citizenship throughout high school to receive the scholarship. For a third consecutive year, Qualcomm Inc. has funded five additional scholarships, bringing the 2000 total to 30.

 Chargers fund school sports

The San Diego Chargers will contribute $250,000 this year to create and fund freshman football and freshman girl’s volleyball in San Diego city schools beginning this fall as part of the Chargers Champions program announced in March. Chargers executives said the program was set up in the aftermath of a student survey that showed that participation in sports was strongly related to kids’ interest in remaining in school. The two programs will start in September.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 Florida 2012 unveils renderings

Florida 2012 unveiled the first in a series of renderings of Olympic venues in its bid to host the Summer Games that year. The Tampa-based group proposes to build a 14,000-seat diving facility near the St. Petersburg waterfront that could be converted to a 4,000-seat amphitheater after the Games. Florida 2012 wants the city of St. Petersburg to help fund construction in order to make it a permanent facility.

 Buccaneers fans file against team

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are accused of withholding tickets for at least 5,000 seats from longtime season-ticket holders when the team moved to Raymond James Stadium in 1998. A court filing on June 8 claimed 500 to 1,000 of those tickets were located in lower-level sections near the 50-yard line, but a Bucs representative said only 400 midfield seats were held out for marketing purposes. An attorney representing season-ticket holders in a lawsuit against the Bucs also contends that the team’s attorneys threatened the fans to drop their suit or lose their seating privileges for the 2001 season. Bucs officials previously said they tried to accommodate fans when they moved in 1998 to the new stadium, which has about 8,000 fewer seats, but were not available for comment on the lawsuit.

 Lightning creates corporate seats

The Tampa Bay Lightning is spending $1 million on a new corporate seating area inside the Ice Palace. The new Channelside Club will open in September and cost $4,000 a year to use. The section, which will include 500 to 700 seats, can be used for other events besides Lightning games at the downtown Tampa arena. The annual fee covers the cost of food and beverages.

TORONTO

 New rail system planned

Federal government and city officials are advocating a planned rail link between downtown transportation hub Union Station and Lester B. Pearson International Airport as a boon for Toronto’s 2008 Olympics hopes. The federal government and the city purchased Union Station from private investors for approximately $54 million earlier this month, and now the federal government is looking for private sector companies willing to build the rail link at an estimated cost of $136 million. There is currently no link between the airport and the downtown core and eastern waterfront, where many of the Olympic events would be held. Federal Transport Minister David Collenette said five consortiums have expressed interest in the project. Projections call for the link to be ready by 2003.

 Coffey invests in NPSL

NHL defenseman Paul Coffey is part-owner of the National Professional Soccer League expansion Toronto ThunderHawks, scheduled to begin play this October. Coffey said he has a 10 percent investment in the team and is considering a larger share. Toronto’s previous NPSL team, the Toronto Shooting Stars, folded after one season in 1996-97 playing in cavernous Maple Leaf Gardens. The ThunderHawks will play at the 6,200-seat Hershey Center in Mississauga, about seven miles west of Toronto. Majority owner Neil Jamieson said the team will have to attract about 4,000 fans per game at ticket prices between about $8 and $17 to break even financially.

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