SBJ/June 26 - July 2, 2000/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

 Murphy donates toys to kids’ home
 Gwynn gobbles new deal

Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Gord Murphy is donating $1,000 worth of toys to the Carrie Steele Pitts Home for Children in exchange for signing autographs at the grand opening of FAO Schwarz in the Mall of Georgia. Murphy met with fans on June 17 and signed editions of a new NHL Monopoly game, along with replica helmets of the Thrashers. The Carrie Steele Pitts Home for Children is a full-time residential facility for kids ages 5-18 who are orphaned or abandoned.

San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn and his wife, Alicia, signed a franchise agreement with Atlanta-based Churchs Chicken to open 100 stores in Southern California. The development agreement is one of the largest for Churchs, which is a division of AFC Enterprises Inc. Gwynn said in a release that the deal marks a chance for him to give back to the community by creating jobs in urban areas.

BALTIMORE

 Memorabilia plan approved

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $567,000 contract toward the removal and salvage of seats, signs and other items from Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, which is scheduled to be demolished later this year. The memorabilia will be available for public auction this fall. Money raised from the auction will go to the state to offset the cost of the demolition. The contract was awarded to Wrecking Corporation of America and calls for removing about 12,000 stadium seats, numerous signs and other items from the former home of Baltimore's Colts and Orioles.

BOSTON

 Celtics, Southwest reward students

The Boston Celtics and Southwest Airlines flew 25 students from local Timilty Middle School to Washington, D.C., for a field trip last Tuesday. The students were the winners of the Assist Community Service Contest hosted by Southwest Airlines and the Celtics. Celtics players Walter McCarty and Vitaly Potapenko joined the day trip, which was highlighted by a tour of the U.S. Capitol and a meeting with U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. The trip was part of the NBA Team-Up program, designed to help youth develop an understanding of critical issues facing society.

CHARLOTTE

 Hornets, station near deal

The Charlotte Hornets and WBT-AM are poised to complete a one-year deal by Saturday that would keep the team's games on the station, according to representatives of both parties. WBT has been the Hornets' radio home since the team's inception in 1988. Earlier this year, the station and partner Capitol Broadcasting Co. opted not to pursue extending their contract with the Carolina Panthers.

 Lowe's adapts its schedule

Lowe's Motor Speedway will move its qualifying from Wednesdays to Thursdays in 2001 for its fall and spring Winston Cup races. The move stems from Winston Cup drivers' frustration over the Charlotte track's history of having qualifying earlier than at other tracks for other races.

 Senator doubts arena funding

North Carolina Sen. Fountain Odom, leader of Mecklenburg County's state legislative delegation, said a new NBA arena in Charlotte will have to be built without state funds. "I think it would be very hard to justify," he said. Odom voiced his opinion as the city and Charlotte Hornets are hoping to land $25 million to $30 million in state funds, equal to the state contribution for the Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena, which opened last fall. That arena is home to North Carolina State University's men's basketball team and the Carolina Hurricanes.

CINCINNATI

 Kroger 225 sets crowd record

Heavy rains and mud caused track officials to close some parking lots for the Kentucky Speedway's inaugural June 17 racing event — the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 225 — and some fans were turned away. Despite the problems, the speedway broke the Cincinnati area's sports attendance record for a single event with 63,750 fans. The previous record was 60,284 for a Cincinnati Bengals game against Cleveland at Riverfront Stadium in 1971.

 Taxpayers off the hook

Cincinnati taxpayers will not have to ante up multimillion-dollar late fees for Paul Brown Stadium because construction managers have guaranteed team and Hamilton County officials that it will be ready on time. The Bengals' 1997 lease with the county stated that taxpayers would be responsible for penalties of $2 million for each preseason game and $4 million for each regular-season game not played in the new stadium this year. The county and team are also negotiating to remove the guarantee of at least 50,000 tickets sold for each home game this year and next.

COLUMBUS, OHIO

 Blue Jackets name ECHL affiliate

The NHL's new Columbus Blue Jackets named the Dayton Bombers as their East Coast Hockey League affiliate for the 2000-01 season. The Blue Jackets begin play at Nationwide Arena this fall as a member of the Central Division of the NHL's Western Conference.

DENVER

 Broncos fans file suit over tickets

Three Denver Broncos season-ticket holders filed suit against the team's owner, PDB Sports Limited. Robert Heidrick, JoAnn Heidrick and Mike Kanderis claim the Broncos overcharged for tickets during a 15-year period and hope others will join them in a class-action lawsuit. About 50,000 team season-ticket holders from 1984 to 1999 were scheduled to receive notices of the suit last week. Team officials were unavailable for comment.

 Team clarifies new seating plans

The Broncos are offering hour-long classes at Mile High Stadium through the end of the month to answer questions about seat location changes for season-ticket holders when the team leaves Mile High Stadium for its new stadium. The precise location for the fans' seats cannot be determined until the Broncos know how many of those season-ticket holders will want to watch the game from the club level at the new stadium.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

 Nickname debate continues

Chief Jim Billie of the Seminole tribe, speaking at the annual Native American Journalist Association’s convention in Fort Lauderdale earlier this month, upset other American Indians in attendance when he said he didn’t care if the mascot for Florida State University was named after his people. Billie, commenting on how Native American names for mascots don’t affect his tribe, joked that he thought FSU stood for “fat, short and ugly.” American Indian activists have complained the mascots are derogatory, sparking a national trend among high school and college teams to change their nicknames. Navajo Times editor Tom Arbiso, who led the discussion at the convention, asked if Native Americans were “prostituting” their culture for allowing teams to use such nicknames. Billie emphasized his point that the Seminole tribe is not offended by the FSU mascot.

HOUSTON

 Attempt to lure Rockets stalls

A proposal to build a new basketball arena in Louisville, Ky., in an attempt to attract the Houston Rockets to town was halted after Jefferson County (Ky.) backed out of the three-way funding deal. The city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky may still try to craft a proposal, but it most likely would not be ready by 2003, when the team's lease runs out at the Compaq Center. The Rockets continue to negotiate with Houston officials for a new local arena.

 Comets to retire Perrot's number

The Houston Comets will retire Kim Perrot’s No. 10 jersey at halftime of the Comets’ home game against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 29. The former Comets point guard died of cancer in August. It marks the first jersey retirement in the WNBA. The league also has permanently named its annual sportsmanship award in honor of Perrot.

INDIANAPOLIS

 Sports-business expert threatened

Indiana University professor Murray Sperber, threatened for his critical comments about basketball coach Bob Knight, said he’s taking a leave of absence for a year to protect his students and assistant teachers. Sperber, a nationally recognized authority on the business of college sports, was widely quoted in local and national media on the investigation into Knight. After his comments were published, Sperber said he received several threats via phone and e-mail and he no longer felt safe in the classroom. IU officials did offer to post police protection in Sperber’s classroom, but Sperber declined, saying it would be a distraction.

 Hoosier hospitality questioned

Officials at Union Planters Bank in Indianapolis refused to cash $5,000 in travelers checks for a China Central television crew, which was in town to cover the NBA Finals. Bank officials said it was against the bank’s policy to cash checks larger than $500 for individuals who did not have a Union Planters account. One of the Chinese crew members happened to have a hand-held video camera, which was turned on to film the incident. Members of the crew said they were discriminated against and threatened to air the videotape before millions of viewers on China television. The Indiana Department of Commerce helped Union Planters re-establish contact with the broadcast team. The day after the incident, bank officials agreed to cash the check and showered the crew with gifts, including Indiana Pacers hats and T-shirts.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Wild sells arena naming rights

The Minnesota Wild’s arena will be known as the Xcel Energy Center. Under a 25-year agreement between the team and soon-to-be-Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc., the company’s name will be displayed on an interactive display called “The Lighthouse,” on the center ice circle and on the eight-sided scoreboard. The team did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but sources told local media outlets the deal was worth $80 million over 25 years. Xcel Energy is the name of the company that will result from the merger between Minneapolis-based Northern States Power and Denver-based New Century Energies that was announced in March 1999. The merger is expected to be approved in July.

 Twins create citizen committee

The Minnesota Twins created a citizen committee designed to study solutions that would ultimately ensure the team stays in Minnesota. The group was formed following two years of contention between the team, the state and citizens over the Twins’ expressed need for a new stadium and its threats to leave the market. The 120-member Minnesotans For Major League Baseball group will gather information, analyze alternatives and recommend steps to ensure the Twins’ long-term viability.

NEW YORK

 WUSA board will include player

The Women’s United Soccer Association, in an unprecedented move for team sports, will name a player representative to its board of governors. The player will be chosen by the WUSA founding players and will represent all the league’s players. WUSA’s founding players are Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Tracy Ducar, Lorrie Fair, Joy Fawcett, Danielle Fotopoulos, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Carla Overbeck, Cindy Parlow, Christie Pearce, Tiffany Roberts, Briana Scurry, Kate Sobrero, Tisha Venturini, Saskia Webber and Sara Whalen.

ORLANDO

 IRL drops Disney venue from schedule

The Indy Racing League has dropped Walt Disney World Speedway as a stop for next season. Disney officials said the two groups could not agree on a date for the Indy 200, which has traditionally been run in January. The move leaves Disney without a racing event for its speedway. The track will be used solely for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which allows visitors a chance to drive a stock car.

PHILADELPHIA

 Autograph party draws 2,600 fans

More than 2,600 people turned out for the 11th annual autograph party and auction held by the Philadelphia Phillies and the ALS Association to raise money for the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease. The June 15 event, which featured current Phillies and members of the franchise’s 1980 World Series championship team, raised $434,434. Since 1984, the Phillies have raised more than $5.2 million for ALS research through a variety of charitable events.

 Phillies celebrate World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies hosted a series of events to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of their first and only World Series championship. Events included a parade featuring members of the 1980 team, a concert featuring Peter Nero and the Philly Pops as well as former reliever Tug McGraw reciting “Casey at the Bat.” Pregame festivities on June 17 included player introductions and a video of highlights from the 1980 season. Despite speculation that he might go to the June 17 game as private fan, Pete Rose, who is banned from participating in official MLB events, was not in attendance. Dallas Green, manager of the 1980 squad, honored the former Phillies’ first baseman during player introductions by displaying a uniform jersey with Rose’s No. 14 on it, then folding the jersey and laying it on first base.


PHOENIX

 Ice Den changes name to Alltel

The Phoenix Coyotes and Alltel Corp. changed the name of the team’s practice facility to the Alltel Ice Den, effective June 12. Formerly the Cellular One Ice Den, the facility will remain the official training facility and corporate offices of the Coyotes and will continue to offer all the services it has in the past. Alltel took ownership of Cellular One properties in Arizona, New Mexico and parts of west Texas on April 1, completing a process that began with a February exchange of wireless properties among Alltel, Bell Atlantic and GTE.

 Coyotes design new ticket plan

The Phoenix Coyotes have received more than 500 new season-ticket deposits since the announcement earlier this month that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky would join the club’s new ownership group. To assist fans with the purchase of season tickets, the Coyotes have improved their already popular automatic monthly payment plan, under which fans give the team permission to automatically draft their bank accounts. Fans can now pay 30 percent up front and have seven months to pay off the rest.

PITTSBURGH

 Valvoline donates to local charity

 Valvoline Co. gave Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh a $4,000 check, which represents $10 for every double hit by the Pirates so far this season. The check was presented to the agency by NASCAR driver Mark Martin and Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann during a Pirates home game on June 15. Valvoline’s support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a part of the company’s “Caring Hands” program, which began in 1999 with a $50,000 donation and commitment to host fund-raisers at selected NASCAR races. In less than two years, the program has raised $481,905.

PORTLAND

 Stadium groundbreaking delayed

Groundbreaking for the Civic Stadium renovation has been delayed by two to four weeks while developers hammer out legal details. Portland Family Entertainment, which is overseeing the $38.5 million renovation and will operate the stadium, said the delay won’t affect plans to open the new facility in late April 2001. PFE purchased the Class AAA Albuquerque (N.M.) Dukes to be the stadium’s primary tenant. The stadium also will host the Portland State University football team.

 Blazers dole out youth grants

For the second straight year, the Portland Trail Blazers have donated $70,000 to seven nonprofit youth organizations. The grants went to groups that serve more than 5,000 Portland-area kids. Organizations receiving grants include Albina Head Start, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, Committed Partners for Youth, the Police Activities League, the Salvation Army Moore Street Center, Self Enhancement Inc. and YMCA Midnight Basketball.

SACRAMENTO

 River Cats set sales record

The Sacramento River Cats, Class AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s, broke the Pacific Coast League’s ticket sales record for single-season attendance on June 15. The team sold ticket No. 713,225, beating the record set by the Salt Lake City Buzz in 1994. The River Cats are averaging 12,245 fans at home games so far this season, though that average is brought down by four “home” games the franchise played at Oakland Coliseum at the beginning of the season, while Raley Field was still under construction. The River Cats are on pace to draw 838,344 fans this season to their 71 home games at Raley, which has a maximum capacity of 14,111.

SAN FRANCISCO

 Giants launch school program

Fox Sports Net, KNBR 680AM and the San Francisco Giants teamed up for a fifth straight season on the “Stay in School Challenge,” a program that rewards students with perfect school attendance. More than 1,600 tickets to the Giants-Houston Astros game on June 18 were sent to students with perfect attendance records. Students in grades 6-12 were eligible. Created in 1996, the “Stay In School Challenge” has sent more than 70,000 students from 400 Northern California schools to ball games.

SEATTLE

 Mariners honor women

Safeco and the Seattle Mariners are partnering for a Salute to Women in Baseball, inviting 10 former players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to lead a tribute to the past and future of women in sports. Founded in 1943, the AAGPBL was America’s first and only professional women’s baseball league. Originally established while men from Major League Baseball were overseas during World War II, the league existed for 11 years until it folded in 1954. Safeco and the Mariners are sponsoring a softball clinic and a movie screening of “A League of Their Own” and are staging a pregame tribute, all during the weekend of July 8-9.

ST. LOUIS

 Teams sponsor awards banquet

The St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Swarm of the International Basketball League and the Missouri River Otters of the United Hockey League were among the sponsors for the fourth annual Redbirds Awards Banquet, held June 13 at the Stadium Club inside Busch Stadium. The banquet, which honored more than 250 area high school baseball and softball conference champions, is part of a series of youth award dinners organized annually by the St. Louis Sports Commission.

 Street Soccer Cup signs sponsors

Fox Sports World and Fox Sports World Español have signed on as the official television media partner to Street Soccer Cup USA, a four-on-four outdoor tournament that will be held throughout the summer in nine U.S. cities. The national championships are scheduled for Sept. 2-3 in St. Louis. Tournament organizers are based at the St. Louis office of Think Tank Communications LLC.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 Naimoli backs out of charity event

Vince Naimoli, managing general partner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, told team employees in an in-house memorandum to shun a local fund-raiser for St. Petersburg hospitals because its organizers declined to hold it at Tropicana Field. Naimoli became angry when the group decided to hold the event at the city coliseum instead. In the memo, Naimoli told employees they would not support the Bayfront-St. Anthony’s Health Care Foundation “in any way” for its lack of commitment to Tropicana Field. The event helps local hospitals pay for health-care services for the poor. The hospitals are sponsors of Devil Rays games, provide medical services at Tropicana Field and pay for a corporate suite there. Naimoli would not comment on the issue.

 Lightning explore new look

The Tampa Bay Lightning hired New York-based SME Power Branding, the firm that designed the Rangers’ Statue of Liberty logo, to design a new look for the team. The Lightning notified the NHL that it was exploring a new logo and new uniform design for the 2001-02 season. Ed O’Hara, SME’s chief creative officer, said he will take 40 to 50 designs to the NHL in September. Team President Ron Campbell said the franchise is looking for a change because the current logo is difficult to work with when it comes to merchandise because the words “Tampa Bay Lightning” take away from the large lightning bolt. The new design would likely be drawn without words, though they could be used with a secondary logo. The team intends to keep the same blue and black color scheme.

TEXARKANA, TEXAS

 Expansion team Bandits unveil logo

The Border City Bandits of the Central Hockey League unveiled their new logo June 16. The logo features a yet-to-be-named raccoon as a mascot. The CHL awarded Texarkana its franchise June 2, bringing the league total to 12 teams. The Bandits will present their list of players to the league for the expansion draft to take place Wednesday. Texarkana is composed of two cities astride the Texas-Arkansas border, which runs through the center of downtown.

TORONTO

 Veteran CFL chairman to resign

At a meeting of Canadian Football League governors June 16, CFL chairman and acting commissioner John Tory confirmed he would resign at the end of the 2000 season in November to devote his full energies to his job as president and CEO of Rogers Cable Inc., one of the largest cable companies in Canada. Tory has been with the league for 10 years and twice before has indicated he would step down, only to change his mind later on. “They now have very, very clear notice from me that the end of the season is the end of my tenure,” Tory said.

WASHINGTON

 2012 Coalition raises over $7 million

The Washington/Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition reported it has raised more than $7 million of the estimated $11 million it says it needs to remain competitive in its drive to secure the United States bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

 Baltimore’s bid name in danger

If the protocol for Olympic bids does call for just one city name, expect Baltimore to be dropped from the Washington/Baltimore official bid title. Coalition Chairman Dan Knise said it “would be hard to ignore the power of the nation’s capital” when it comes to selecting a one-city bid title. This, despite Knise’s opinion that the Baltimore area has supported the bid effort more strongly than Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

 Duncan helps local development

San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan has become a partner in a group called 4th Street Winston, which seeks to develop downtown Winston-Salem. The city is home to Wake Forest University, where Duncan played in college. Duncan is expected to lend his name to a sports-themed restaurant planned as part of the downtown development.

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