SBJ/November 19 - 25, 2001/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

BUFFALO

 Bisons win Freitas Award

The Buffalo Bisons have been named the winner of the 2001 Freitas Award by Baseball America. It's the second time the Bisons have been honored with the award, which is given annually to the top minor league franchise on and off the field. The 2001 Bisons had the top attendance in the International League (652,245) despite losing four dates to inclement weather. On the field, the Bisons became just the third Class AAA team since 1962 to win 90 or more games.

CHARLOTTE

 BofA branches out beyond ACC

Bank of America has eyes beyond the ACC. Another coastal hoops conference, the Pac-10, is the bank's latest sports sponsorship. The two-year deal covers the conference's men's and women's basketball tournaments. BofA sports marketing chief Dockery Clark said the Pac-10 — which includes Stanford, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon — provides the perfect partnership for its credit and debit cards with Visa and Alaska Airlines. The sponsorship begins this month with a TV campaign on the West Coast.

CINCINNATI

 Bands march on Paul Brown field

Cincinnati-area high school bands were allowed to perform on the field at Paul Brown Stadium Nov. 10 after Hamilton County officials overruled the Bengals' request that the bands be kept off the field. Two Ohio high school playoff games were held at the stadium, after the Bengals and the county, which built the stadium, finally agreed on financial terms. But the Bengals didn't want the bands to perform, saying it would be bad for the grass field. County commissioners, however, held an emergency meeting and decided late Nov. 9 to allow the bands to play.

COLUMBUS

 Stanley Steemer backs Blue Jackets

About a third of Stanley Steemer’s Columbus fleet is being converted to Columbus Blue Jackets-themed cleaning vans, with the Blue Jackets logo on both sides and rear of the vehicles. The rest of the vehicles in Columbus have window decals highlighting the relationship between Stanley Steemer and the Blue Jackets. As the official carpet cleaner of the NHL’s Blue Jackets, Stanley Steemer wanted to incorporate its sponsorship beyond traditional signage and advertisements.

HOUSTON

 Astros raising ticket prices

The Houston Astros are raising ticket prices between 20 percent and 41 percent, but the team is giving a price break to people who buy their tickets early for the 2002 season. Season-ticket prices range from $913 to $2,905 before Jan. 7, from $913 to $3,071 between Jan. 8 and March 15, and from $996 to $3,237 after March 15. The regular ticket prices kick in after March 15, with a per-game price range of between $12 and $39. The Astros did not raise ticket prices last year but did so in 2000 for the team's inaugural season in Enron Field.

 Light rail OK'd from Houston to Reliant Park

The Houston 2012 Foundation got some good news Nov. 6 when voters approved construction of a 7.5-mile light rail line linking downtown Houston to Reliant Park, which would be home to many events if Houston wins the 2012 Olympic Games. Houston included the $300 million light rail project in its Olympic bid package as a solution to Houston's transportation problems. The project already is under construction, so if the measure had not passed, the work would have stopped and all completed work would have been undone.

INDIANAPOLIS

 MorSports folds women's Blaze

Indianapolis-based MorSports Inc. announced its women's soccer team, the Indiana Blaze, has suspended operations after five seasons and will not play in 2002. MorSports officials stopped short of saying the team, which plays in the United Soccer Leagues W-League, has been permanently folded. MorSports President Kim Morris confirmed the Blaze's operations were suspended for financial reasons. Franchise officials said last month that the team needed at least $50,000 to even consider playing in 2002.

JACKSONVILLE

 Dixie Blues debut against Orlando

Jacksonville's Dixie Blues, a Women's American Football League team, recently played their first game against the Orlando Fire. The league signed the 40-woman team for play this fall in the Atlantic Conference under owner John Clow. The WAFL recently merged several regional teams to form a national league, which kicked off Nov. 3. The WAFL plays full-contact football under NFL rules.

KANSAS CITY

 USHL team in works for developers

Developers of a proposed 8,000-seat arena in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe, Kan., have a tentative agreement for an amateur, junior United States Hockey League team. The arena is to open in the fall of 2003. Project backers have raised about $5.5 million of the cash they want for the $55 million development.

MIAMI

 Reports: Marlins won't be contracted ...

A high-ranking baseball executive told the Miami Herald that the Florida Marlins would not be one of the franchises to be contracted. While some reports say Expos managing general partner Jeffrey Loria would use his buyout money to purchase the Marlins, and Marlins owner John Henry would then buy the Angels, Angels President Tony Tavares told the Los Angeles Times that Disney and Henry don't have a deal and that the team has not been taken off the market.

 ... as team seeks new manager

Despite claims by Marlins owner John Henry to team employees that they will have jobs next year, the team's status for 2002 is still cloudy. But in a sign that there will be baseball in south Florida next year, Marlins assistant GM Al Avila said the team will begin a formal search next week for a new manager.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Pohlads ask workers not to quit

The Pohlad family, owners of the likely soon-to-be-contracted Minnesota Twins, met with employees of the organization Nov. 9 and asked them not to leave during the time of uncertainty, according to a story on the team's Web site. About 70 staff members received a letter explaining the family's reasons for agreeing to allow elimination of the team. The decision, the letter states, "has come from a feeling of hopelessness" about the likelihood of arriving at a solution to the team's lagging revenues. To entice employees to stick around until it is known whether the Twins will be eliminated, the Pohlads implemented a "Pay to Stay" program under which those who remain will receive three months' salary plus regular termination pay if the team is folded.

 'Keep Twins' movement under way

A grassroots effort to oppose baseball contraction kicked off outside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Nov. 11. "Keep the Twins at Home" was formed to give people throughout the upper Midwest a chance to voice their displeasure with contraction. "[Major League Baseball] Commissioner [Bud] Selig is severely underestimating the power and loyalty of Twins fans throughout Minnesota and the upper Midwest," said chairman Paul Ridgeway. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome, also has given citizens a chance to voice their opinions. The organization has set up a link on its Web site (msfc.com) where citizens can send messages to Selig and other officials.

NASHVILLE

 Preds to unveil new tiger jersey

The Nashville Predators will unveil their new third jersey Wednesday when the Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks. The new jerseys will be available in the Predators Pro Shop immediately after the unveiling. All fans attending the Friday night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins will receive a Predators team poster with the players in the new jerseys.

OAKLAND

 Group markets PSLs with Raiders playoffs

The Oakland Raiders’ run for the playoffs may pay off for the Oakland Football Marketing Association, the group assembled by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority to sell personal seat licenses. By early December the association hopes to have a marketing plan in place that would link $125 to $2,000 PSLs for 2002 to Raiders playoff tickets this season, said Michael Ray, president of the association. The Raiders’ success over the past two seasons has helped push PSL accounts to 12,000, Ray said. That represents more than 29,000 season tickets, an increase of 2,800 seats from last season. Still, that’s down from 39,000 when the Raiders returned from Los Angeles in 1995.

ORLANDO

 Citrus Sports braces for ‘smaller attendance’

With thoughts in collegiate football turning to bowl season, Florida Citrus Sports officials are showing signs of concern about travel and safety. Because of the nation’s tepid attitude toward travel since Sept. 11, the organization has budgeted “a smaller attendance” for the Capital One/Florida Citrus Bowl — much like it did in preparation for the game played during the millennium celebration.

PHILADELPHIA

 A-10 moving tourney to Dayton

The Atlantic-10 Conference announced it will move its postseason men’s basketball tournament from Philadelphia to Dayton, Ohio, after this season. The Atlantic-10, which has its headquarters in Philadelphia, thinks it can draw larger crowds at the University of Dayton Arena, which typically sells out its 13,500 seats. Attendance has been well below that figure at tournament games held in the First Union Spectrum in south Philadelphia.

 Shorebirds win Freitas Class A award

Philadelphia-based Comcast-Spectacor’s Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds minor league baseball team was awarded the Bob Freitas Organization of the Year award for all of Class A baseball. The Shorebirds, which beat out 50 other teams for the honor, are the Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

 Jaworski, others plan arena team in ’03

An ownership group led by ESPN commentator and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski expects to bring an arena football team to the city in 2003. Jaworski said the group, which also includes Reading Phillies owner Craig Stein and former Arena Football League Commissioner Jim Drucker, is in discussions with Comcast-Spectacor about a lease that would allow the team to play at the First Union Center. The group was awarded an AFL franchise in September 1999 but wasn’t able to move forward on its plans to play in Philadelphia until April, when Eagles owner Jeff Lurie decided not to exercise an option to own a Philadelphia AFL franchise.

RALEIGH-DURHAM

 Colony sponsoring new bar at arena

Colony Homes has signed on as title sponsor of a new sports bar at Raleigh’s Entertainment and Sports Arena. Colony’s agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes includes placement of the builder’s logo on the ice, signage at the arena and status as the team’s “official homebuilder.” Colony’s Atlanta division inked a deal this year to make it the preferred homebuilder of the Atlanta Thrashers.

SAN DIEGO

 Bonds to be issued tax-exempt

Merrill Lynch & Co., the city of San Diego’s bond underwriter on the downtown ballpark project, has decided ballpark bonds will be issued on a tax-exempt basis. Mayor Dick Murphy announced Nov. 9 that Merrill Lynch will place the bonds with a limited group of institutional investors. “This is a very, very positive development because it should result in a lower bond interest rate and provide considerable savings to the city,” Murphy said, though he did not disclose the new rate. As a result of the Merrill Lynch decision, the city will have to prepare new bond disclosure documents for City Council approval. The council is scheduled to vote on the bond package Tuesday.

SAN FRANCISCO

 AT&T Broadband, Warriors treat fans

AT&T Broadband is offering subscribers free passes to the March 14 game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers — if customers buy five other Warriors games. The $20-$27 upper-bowl seats at the Arena in Oakland normally would cost $120-$162 for six games; the Warriors-AT&T Broadband package brings the cost to $75-$100, said Warriors chief operating officer Robert Rowell. The other games are Jan. 23 (against Memphis), Feb. 5 (Seattle), Feb. 25 (Indiana), March 24 (Houston) and April 5 (Denver).

 PowerBar wheels, deals with Armstrong

Berkeley-based PowerBar Inc. signed a three-year endorsement contract, through 2004, with cycling legend Lance Armstrong. The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed, but the energy bar manufacturer bought the rights to worldwide use of Armstrong’s name, likeness, signature, voice and image. PowerBar will use photos of Armstrong in its new “Be Great” national print advertising campaign.

ST. LOUIS

 Women’s volleyball coming in 2002

St. Louis will be one of four cities to launch a women’s professional volleyball league next year. The United States Professional Volleyball League unveiled plans Nov. 12 to start the St. Louis Quest. The other three teams are the Chicago Thunder, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Force and Minnesota Chill. The USPVL will own all four teams. Michael Miazga, the league’s director of media and public relations, said the St. Louis team will play at Washington University.

 And so is minor league basketball

Entrepreneurs Michael and Steve Roberts of Roberts Broadcasting Co. have assembled an ownership group to launch a minor league basketball team here. The group is organized as Sho-Me Hoops, which is bringing the yet-to-be-named team from the United States Basketball League next April for a 30-game season. The ownership group includes Mark Wilder, the general manager of WFUN-FM, and Eric Rhone, a businessman and manager for Cedric the Entertainer. Sho-Me is negotiating with the University of Missouri-St. Louis to play its 15-game home schedule at the university’s 4,000-seat basketball arena.

TORONTO

 Argos president quitting

Toronto Argonaut President Jeff Giles has resigned from the club after one year on the job, saying he underestimated the amount of work needed to sell the Argos and the Canadian Football League in Canada’s largest city. Giles said he was surprised by the apathy that surrounded the team in the corporate community in Toronto. Prior to joining the Argos, Giles was CFL president and chief operating officer.

VANCOUVER

 Ravens unveil inaugural uniforms

The Vancouver Ravens of the National Lacrosse League recently unveiled their uniforms for the team’s inaugural season. The team will play its home games at General Motors Place starting Dec. 1. The uniforms are produced by ProJoy Sportswear of Guelph, Ontario. Sportsnet will televise nine of the Ravens’ 16 games as part of the network’s NLL package.

WASHINGTON

 SoccerPlex signs hospital sponsor

The Maryland SoccerPlex signed Shady Grove Adventist Hospital as a major sponsor. The facility will sponsor five of the 19 fields at the Germantown, Md., soccer complex. In return, Shady Grove receives signage on fields three through seven and its logo in SoccerPlex print advertising. Financial terms were not disclosed. The SoccerPlex, which is managed by the Maryland Soccer Foundation, is pursuing a naming sponsor for the entire complex, which would include being the naming sponsor for the 3,200-seat field. The complex hired Baltimore-based consumer marketing firm Forum Quest in March to help in the sponsorship search.

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