SBJ/December 3 - 9, 2001/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

 Thrashers offering holiday packs

The NHL's Atlanta Thrashers are offering holiday packs to fans at all home games through Jan. 6. The $50 packs include either a Thrashers, Braves or Hawks hat and $50 in Turner team gift certificates. Those certificates, good until Dec. 2, 2002, can be redeemed for Thrashers, Hawks, Braves or Philips Arena events or merchandise at either the arena or Turner Field.

BUFFALO

 St. Bonaventure dedicates gym floor

St. Bonaventure University has dedicated the floor at the on-campus gymnasium as the Adelphia Court at Reilly Center. The dedication is to the family of Adelphia Communications Corp. founder and chairman John Rigas, a longtime supporter of St. Bonaventure athletics and the university as a whole.

CINCINNATI

 Stadium, team say playoffs damaged field

The Bengals and a Paul Brown Stadium manager say the center portion of the playing field probably needs to be replaced with new sod after two high school football playoff games were held there. And Hamilton County taxpayers might have to pay for it. Estimates range from $50,000 to $100,000 to replace the center of the field. The turf contractor, S.W. Franks of Cleveland, who was supposed to provide one free resodding this year, said it might not do it for free because the county held an unscheduled event, a high school football playoff doubleheader.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH

 ClubCorp, GSD&M strike a deal

ClubCorp Inc. has hired an Austin, Texas, ad firm, GSD&M, to help build the brand of the Dallas operator of golf courses and country clubs and lure more customers. GSD&M will help ClubCorp develop strategic partnerships and develop a corporate identity.

 Hill hires Links Sports to manage him

Jason Hill, a qualifier for the 2002 PGA Tour, has hired Plano, Texas-based Links Sports Management Group to manage his affairs. Hill finished 14th in the Buy.com Tour, which is the developmental stage for the PGA. Links already represents David Toms, a PGA Tournament winner, and two other Buy.com players, Chad Campbell and Pat Bates.

DENVER

 Roy won't play in Olympics

Patrick Roy isn't heading to the Olympics. The goalie for the Colorado Avalanche announced he won't play for his native Canada during the Winter Olympics in February in Salt Lake City. He said he would prefer to spend his time getting ready for the NHL playoffs.

 60 women compete for spots on teams

About 60 women showed up Nov. 25 at Invesco Field at Mile High for a shot at landing a spot on two women's football teams. The teams are part of the new professional United Women's Football League, which will field eight teams in Colorado and Wyoming. The tryouts were for the Denver Foxes and the Boulder team, which remains unnamed. Each team will have a roster of 55 players, who will be paid $50 a game each. In addition to Boulder and Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Fort Collins will field UWFL teams.

 Grand Prix sought for Silverthorne

The United States Speedway Series, a Colorado group, wants to race a Grand Prix through the streets of Silverthorne next July. The 1.1-mile track would encompass city streets to the northwest of Interstate 70. Officials of the mountain town, located 50 miles west of Denver, have yet to give their blessing to the proposal.

FONTANA, CALIF.

 Motorcycle course site for Superbikes

California Speedway's new 2.3-mile motorcycle competition road course will be the site of two rounds on the 2002 AMA/ Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship schedule. The doubleheader features Superbike racing on April 6 and 7, with practice and qualifying April 5. In addition to the Superbike races, the Pro Honda Oils U.S. SuperSport Championship 600, the Super Stock and Formula Xtreme classes and the 250 Grand Prix will also race during the weekend. California Speedway events follow the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway on March 10.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 Views mixed on LPGA attendance

The recent LPGA Tyco/ADT Championship in West Palm Beach was a success at the gate, with an estimated attendance of 45,000 for the week, according to The Miami Herald. The attendance exceeded the expectations of tournament organizers but not LPGA officials, who, according to The Palm Beach Post, "were hoping to have 60,000 fans visit" Trump International.

HOUSTON

 Wildcat Golf Club out of the bag

Developers released details on Houston's newest golf course — the Wildcat Golf Club — and cleared up the mystery created by a teaser billboard reading "The Cat's Outta the Bag. This November." The $25 million Wildcat project includes two daily-fee golf courses, a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, the Wildcat School of Golf and practice facilities. The first of Wildcat's two 36-hole championship golf courses is scheduled to open Dec. 7, and the second will tee up in mid-2002. Developers are touting the courses' dramatic elevation changes, numerous lakes and views of downtown Houston. A full-service restaurant also is scheduled to open at the facility early next year. Pierce Junction Golf Holdings, a California investment group, is behind the Wildcat project. The facility will be managed by Houston-based Redstone Golf Management, whose other properties include The Houstonian Golf Club and BlackHorse Golf Club.

 Aeros practice for public, for free

Coach Todd McLellan held a unique practice session for the Houston Aeros on Nov. 24 at the Sugar Land Aerodrome that was free and open to the public. Fans got a behind-the-scenes chance to see how professional hockey players work on their skills. Spectators also got to listen to McLellan, who wore a microphone as he ran the practice. Afterward, players answered questions and signed autographs.

 Heavy hitters endorse Olympic bid

A new set of politicians have lined up to endorse Houston's bid to become the U.S. candidate city for the 2012 Olympic Games. Former President George Bush, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are backing Houston's effort to land the Olympics. Houston may have gained additional support from state leaders after Dallas was eliminated from the running Oct. 26.

INDIANAPOLIS

 Hewitt to play Indy tournament

Officials for the RCA Championships tennis tournament received a commitment from 20-year-old Australian Lleyton Hewitt to play in the 2002 tournament Aug. 12-18. Hewitt is the world’s top-ranked men’s player for 2001, and local tournament officials had to wrestle him away from a tournament scheduled the same week in Washington, D.C. Both ATP Tour tournaments are key tune-ups for the U.S. Open. RCA Championships Director Rob MacGill said now that Hewitt has agreed to play in the RCA, he will set his sights on signing several other top players, including the world’s No. 2-ranked Gustavo Kuerten.

 Brickyard vistas get overhaul

The southwest vista and parts of the south vista at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway along the first turn and south short chute are being dismantled and rebuilt as part of the track’s off-season maintenance program. The work will refurbish seating areas, said Kevin Forbes, the track’s director of engineering and construction. Workers will remove rust, repaint and reconstruct parts of the area, Forbes said. The stands, which are about 30 years old, will be rebuilt exactly as they are with no seats added or removed.

 Hollywood comes to IRL

Makers of Hollywood cigarettes recently announced they would sponsor Mo Nunn’s 2002 entry into the Indy Racing League team. The car will be driven by Felipe Giaffone. Hollywood, a longtime CART sponsor, will abandon that league to run a team full time in the IRL.

KANSAS CITY

 NABC tourney may become exempt

The National Association of Basketball Coaches Guardians Classic, which debuted Nov. 20-21 at Kemper Arena, is likely to gain exempt status next year. The 16-team NCAA Division I tournament is expected to move to Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City after the NABC’s headquarters relocate from the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kan. The NABC’s National Basketball Center also will include an interactive fan exhibit and a coaches hall of honor. The transition is expected to be completed in early 2003.

 Wizards’ attendance rises 20%

The Kansas City Wizards’ home attendance this season rose 20 percent from last year to average 10,954 fans per game. The increase reflects a near-doubling of season-ticket holders, to 4,023. Almost half have renewed for the 2002 MLS season.

LOS ANGELES

 African-American IRL team launches

Team owner 310 Motoring officially launched the first African-American Indy Racing League team Nov. 26. Los Angeles native George Mack, one of the most successful kart racers ever with more than 200 wins, was introduced at the media conference as the driver of the 310 Racing entry for the 2002 IRL campaign. The 30-year-old Mack sat behind the wheel of the 2002 Dallara he will drive on the Indy racing circuit.

MIAMI

 Henry in wings on Red Sox bid

If Florida Marlins owner John Henry’s purchase of the Anaheim Angels “runs into a snag,” he might join a bid to purchase the Boston Red Sox, according to espn.com. But Henry reiterated to his staff last week that the Marlins would play in south Florida next season.

MILWAUKEE

 Bradley Center getting overhaul

The home of the Milwaukee Bucks will get a $75 million overhaul. The privately financed Bradley Center, which opened in October 1988, will be remodeled to improve the seating area, enhance sight lines and fan amenities, and add both a team store and a casual, family-oriented restaurant. Construction would start by late 2002, if the Bradley Center board can receive government and financing approvals. The Bradley Center board said it will seek “significant private sector ‘self-help’ funding” to pay for the project. The Bradley Center also is seeking $7 million from the public Wisconsin Center District, which operates the Milwaukee Arena and Milwaukee Auditorium across the street in downtown Milwaukee. The expansion would include larger concourses, additional leg room in the lower seating bowl, a 40,000-square-foot service level expansion and a 30,000-square-foot multilevel expansion.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Schulze interested in Twins, Vikings

Richard Schulze, founder, chairman and CEO of Eden Prairie-based Best Buy Co., would be interested in being part of an investor group that would buy the Minnesota Twins from Carl Pohlad, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Schulze also would be eager to be a part of a team to buy the Vikings, the paper reported. Donald Wilkins, a billionaire businessman from Alabama, also has interest in buying the Twins, which would make him the first African-American owner in baseball.

 Keep the Twins group has petitions

Keep the Twins at Home, a citizens group started by local event planner Paul Ridgeway, displayed “more than 100,000 signed petitions” at the Metrodome last week. The petitions, five Twins Fan Vans and the “Minny Twinny Winnebago” were then to depart for Chicago, where the documents were to be presented to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. The league owners were meeting in Chicago last week.

 Challenge moving to Ruby Creek

Tom Lehman’s Marshall Field’s Challenge, formerly known as the Dayton’s Challenge, will move to Ruby Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove in 2002. The event will be held June 22-24.

 Vikings retire Tingelhoff’s No. 53

The Minnesota Vikings retired the No. 53 worn by center Mick Tingelhoff from 1962 to 1978 during the team’s Nov. 25 game against the Chicago Bears. It is the second game in a row the team has retired a number — Korey Stringer’s was retired Nov. 19. Tingelhoff joins Stringer, Alan Page and Fran Tarkenton as the only Vikings to have their numbers retired.

ORLANDO

 Festival of Speed comes to Orlando

Downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola will be the staging site for the USA Cycling Festival of Speed next April. The two-day event is being sponsored by the city of Orlando, the Central Florida Sports Commission and Floridaracing.net. This race will be the first of three to be held in the Orlando area. Day one of the first event will consist of a bicycle race on a 1.1-mile course through the streets surrounding Lake Eola. The various competitions will last for more than 12 hours. Day two will consist of an extended road race in the Lake Nona area. The event’s sponsors expect to draw up to 400 of the best cycling teams in the United States and give a boost to downtown businesses.

PHILADELPHIA

 More bobbleheads on the way

Following up on the success of last year’s Allen Iverson bobblehead giveaway, the Philadelphia 76ers are planning two new promotions this year. On Sunday, the Sixers were to honor a former player by giving away Moses Malone bobblehead dolls to the first 5,000 fans through the gates for that night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. On March 1, the Sixers will give away Dikembe Mutombo bobblehead dolls to the first 5,000 fans under the age of 14 at the team’s game against the New Jersey Nets. Karen Frascona, the Sixers’ director of communications, said the Mutombo doll will have the added feature of a bobbling finger — an homage to the finger waggle the Sixers player directs at opponents who try to drive the lane, only to have their shot rejected by the 7-foot center.

 Volunteers sought for MVP Jam Session

The NBA put out the call for 1,500 “energetic and dedicated people” needed to participate on the Jam Session MVP Volunteer Team in Philadelphia in February. The NBA Jam Session, the party for the public that will precede the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Philadelphia, will run from Feb. 7-10. The long weekend will have an estimated economic impact of $50 million for the region, according to Danielle Cohn of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. That figure includes the booking of 18,000 reserved room nights at area hotels.

PORTLAND, MAINE

 Pirates make deal with Planet Fitness

The AHL’s Portland Pirates have named Planet Fitness the team’s official training facility. Planet Fitness will be used by Pirates players throughout the year as part of their training and conditioning program. Planet Fitness will also offer the Pirates a variety of aerobic workout equipment necessary for their training.

SACRAMENTO

 Sports Center of Excellence opens

Sports Center of Excellence, a 50,000-square-foot, multisport indoor sports center, has opened in Vacaville in Solano County west of Sacramento. The center has the largest indoor turf soccer field in California and a mini-soccer field for youth play, training and practice games. It features a pro shop, snack bar, chiropractic and physical therapy services, and an arcade. The center will soon add a gym, child care, batting and pitching cages, arena football, basketball and volleyball. Hubert Rotteveel, who was general manager of the Sacramento Knights professional indoor soccer team for many years, is a partner and general manager of the sports center. The center’s business and marketing partners include Northstar Wireless Distributors/Nextel, Pepsi-Cola Bottling of Woodland, Les Schwab Tire Center, Lithia Toyota and Kappa Apparel.

SAN DIEGO

 50 named to Super Bowl council

The Super Bowl XXXVII Host Committee has named 50 prominent San Diegans to its Community Council, which will coordinate local activities related to the city’s third Super Bowl, to be played on Jan. 26, 2003, at Qualcomm Stadium.

 Ballpark construction to resume soon

Now that the City Council has voted to issue $166 million in bonds to finance its share of the downtown ballpark, Padres officials hope construction can resume by Christmas. The first job workers will tackle will be to clean the reinforcing steel (rebar) protruding from the concrete columns already in place. The ballpark was about 20 percent complete when work was halted in early October 2000.

 Padres cut 9 from non-baseball staff

Nine Padres non-baseball employees, in positions ranging from Hispanic marketing to club photography, were let go by the team in mid-November in a staff-reduction move.

SAN FRANCISCO

 Warriors, arena in arbitration

The Golden State Warriors and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority are in arbitration over the team’s refusal to collect and turn over a 5 percent facility fee for every ticket, according to the San Jose Mercury News. A decision is expected in December, the newspaper reported. The 5 percent fee is mandated by the team’s 20-year lease with the coliseum authority, which was signed in 1996. The Warriors also are appealing an arbitrator’s 1999 ruling ordering the team to turn over to the authority the first $7.4 million it receives each season from selling the arena’s best seats. The arbitrator ordered the team to turn over the first two years’ payments. With interest, those payments now stand at $19 million total, the newspaper reported.

SAN JOSE

 Sharks coach leads holiday campaign

San Jose Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter is leading the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs Association’s annual “Gifts for Guns” campaign this holiday season. Under the program, people can exchange handguns and rifles for gift packages, including Sharks tickets, in the parking lot at the Compaq Center, the Sharks’ home arena.

ST. LOUIS

 Gateway cuts season-ticket prices

Gateway International Raceway has lowered season-ticket prices by 23.8 percent for upper rows at the speedway to 28.1 percent in the lower rows. The new season-ticket prices range from $115 to $160 each for Gateway’s three major race weekends: NASCAR Busch and truck series events May 4-5 and July 19-20 and the Indy Racing League’s Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 24-25.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 St. Pete to host Grand Prix

St. Petersburg will host a CART race in February 2003. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will run annually on a temporary course that includes the city’s scenic downtown bayfront. The city has been asked to spend $85,000 on upgrades to streets along the race circuit. The promoter, Grand Prix Associates of Long Beach, Calif., plans to invest more than $6 million to build the course.

TORONTO

 Argos coach becomes president

Off the football field, Michael “Pinball” Clemons’ strong suit has always been his easy smile and outgoing personality. He’ll need every bit of that charm to make a success of his new job as president of the Toronto Argonauts. Clemons, 36, gives up his position as Argos coach to dedicate himself full time to restoring the team’s credibility among the general public and in the corporate community — a task that proved too large for ex-CFL President and ex-Argos President Jeff Giles. Clemons enters the job without any managerial experience. No new coach has been named.

 CFL’s Lysko: Argos stay put

Canadian Football League Commissioner Michael Lysko poured a bucket of cold water on the Toronto Argonauts’ proposal to move from SkyDome to tiny Lamport Stadium. “We don’t schedule games in stadiums that may or may not be built by next May,” Lysko said. The Argos are said to be considering the move on the assumption that playing outdoors would boost attendance, but Lamport would need significant renovations to seating capacity and facilities to reach CFL standards.

 Strike may hurt Olympics coverage

A possible technicians strike threatens to affect the CBC’s coverage of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The CBC has hired free-lancers to work during the Games, a decision the CBC says was necessitated because of an early deadline for accreditation and slow bargaining talks with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. The union has been in a legal strike position since Nov. 27. A strike in 1999 forced CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” to use U.S. feeds for its telecasts.

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