SBJ/December 10 - 16, 2001/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

 Philips Arena crowds top 5 million total

Philips Arena drew its 5 millionth fan during the Hawks-Knicks game Nov. 28. The 5 million include the 20,072 on hand when Michael Jordan tried to bring back his magic (with the Washington Wizards) Nov. 1, the largest crowd for a sports event at Philips. It also includes concerts, including U2, Eric Clapton, Elton John and Billy Joel, and Madonna. The arena opened in September 1999.

 Success predicted for Macon Braves’ move

When in Rome, the minor league Class A affiliate of the Braves should do well. According to the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, the team is expected to sell several thousand season tickets in its first year following its move from Macon. The team decided in early November to relocate for the 2003 season.

BUFFALO

  Bandits games to air on radio

Radio station WNSA 107.7 FM has signed on to broadcast eight Buffalo Bandits games during the National Lacrosse League season. Five will be home games from HSBC Arena. Mike Schopp, afternoon drive host on the all-sports station that also broadcasts Buffalo Sabres games, will call the games.

 Bisons moving promotion to Thursdays

The Buffalo Bisons are moving their long-held Wednesday "Business Persons" special promotion to Thursdays during the 2002 International League season. The change was made to work in harmony with the "Thursday in the Square" concert series, held evenings in downtown Buffalo just blocks from Dunn Tire Park.

CHARLOTTE

 Bugs still buzzing around St. Louis, Louisville

The Charlotte Hornets continued searching for a new home, with Louisville Mayor Dave Armstrong offering a revamped arena plan to lure the team. At the same time, Hornets co-owner Ray Wooldridge met with St. Louis Blues owner Bill Laurie about bringing basketball to the Savvis Center. Laurie owns the NHL Blues and controls the team's arena. Armstrong's new plan received a stronger reception than earlier efforts. It calls for a $250 million arena funded by 30-year bonds. The Louisville financing includes 58 percent annually from the arena, 32 percent from the team's lease payments and 10 percent from the city. The Hornets anticipate losses of $20 million this season; Wooldridge wants to determine by Jan. 1 where the team will play next season.

 Smith starts office complex near track

Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith broke ground on a 37,500-square-foot office building Nov. 27, kicking off a two-phase development near Lowe's Motor Speedway. Construction costs weren't released. Smith, who's developing the office space with Trammell Crow, said the project isn't tied to SMI. The speedway operator eventually may take space in the building, which opens April 1. The first building is part of a planned 100,000-square-foot office complex.

 Nicklaus has a brand new bag

Jack Nicklaus' recent visit — touring the site of his first signature course here, The Club at Longview — follows a momentous shift in the golf legend's bag. Literally. Noting alma mater Ohio State's defeat of archrival Michigan in Ann Arbor last month, Nicklaus admits he now must ditch his blue-and-gold golf bag. "Everyone always asked me how an Ohio State guy could carry a bag with Michigan colors," he said. "And I said, 'Well, I'll change bags when Ohio State wins at Michigan.' I never thought it would happen, and now, sure enough, it has."

DALLAS-FORT WORTH

 Mavericks open small ticket office

The Dallas Mavericks have opened a small ticket office in the city's West End area, near the American Airlines Center, to cater to fans who make a last-minute decision to catch a game. The office will operate beginning 90 minutes prior to games through a half-hour after tip-off. The team also will have roaming representatives to help fans find parking and shuttles to the arena, as well as to supply information on tickets.

DENVER

 CU fans get rowdy after Big 12 win

Fans of the University of Colorado Buffaloes took to the streets Dec. 1 following CU's victory over Texas, which gave the Buffs the Big 12 championship. But the party turned ugly, with 18 people arrested out of a crowd of about 1,000. It took a cloud of pepper spray and tear gas from police to disperse some of the crowd. Police broke up the party once fires began to be set and some people turned to acts of vandalism.

DETROIT

 Lions uniforms to be donated

The 1945 Lions "throwback" jerseys, worn on national television during the Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers, will be auctioned off with proceeds directed to two local charities, the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross and the United Way of Oakland County. Bidding is via the Internet at nfl.com/auctions.

 Tigers TV analysts likely to rotate

The replacement for hall of famer Al Kaline as the Detroit Tigers' analyst on WKBD-TV 50 broadcasts is likely to be a rotating position again next season. Kaline gave up that role last year when he moved into the team' s front office as an adviser to owner Mike Ilitch. Channel 50 used a rotation of 11 former Tiger players for the balance of the season. Executive producer Toby Cunningham said the response was outstanding in terms of both ratings and viewer comments, so a shorter rotation of the best three or four guys from last year is on tap to join play-by-play announcer Frank Beckmann for the 2002 season. While no specific names were mentioned, insiders speculate that Cecil Fielder, Frank Tanana, Dan Petry, Mickey Lolich and Darrell Evans are the leading candidates.

  Red Wings, Pistons ratings soar

Fans in the Detroit area respond to a winner. Red Wings ratings, which have been solid for the past seven years, are up 100 percent on Fox Sports Net Detroit. But the Detroit Pistons are a surprise on TV as well as on the court. Fox Sports Net Detroit reports a 73 percent increase. The Pistons' victory at Orlando on Nov. 26 achieved a 7.0 rating, the highest in more than two years.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 Sports Authority pushes college savings

The Sports Authority announced a partnership providing parents an opportunity to save for their children's college education. Customers can receive 2 percent of each purchase toward their college savings by registering their credit cards with Upromise (upromise.com) and shopping with those cards at The Sports Authority. Through Upromise, companies such as America Online, AT&T and Citibank contribute a portion of each family's spending with them into a Upromise account.

HERSHEY, PA.

 Bears auction throwbacks

The AHL’s Hershey Bears wore throwback jerseys Dec. 1 honoring the 1935-36 Hershey B’ars, who played in the former Eastern Amateur Hockey League, and then auctioned off the jerseys after the game — all proceeds going to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Yevgeny Lazarev’s jersey commanded a bid of $8,000 — the highest for a Hershey jersey since the Bears began the event. The Bears have been holding two jersey auctions each season since 1998-99.

HOUSTON

 Astros bring back brick program

The Houston Astros are giving sports buffs a chance to make their mark in baseball history and pump a little revenue into the team at the same time. The Astros are resurrecting their commemorative brick program, which allows fans to custom-engrave a brick to be laid at one of three entrances to Enron Field. Astros execs say it's only coincidence that the brick offer began three weeks ago, about the same time the ballpark's namesake corporation started having trouble. But the bricks do not come pre-stamped with the Enron name, or anything else for that matter, so the program should not be affected by the corporate collapse. The $100 commemorative bricks are 6 inches by 12 inches. The Astros are touting this as a holiday gift, promising a gift card announcing a purchase if the bricks are ordered by Dec. 17. Phoenix Mak, marketing operations manager for the Astros, says bricks were sold prior to the ballpark's grand opening in March 2000, and then the program stopped. About 4,000 bricks have already been installed, with room for 11,000 more.

INDIANAPOLIS
 
 Blast hires new coach

The Indiana Blast, a minor league men’s soccer team one level below Major League Soccer, hired Eric Descombes as coach to replace Ian Martin for the 2002 season. Descombes, 30, originally from St. Etienne, France, played for the A-League New Orleans Storm in 1999. He was a player/assistant coach the past two seasons for the Cincinnati Riverhawks.

 BSU extends Lynch’s contract

Ball State University extended football coach Bill Lynch’s contract to Jan. 31, 2004. Lynch completed his seventh season as the Cardinals’ head coach this year by guiding the team to a 5-6 overall record, a 4-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference West Division and a 4-3 overall conference record. In his 12 years as a collegiate head coach, six of his teams have won or shared a conference title.

 Benson blocked by NCAA

Kent Benson no longer plays collegiate athletics, but he’s still been given the boot by the NCAA. Benson, a former All-American basketball player for Indiana University and member of the 1975-76 national championship team, planned a press conference Dec. 3 to go public with his plans to run for secretary of state in the Republican primary. Benson, 46, issued a press release saying he would make his announcement at the NCAA Hall of Champions attached to the NCAA headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. But the not-for-profit, and apparently nonpolitical, NCAA said not so fast. In a statement released shortly after Benson’s, the NCAA said, “We have received reports that Kent Benson, a Republican candidate for the office of Secretary of State, will announce his candidacy at the NCAA headquarters Monday, December 3. We would like to advise that this event is not taking place in the headquarters and is not connected with the NCAA in any way.” Benson wound up making his announcement at White River State Park, adjacent to NCAA headquarters.

JACKSONVILLE

 Jaguars emissaries cheer troops

Jaguars mascot Jaxon DeVille and several Roar cheerleaders recently traveled to the Middle East to visit U.S. Armed Forces in Egypt and Bahrain, on U.S. warships and in other remote locations. The group plans to return Dec. 21. It’s the first overseas goodwill trip for any NFL mascot.

KANSAS CITY

 Game might move, coach says

Kansas State University might play the University of Southern California at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 21, 2002. But Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said he’d only agree to move the game from KSU Stadium if he can get another home game. K-State now has seven home dates scheduled for 2002. The university earns about $1.3 million from each home game. Already scheduled at Arrowhead in 2002 is Florida State vs. Iowa State in the Eddie Robinson Classic on Aug. 24.

 Royals cut banquet for savings

The Kansas City Royals axed their annual February banquet to save money. The event honors the team’s pitcher and player of the year and lets fans mingle with players and front-office officials. “It’s not that we think the banquet is designed to be a big moneymaker,” Royals director of media relations David Witty told The Kansas City Star, “but we have to come up with a better way to make ends meet.”

MIAMI

 Heat teams with Sprite for special offers

The Miami Heat is teaming up with Sprite to offer deals and discounts to Heat home games. With a Sprite Family Night coupon, clipped from ads in the daily newspaper, fans can buy up to six tickets in the $10 or $33 sections, and then receive free hot dogs, drinks and a T-shirt. A second offer involves the “Zo’s Slam Dunk Deals” card, which fans can bring to the arena on game day for the best available seat for $10.

 Canseco changes agents

Jose Canseco, looking to expand his investment company while he continues his major league playing career, has changed agents. Canseco switched from the Beverly Hills Sports Council to Chicago-based Alan Nero in October. He said his decision was based largely upon a desire to market his company’s services to Nero’s players. Canseco, 37, runs an investment firm called the Canseco Financial Group that’s based in Miami Beach. He said the firm, which he started last year, manages about $750 million for corporations and individuals. Canseco declined to disclose the names of any clients.

MILWAUKEE

 Daron Sutton joins Brewers telecasts

Daron Sutton, one-time Milwaukee Brewers batboy and the son of hall of famer and former Brewers pitcher Don Sutton, will handle play-by-play duties with analyst Bill Schroeder on telecasts beginning in 2002. The younger Sutton leaves his play-by-play duties on Anaheim Angels radio broadcasts to replace Matt Vasgersian, a Southern California native who left the Brewers in October for a position broadcasting San Diego Padres games on television.

 Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame adds 5

The Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame inducted five new members — including Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig — and unveiled a new public display of plaques of state sports legends. Milwaukee native Selig led a list that also included Vince Lombardi-era Green Bay Packers running back Jim Taylor; former Marquette University, ABA and NBA guard George Thompson; former Milwaukee Braves announcer and television sports anchor Earl Gillespie; and former Olympic cyclist and speed skater Connie Carpenter-Phinney. Induction ceremonies were held Nov. 29 at the Midwest Express Center.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 TPG to continue publishing Minnesota Golfer

Golden Valley-based TPG Sports Inc., publisher of several golf and hockey publications, has extended its agreement to publish Minnesota Golfer, the official publication of the Minnesota Golf Association.

NEW YORK

 Road Runners donate $250,000

New York Road Runners President and CEO Allan Steinfeld presented New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani with a check for $250,000 for the Twin Towers and September 11th funds at the inaugural United We Run 4-Miler race in Central Park on Dec. 2. The money was raised at last month’s New York City Marathon from individual donations by runners, by running clubs and races around the globe, and marathon sponsors. The NYRR contributed $50,000.

ORLANDO

 Wolfpack, Panthers to scrap at Tangerine Bowl

The North Carolina State Wolfpack and Pittsburgh Panthers will square off in the Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl’s new home in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl has returned to the Florida Citrus Bowl after a stint as the MicronPC.com Bowl in south Florida. The game’s sponsor (the Florida Sports Foundation), Florida Citrus Sports and Visit Florida are hoping to give Orlando’s ailing tourism market a boost with the addition of the Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, to be played Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and televised on ESPN.

PHILADELPHIA

 Warehouse falls to make way for ballpark

The Philadelphia Phillies began tearing down a south Philadelphia warehouse Dec. 3, which — when completed — will allow the team to start construction of its new 43,000-seat ballpark. Phillies officials said demolition of the 225,000-square-foot Jetro food warehouse and wholesale distribution facility will take about six weeks. The new $346 million ballpark, scheduled to open in April 2004, will be built on a 21-acre site and is one of two new stadium project under way in south Philadelphia. The Eagles broke ground for a $500 million football stadium earlier this summer. The stadium is expected to be ready for the 2003 season.

 Youth league starts second season

The second season of the Philadelphia 76ers Latino Youth Basketball League got under way on Nov. 29. Sixers guards Raja Bell and Vonteego Cummings were on hand with Sixers executive vice president Dave Coskey for the opening tip-off of the 76ers La Liga del Barrio at the Edison High School Gymnasium in Philadelphia. The league, for boys and girls ages 6 to 16, has 28 teams, with 10 players per team.

 Temple honors two coaches

Temple University honored its two Hall of Fame basketball coaches before its Nov. 29 game against UNC Charlotte. Banners honoring former coach Harry Litwack and current coach John Chaney were raised to the rafters of the Liacouras Center in north Philadelphia prior to the game’s tip-off. Litwack, who died in 1999, coached Temple for 21 years and recorded 373 victories. Chaney, who is in his 20th year as head coach, started this season with a school-record 431 victories.

 Phantoms host Army-Navy night

A day before the Dec. 1 annual Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League hosted “Army-Navy Night” at the First Union Spectrum. South Philadelphia native Edward “Babe” Heffron, a member of the U.S. military’s Easy Company depicted in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” dropped the first puck. All military members received two tickets for the price of one for the Phantoms’ game against the St. John’s Maple Leafs.

SACRAMENTO

 Maloofs may end role with Gold Rush

The owners of the Sacramento Kings, Monarchs and Arco Arena have told their staff that they expect to end their supporting role with the Gold Rush Classic, which may well end the annual Senior PGA golf tournament held at Serrano Country Club in El Dorado Hills. John Thomas, president of Maloof Sports & Entertainment, said the organization has the event on “life support.” Maloof Sports has been looking for a title sponsor for nearly two years without any prospects. A Jan. 15 deadline to notify the PGA one way or the other will likely mark the end of the Maloofs’ involvement.

SAN DIEGO

 Chargers ticket guarantee costly

Through eight home dates, including two preseason games, the ticket guarantee between the city of San Diego and the Chargers has cost the city $5,248,126. The city guarantees that 60,000 seats will be sold for each home game and had to purchase more than 20,000 tickets for games against Cincinnati (Sept. 30) and Kansas City (Nov. 25). The total is still behind the $6.86 million paid out through eight dates last season. The total at the end of the season (10 dates) will be offset by rent payments from the Chargers for the use of city-owned Qualcomm Stadium.

 Mabee leaves Del Mar chairmanship

John C. Mabee stepped down as chairman of the board of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club effective Dec. 1. Mabee, 80, was a founding member of the organization in 1970 and served as president from 1978 to 1990 and as board chairman since 1990. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club leases the track from the state and runs the annual summer racing meeting at the seaside facility. Mabee will serve as “chairman emeritus” while he oversees his 550-acre breeding facility, Golden Eagle Farm.

SAN FRANCISCO

 3Com to pull out of Candlestick?

3Com Corp. told the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco city officials that it will not renew its naming-rights deal for the 49ers’ stadium at Candlestick Point, the San Francisco Business Times reported. But in a letter sent earlier this month by 3Com’s senior vice president of marketing, Jan Soderstrom, the company said it is running an option play — leaving open the possibility of re-upping naming rights for next year. 3Com’s naming-rights pact for the 41-year-old, city-owned stadium expires in January. It has paid the city roughly $900,000 a year over the past seven years — the original five-year deal and two one-year options. 3Com spokeswoman Sondra Magness said the company’s letter to team and city officials was “a formality” and it still hopes to reach a new naming-rights agreement.

 Giants to broadcast home games in Spanish

The San Francisco Giants will broadcast all of their home games in Spanish next year on KZSF (1370 AM), the San Francisco Chronicle reported. During the 2001 season, the Giants scrambled to find sponsors for the broadcasts and aired only weekend and holiday home games.

 BASOC sends off Olympic ‘joinder’

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown signed a key agreement Nov. 29 with the U.S. Olympic Committee, advancing the Bay Area’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. At a City Hall ceremony, Brown signed the “joinder undertaking” agreement, which is required by the USOC of all U.S. bid cities. The pact commits the city to being the financial backstop for the 2012 Games and to signing a “joinder agreement” if it’s chosen next year as the U.S. candidate. The Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee is working through insurance broker Marsh Inc. to find an insurance company to underwrite about $250 million in financial overrun coverage, $200 million in cancellation and abandonment coverage, plus general liability and other coverages.

ST. LOUIS

 City wins one event, loses another

On the marathon front, St. Louis won one and lost one. USA Track & Field named the city the host for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Women’s Marathon as well as the USA Women’s Marathon Championship in 2003 on Nov. 29. A group including the St. Louis Sports Commission, Spirit of St. Louis Marathon and St. Louis 2004 offered $250,000 in prize money to the athletes as well as expenses to those who achieve the Olympic trials “A” qualifying standard, as part of its bid. The women’s Olympic marathon trials will be held April 4, 2004, at Forest Park, and will be tied in with the centennial of the 1904 World’s Fair and the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Meanwhile, Birmingham, Ala., received the nod to host the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Men’s Marathon on Nov. 30. St. Louis was one of three other cities, including New York and Washington, D.C., that sought to sponsor that event. The Alabama Sports Foundation and Birmingham Marathon Inc., organizers of the Mercedes Marathon, partnered on the successful bid.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 City to challenge Tropicana appraisal

The city of St. Petersburg is pursuing legal action against the Pinellas County property appraiser’s office over the assessed value of Tropicana Field. The domed stadium, home to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is subject to paying property tax for the first time this year because of a Florida Supreme Court ruling. The city owns the ballpark and seeks to lower its $1.5 million net tax bill. The stadium originally was appraised at $169 million but was reduced to $127.3 million after subtracting depreciation and other factors.

TORONTO

 IOC funds Olympic theme center

After failing in its bid to win the 2008 Olympic Games, Toronto now has a consolation prize of sorts: a first-of-its-kind, glitzy $20.5 million Olympic theme center and entertainment complex that will “promote Olympic values” and raise money for Canadian athletes. Olympic Spirit Toronto, scheduled to open in 2003, will be funded by the International Olympic Committee, the Canadian Olympic Association and Toronto business groups and developers. Projections call for 500,000 visitors a year. The IOC is planning similar Olympic centers for other cities around the world.

 Naismith Cup gathering dust

The Vancouver Grizzlies’ move to Memphis not only cut Canada’s NBA franchise presence in half, it also turned the Naismith Cup into a flower pot. Since 1995, the Naismith Cup had been awarded annually to the winner of a neutral site exhibition game between Canada’s two NBA franchises, the Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. Toronto won the cup four out of five years. But since the Grizzlies left Vancouver, there is no more Naismith Cup game and no more use for the cup. The trophy is sitting in the NBA’s Toronto office collecting dust, the Globe and Mail reported. For a time it was used as a flower pot; NBA Canada director of communications Alison George said it now sits in a room, alone, in need of a polish.

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