SBJ/20011224/Coast to Coast

Coast to Coast

CHARLOTTE

 FSN South adds eastern N.C.

Fox Sports Net South is adding the eastern portion of North Carolina, previously served by Comcast, to its viewing area effective Jan. 1. The move brings ACC basketball, NASCAR and the Charlotte Hornets to the area.

CHICAGO

 Season Tickets signs with Bulls, Blackhawks

Season Tickets will provide group ticket services to the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks and the United Center via the ST Group Ticket Window. Groups or companies wanting to buy large blocks of tickets per game will be able to buy tickets online.

DETROIT

 Pistons are on a roll with fans

The Detroit Pistons’ TV ratings are up 78 percent, cable ratings are up 20 percent, radio ratings are up 300 percent, attendance is up 19 percent and the average ticket price is the lowest in the NBA at $31.90, a 20.3 percent decrease from last season. Perhaps the strongest indication of renewed interest is an 87 percent increase in merchandise sales at The Palace and its retail outlets, Palace Locker Room stores.

 Layoffs hit 2 radio stations

Both of Detroit’s sports talk-radio stations, responding to a down economy and reduced advertising revenue, announced several layoffs. At WDFN-AM, “The Fan,” on-air personalities Eric Pate and Mike Bower were let go, along with Jeff Shurilla and Bower’s producer, Patrick Meagher. WDFN is owned by Clear Channel Inc. At rival WXYT-AM, “Team 1270,” update announcers Jeff Lesson and Tom Baylog and Tigers pregame/postgame host Scott Anderson were let go. WXYT is owned by Infinity Broadcasting.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 ANC Rental wants out of marketing deals

Fort Lauderdale-based ANC Rental, the parent of car rental firms National and Alamo which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in November, wants to back out of seven marketing agreements. It has sought a bankruptcy judge's permission to take that action on the sponsorship and title deals, which combined are worth at least $10 million a year, according to a Miami Herald report. The Herald also reported that ANC's 10-year, $22 million National Car Rental Center naming-rights deal is still up in the air. The deal was signed in 1998.

HOUSTON

 Gallery Furniture in line for rights deal

Enron Field, home to the Houston Astros, could some day carry the name "Gallery Furniture Field" or "Galleryfurniture.com Field." Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture, said he is interested in a naming-rights deal if it comes available. At least for now, Enron Corp. still maintains the naming rights that it snagged for a cool $100 million. But the fallen energy giant might need to free up some cash, including the $3.3 million annual fee it has been plopping down to keep its name on the Astros' ballpark. The furniture company's Galleryfurniture.com Bowl sponsorship ends later this month, when the college football game pits Texas A&M against TCU in the Reliant Astrodome.

INDIANAPOLIS

 Pacers intent on blocking Hornets

Indiana Pacers officials are voicing their objections to a potential move of the Charlotte Hornets to Louisville, Ky., which is about 100 miles from Indianapolis. "An NBA team moving to Louisville would hurt us, and I've said I don't like it," said Pacers President Donnie Walsh. "It's a lot more than just ticket sales. This will affect all of southern Indiana." Pacers officials have already approached the NBA "unofficially" about quashing the effort. Walsh is particularly concerned about the Pacers' cable television deal with Fox Sports Net. "We pull from those [southern Indiana] areas, for individual game ticket sales, group ticket sales and especially in the cable deal," Walsh said. "We've been clear: We'd rather they wouldn't move there."

KANSAS CITY

 Arena feasibility studied

The Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation has formed a committee to examine the feasibility of a new downtown arena. The committee will be chaired by Jeff Dobbs, managing partner of Andersen Consulting's Kansas City office, and Ron Labinski, co-founder and former managing partner of Kansas City-based HOK Sport + Venue + Event Architecture. Development designs for the arena, which could cost $175 million to $225 million and seat 18,000 to 20,000, were done by HNTB Corp. of Kansas City.

MIAMI

 Marlins sale awaiting go-ahead

The $150 million sale of the Florida Marlins to Montreal Expos managing general partner Jeffrey Loria is imminent but awaiting Major League Baseball's approval of when to make the announcement, The Miami Herald reported. If Loria purchases the Marlins, he will bring the majority of his on-field and front-office staff with him, according to Marlins and industry sources cited by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. There's widespread talk of layoffs, leaving more than 150 current Marlins employees at significant risk of unemployment, the story said. But The Palm Beach Post said current owner John Henry refuted the layoffs report as "utter nonsense."

 Firm sues agent Eric Fleisher

Miami-based Creation Management is suing New York sports agent Eric Fleisher "for allegedly plotting to ruin the company's plans," according to a Miami Herald report. The suit was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Fleisher, his attorney and his public relations agents. The firm alleges that after it hired Andrew Miller, a young employee of Fleisher's, a smear campaign was launched against the Miami agency. Fleisher sued Miller in 1999 for competitive issues related to clients, including Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett. The complaint asks for $214 million in damages, The Herald reported. Fleisher's attorney called the lawsuit a "desperate act" but declined further comment, the newspaper said.

MILWAUKEE

 Miller Park economic impact put at $415M

The Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Dec. 15 that Miller Park's inaugural year resulted in an economic impact of $415 million for the greater Milwaukee area by attracting visitors from outside the five-county metro Milwaukee area to attend Brewers games. In addition to the Brewers' attendance of 2,811,041 fans, Miller Park hosted 'N Sync and George Strait concerts that drew 64,311 fans, two exhibition games that drew 79,357, three open houses that drew 137,265 and daily tours of Miller Park drawing almost 30,000.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Athletic programs losing money

The University of Minnesota’s athletic programs are operating at a loss and received nearly $10.1 million in subsidies from the central administration, according to a 35-page internal report. The university will consider eliminating some athletic programs to stem losses and will look at combining the men’s and women’s athletic departments, according to media reports. Combining the programs would be unpopular with some boosters who say they contributed to the women’s department because “we supported a free-standing women’s program,” according to the Star Tribune. The university is one of just five Division I schools nationally with separate athletic departments.

 Metrodome a high school?

There is talk of turning the Metrodome into a high school if the Minnesota Twins are folded and the Vikings get a new stadium or relocate, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Private suites would be used as classrooms and the field for athletic events. Finding $10 million annually to operate it would be a challenge, according to the Pioneer Press.

OAKLAND

 Downtown site called best for A’s park

Four East Bay sites are the best choices for a new Oakland A’s ballpark, according to HOK Sport. The site with a perfect score, said the Kansas City-based company, which was hired to judge seven possible locations, was a downtown venue adjacent to the historic Fox Theater. The location offers ample parking, public transportation and a view of the Oakland skyline, according to HOK. Other sites include the parking lot of Network Associates Coliseum — the current home of the A’s — the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal land, and Fremont, Calif., about five miles north of Santa Clara. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority commissioned the $100,000 study by HOK. A stadium, costing $385 million to $606 million, could open by 2006.

ORLANDO

 Appeal filed in junior golf case

A U.S. District Court may have thrown out Kids Golf’s case against Orlando-based Golf Channel, but Kids Golf isn’t giving up. After a federal judge granted Golf Channel’s motion to dismiss the case, Kids Golf appealed, stating that the matter should be decided by a jury, not a lone judge. Earlier this year, Kids Golf filed a trademark lawsuit against Golf Channel, charging that Golf Channel had infringed on the trademark for Kids Golf’s “Drive, Pitch & Putt” international junior golf skills competition with its “Drive, Chip & Putt” junior golf skills event. Kids Golf claims Golf Channel created its “Drive, Chip & Putt” competition after discussing a possible partnership with Kids Golf. Kids Golf launched its event in 1993. A Golf Channel representative said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

PHILADELPHIA

 Bill would allow track slot machines

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association endorsed a new bill proposed by state Rep. John Taylor that would allow slot machines at Pennsylvania’s four licensed racetracks. Taylor’s bill calls for a 30 percent tax on slot machine revenue, which would be used by the state to preserve its lottery fund and to create a new program for providing security against terrorist attacks. The Horsemen’s Association represents the owners and trainers at Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, Pa.

 Phillies back on WPEN for next 3 years

The Philadelphia Phillies signed a three-year contract with Greater Media Radio to broadcast the baseball team’s games on WPEN 950-AM. For the last 20 years, Phillies games have aired on WPHT 1210-AM. Phillies baseball will also continue to be heard on the team’s radio network of 19 affiliated stations, delivering the broadcasts outside the greater Philadelphia area. WPEN has broadcast Phillies games twice before: during the 1939 season and during the 1950 and 1951 seasons.

ROCHESTER, N.Y.

 Soccer stadium in the works

A $49.3 million stadium is planned for Rochester Technology Park. PaeTec Park, a 20,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium, will have the Rochester Raging Rhinos soccer team as its primary tenant. Rochester Technology Park was designated as an Empire Zone Dec. 6 by New York state economic development officials, meaning that projects there are eligible for tax breaks. Public funding on the stadium will account for $22 million, with Monroe County chipping in $7 million and New York state $15 million. Stadium naming rights, parking revenue, luxury suites, concessions and additional signage will cover the remaining 55 percent in costs. The stadium proposal will go to the Greater Rochester Sports Authority for final approval.

SAN ANTONIO

 CHL Iguanas skating on thin ice

The Central Hockey League San Antonio Iguanas continue to search for answers to their venue crisis. This is the final season for the Iguanas in their four-year contract with the venerable Freeman Coliseum. Officials are attempting to arrange a lease agreement with the new SBC Center, which will be home to the Spurs beginning next season. They are also talking with Alamodome officials about the possibility of shifting their games to the 65,000-seat football stadium.

SAN DIEGO

 Women’s Final Four sets record

The 10,067 fans at San Diego State’s Cox Arena for the Dec. 15 championship match of the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball Final Four were the most ever for a women’s sporting event in San Diego. It was also the fifth-largest crowd in the event’s 32-year history. Stanford captured its record fifth NCAA title with a three-game sweep of previously unbeaten Long Beach State.

 Woods to play at Invitational

Tiger Woods has announced he plans to play in the 2002 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines from Feb. 7 to Feb. 10. Woods won the event in 1999, with San Diego native Phil Mickelson taking the 2000 and 2001 titles.

 Callaway makes apparel deals

Callaway Golf Co. has signed a long-term licensing agreement with Sanei International to create and sell Callaway Golf apparel in Japan. Callaway reached a similar agreement in May with another Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm, Ashworth Inc., for the sale of golf apparel in the United States and Europe.

SAN FRANCISCO

 49ers flagship sidelines reporter

Rich Walcoff, host of the San Francisco 49ers pregame show and sideline reporter for radio station KGO-AM of San Francisco, lost his roles after a postgame show gaffe. Walcoff also was barred from the 49ers’ Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He will continue with postgame shows. According to the Chronicle, Walcoff asked 49ers linebackers Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith if their friendship was so close that they swapped wives. The interview followed the 49ers’ 35-0 victory over Buffalo Dec. 2.

ST. LOUIS

 Blues, Fox extend broadcast deal

The St. Louis Blues and Fox Sports Net completed a five-year extension of their agreement to televise between 55 and 65 of the NHL team’s games each season. The deal includes local telecasts on KPLR-TV, Channel 11, which will carry 20 to 25 games through the 2005-06 season. The Blues and their two broadcast partners announced the pact Dec. 13. They declined to disclose the value of the package.

 River Otters have new owners

The Missouri River Otters minor league hockey team has a new ownership group. A company formed by St. Charles businessmen Kevin Fitzpatrick, Dan O’Donnell and Dale Black bought the United Hockey League team from Eric Margenau’s United Sports Ventures, which is based in New York. Neither Margenau nor the new owners reported a sale price for the team, but it was expected to bring more than the $750,000 league franchise fee. The team will continue to play at the Family Arena in St. Charles, a 40-minute drive from downtown St. Louis.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

  Ice Palace’s first tennis match a hit

More than 8,000 fans turned out to watch the first-ever tennis match at the Ice Palace in Tampa on Dec. 14. The exhibition between Anna Kournikova and Jennifer Capriati was arranged by arena operator Palace Sports and Entertainment, which staged a similar exhibition the following night at The Palace of Auburn Hills between Kournikova and Amanda Coetzer. Kournikova won the Tampa match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.

 Outback Bowl called a sellout

The 2002 Outback Bowl has been declared a sellout, marking the third time in the last four years that the New Year’s Day game will have a capacity crowd. Ohio State and South Carolina will meet in a rematch of the 2001 game at Raymond James Stadium, to be televised nationally by ESPN. Some 40,000 out-of-town visitors are expected for the bowl, generating an estimated economic impact of $30 million in the Tampa Bay area.

TORONTO

 CFL wins marketing award

The Canadian Football League was named one of Canada’s best 10 marketers for 2001 by Marketing Magazine. It is the first time the CFL or any other sports league has made the 5-year-old list. In its Dec. 27 issue, the magazine said the CFL showed renewed marketing savvy “that flies in the face of its previous image as a corporate charity case.” Main criteria considered were marketplace innovation, Canadian clout and influence/leadership.

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