SBJ/January 7 - 13, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

BUFFALO

 Sabres host Microsoft hockey game

The Buffalo Sabres and HSBC Arena will host the Microsoft Hockey Challenge Game Saturday. The event is part of a traveling corporate hockey tour featuring Microsoft employees with NHL alumni. Former Sabres players Pat LaFontaine and Gilbert Perreault along with actor Kiefer Sutherland are to participate, with proceeds going to the Companions in Courage Foundation and the Ronald McDonald Charities of Western Washington.

CHARLOTTE

 10 years of parking? Hornets games?

Net loss? After the Charlotte Hornets awarded their 20 millionth fan with a 10-year free parking pass at halftime of a recent game against the Knicks, the crew at TBS’ “Inside the NBA” had a little fun with the team’s hunt for a new hometown. Host Ernie Johnson followed the story by saying, “A very optimistic gift given the state of the franchise.” Co-host Peter Vecsey, embracing the relocation theme, proved less restrained: “Yeah, but it’s good in 48 states.”

 Roush Racing expanding its home

Roush Racing confirmed plans for a $3 million to $5 million expansion, including 82,000 square feet of office, warehouse and museum space. It opens in December.

DETROIT

 Motor City Bowl draws 44,000

The 2001 Motor City Bowl drew 44,000 to watch the University of Toledo's victory over the University of Cincinnati. Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman said officials were pleased with the attendance and look forward to moving to the Lions' new stadium, Ford Field, in downtown Detroit next year. Bowl officials also report they are close to a deal with the Big Ten that would annually provide a Big Ten team to play against the Mid-American Conference champion. The bowl's contract with Conference USA expired.

 Speedway schedules Indy 400

Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., has scheduled its first Indy Racing League event, the Michigan Indy 400, for July 28. The race will be televised on ABC. The weekend also will include a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, the Michigan 200, on July 27.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 Pippen joins Learn.com team, with degree

Sunrise, Fla.-based Learn.com, a Web-based provider of educational services, said that Scottie Pippen of the Portland Trail Blazers has become an investor and director in the company. It did not provide any financial details. On Dec. 15, Pippen added a college degree to his list of achievements that include six NBA championship rings and two Olympic gold medals, the company said. Pippen received a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology from the University of Central Arkansas.

 Freudian slip with MLS logos?

While contraction has not been formally announced by MLS, the logos of the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny were left off the league's new Web page, according to the Palm Beach Post. MLS vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche had to check with its Webmaster as to why. Shortly after, the teams' logos were back on the site.

 WUSA gets new TV partner

The Women's United Soccer Association will enter its second season with a new television partner featuring a weekly destination viewing day and time. Pax TV, a wholly owned subsidiary of Paxson Communications Corp. in West Palm Beach, will broadcast a full schedule of WUSA matches for the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the company announced. The WUSA's 2002 national television schedule will feature games live on Saturday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. for a total of 22 matches beginning in April.

INDIANAPOLIS

 Ice courts ladies as hockey fans

The Indianapolis Ice, the city's minor league hockey team, recently announced an effort to attract female fans. This season, the Ice will host six Ladies Nights games. During Ladies Nights, $6 and $8 discount tickets will be available for women 18 and older. At those games, a special Girls Night Out section features Ladies Only lines for concessions, Ladies Only entrances complete with red carpet and music requests solely for female fans.

KANSAS CITY

 Baseball backs Negro Leagues museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City has received $50,000 from Major League Baseball. Each of the 30 clubs also pledged a $5,000 contribution. The support for the 11-year-old museum is the first ever by Major League Baseball.

LOS ANGELES

 Skating ceremonies to honor '72 winners

The opening ceremonies for the 2002 U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be held at the Staples Center Tuesday and will honor winners from the 1972 U.S. Championships. Among those scheduled to participate in the ceremonies are Ken Shelley and JoJo Starbuck, Terry Kubicka, Judy Sladky and Wendy Burge. After the 30-minute program, the men's competition will begin with the short program. The competition will attract more than 300 skaters from across the country for eight days of competition.

MIAMI

 Writer finds best and worst of 2001

The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson handed out a long list of 2001 bests and worsts. Among them: Worst moves for fans: WAMI-69 dropping low-rated "Sports-town" several months before the station switches to Spanish, and the Miami Fusion being unable to get key playoff games — or most regular-season games — televised locally. Most surprising move: Channel 4 agreeing to pre-empt CBS programming to carry eight Heat games each of the next three years.

MILWAUKEE

 New bleachers for Milwaukee Mile

The Milwaukee Mile, which traces its roots back more than 100 years to when it was a dirt horse track, will close temporarily this summer and get a new grandstand and bleachers. The track at Wisconsin State Fair Park will run a short season with the Miller Lite 250 CART race on June 2, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on June 29 and a NASCAR Busch series race on June 30. New, permanent bleachers will be in place in time for this year’s season. After that, the track will close and demolition will begin on the 14,900-seat grandstand, which was built in the 1930s. The $20.5 million project is scheduled for completion in 2003.

 Packers top Milwaukee TV ratings

Milwaukee may be 120 miles south of Green Bay, but its television viewers continue to show a fondness for the Green Bay Packers. The latest TV ratings for Milwaukee, which is the 33rd-largest Nielsen Media Research market, show that the Packers telecasts on Fox affiliate WITI-TV, CBS affiliate WDJT-TV and ABC affiliate WISN-TV draw the largest audiences of the week among all programs.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Wild hopes to host All-Star Weekend

The Minnesota Wild has submitted a bid proposal to the NHL in hopes of hosting the NHL All-Star Weekend in 2004, 2005 or 2006. Thomas Getzke, president and CEO of the St. Paul Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the event would bring thousands of visitors to the Twin Cities and would have a $12 million impact on the local economy. The league expects to announce future host cities in 2002.

 Twins, MLB ask court to lift injunction

The Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball on Dec. 27 asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to lift an injunction that would force the team to play the 2002 season at the Metrodome. A three-judge panel quizzed attorneys representing the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and the baseball entities about such issues as whether the Twins' lease was a normal landlord-tenant relationship, according to reports. The Court of Appeals has 90 days to rule, though reports indicate that it could issue a decision earlier.

 Pohlad pays bonuses to Twins employees

Team owner Carl Pohlad wrote a check for $300,000 for bonuses for employees of the Minnesota Twins. Full-time employees received a $5,000 bonus, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ORLANDO

 Melbourne gets expansion team

In December, the United States Basketball League announced three new expansion teams for its 2002 campaign. The three lucky cities: St. Louis; Glens Falls, N.Y.; and Melbourne, Fla. The announcement marked the beginning of the USBL’s 2002 season, its 17th. The league doesn’t plan to stop with these three new teams. Currently, USBL officials are negotiating with investors for expansion teams in 2003. These teams are offered for $300,000, but the price tag may get heftier at the USBL meeting in New York City later this winter.

PHILADELPHIA

 Cable channel changes names

Philadelphia Park Racetrack in Bensalem, Pa., has changed the name of its regional cable channel, previously known as The Racing Channel, to Phonebet TV. The track also announced the channel was expanding into an additional 93,000 households in lower Bucks County. The channel now reaches 1.3 million households.

 Home computer ticketing deal

Comcast-Spectacor and Ticketmaster have launched a new service, called “ticketfast,” that allows sports fans to buy and print event tickets from personal computers. The service will be limited to events at the First Union Center and First Union Spectrum in Philadelphia. Comcast-Spectacor owns both facilities along with three of the teams that play at the arenas.

 Man sues Iverson over ‘The Answer’

A man claiming to be an old friend of Allen Iverson has filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia 76ers all-star guard seeking a share of the money Iverson has made from the use of his nickname “The Answer.” Jamil Blackmon, who filed the suit last month in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, said he came up with that nickname for Iverson. In the suit, Blackmon alleges that Iverson promised to pay him 25 percent of all royalties derived from the use of the nickname, which is used in Reebok’s marketing activities that feature Iverson. Iverson’s attorney said he and the player are aware of the suit, but they declined to comment on the matter because it is now in litigation.

 Track proposed for southern Jersey

Investors led by New York real estate investor Joseph Cayre and his son, Jack, announced plans to build a $50 million motorsports complex in Millville, N.J. The southern New Jersey complex is being proposed for a vacant 700-acre tract of land next to Millville Airport in Cumberland County.

PITTSBURGH

 Ticket holders’ suit thrown out

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas dismissed a lawsuit by four Pittsburgh Steelers season-ticket holders. The fans charged that the Steelers didn’t treat them fairly with their seat assignments at Heinz Field. They also challenged the Steelers’ policy on personal seat licenses and the way seats were assigned at the stadium. In his ruling, Judge Robert Horgos said the Steelers had the final say in assigning seats. Plus, the fans signed seat license agreements in 1999.

SAN DIEGO

 Bond insurer slows ballpark progress

Work on the downtown ballpark won’t resume as quickly as expected after bond insurer Ambac Assurance Corp. of New York balked at allowing the city to move forward with a $166 million tax-free bond offering. The insurer first wants the latest lawsuit aimed at halting the project resolved. Retired law professor Robert Simmons filed the most recent suit, contending that changes to the financing framework of the project make it so different from the plan approved by voters in November 1998 that a new public vote is needed. “The public really should be outraged by these kind of tactics,” San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy said in announcing the delay Dec. 28. The city plans to seek an expedited trial or summary judgment of Simmons’ lawsuit, and if it receives a favorable ruling, the bonds could be issued in February and work resumed by March. That would still allow for a planned April 2004 opening.

 TaylorMade strikes deal with Maxfli, Slazenger

Carlsbad-based TaylorMade-Adidas Golf entered into a licensing agreement Dec. 21 with the maker of Maxfli and Slazenger golf balls in which TaylorMade will sell and distribute Maxfli, Slazenger and TaylorMade-brand balls. Dunlop Slazenger Group Ltd. will manufacture all three ball brands alongside its Dunlop balls at its South Carolina factory. TaylorMade will have 15 months to decide whether it wants to purchase the Maxfli golf brand outright and whether it wants to buy an exclusive, royalty-free license for Slazenger golf products. According to TaylorMade, which entered the golf-ball market in 2000 but more recently has concentrated on its new line of drivers, the agreement gives it control of 8 percent of the U.S. golf ball market.

SAN JOSE

 Counterfeiting crackdown at Classic

The Collegiate Licensing Co. teamed with San Jose Police Department personnel to weed out counterfeit merchandise at the second Silicon Valley Football Classic at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. Investigators didn’t confiscate illegal merchandise from fans but asked where and when it was purchased.

 Compaq move pays off for San Jose State

San Jose State lost to Fresno State 80-68 in a Western Athletic Conference game Dec. 29, but the real number they were looking at was 5,182. That’s how many people showed up at the Compaq Center for the contest. San Jose State moved the game from its on-campus 5,000-seat Event Center to the 18,000-seat Compaq Center in the hopes of attracting Fresno State fans in town for the Dec. 31 Silicon Valley Football Classic. San Jose State’s basketball team had been averaging 746 fans for its first five games this season.

SEATTLE

 World Cup team seeks match at Safeco

The U.S. men’s World Cup soccer team has made tentative plans to play a tune-up match at Safeco Field in early March. The United States Soccer Federation confirmed that it’s close to selecting Safeco Field for one of several “international friendlies” that will be played in preparation for World Cup competition in June. It would be the first international soccer match held in Seattle since 1994. The soccer federation is looking to schedule a team that plays a style similar to the U.S. national team’s opponents in the first round of the World Cup — Portugal, South Korea and Poland. One possible opponent could be Team Canada, which did not qualify for World Cup competition. Conversations are also under way with teams from Eastern Europe, Latin America and South America.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

 Outback Bowl salutes military

The 2002 Outback Bowl capitalized on its proximity to MacDill Air Force Base and U.S. Central Command with a salute to the military during the New Year’s Day game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. An interactive display outside the stadium featured an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet and flight simulators. Military aircraft performed a flyover prior to the game, and the Special Operations Command parachute team brought in the American flag and game ball. Top-brass officers from all four military branches performed the game’s official coin toss, and an extensive military display was set up in the stadium’s south plaza.

 Naming-rights deal on back burner

Tampa Bay Lightning owners have placed their efforts to find a naming-rights partner for the Ice Palace on the back burner for the time being. Palace Sports & Entertainment is seeking a $2 million-a-year deal to put a corporate name on the arena, but the current recession has made it tough to find a suitable sponsor.

TORONTO

 Schwarz’s plan has Argos in SkyDome

Toronto Argonauts owner Sherwood Schwarz laid out a business plan for Canadian Football League governors that commits the Argos to remain in the SkyDome for next season. Schwarz had come under fire for public musing about moving the team to tiny, outdoor Lamport Stadium in an attempt to draw more fans. During a league conference call, Schwarz provided SkyDome dates for next year, the lack of which had been preventing the league from completing a schedule.

 Carter out of 2002 slam dunk contest

There will be no more “Vinsanity” at the NBA’s slam dunk contest — not this year, anyway. Vince Carter, the leading vote-getter for the NBA All-Star Game, said injuries to his knee and calf mean he probably won’t enter the contest if it is held as part of All-Star Weekend in February.

 Goodenow lands tentative 6-year contract

The NHL Players’ Association has agreed in principle to a six-year contract with union head Bob Goodenow that would make him the highest-paid union leader in pro sports, the Globe and Mail reported. According to the report, Goodenow will be paid about $2.5 million per year. The six-year deal would take Goodenow two years past the end of the current collective-bargaining agreement in 2004, after which many observers are anticipating a prolonged work stoppage. Since Goodenow joined the union in 1991, the NHL average salary has risen nearly 500 percent, from $271,000 to about $1.5 million.

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