SBJ/March 25 - 31, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

BOSTON

 Advisory firm opens office
 
SportsMatters Inc., a new strategic sports advisory firm, has opened its Boston office, serving a roster of regional clients including Celtic Paul Pierce, Red Sox player Nomar Garciaparra, the FleetCenter, Fox Sports Net New England and the NCAA Women's Final Four. SportsMatters will focus on building brands and community through sport. It specializes in developing community-based sports initiatives for the public, private and nonprofit sectors. SportsMatters is led by Soosie Lazenby.

BUFFALO

Buffalo Bill Alex Van Pelt’s Oscar picks were listed on the team Web site.

  Bills lure film buffs to Web site
 
The Buffalo Bills are trying to use the movies to drive off-season traffic to the team's Web site, buffalobills.com. Quarterback Alex Van Pelt gave fans his "breakdown" of the Oscar nominees during the week of March 18. Van Pelt said he's always been a big moviegoer. "Other than one Japanese film study class at the University of Pittsburgh, though, I really have no formal training in this area," he said.

DENVER

  Avalanche sued by 'human puck'
  The Colorado Avalanche is heading to court. The team is being sued by a fan, Ryan Netzer of Avon, Colo., who agreed to participate in a stunt as a "human hockey puck" Dec. 13, 2000. Netzer was slung across the ice while riding a metal sled. The lawsuit claims Netzer was injured when he hit the boards. Netzer said he fractured two bones in his leg. Netzer signed a waiver before participating. He wants unspecified damages.

  Street takes old stadium's name
  Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has proposed, and the City Council has agreed, to name the street around the Denver Broncos' new home Mile High Stadium Circle. The Broncos play in Invesco Field at Mile High, adjacent to the old Mile High Stadium, which is being torn down.

  Hardaway fined $10,000 for TV tossing
  Tim Hardaway of the Denver Nuggets is $10,000 poorer. That's what the NBA fined the guard after Hardaway, apparently angry at being ejected from a game in Orlando on March 15, tossed a television monitor onto the court. Hardaway also was suspended for two games without pay.

DETROIT

  Fox gets TV rights to Red Wings
  The Detroit Red Wings, who generate the highest local TV ratings of all the U.S.-based NHL teams, have awarded exclusive local TV rights to regional cable network Fox Sports Net Detroit. Currently, the team's games are split between Fox Sports Net (44 games) and WKBD UPN-50 (32 games, plus the first two playoff rounds). Fox Sports Net also has multiyear contracts to televise Detroit Pistons and Detroit Tigers games, which it shares with WKBD.

HOUSTON

Mascots (left to right) Mavs Man (Dallas), Mini Clutch, G. Wiz (Washington), Haley (Houston Comets), Clutch and Stuff (Orlando) pose with fans for a birthday photo.

  Mascot celebrates bobble belly
  Six mascots from around the NBA visited the Compaq Center on March 16 to help "Clutch," the Houston Rockets' mascot, celebrate his own bobblehead doll of sorts. Clutch was immortalized with a unique bobble belly doll. Since Clutch's physique includes a rather large belly, the Rockets decided that would be the more logical body part to bobble. Scheduled to appear with Clutch were "Squatch" from the Seattle SuperSonics, "Gorilla" from the Phoenix Suns, "G. Wiz" from the Washington Wizards, "Mavs Man" from the Dallas Mavericks, "Stuff" from the Orlando Magic and "Bear" from the Utah Jazz.

Francis

  Francis in Reebok campaign
  Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis is point man for a Reebok ad campaign that launched this month. The television campaign includes pitchmen Francis and Scarface, the rapper whose musical career was launched with an assist from his days in Houston. "Stevie Franchise" is hyping Reebok's X-Beam, his signature game shoe. The futuristic footwear tips off in retail outlets this month at $90 a pair. Reebok's 30-second TV spot features the Rockets star — surprise! — playing hoops, but the setting is more playground blacktop than Compaq Center hardwood.

  Agassi, Roddick in Westside tourney
  Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick will headline the 2002 U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston April 22-28. Players from 14 nations received direct entry into the event, which is sanctioned by the U.S. Tennis Association.

INDIANAPOLIS

  CART announces move to Indianapolis
 
CART's long-rumored move to Indianapolis is ready to roll, according to CART officials, who said employees have been notified and the move from Troy, Mich., is set to happen sometime in May. "We don't have a location set yet and there are a lot of details to be finalized, but yes, the basic philosophy that CART is moving to Indianapolis is true," said Merrill Cain, senior manager of public relations for CART. CART officials said the organization's 60 employees have been offered jobs in Indianapolis, but not all of them are expected to make the move.

JACKSONVILLE

  Jaguars, Weaver host public fan forum
  The Jacksonville Jaguars will host an open-to-the-public fan forum Thursday at Alltel Stadium to meet increased demand. Majority owner Wayne Weaver and other team executives will be on hand to speak and answer fans' questions about the proposed $42 million stadium improvement project and other issues. A series of speaking engagements began March 5 at local country clubs, Rotary Clubs and other civic organizations.

  AF2 Tomcats go interactive
  The Jacksonville Tomcats recently went interactive with a new agreement with Marrness Media. Once the program is in place, fans of the Arena Football 2 team can keep up with the schedule, ticket prices, promotions, seating and parking. Information can be faxed on demand. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

MIAMI

  Heat sues no-pay seat-holders
 
Since establishing its new home at the AmericanAirlines Arena, the Miami Heat has sued at least 14 companies, businessmen and lawyers who signed multiyear contracts for top quality season tickets but stopped paying. Some of those being sued claim the Heat violated their contracts by not giving them the actual seats they ordered, according to a Miami Herald report. The focus of the team's largest lawsuit is Starbox Operations Ltd. and principal Daniel Deubelbeiss. He has a $500,000-a-year contract for four floor seats by the visiting team's bench and a private lounge for entertaining corporate guests. Lawyers for the defendant countersued, arguing that there was no privacy for their client's corporate guests because the club sold seats next to them.

MILWAUKEE

  Low-power sports station on cable
  Sports-oriented low-power station WMLW-TV finally succeeded in getting carried by Time Warner Cable in southeastern Wisconsin — on digital cable only. WMLW owner Weigel Broadcasting Inc. of Chicago has urged viewers to tell Time Warner to pick up the station, which this season began airing men's basketball games for Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Time Warner officials say they are continuing discussions with Weigel, which also owns Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT-TV, on the possibility of running WMLW on analog cable.

  Brewers' Peña can't get visa
  Milwaukee Brewers infielder Elvis Peña remains stuck at his home in the Dominican Republic, unable to present the necessary documentation to gain entry into the United States. Peña, who has seen action in 25 big-league games during the past two years for Colorado and Milwaukee, is listed as 25 years old in the Brewers media guide, born on Sept. 25, 1976, in Santo Domingo. A number of Dominican baseball players were forced to reveal they were several years older than their listed ages due to a crackdown by U.S. immigration officials in issuing work visas. Background checks were intensified after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Brewers have enlisted the help of the baseball commissioner's office to assist Peña.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

  Door-to-door nets ticket sales
 
The Minnesota Lynx have gone door-to-door on four occasions visiting 200 households, and the trips have resulted in the sale of 500 tickets through the Ultimate Ticket Plan. The plan allows fans to buy a package of as many tickets for as many games as they want. The events have targeted fans who used to have season-ticket packages but have let them lapse. The team plans to go out at least a few more times.

NASHVILLE

A fan will spend the day with Predator Scott Walker in a Nextel-sponsored promotion.

  Promotion offers day with player
 
The Nashville Predators and Nextel are holding a "Win A Day With Scott Walker" contest, where one grand-prize winner will attend a team practice with Walker and get free use of a Nextel phone and service for one year. Additional prizes include attendance to a practice, a tour of the Gaylord Entertainment Center, four tickets to the team's game against St. Louis on April 5 and a ride on the Zamboni.

OAKLAND

  Selig says A's need new stadium
  Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the Oakland A's need a new stadium in order to increase revenue. Selig, visiting the A's spring training camp March 17, stopped short of saying that the franchise is not a candidate for contraction, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A's President Mike Crowley and owner Steve Schott said March 16 that the franchise is negotiating with the city and Alameda County on extending the year-to-year lease at Network Associates Coliseum beyond 2004.

  HOK says it's found a site for one
  A 13-acre parcel near the city's downtown is the best possible site for a new A's stadium, says HOK Sport. HOK presented the Alameda County Board of Supervisors with four site possibilities, including two near the waterfront and one in Fremont. A's officials did not attend the meeting but released a statement thanking fans who rallied before an Oakland City Council meeting March 12 calling for a new stadium.

ORLANDO

  Orlando tapped for all-star game
 
The Classic Sports Foundation Inc. selected Orlando to host the upcoming Florida-Georgia All-Star Basketball Classic. The game, which pits the best high school players from the two states, is expected to draw scouts both from colleges and from the NBA looking for new talent to recruit. It's the second year for the all-star game, which first was held in Albany, Ga.

PHILADELPHIA

Jim Furyk watches one of his shots at last year’s Exelon Invitation
in Avondale.

  Exelon tournament set for June 3
  Inniscrone Golf Club in Avondale, Pa., again is site of the annual Exelon Invitation hosted by Jim Furyk. Furyk, a native of nearby West Chester, Pa., has hosted the skins-style tournament for the past four years. Exelon, the parent company of Philadelphia-based PECO Energy Corp., is sponsoring the tournament, which is being presented by Flonase, an allergy medicine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. The tournament will be played on June 3 and have a purse of $280,000. In addition to Furyk, David Toms has committed to play this year.

  Indoor skate park planned
  SkateSpot Inc. unveiled plans to build a $2 million indoor skate park in Upper Moreland, Pa. The 20,000-square-foot skate park will feature facilities for in-line skaters and skateboarders and will have a small retail store, concession stand and an arcade. The project, which requires township approval, would be the first for SkateSpot Inc. The company was recently founded by Joseph Smith of Richboro, Pa.

PITTSBURGH

  Heinz Field design wins award
  The design of Heinz Field, the new home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was recently recognized by a national engineering organization. Bliss & Nyitray Inc. of Miami, the structural engineer of record for Heinz Field, was awarded the Grand Award in the 2002 National Engineering Excellence Award competition sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies.

  Season-ticket sales take a nosedive
  The Pittsburgh Pirates, which tied the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the worst record in Major League Baseball, said they have sold 10,000 season tickets, down from 17,000 last year, the team's first in PNC Park. The team said it has not sold out any game, including the April 8 home opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

RALEIGH-DURHAM

  Cobras lower front-row ticket price
 
Premium seats for a Carolina Cobras game are cheaper this season. The Arena Football League franchise has lowered the price of front-row tickets from last season's $119.50 to $109.50. The team created two new seating categories to capitalize on popular spots in the Entertainment and Sports Arena's lower-level corner and end zone. The Cobras have kept the base ticket price at $10.

SACRAMENTO

  Kings raising prices about 7%
 
The Sacramento Kings are raising ticket prices for the 2002-03 season an average of 7 percent over the current year. Ticket prices for about half of the available seats in Arco Arena will increase no more than $2 and one out of every four seats will be available at $22.50 or less. Family-priced tickets will remain at $10 per ticket. Tickets will range from $10 to $125.

SAN DIEGO

Gwynn

  Gwynn funding video crew
 
As a volunteer coach this spring at San Diego State, former Padres star Tony Gwynn is providing the Aztecs baseball team with more than just batting tips. Gwynn, who will take over as head coach after the current season, reportedly is spending more than $1,000 of his own money at each home game to pay a crew to operate the video functions on the Aztecs' scoreboard. Gwynn secured nearly $1 million in financing for the scoreboard/video screen that graces the outfield in Tony Gwynn Stadium on the SDSU campus. At least six people are required to run video clips, post graphics and show replays, and Gwynn recruited former Padres video specialist Mike Howder to install and oversee operation of the equipment.

SAN FRANCISCO

  49ers huddle with radio, TV
 
The San Francisco 49ers are discussing new radio and preseason television contracts with their current partners. Both deals expire this year. KGO-AM 810 of San Francisco paid $5.2 million for a one-year contract with the 49ers last year. That came after the team held talks with KNBR-AM 680 and KCBS-AM 740. Meanwhile, the 49ers and KPIX-TV signed a deal this month that allows San Francisco's Channel 5 to continue to broadcast preseason games, Fred Eppinger, the station's director of sports sales, told the San Francisco Business Times.

ST. LOUIS

  NCAA brings 83,347 fans to dome
  The first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome brought in 83,347 fans to two days of games and generated $3.5 million in ticket sales. "It was the largest attendance of any of the eight sites in the country," said Joe Mitch, an assistant commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference, which was host for the games that saw Kansas and Kentucky advance to the Sweet 16. The games generated $11.8 million for the region's economy, according to the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association.

  City to pay toward new Cardinals park
  St. Louis' board of aldermen approved an ordinance committing the city to paying $4.2 million a year for 30 years toward a new St. Louis Cardinals ballpark. The 22-5 vote in favor of the measure came March 13, less than a month after it was introduced. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sought the backing to help sell the $646 million package, which includes a housing and retail development, to the Missouri General Assembly. The measure still needs approval for state funding.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

  Bucs plan practice facility
 
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to build a practice facility on 70 acres along Interstate 75 east of Tampa. The land will be used to develop a 180,000-square-foot building and three practice fields, The Tampa Tribune reported. The facility will replace One Buc Place, the team's headquarters since 1976. Original plans called for building the new facility on the former site of Tampa Stadium, next to present-day Raymond James Stadium, but Bucs executives determined that site isn't large enough. The Bucs will pay $3.5 million for the land, and the franchise will receive another $12 million from taxpayers earmarked specifically for the new facilities.

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