SBJ/April 29 - May 5, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

BUFFALO

Sabres' attendance drops a little
Out of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the Buffalo Sabres saw attendance decline slightly during the 2001-02 NHL season. Attendance for the team's 41 regular-season home games at HSBC Arena was reported at 705,247, a 3.6 percent decline. The average attendance was 17,201, down from last season's average of 17,840. Also, the Sabres recorded only seven sellouts at the 18,690-seat arena, compared with 22 sellouts a season ago.

CHICAGO

Ticketmaster re-ups with United Center
Ticketmaster announced the signing of a multiyear ticketing agreement with the United Center in which it will continue to sell and distribute tickets for United Center events, including all Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks home games.

CINCINNATI

Stadium grass to be replaced
The grass in the middle of Paul Brown Stadium, which has essentially died in each of the Cincinnati Bengals' past two seasons, will be replaced after the June 27-30 Billy Graham crusade. The base under the turf will be boosted, which the team said should allow the grass roots to hold up better throughout next season.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH

Ballplayer toy sings, chats
Three entrepreneurs are taking the owners of the Texas Rangers to court, seeking $100 million in damages over claims the team's brass stole their idea for bringing a minor league club to the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The three, who operated under the name Frisco Baseball Club G.P. LLP, say they secured a handshake deal with the Southwest Sports Group in the summer of 2000 to put a Class AA club there. Southwest Sports later joined forces with Mandalay Sports Entertainment to move a Class AA team from Shreveport, La., to Frisco. The unnamed club will begin play next year as an affiliate of the Rangers. Southwest Sports didn't return calls seeking comment.

Rangers' owners sued over team idea
A new toy baseball player that sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" will appear at retail stores nationwide May 15. Created by Irving, Texas-based Gemmy Industries Inc., the toy, Buddy Big League, also utters baseball chatter. Gemmy is best known for creating Big Mouth Billy Bass, a singing fish on a plaque.

DENVER

Avalanche sells out every home game

The L.A. Kings' Jaroslav Bednar (left) knocks the puck away from Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals April 20.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche sold out every one of its 41 home games. The Avalanche made NHL history in capturing the franchise's eighth consecutive division title April 6, just the second club to do that since 1982, when the Montreal Canadiens claimed their eighth crown.

DETROIT

Fury's free exhibition draws 6,818
The Arena Football League's Detroit Fury invited fans to a free exhibition game at The Palace of Auburn Hills against the Arizona Rattlers, and the game attracted a crowd of 6,818 — larger than the average Fury crowd and a significant improvement over the previous Fury exhibition game, which attracted fewer than 3,000 spectators. "We saw this as a one-time opportunity to expand the market for Fury football and to support the team's marketing efforts," said Fury general manager Greg Myford. "We brought a lot of new people into the arena to see our game."

HOUSTON

Rockets hold video game tournament
One 17-year-old Houstonian can brag that he beat four Houston Rockets players at basketball. On PlayStation 2's NBA Live 2002 video game, that is. The Rockets held their first-ever video game tournament, called the "Great Houston Shootout," on April 19 as a way to thank fans for their loyalty during the season. Eddie Griffin, Terence Morris, Tierre Brown and Oscar Torres of the Rockets matched skills with eight video aficionados in front of more than 200 spectators. Brown was having so much fun that he continued playing with one young person for about 45 minutes after the tournament, a Rockets representative said. The first-place winner received a team autographed basketball and a big-screen television from Gallery Furniture, where the event was held.

Carr signs with Nike

Quarterback Club honorees: (from left) Warren Moon, Rich Gannon, Vincent Young, David Carr

David Carr may earn as much as $60 million over the next seven years as the first quarterback for the Houston Texans, but that won't be his only source of income. Carr signed a multiyear deal with Nike that has the former Fresno State QB wearing the Nike swoosh in his off-the-field appearances, according to espn.com. The contract is valued at $250,000 to $300,000 a year. The deal is described as a head-to-toe endorsement.

National QB Club honors 4 at dinner
The National Quarterback Club honored four men at an awards dinner April 18 celebrating their football achievements: David Carr as the National College Quarterback of the Year, Rich Gannon as NFL Quarterback of the Year, Warren Moon as Hall of Fame inductee, and Vincent Young as the National High School Quarterback of the Year. To celebrate the return of NFL football to Houston and the Houston Texans' inaugural NFL draft, the club hosted the awards dinner, its 17th annual, at the new Inter-Continental Houston. This year's awards dinner benefited the Houston Texans Foundation, The Chronicle in Education Program and The Readers Are Leaders Program. The National Quarterback Club is the official social organization of the NFL Quarterback Club.

INDIANAPOLIS

RCA Championships named No. 1 by players
The ATP tennis players voted the RCA Championships the Tournament of the Year. The tournament, held at the Indianapolis Tennis Center on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, won the award 10 straight years starting in 1988, before having a three-year run without the award. The award arrives while tournament officials are in the midst of a legal battle with the tour, in part over the changing of the tournament's annual dates.

JACKSONVILLE

Jaguars fans mark draft at festival
Nearly 10,000 Jacksonville Jaguars fans attended the eighth annual Budweiser Draft Day Fan Fest. Fans watched ESPN's live draft coverage on JumboTron screens and participated in events that included the second annual Draft Day Dash, a 5K race through downtown Jacksonville, a 25-yard toss for $25,000 and a 40-yard field goal kick for $10,000. The Jaguars' Select-a-Seat event allowed fans to sample and choose marked seats for new season-ticket purchases. WJXT-TV broadcast the event live, and four local radio stations hosted live remotes.

MIAMI

Heat founder envisions 'AquArena'
Miami Heat founder Zev Buffman is working on a plan to transform the Miami Arena into a home for a water show similar to Cirque du Soleil's by the fall of 2003. Buffman called the concept "AquArena" and said he would stage 119 revenue-generating events a year. Miami Arena posted a $1.2 million loss last year, according to a Miami Herald report.

Dawson, Perez welcome — without pay
A few weeks ago, the Florida Marlins said special assistants Andre Dawson and Tony Perez would be retained by the club. But according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the two have received termination papers in the mail. Marlins President David Samson told them they are welcome on the field and to represent the Marlins in the community but the Marlins aren't paying them to do so.

MILWAUKEE

All-Star tickets to sell by lottery
A limited number of tickets for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game at Miller Park on July 9 will be distributed to the general public through a postcard lottery. Major League Baseball officials expect to have a better idea how many will be available after May 12, the deadline for Milwaukee Brewers fans to purchase season tickets and decide if they want tickets to the All-Star Game. If tickets remain after the lottery, they will be made available on a per-event basis beginning May 31.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

Vikings sell out draft party
The Minnesota Vikings sold out the team's draft party at Winter Park Field House in Eden Prairie. More than 2,500 people attended the event. It was the 11th annual draft party but the first held at the team's headquarters.

OAKLAND

Gum, socks, dirt and more up for bid
In a tongue-in-cheek response to Arizona Diamondback Luis Gonzalez's chewed bubblegum being sold for $10,000, the Oakland A's are offering several similar items associated with pitcher Tim Hudson. Among the items up for bid on the team's Web site are a wad of "game-chewed" gum, game-used socks, ankle tape, cleat dirt complete with the stick it was dug out with, a postgame shower towel, clippings from Hudson's goatee and even a chance to drink a couple of beers with the right-hander. A's officials say the beer opportunity, which includes a photo with Hudson, had drawn the most response as of April 22, with a high bid of $250. All proceeds will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Oakland officials take road trip
Oakland city officials embarked on the first of two national trips to see new baseball stadiums. The first trip, which began April 18, consisted of stops in Seattle, Denver and Cleveland. The second group, which includes Mayor Jerry Brown and city manager Robert Bobb, will take in Baltimore and Detroit as well as Denver for a second time. Officials will talk to leaders of other cities about how the stadiums were funded and how they shaped downtown neighborhoods.

ORLANDO

Rescue 2002 heads to Daytona Beach
Beginning Saturday, lifeguards from all over the world will be combing the beaches of Daytona and hanging out at Orlando's YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive. The reason: They are participating in the world lifesaving championships dubbed Rescue 2002. The event is held every two years. For two weeks, 4,000 members of the International Lifesaving Federation will be competing in beach and pool life-guarding events for the first time ever in the United States. Central Florida Sports Commission officials are expecting between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors who will generate some 16,000 room nights and an estimated $9 million in direct economic impact for central Florida.

Soccer ball wheel covers go to U.K.
Orlando-based Clever Covers Inc. has

Clever Covers is sending its soccer wheel covers to the
United Kingdom.
begun selling its line of Soccer Ball Wheel Covers to customers throughout London, Lincolnshire and the United Kingdom. Football clubs there can customize the covers with their club logos.

PHILADELPHIA

Field set for skins tourney
The field has been set for the fourth annual 2002 Exelon Invitational, which will be held June 3 at the Inniscrone Golf Club in Avondale, Pa. The event, a skins tournament with $280,000 up for grabs, is owned and operated by the EFK Group of Trenton, N.J., and hosted by Chester County native Jim Furyk. Joining Furyk for this year's event are PGA members John Daly, David Toms and Charles Howell III.

Magazine to pick one per division
Ring Magazine, an 80-year-old boxing publication that has its editorial offices in Ambler, Pa., has resumed recognizing just one champion in each division. Nigel Collins, the magazine's editor-in-chief, said the move — outlined in Ring's April issue — is designed to alleviate the confusion caused by having multiple sanctioning bodies awarding conflicting title belts.

PITTSBURGH

Pens make 3rd jersey their road sweater

The Penguins' new road sweaters will sport a skating penguin logo.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will sport a new look next season. The team will use its Las Vegas gold and black skating Penguin logo that had been its third jersey as its road sweater next season. Its white home sweater, with a modernized penguin, will be replaced by the similar skating Penguin logo on the away jerseys. The team has no immediate plans for a third jersey.

SACRAMENTO

River Cats settle with W. Sacramento
The owners of the Sacramento River Cats have settled with the city of West Sacramento in a lawsuit over payment for services provided by the city. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Last June, the city filed suit against the Class AAA baseball franchise following a dispute over fees for security and traffic control provided by the city during the 2000 season, the debut for Raley Field and the River Cats.

Longs Drugs tourney draws 55,000

Cristie Kerr won the Longs Drugs Challenge, a $135,000 prize, her first LPGA Tour win.

The Longs Drugs Challenge LPGA tournament in the Placer County city of Lincoln, which ended April 21, attracted an estimated 55,000 spectators during the week. Last year the event attracted 50,000, even with a rained-out Friday. Tournament officials are now looking into the possibility of moving the tournament to September or October, when the Longs Drugs Challenge would have a better shot at good weather.

SAN DIEGO

Lakers to play exhibition at arena
The Los Angeles Lakers will continue the annual tradition of playing a preseason exhibition game at the San Diego Sports Arena. The club announced that it will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 22. Tickets went on sale April 22.

Revenue up at Torrey Pines
In the first full calendar month of public play on the renovated South Course at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course in La Jolla, revenue increased 26.9 percent over the same month (March) in 2001. The host course for the PGA Tour's annual Buick Invitational is using the increased revenue to hire more maintenance workers and buy extra equipment to tend to the expanded bunkers and new greens. Even with increased green fees, residents of the city of San Diego who purchase identification cards pay just $40 on weekdays and $45 on weekends to play the course that local officials hope will be the venue for the 2008 U.S. Open. In March, 62.9 percent of the South Course players were city residents.

SAN FRANCISCO

49ers close to new suds, soda deals
New beer and soft-drink sponsorship deals by the NFL are opening the financial tap for the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are close to closing deals in both categories, David Goldman, vice president of business development, told the San Francisco Business Times. Following the new NFL contract with Coors Brewing Co., the beer category could bring in double what it did last year, Goldman said. The 49ers have talked with Coors, Miller Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch and Heineken.

SAVANNAH, GA.

Sand Gnats, Jeep in 2-year deal
The Savannah Sand Gnats and Jeep have struck a two-year deal that includes a new 2002 Jeep Liberty. The Jeep, aka "the mobile showroom," is painted in a collage of red, white and blue and the Sand Gnats mascot, Gnic the Gnat. The Jeep will visit local schools for the Sand Gnats Pro Literacy Challenge program and promote Sand Gnats community nights in the community with Gnic the Gnat.

TOLEDO, OHIO

Mud Hens plan fantasy camp
The Toledo Mud Hens, the Class AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, will hold their first fantasy camp Aug. 16-18 at their stadium, Fifth Third Field. The coaches will be former major leaguers George Foster, Milt Wilcox, Cory Snyder and Dave Rozema, a combination of ex-Indians, ex-Tigers and ex-Reds. Participants will receive instruction, take batting practice and play actual games all weekend at Fifth Third Field. Enrollment will be limited to 45 players and two "fantasy" umpires.

TORONTO

CFL, NFL expand joint promotions
The Canadian Football League and the NFL are expanding joint promotional activities to further interest in football among young fans in Canada. Three Canadian cities — Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg — will play host this spring to "Practice with the Pros" clinics for kids ages 8 to 14. Two cities, Vancouver and Edmonton, held the clinics a year ago. Members of the Toronto Argonauts and Buffalo Bills will host the Toronto clinic June 1. Coaches from both leagues also will participate in a Maritime clinic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on May 18.

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