SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

ATLANTA

Runners take it to the speedway
Atlanta Motor Speedway was to hold a foot race on the track last Saturday — with the winner getting a weekend ticket package for two to the Oct. 25-27 Napa 500 race weekend. General manager Ed Clark said the idea came from members of his staff who regularly run the track after work. He hopes to make the foot race an annual event.

Braves add surcharge to tickets
If you were planning on making a trip to Turner Field to avoid paying a surcharge on playoff tickets, save your gas. The Braves have added a $3 "convenience fee" to the price of each ticket this year, and are taking credit cards at the park for postseason tickets for the first time. Prices for the Division Series range from $8 to $40, plus the surcharge. Prices for the League Championship Series, if the Braves advance that far, range from $30 to $60, plus the surcharge.

CINCINNATI

College game sets attendance record
The Sept. 21 game between Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati was the most-heavily attended football game in Cincinnati history. The game, won by No. 6 Ohio State in the final minutes, drew 66,319 fans to Paul Brown Stadium.

COLUMBUS

Blue Jackets plan season promotion
The Columbus Blue Jackets, Taco Bell and Pepsi will hold an "Ignite the Night" contest to promote the start of the team's third NHL season, which begins Oct. 10 at home against the Chicago Blackhawks. Fans can visit participating central Ohio Taco Bell locations to pick up entry forms and register for a chance to win the grand prize, two Blue Jackets season tickets, or various other prizes, including autographed jerseys and game tickets.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH

Expansion franchise starts in April
A motivational speaker has paid $300,000 to bring an expansion franchise of the U.S. Basketball League to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Texas Rim Rockers will begin their 30-game schedule next April. The team will play at the Fort Worth Convention Center, though owner Mark McClure told The Dallas Morning News that he hopes to find a venue in Dallas for a few of the team's 15 home games.

DENVER

Elway to promote AFL in TV ads
Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, part owner of the Colorado Crush

Elway
of the Arena Football League, will promote the league in commercial spots on NBC. The ads began airing Saturday and continue through December. Elway, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Kroenke Sports, owner of the Nuggets and Avalanche, are owners of the Crush, which will play its games in the Pepsi Center beginning in February.

Lacrosse debut set for Jan. 3
Colorado's indoor lacrosse team will make its debut Jan. 3 at the Pepsi Center. The Power relocated this summer from Washington, where it played for the last two seasons in the Eastern Division. The team will remain in the Eastern Division of the National Lacrosse League.

DETROIT

Ernie Harwell leaves the radio booth after calling his last Tigers game in Detroit.

Harwell calls his last Tigers games
Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell called his final home game on radio Sept. 22. In a brief postgame ceremony, Harwell was presented home plate, which had been dug up by the Tigers' grounds crew. Also, it was announced that the Comerica Park press box will now be named the "Ernie Harwell Media Center." Harwell received a plaque commemorating the announcement. Harwell's last Tigers broadcast was Sunday from SkyDome in Toronto.

Pistons' ticket sales up in a big way
The Detroit Pistons, coming off a season that saw them surprisingly win the Central Division title, are enjoying a surge in ticket sales. Renewals on season tickets are at 90 percent, compared to 63 percent last year. In total, there is a 50 percent increase in full-season-ticket sales. In addition, half-season-ticket packages have doubled and 10-game packages have tripled.

HOUSTON

Carr to pitch signed collectibles
David Carr has hooked up with Tri-Star Productions to pitch collectibles featuring the Houston Texans quarterback. Tri-Star, a Houston-based company formed 15 years ago, peddles a roster full of Carr keepsakes on www.davidcarrcollectibles.com. A Houston Texans yearbook normally fetches $9.95. But one signed by Carr, the first pick in the 2002 National Football League draft, commands a lofty $149.95. A Carr-autographed official NFL football carries a $399.95 price tag. For $599.95, the serious souvenir seeker can garner an authentic Texans jersey signed by Carr.

Track won't run against Texans
The pigskin appears to be more powerful than the pony. When Sam Houston Race Park begins its winter/spring thoroughbred meeting on Nov. 1, no live racing will be held on Sundays in deference to Houston Texans' football games. Track executives decided it could be a losing proposition to compete with the new football team for spectators. So instead of holding races on Thursdays through Sundays as usual, the track will have races on Wednesdays through Saturdays — at least until football season is over.

Cranes set up secondary trusses at the main roof structure of the new Houston arena.

Arena construction work on schedule
Construction is on schedule at the new Houston arena for its planned opening in September 2003. The arena will seat 18,500 for basketball, 19,300 for concerts and 17,800 for hockey. The project includes a seven-story parking garage with 2,500 spaces. The arena is in downtown Houston.

INDIANAPOLIS

Horizon League signs network deal
The Horizon League, based in Indianapolis, reached a multiyear programming agreement with the nation's first 24-hour, all-college sports network, the National College Sports Network. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. NCSN will have the rights to cover championships and regular-season events of the league, whose members include Butler University. The Big Ten, Big 12, Big East and Atlantic 10 conferences, among others, also have deals with the network.

JACKSONVILLE

Suns, city fail to reach agreement
The Jacksonville Suns and city officials are at a stalemate, having failed to reach a lease agreement for the $34 million baseball park under construction on a site near the current facility, Sam Wolfson Park. The city promised to demolish Wolfson Park in time for the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair in October. Suns officials say they won't leave until a deal is done.

KB Homes makes deal with Jags
The Jacksonville Jaguars recently signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with Los Angeles-based KB Homes. Terms call for appearances by Jaguars players, Roar cheerleaders and the team mascot, Jaxon de Ville, at KB Home promotional events. The company will give away more than 2,000 tickets (200 per home game) and autographed helmets and footballs. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

KANSAS CITY

Royals' TV deal up after this season
Kansas City Royals officials hope to increase annual broadcast revenue to at least $10 million, said Mark Gorris, the club's senior vice president for business operations. The Royals' TV contract, which generates about $5 million a year, expires after this season. Gorris said the Royals have talked with Fox Sports Net about a contract renewal. Other broadcasters have proposed establishing a regional network to air games.

MIAMI

Dolphins' season-ticket holders down
The number of Miami Dolphins season-ticket holders has fallen for the fourth consecutive year, according to a Palm Beach Post report. The team has sold 56,115 season tickets this season, the ninth-highest total in team history, but down from 60,042 in 1999. The Dolphins sold 58,113 in 2000 and 57,803 last year.

Orange Bowl to air on Sunshine
The Orange Bowl Committee in Miami gave details on the Ninth Annual Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, scheduled for Dec. 21 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators will be televised live and statewide on Sunshine Network, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.

MIDLAND, TEXAS

RockHounds set franchise record
The Midland RockHounds, the Class AA affiliate of the Oakland A's, set a franchise record with an overall attendance at First American Bank Ballpark of 272,136, an average of more than 4,000 fans a game. The Texas League team surpassed last year's attendance of 148,292 by 84 percent. First American Bank Ballpark has been named the best new baseball stadium in the nation, winning baseballparks.com's Best New Park of 2002 award.

MILWAUKEE

Youth hockey complex at $40M
A Milwaukee suburb could become the center of youth hockey in southeastern Wisconsin with the planned construction of a $40 million complex that will house four ice rinks, a hotel and other commercial enterprises. Sport Sites LLC of Pewaukee is developing the 35-acre property in Cudahy and will own the ice arena. The arena, to be called Iceport LLC, will include four National Hockey League-sized rinks, one of which will be designed to seat more than 3,000 spectators. Dallas-based sports facility design/build firm HOK Inc. has been hired to construct the arena, which is scheduled to open within a year.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

Twins sign with Rochester team
The Minnesota Twins signed a two-year deal with the Rochester (N.Y.) Red Wings of the International League to become the team's highest-level developmental organization. The Twins had been affiliated with the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League.

OAKLAND

A's were on contraction list
A San Francisco Chronicle article cites Bob DuPuy, MLB's chief operating officer, as saying the Oakland A's were on the contraction list earlier this year when Major League Baseball was considering cutting teams. The article also speculated that efforts to move the Montreal Expos to Washington will strengthen efforts to move the Athletics to San Jose. There's one difference, though: The San Francisco Giants hold territorial rights to the city of San Jose, but the Baltimore Orioles do not hold similar rights to Washington.

ORLANDO

Capital One Bowl launches new logo
With a new name comes a new logo for the 2003 Capital One Bowl. The logo features a number of familiar symbols that can only conjure images of Florida, including the state tree the Sabal Palm, a yellow background for year-round sunshine and "Orlando," which is where the game has been played for 57 years. The Jan. 1 game will host teams from the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences.

PHILADELPHIA

Public hearing scheduled on track
The Pennsylvania State Harness Racing Commission has scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 29 to receive comments on a new racetrack being proposed for the city of Chester in the Philadelphia suburbs. A group led by former state legislator Joseph A. Lashinger Jr. has proposed building a new harness-racing track as part of a complex that would include a restaurant and an amphitheater at a site along the Delaware River. The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has criticized the proposal as an attempt by investors to capitalize on the growing political support for legalization of slot machines at Pennsylvania racetracks.

PHOENIX

A new Webcam lets fans see construction on the new Phoenix Coyotes arena.

Webcam lets fans view construction
The Phoenix Coyotes have launched a Webcam that gives fans the opportunity to view the "live" construction progress of the team's new arena in Glendale, Ariz. It can be accessed at www.phoenixcoyotes.com, www.glendaleaz.com or www.periniwest.com.

Lottery game to bear Coyotes' name
The Coyotes have formed a partnership with the Arizona Lottery, a title sponsorship that is the first of its kind between a state lottery and a pro sports team. The Arizona Lottery's Pick 3 game will now be called the Phoenix Coyotes Pick 3 and the game will feature a new logo. As part of the partnership with the Coyotes, the Arizona Lottery will be extensively promoting Phoenix Coyotes Pick 3.

PITTSBURGH

SMG hired to manage new center
Philadelphia-based SMG, which manages Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, has been hired by the University of Pittsburgh to manage its new Petersen Events Center. The Petersen Events Center is the new home of the Pitt men's and women's basketball teams. It seats 12,500. SMG has a five-year deal with Pitt. Financial terms were not disclosed.

SACRAMENTO

Longs tournament moving to fall
The 2003 Longs Drugs Challenge, played at Twelve Bridges Golf Club in the Placer County city of Lincoln, will move from its traditional spring date to the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5. The tournament should get better weather with the new schedule, and it will line up with the LPGA Tour's West Coast swing. The tournament's purse will be $1 million. In its eighth year, the Longs Drugs Challenge, owned and operated by Raycom Sports, has been hampered by rain and wind for several days each of the last five years. In 2001, inclement weather shortened the tournament to three rounds. The average temperature for the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5 is 81 degrees, compared with the 60-degree temperature the tournament has faced over the last seven years in April.

SAN DIEGO

Chargers task force to visit Denver
The 14-member Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues will visit Denver this weekend to tour the Broncos' new stadium, talk to city officials about how the project was funded and watch the Chargers and Broncos play. The task force must submit a recommendation to San Diego City Council by Feb. 15 on whether the city should donate public resources to help the Chargers build a new home to replace Qualcomm Stadium.

ST. LOUIS

City teams with Pitney Bowes
The city of St. Louis has teamed with Pitney Bowes Inc., the Connecticut-based business mail and messaging firm, in a deal that would provide private financing for the construction of a new ballpark for the Cardinals. Under the proposal, Pitney Bowes would bankroll most of the costs for the new stadium and lease it to the Cardinals, who would be responsible for the building's maintenance.

P&G to sponsor fan wave
Procter & Gamble has teamed with the Cardinals as the official sponsor of the fan wave. The Sure Deodorant Wave is led by mascot Fredbird during innings in which the Cardinals are attempting a rally.

TAMPA-ST. PETERSBURG

Phillies make 20-year deal for springtime
The Philadelphia Phillies will spend spring in the Tampa Bay area for the next 20 years, thanks to a new agreement tied to construction of a $22 million ballpark. The city of Clearwater plans to build a 7,000-seat park on 38 acres along U.S. 19 to replace aging Jack Russell Stadium. The new ballpark will feature Mediterranean-style design elements upon completion in 2004. In addition to being the Phillies' spring training home, the team's Class A affiliate will also play there through spring and summer.

County, Lightning at odds on tax bill
Hillsborough County commissioners are awaiting a court decision on a tax dispute with the Tampa Bay Lightning's owners before voting whether to increase ticket surcharges at the St. Pete Times Forum by 400 percent. Palace Sports and Entertainment is challenging a $3.3 million property tax bill that is largely based on improvements to the downtown Tampa arena in recent years. The commission seeks to raise the surcharge on tickets sold at the arena from 75 cents to $3.75. Meanwhile, the Tampa Sports Authority agreed to turn the arena's operations over to Palace Sports as long as the Lightning's owner makes a long-term commitment to keep the NHL franchise in Tampa.

Devil Rays hit 5-year low at the gate
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays hit a five-year low in attendance this season, closing out their 81-game home schedule at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg with slightly above 1 million fans. The team's average attendance of 13,157 is 13 percent lower than the 2001 average of 15,033 and is less than half of the 27,916 averaged during its 1998 inaugural season. A crowd of 19,625 turned out for the Sept. 22 finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, with many fans lured by $1 admission and $1 hot dogs.


TORONTO

Maple Leafs upgrade glass system
Heavy bodychecks into the boards at Air Canada Centre won't be quite as dangerous this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs followed up on suggestions from a league injury committee and installed a softer, more forgiving glass system at a cost of about $65,000. Early response from Leafs players was favorable. Rigid glass in new arenas has been identified as one factor in an apparent rise in concussions sustained in NHL games in recent years. Air Canada Centre also installed protective netting above the end glass as mandated by the NHL.

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