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Volume 24 No. 157

Franchises

     The CISL announced that Arena Group 2000 has signed a letter
of intent to purchase controlling interest in the San Diego
Sockers.  The Ancira family, the primary owner of the Sockers
since '91, will retain minority stake in the team. Arena Group
2000, the leasehold operator at the San Diego Sports Arena,
brings the number of arena owners/operators in the CISL to eight.
Arena 2000 also has an exclusive agreement to develop a new
downtown entertainment and sports center with the city of San
Diego.  The Sockers are the oldest pro soccer club in the history
of the U.S. (CISL).

     Stephen Story, member of the Bucs trust in charge of selling
the team, said yesterday "no formal offer has been made" for the
team, but that he remains hopeful "talks will produce one as
early as this week."  Story: "We had the hopes that something
would get done by the end of next week.  I still think that is a
good deadline. ... Everybody is kind of waltzing around the issue
and nobody wants to be the first one at the dance" (Rick Stroud,
TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/12).  Orioles Owner Peter Angelos met for two
hours with the group over the weekend and reported "substantial
progress" in his bid to buy the team.  Angelos said the two sides
"are in agreement on a number of points" (Jon Morgan, Baltimore
SUN, 12/11).  But Story had a different take on the meeting,
saying "until it is in writing and there is a check, there is no
offer. ... (Angelos) kinds of skirts the issue as far as numbers"
(Rick Stroud, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/12).  In a related development,
real estate developer Norton Herrick dropped out of the running
to buy the team, saying he will focus on his effort to bring
baseball to the Orlando area (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-
DISPATCH, 12/12).

     In a dispute that threatens to land a fatal blow to their
expansion hopes, Orlando officials and would-be baseball owner
Norton Herrick are close to a deal "that could salvage Orlando's
bid for an MLB expansion team."  The disagreement centers on who
would control surplus tourist tax revenue -- the county or the
team.  Negotiators for both sides said they have come up with a
compromise that would give Herrick "some surplus money but less
than he was demanding."  Herrick wanted the surplus money to go
back into improving the stadium, "perhaps adding a retractable
roof."  Orlando's presentation to baseball owners will take place
Wednesday in Chicago, and both sides "agree the stadium must be a
done deal for Orlando to have any chance" of being awarded a
franchise (Lebowitz & Tracy, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/9).

     Speculation continues to grow that the Rams move to St.
Louis is nearly a done deal.  Rams President John Shaw, in Tampa
for the Bucs-Rams game, told reporters "the bulk of the work is
done, but we are still negotiating.  I'm optimistic that we will
get it done."  When asked what was holding up the sale, Shaw
said, "Ask FANS, Inc." (Jim Thomas, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH,
12/12).  People familiar with the negotiations said "momentum is
clearly on St. Louis' side," and that the talks have "gotten down
to the nitty gritty" (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 12/10).  FANS
Inc. spokesperson Tom Eagleton told the WASHINGTON POST that he
was "very optimistic.  I think we are going to get it done"
(Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 12/10).
     NO FREE LUNCH:  Shaw did say that in St. Louis, the team
would have to pay up to $2.5M per season in taxes.  He said they
currently pay no taxes in Anaheim.  If the team decides not to go
to St. Louis, they could "stay in Anaheim for one more season and
tough it out" as Orange County and the NFL work to develop a new
stadium, according to Bernie Miklasz of the ST. LOUIS POST-
DISPATCH.  That would give some new candidates a chance to enter
the bidding for the team (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/11).

     Reports out of Canada this morning indicate corporate help
may soon be on the way for the expansion Grizzlies and Raptors.
Two companies have "confirmed they are currently in negotiations
for significant group corporate ticket purchases."  The groups
involved are Shopper's Drug Mart and the Overwaitea grocery
stores, and it is "believed that if either or both deals go
through, the Grizzlies season ticket goal would be well within
reach."  They are reportedly just under 3,000 tickets short of
reaching the NBA mandated minimum of 12,500 before December 31.
Greg Harmeson, VP of Marketing for Western Canada Shopper's
stores, said "if all this does come to fruition, it is more a
civic-minded task we're performing.  We would be offering them
for sale to our customers."  Raptors Dir of Communications Tom
Mayenknecht would only say that "there are quite a few companies
who are looking at the great potential of basketball in this
country."  If a company does not have a corporate sponsorship
with a team, it can buy an unlimited amount of season tickets.
If the team has a deal, NBA regulations state the corporation can
purchase no more than 500 tickets (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver
PROVINCE, 12/12).
     EDITORIAL HITS THE LEAGUE:  An editorial in today's
Vancouver PROVINCE notes the slow tickets sales in Canada but
targets the NBA-mandated minimum.  "12,500 was a ridiculous
figure from the outset, especially considering Canada doesn't
have the basketball history of the U.S.  The Grizzlies could sell
more season tickets than the Houston Rockets or the Vancouver
Canucks and end up without a team" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/12).