TAMPA LEADERS FEAR THE GRINCH WHO MIGHT STEAL THE BUCS
Political and business leaders in Tampa unveiled a "radical
plan" on Wednesday, pledging public money to guarantee ticket
sales to help put 55,000 fans in the stands for every Bucs home
game over the next two years. The leaders hope the guarantee
sends a "strong signal to investor groups concerned about paying
a near-record price to buy the Bucs and keep them in town."
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman: "Our future will change drastically
if this franchise moves out of this area." The "novel plan is
the most daring step so far by a community fearful that Orioles
Owner Peter Angelos will make good on his pledge to pay $200
million for the Bucs and move them to Baltimore" (Jeff Testerman,
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/22).
DETAILS: The City of Tampa and Hillsborough County would
guarantee that 55,000 tickets would be sold at each home game
unless attendance drops below 45,000. If that happens, they will
guarantee the purchase of up to 10,000 tickets. Businesses would
be the main contributor, and the "maximum exposure to taxpayers
would be $2 million a year for two years." The guarantee would
be paid through a reserve fund and a sales tax. The offer is
being made only to new owners, not the trustees who currently run
the team (Ken Koehn, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/22). According to THE
SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY's "Turnstile Tracker," the Bucs currently
averages 45,517 for the '94 season.
REAX: Reaction by elected officials who will vote on the
measure was mixed. Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura
said the plan was premature, stating the team does not have
owners yet: "This is analogous to an arranged wedding where one
is not identified. ... We need to dance before we get engaged"
(Ken Koehn, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/22).
NEW BUYER? Orlando-based sports agent Robert Fraley met with
team trustee Steve Story to state his interest in the Bucs.
Fraley represents a group of Orlando-area investors who intend to
keep the team in Tampa (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/22).