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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

     The APSL will add a seventh franchise with a new team in New
York this spring, giving the Big Apple its first professional
soccer franchise in 15 years.  The New York Centaurs will play at
Downing Stadium on Randall's Island.  Team colors will be orange,
blue and silver with a white logo -- similar to the Mets and
Knicks.  NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says he hopes the team "could
build on the soccer spirit" generated by the area's hosting of
the World Cup last summer (AP/N.Y. POST, 2/22).

     Raptors President John Bitove says that contrary to a
statement by NBA operations VP Matt Winick, Canadian fans will
see the expansion draft on television.  Bitove: "One way or
another, we are committed to getting the draft on TV for our
fans.  That's sacrosanct."  Bitove says he will try and get an
agreement with a national network to carry the draft.  If that's
not possible, he will "enlist" local broadcast partner CITY-TV to
carry the draft in Ontario.  Bitove:  "The league told me over a
year ago that this was an idea they wanted to try.  I know
they're completely supportive" (Craig Daniels, TORONTO SUN,
2/22).

     ECHL Charlotte Checkers Owner Felix Sabates and Managing
General Partner Carl Scheer said that they are interested in
owning an NHL, IHL or AHL team that would play hockey in the
Charlotte Coliseum.  The Checkers average 7,900 fans per game
playing in Independence Arena, second highest in the
developmental ECHL.  Sabates and Scheer think hockey at a higher
level would fill even more seats.  Scheer: "Our intention is to
play hockey in Charlotte this year, next year and 10 years from
now. ... If the Charlotte Coliseum is for sale we'd like to be in
the discussions."  Sabates and Scheer say "numerous recent
inquiries" to purchase the coliseum from the city "forced their
hand."  The city's coliseum authority and the Hornets are
negotiating a new lease that could bring improvements for the
facility -- including an ice surface.  According to Scheer, he's
had "several recent conversations" with NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman about putting a team in Charlotte.  But Sabates also
"seemed enthused" about landing an IHL or AHL team for the
Coliseum, predicting the team could draw 15,000-18,000 fans per
game:  "We'll approach it from a business sense.  An IHL or AHL
team may draw as many fans as an NHL team, but with lower ticket
prices" (Cliff Mehrtens, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/22).

     One of two DC-Northern VA groups seeking a MLB expansion
franchise was one of four interested parties to meet with the
Pirates' investment bank last week, according to this morning's
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE.  Robert Johnson, a Northern VA shopping
center developer and Donald Greene, a NY venture capitalist
reportedly have pledged a combined $40M to Capital Baseball,
which Capital Baseball President Bart Fisher now says includes
51% minority investors.   Fisher said he met with Wertheim
Schroeder officials last Thursday and "would give Pittsburgh a
chance to keep the Pirates if his group bought the team."  Fisher
"is pitching" Capital Baseball's minority investors as an
"attraction."  Recently, both Jerry Reinsdorf, a member of MLB's
ownership committee, and Acting Commissioner Bud Selig have said
they prefer prospective ownership groups with minority partners.
Capital Baseball is "running a distant second" to Virginia
Baseball Club Inc. in an effort to bring a MLB expansion team to
Northern VA.  For more on MLB expansion, (Steve Halvonik,
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/22).

     Jaguars officials are "expected to complete a deal with
Ford" next week that will make Jaguar, Ford and Lincoln-Mercury
products "the official cars" of the Jaguars.  If a settlement is
reached, it would end the controversy that resulted in Jaguar
Cars, Ltd. filing a lawsuit that the team's "leaping cat" logo
too closely resembled its own.  Under the proposal, the car
companies would pay an "undetermined amount of money for
corporate sponsorship," as well as lease an "undisclosed number
of cars" to the team to be used by team personnel.  Two car
dealers familiar with the negotiations added that the deal will
also include full-page advertising for the car companies in team
publications, such as game-day programs, advertising on rotating
scoreboard signs at the south end of the stadium, and TV and
radio time (Earl Daniels, FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/21).