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Volume 24 No. 154

Franchises

     Reports last week of Pirate ownership taking offers from
out-of-state buyers has further fueled "the acrimony" between the
administration of Mayor Tom Murphy and team ownership.  The
animosity "isn't contrived," according to Ron Cook in this
morning's PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, and "it could derail the sale"
of the team to Adelphia Communications Chair John Rigas.  Murphy,
with Pirates Chair Vincent Sarni's approval, endorsed Rigas as
the city's best potential buyer, but after months of
negotiations, "there is still no sale."  Cook writes that "the
more [Murphy] tries to pressure the Pirates' board into a deal
for Rigas, the more damage he might be doing."  Now Murphy is
afraid Rigas may walk away from the sale.  Cook:  "Could you
blame Rigas?  Who needs a baseball team that badly?"  Members of
the Pirates board claim that Rigas will not pull out, and that he
"has a vision of the franchise's value skyrocketing" if the
owners win the strike and a new stadium is built.  Cook writes
Sarni "appears to have the same vision, which is why he is so
hesitant to do a deal with Rigas that could short-change the
current owners" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/21).

     Despite offers to join the AHL, the Charlotte Checkers will
reportedly stay in the East Coast Hockey League, according to
this morning's CHARLOTTE OBSERVER.  Checkers Owner Felix Sabatas
and team President Carl Scheer met with ECHL officials Monday and
afterward said they were "ambivalent" about moving up to the AHL.
The AHL is recruiting a number of ECHL franchises in an attempt
to form a Southern Division.  Scheer said there was "very little
interest" from other ECHL teams about a move, as the added cost
estimate of at least $500,000 per year would make it difficult.
The IHL has "informed Checkers management it wants to either
absorb the franchise or move an expansion team to Charlotte to
compete with the Checkers."  That could force Scheer to move from
Independence Arena (about 9,500 capacity) to the Coliseum
(23,000) to "head off another minor-league team looking for a
home."  Scheer: "We're trying to find a way to protect our
market. ... The AHL is not an automatic slam-dunk, like moving
from the ABA to the NBA.  There are four Canadian (AHL)
franchises in trouble" (Rick Bonnell, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/21).

     Lions VP Bill Ford, Jr. made a strong effort to save the
Lions Thanksgiving Day game after Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt floated
a proposal at the winter meetings to rotate the high-profile
contest, according to Vartan Kupelain & Mike O'Hara of the
DETROIT NEWS.  It was Ford's first appearance at the NFL meetings
and he "didn't fumble the ball with a strong presentation on the
holiday game begun by the Lions in 1934."  If Hunt's move was
based on jealousy of the Cowboys, who also host a Thanksgiving
game, "then look for the Lions to cut any ties with Dallas and go
their own way."  With the franchise, Ford "believes in marketing
and promotional programs designed to enhance the team's image and
popularity" in Detroit, and he will try to make the Thanksgiving
game a "bigger attraction than it already is" (Kupelian & O'Hara,
DETROIT NEWS, 3/19).