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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

     Reports in Houston and Washington, DC, focus on the
likelihood MLB owners would reject a sale of the Astros to
William Collins and the team's subsequent relocation to the
Northern VA area.  NL President Leonard Coleman:  "There's a
process in baseball. ... And that process is yet to begin."  In
Houston, Alan Truex notes, despite Collins' stated wish to have
the deal done by Thanksgiving, an MLB relocation committee would
have to consider the proposal and any move would require a 3/4
vote (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/22).  Acting MLB Commissioner Bud
Selig echoed Coleman's comments in an interview with the
WASHINGTON POST.  Selig praised Collins for his aggressiveness,
but noted the "reasonable" procedural requirements.  Selig:  "One
of the factors is, is there a local buyer?" (Mark Maske,
WASHINGTON POST, 10/23).  One MLB "insider":  "This isn't the
NFL.  These owners are not going to just yawn and let this happen
in a matter of a few weeks."  One source says owners will try to
convince Astros Owner Drayton McLane to "hold on for one more
year" (Terry Blount, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/21).  The POST's Maske
notes other MLB owners "apparently are upset that McLane is
talking to Collins without having made an intense effort to sell
the team to local buyers" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/21).

     Nashville Metro Finance Dir Joe Huddleston answered
"absolutely" to the question of whether the Oilers are worth a
$292.2M investment.  Huddleston released a study by KPMG Peat
Marwick that shows an NFL team would generate $8M in taxes
annually, $65.4M in spending and add 1,350 full-time jobs.
Huddleston:  "People should use their common sense and look at
those cities that have added pro sports.  I challenge anyone who
does that to say there was no economic benefit."  But two
economists were skeptical on the direct economic benefits.  Both
Vanderbilt's John Siegfried and Smith's Andrew Zimbalist said any
multiplier effect is less with pro teams than other businesses
(TENNESSEAN, 10/21).

     In London for the McDonald's Championships, NBA Commissioner
David Stern said he understands the "dilemma" facing the Rockets
and the city, but he stated the Rockets will need a new arena.
Stern:  "The Summit is fine for the short-term.  But within the
next year, there are going to have to be plans for a new arena."
Rockets Owner Les Alexander's Summit lease lasts until 2003.
Stern -- who said "I refuse to launch that war from London" when
asked if Alexander would be within his rights to move to another
city -- said he was confident the issue would be worked out "at
the local level" (Eddie Sefko, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/23).

     "How could it happen?  How can the fourth-largest city in
the nation be on the verge of losing its pro football team and
major-league baseball team in the same year," asks Terry Blount
of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.  As for the Astros, Blount concludes it
is not Houston fans that have changed, but the economics of
baseball (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/22).
Eddie Webster, President of the Greater Houston Convention &
Visitors Bureau, said the impact of losing the Oilers and Astros
would be "devastating."  Webster:  "This is a lot more important
than just the money it generates for Houston.  This is about
prestige and image."   But the question of overall impact on a
community is debatable, according to the HOUSTON CHRONICLE's John
Williams.  Patti Strauss, spokesperson for MONEY magazine, which
ranks cities on livability, said the loss of two teams would have
"very little effect."  And John Brock, head of a top Houston
executive recruiting firm, said sports don't rank as high as
other "quality-of-life issues" when executives consider a move to
a city.  Still, Brock and others note the image problems, notably
whether Houston will be seen as a "city on the decline" if the
teams vacate (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/21).

     Negotiations between the New Jersey Sports & Exposition
Authority and the Devils have "broken down," according to a
"well-placed" NJSEA official cited by the N.Y. POST.  That source
claimed a "gut feeling" that not only would both parties not sign
a long-term lease agreement by the November 1 deadline, but that
the two sides "are indeed headed for court on the original June
breach of contract suit and counter-suits" (Larry Brooks, N.Y.
POST, 10/21).  Several reports note the Devils were 3,000 short
of a full-house for their rematch with the Red Wings on Thursday.

     The "final wrangling" within the Metro King County Council
on the funding plan for a new Mariners stadium is over an attempt
by Budget Committee Chair Pete von Reichbauer to create a "fiscal
oversight committee" that would report to the council on the new
Public Facilities District overseeing the project.  According to
this morning's SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, that debate is not
expected to keep the council from voting to put the stadium plan
"into motion."  Under the Legislature's plan, the state would
contribute $107M of the $320M project, the Mariners $45M, and the
county would be granted taxing authority to cover the rest.
County officials have questioned whether the funding is adequate
for the project, and are concerned that tax revenues may not
cover the entire cost (Ed Penhale, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER,
10/23).

     MN Gov. Arne Carlson proposed a '97 referendum on a new
baseball stadium that, if approved, "could be the basis" for
tying the state's three existing pro teams and the Jets "to long-
term stays," according to Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis STAR
TRIBUNE.  Carlson also proposed a two-year public subsidy for the
Jets if new owner Richard Burke pays an equal amount -- about $2M
per year.  In addition, Carlson's plan calls for the potential
for partial public ownership of at least one of the area's teams.
Carlson said any Jets subsidy would be, in effect, "bridge
financing" supported by higher income taxes generated by the
team.  Eventually, a new metro or state sports authority would
take over and "rearrange finances" for the Jets.  Asked how the
Jets could make it without public funds, Carlson proposed the
sale of shares in the team (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/21).
     MORE TALK ON IMPACT:  Weiner also examines the debate over
economic impact of sports teams, writing, "Pro sports in the '90s
is not a matter of economic benefit.  It is, rather, a matter of
collective self-esteem and civic differentiation.  It is a
signature of what a community is and wants to be."  Lake Forest
College's Robert Baade:  "There's something psychological taking
place.  It's about the quality of life" (Minneapolis STAR
TRIBUNE, 10/22).

     "Skeptical that Dade County can find a way to build a new
arena," Panthers Owner Wayne Huizenga said he would begin seeking
a new home for the team outside South Florida, according to a
front-page piece in Saturday's MIAMI HERALD.  Huizenga Holdings
Exec VP James Blosser wrote to the Metro Dade Commissioners that
the county and team have failed to develop a "concrete, viable
and timely plan" to raise funds for a new arena.  Blosser warned
the Panthers could be in a new city as soon as next season.  The
decision "appears to put an abrupt end" to proposals floated by
some Metro officials for a combination of taxes to pay for a new
arena.  That plan, which would have required additional state
support, was considered "shaky" by Huizenga.  Asst. County
Manager David Morris:  "It looks like they've decided that's it.
What can be said?  I thought we had until October 31, but they
seem to have decided it's not worth the extra time.  But that's
their choice."  Four cities are mentioned as possible new homes
for the Panthers:  Nashville (considered the frontrunner),
Atlanta, Charlotte and Portland.  Blosser noted they are still
open to any proposals from local governments.  Fort Lauderdale
may make a "last-gasp attempt" to get the team (Hartman &
Rafinski, MIAMI HERALD, 10/21).

     Warriors officials said Sunday that they need a commitment -
- approved by the San Jose city council -- by October 31.  With
that new deadline, city officials spent the day trying to resolve
the "key stumbling block":  agreement from the Sharks.  Sources
say the Sharks want new contract language that in 10 years would
automatically guarantee the NHL team "whatever concessions the
city might have to offer to keep the basketball team when its
lease expires."  As the plan reads now, a Warriors' 10-year lease
with San Jose Arena would run out two years before the Sharks.
Sharks officials worry the Warriors "would get first crack at
eliciting valuable concessions from the city to renew the
contract.  Because the concessions are unknown, it would be risky
for the city to make such a promise to the Sharks" (Mary Anne
Ostrom, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/23).