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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

     A city hall source in Chicago says an NFL team interested in
playing in Chicago should the Bears leave has "put out feelers"
to the city, according to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.  While the
identity of that team has not been formally disclosed, the SUN-
TIMES' Spielman and Gillis report that when asked if it was the
Cardinals, the source said, "That's a very good guess."  The
contact from the team comes on the same day Chicago Mayor Richard
Daley met with other mayors of NFL cities to examine how to
restrict teams from relocating (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 12/15).  The
TRIBUNE's John Kass reports that Chicago's "back-channel"
diplomacy with the Cardinals is seen by some as a way to "kick-
start" negotiations with the Bears.  Kass adds the report "lost a
bit of its edge" when Cardinals General Counsel Thomas Guilfoil
said he was "personally unaware of any meaningful communication"
between the team and Chicago.  Kass adds that Cardinals Owner
Bill Bidwill and the McCaskey family are "good friends" and that
Bidwill is unlikely to "undermine" the Bears' negotiating
position (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/15).

     The IHL Roadrunners plan to stay in Phoenix despite the
pending arrival of an NHL team.  Roadrunner GM Adam Keller: "As
in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, where IHL teams compete with
the NHL, we also pay attention to a different niche of fans"
(AP/DESERET NEWS, 12/15)....The Mariners and Spring Training
Tours have already sold over 620 packages for spring training
games during the month of March.  The previous record was 275
packages in '93 (Mariners)....In a poll of 704 Seattle residents
conducted by the SEATTLE TIMES, 617 did not favor helping the
Seahawks with taxes or a new lease, while 87 did (SEATTLE TIMES,
12/13).

     The NFL has come to the Carolinas with the winningest
expansion franchise in NFL history, but the Panthers have not
exactly won over their home region, according to a report in
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.  Ed Hinton notes Panthers officials had high
expectations for attendance going into its inaugural season.  The
team decided to play at Clemson's 74,300-seat Memorial Stadium
while Carolinas Stadium is finished so, as Panther Owner Jerry
Richardson put it, South Carolina could "feel a sense of
ownership."  But the Panthers are only averaging 55,399, 5th from
the last in the NFL.  Hinton writes the biggest deterrent is the
fact that Clemson "'home' games are so far from home."  Clemson
is as much as a six-hour trip from the triangle region of NC and
150 miles southwest of Charlotte.  The Panthers also negotiated
with the Univ. of SC for the use of their 72,400-seat stadium,
but the school wanted a $5M rental package, while Clemson only
costs between $2-3M, depending on ticket revenue.  The Panthers
will play to larger crowds next season in their new $160M,
72,500-seat stadium in Charlotte.  The team has already sold
50,000 PSLs and according to local columnist Ron Green: "They'll
sell it out, and they'll never have another empty seat" (SI,
12/18 issue).

     For the second time this year, Rockets officials have
"slapped down" rumors that the team was moving -- this time a
report in the January '96 issue of TEXAS MONTHLY that Rockets
Owner Les Alexander is secretly negotiating to move the team to
Las Vegas.  Rockets Dir of PR Kathy Frietsch calls the report
"absolutely ridiculous."  Texas Monthly spokesperson Lisa
Lawrence said they stand by the story, which documents teams
leaving cities and focuses on the Oilers' move to Nashville and
the problems of Astros Owner Drayton McLane.  The story cites two
sources who claim Alexander is not happy with his situation at
The Summit and is interested in Las Vegas.  The HOUSTON
CHRONICLE's Michael Murphy notes an August report they had
mentioning Las Vegas, but team officials at that time also said
denied any discussions or plans.  Murphy also notes a move to Las
Vegas would face serious challenges from the NBA because of its
stance on gambling.  The league required Canada to change laws
regarding sports wagering before clearing the way for expansion
teams in Toronto and Vancouver, and the league was also success
in forcing the state of Oregon to discontinue its sports lottery
(HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/15).  The Rockets' lease with the Summit
runs through 2003 (USA TODAY, 12/15).
     GO 'STROS:  Ed Fowler writes with the Astros' resigning of
Craig Biggio, Owner Drayton McLane is betting on a comeback of
baseball in Houston (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/15).

     Today marks the final day of voting in the Boston Market-
sponsored contest to rename the Bullets, after which a five-
person "blue ribbon" panel will decide on the finalist.
According to the WASHINGTON TIMES, Bullets President Susan
O'Malley says the team has received over 300,000 responses,
adding that the panel -- made up of Bullets forward Juwan Howard,
local sports anchor George Michael, WTEM-AM GM Bob Snyder, a
representative from Boston Market, and either O'Malley or Bullets
Owner Abe Pollin -- will give weight to names received, but will
not be limited by those entries.  O'Malley said trademarking the
name is an issue, adding the team would rather drop a potential
name from contention rather than go through a trademark dispute.
An announcement of a new name is expected February 22.  Last
month, O'Malley said the front-runners were Glory, Justice,
Ravens and Wizards (Frank Hughes, WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/15).