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Volume 24 No. 116

Franchises

     The Bulls sent out notices to season ticket holders
informing them of price increases for '96-97.  The team will
raise prices $10 on $65 and $50 tickets, and $5 on tickets
costing $15-$40.  Courtside seats will rise from $325 to $400.
Columnist Steve Rosenbloom notes Bulls prices "compare favorably"
to the Blackhawks, adding "Next year the Bulls will charge what
the Hawks have been charging since the United Center opened two
years ago."  Bulls VP/Marketing and Broadcasting Steve Schanwald:
"Obviously, we're leaving money on the table.  We could command
significantly more money than we're charging -- significantly
more.  Just look at what the scalpers are getting" (CHICAGO SUN-
TIMES, 2/27).
     NINERS UP BY A FIVER:  The 49ers will raise ticket prices $5
a seat for the '96 season to $44.75 each.  Team President Carmen
Policy said the team raises ticket prices every two years, but
that this increase "probably would last for three years" (S.F.
CHRONICLE, 2/29).

     Blue Jays President Paul Beeston said yesterday the team's
new owner, Belgian-based Interbrew, has yet to talk to any
buyers, but that a "number of people" have expressed interest.
Beeston: "They are not down the road with anybody, but they're
certainly down the road to the point where they want to do
something with it sooner rather than later."  In Toronto, Richard
Griffin writes to "look for a 10-member consortium of hand-picked
and equal partners," with Interbrew holding on to 10% with
Beeston controlling their share and continuing on as general
partner (TORONTO STAR, 2/29).  Beeston said the team will sell in
excess of 22,000 season tickets (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 2/29).

     The Bucs pulled "an abrupt about-face" Wednesday night,
announcing they would be willing to join Tampa and Hillsborough
County officials in asking the FL Legislature for taxes to help
pay for a new stadium.  The team's change of heart comes just two
days before a self-imposed deadline to come up with a funding
plan to keep the team in Tampa.  Joe Henderson reports, as part
of the new position, the Bucs want "assurances from negotiators
that they be allowed to leave for another city without being sued
if attempts in the Legislature fail."  Henderson reports
officials "are lukewarm" to that idea (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/29).
Meanwhile, in Orlando, Larry Guest expects the Bucs to announce
"perhaps as early as Friday, they are officially pulling the plug
on stalled negotiations" in Tampa.  Guest adds the team will then
"openly resume pursuit of the deal they want to happen -- a move
to a new Osceola County stadium in time for the 1998 season"
(ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/29).

     The Padres will play a three-game series with the Mets in
Monterrey, Mexico, August 16-19.  The series, originally home
games for the Padres, was moved in part because of scheduling
conflicts with the Republican Convention.  The games, the first
MLB games to be played outside of the U.S. and Canada, will be
played at Monterrey Stadium, a facility with seating capacity of
26,000 (Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY, 2/29).  Mets Manager Dallas
Green compared the facilities to Triple-A level.  Green and
Padres Manager Bruce Bochy inspected the park in December (N.Y.
POST, 2/29).

     Should the Nashville Metro Council fail to give final
approval for a deal to lure the Oilers tonight, team officials
said they may look elsewhere.  The HOUSTON CHRONICLE reports
opponents of the Nashville stadium deal delivered signatures of
44,485 people demanding a public vote.  If 28,084 of those are
registered voters, a referendum must be held around May 1.  This
action has led some council members to say "if voters are going
to have the final say," there is no reason to act tonight.
Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen said he "would not back down" from
his plan to use $4M in water fees annually to fund the deal.
Polls consistently show voters favor the Oilers deal by a 2-1
margin.  Meanwhile, the TN Senate approved the state's $55M share
by a 23-9 margin (John Williams, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/29).  Larry
Graham, who heads Concerned Citizens of Nashville, says "among
the most vocal opponents of the project" are women, many of whom
are calling for more education funding (Jane DuBose, ATLANTA
CONSTITUTION, 2/29).
     WHAT ABOUT BOB?  Houston Mayor Bob Lanier hopes to strike a
bargain similar to the one NFL owners gave Cleveland last month
that will guarantee the city another team in exchange for
allowing the Oilers out of their Astrodome lease.  The CHRONICLE
reports Lanier will meet with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
Friday in Washington to consider options before a March NFL
meeting in which Lanier will address owners about his city's
desire for another team.  John Williams notes Lanier has "at
least three good bargaining chits":  1) The threat of an
antitrust lawsuit against the NFL; 2) the likely construction of
a new stadium financed through PSLs and parking fees; and 3) a
guarantee the Oilers must stay in Houston for two more years
unless a deal can be struck.  Lanier also hopes to "change the
impression" Houston is not a good football town.  Williams
writes, "Many NFL owners have frowned on the city because there
has been virtually no local effort to keep the Oilers," unlike in
Cleveland (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/29).

     Wayne Gretzky met the media yesterday on his trade to St.
Louis.  Gretzky, on potential marketing opportunities with the
Blues:  "A whole new barrage of merchandise goes along with that.
It's a capitalistic country.  It's good for the Blues and for
Wayne Gretzky.  Everyone's going to win in this case."   Blues GM
& Coach Mike Keenan denied rumors Gretzky's deal had any
involvement from local businesses.  Keenan: "To my knowledge I
don't think there are any businesses in town that are related to
Wayne's contract.  Maybe on the merchandising end" (THE DAILY).
     EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES:  ESPN showed video footage of a long
line of fans lining up at the Kiel Center box office buying
tickets for future Blues games ("SportsCenter," 2/28).
Meanwhile, jersey orders for No. 99 Blues sweaters soared in St.
Louis.  The team sold out the next two home games, and has only
scattered seats for five other games.  Team officials expect to
sell out all regular-season tickets soon.   A retailer located
near the Kiel Center reported 20 orders for custom-made Gretzky
jerseys (Dan Mihalopoulos, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/29).  The
Post-Dispatch is expected will run a Blues ad announcing that the
team is taking orders for No. 99 jerseys (USA TODAY, 2/29).
     TOUGH SELL IN TINSELTOWN:  "SportsCenter" noted Kings
attendance during the Gretzky-era was up 45% from '88-96 -- the
team averaged 10,664 from '67-88 without Gretzky, and 15,418
after his arrival (ESPN, 2/28).  Last night's first non-Gretzky
game at the Forum may be a sign of things to come.  The club drew
just 11,405 -- the third smallest gate of the season (USA TODAY,
2/29).  Covering last night's Lightning-Kings game, Roy Cummings
notes in a sports apparel store two blocks from the Forum, the
only two hockey jerseys on display were of the Ducks' Teemu
Salanne and Paul Kariya.  Cummings notes, "Other than Gretzky,
the Kings don't really have anybody whose name and number can
help a retailer sell a jersey" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/29).  Kings
officials say their plan centers on building a young team for a
new arena, which they hope to open in '99 (Helene Elliott, L.A.
TIMES, 2/29).  Magic Johnson, on Gretzky's impact on L.A.:  "He
turned this into a hockey town. ...  He brought celebrities out
to the hockey game.  Kids in Los Angeles never played hockey
before.  The ice rinks were empty.  Wayne comes and now ...  you
can't get ice time" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/28).

     King County officials met with NFL Commissioner Paul
Tagliabue yesterday in New York, while in CA, Seahawks Owner Ken
Behring met over lunch with a representative of Paul Allen, the
team's most prominent suitor.
     FROM THE EAST COAST:  King County Executive Gary Locke and
Councilman Pete von Reichbauer expressed optimism after their
meeting with Tagliabue, according to Farnsworth & Thiel in this
morning's SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER.  The two were "buoyed by
what they described as the prospect of a partnership" with the
NFL to keep the Seahawks in Seattle.  Locke said the NFL would
"take action over the next two weeks," but "would not elaborate."
Tagliabue suggested that he would prefer that the dispute be
"handled locally" before any action is taken by the league
(SEATTLE P-I, 2/29). Former Seahawks Owner John Nordstrom, a
friend of Tagliabue's, joined Locke and von Reichbauer in New
York for the meeting (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/28).
     RED BEHRING?  Over lunch with Blazers President Bob
Whitsitt, representing Allen, Ken Behring reiterated that the
team is not for sale.  However, team operations were discussed.
The P-I's Farnsworth and Thiel note, "If Allen decides to make an
offer for the Seahawks, Whitsitt figures to be a primary
negotiator" (SEATTLE P-I, 2/29).

     Baltimore city officials notified Stallions Owner Jim Speros
yesterday he must move his team's equipment out of Memorial
Stadium, taking the first step to evict the CFL club in order for
NFL franchise to move into the facility.  Speros owes the city
$73,000 in back rent and is the target of three city lawsuits,
including one seeking a total of $575,000.  Baltimore NFL
officials say they will have to work out of their homes until
space at Memorial Stadium can be cleared, as their temporary
office lease runs out tomorrow (Michael James, Baltimore SUN,
2/29).
     OTHER NEWS FROM CHARM CITY:  The AHL Bandits were bought by
VA businessman Michael Caggiano.  The deal still needs AHL
approval.  Caggiano purchased the club from former owners Bob
Teck and Alan Gertner (Baltimore SUN, 2/29).