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Volume 24 No. 159

Franchises

     According to NFL Dir of Communications Greg Aiello, Houston
is not in line to get a replacement NFL franchise any time soon,
but if the city can devise a concrete plan to renovate the
Astrodome or build a new arena, it likely will get another team
in several years.  John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE reports
this announcement comes after NFL President Neil Austrian and VP
Roger Goodell met with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and
Padres Owner John Jay Moores, who is pushing to land an expansion
franchise in Houston.  Aiello said that Houston will not receive
a team-before-'99 guarantee like Cleveland's because that city
already had voters' approval for $175M to be spent on a new
stadium.  According to Eckels, both renovation of the Astrodome
and building a new facility would cost roughly $200M.  Also, if
the Astrodome is renovated for football, a new stadium will have
to be built for the Astros (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/22).

     The state of WA and King County said they would suspend
their lawsuits against the Seahawks in order to allow Paul Allen
a chance to buy the team, but both governments said the suits
would not be dismissed in case a Ken Behring-to-Allen sale falls
through.  The SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER reports King County
prosecutor Norm Maleng said the county would suspend its lawsuit
only if Behring and Allen extend the existing court order
preventing any owner from moving. On Saturday, Allen announced he
had bought an option to purchase the franchise with the
stipulation that all suits against Behring and the team be
suspended and eventually dropped.  Maleng added that they "are
days away" from an actual court approval to put the suits on hold
(Rebecca Boren, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 4/23).
     TICKETS SOARING:  Though the Seahawks will stay put next
season, ticket prices will not.  The P-I's Clare Farnsworth
reports '96 prices will rise above the current four price
categories -- $19, $28, $32 and $38.  The team is  25th in the
NFL in ticket prices and claims a need to keep pace with rising
player costs.  The hike coincides with thousands of phone calls
about ticket sales that "poured in" following Allen's
announcement.  Receptionist Ingrid Hatfield:  "It was like the
flood gates just opened."  Tickets go on sale after the NFL
announces home schedules in the next two weeks (SEATTLE POST-
INTELLIGENCER, 4/23).
     PORTLAND'S NHL HOPES ICED?  Now that Allen "is off with his
own private punt, pass and kick competition in Seattle, the
Blazers don't seem very interested in rolling dice on ice,"
according to Dwight Jaynes of the OREGONIAN.  Portland's chances
for an NHL franchise are further diminished by the Allen-funded
Rose Garden, which initially seemed like "a terrific deal for the
city."  Jaynes writes, "If the city had built the new arena, it
would be able to solicit its own team" (OREGONIAN, 4/22).

     New 76ers President Pat Croce intends to "hold the line" on
ticket prices when the team moves into the CoreStates Center next
season.  Croce reportedly wants "very much to create a level of
goodwill with the area's basketball community" and is preparing a
brochure explaining a benefits package for season ticket holders
(PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/23)....The CFL Rough Riders have
secured $500,000 in corporate deals for the coming season
enabling them to field a team for the upcoming season (Toronto
GLOBE & MAIL, 4/23)....The Sharks are considering a switch in top
minor league affiliates after their deal with the IHL K.C. Blades
expires at the end of this year.  Lexington, KY's AHL team is a
possibility (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/23).

     The Grizzlies' inaugural season is profiled by Lowell
Ullrich of the Vancouver PROVINCE.  Ullrich:  "Did the Grizzlies
capture enough of the market to ensure their long-term future?
Especially if they carry out a planned hike in ticket prices?"
Tod Leiweke, VP/Business for Orca Bay Entertainment, the team's
parent company, suggested a single-digit price increase will take
effect next year and believes the team can improve on its season
ticket base of 13,000.  The team averaged just over 17,000 per
game, just under the NBA median.  With "few vocally opposed" to
the C$15,000 spent nightly on game presentation, Ullrich writes,
"They'll be just as much glitz next year."  Where "changes are
needed" is in radio/TV coverage, as Orca Bay produces games for
BCTV/CHEK, but is "last in the league in over-the-air revenues."
And with rights deals in place, the Grizzlies "might be stuck"
unless the area gets a regional sports outlet (Vancouver
PROVINCE, 4/23).
     KILLER WHALE?  Orca Bay unveiled a giant blimp dressed as a
killer whale at GM Place.  The Whale is estimated to have cost
over $50,000 and will be used at both Canucks and Grizzlies
games.  Greg von Schottenstein, Orca Bay Director of Game
Presentation, said "early indications from fans are that it's a
huge success" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/23).

     In a spirited interview with Michael Arace of the HARTFORD
COURANT, Whalers Owner Peter Karmanos insists there is no
"cynical twist" to the team's recent season ticket drive and
denies he would move the club without the state of CT's
permission.  Saying while he is "not making any money" by staying
in Hartford, Karmanos says he hopes to "stabilize" the franchise
and generate a revenue base of $37-38M so the club can compete
with the "deep pockets" of the Bruins and Rangers.  Karmanos
calls the ESPN story which had the Whalers headed to Nashville
"horse crap" and "very frustrating," but he admits if he were a
"prudent business person" he should have been looking last fall
for "alternative locations."  Karmanos mentions a site "in
between New Haven and Hartford" as the possible location for a
new arena, but says "we can't even talk about that when we're
averaging 10,000 people per game and ... when we can't fill the
skyboxes."  He goes on to criticize the union's view of
economics:  "The NHLPA's position, privately with the league, is
screw the small markets.  When we were trying to do revenue
sharing and salary caps ... the NHLPA's position was, 'You know,
if the team can't make it in the market they're in, move 'em'"
(HARTFORD COURANT, 4/21).

     A crowd of 6,021, the smallest crowd at the Oakland Coliseum
in nearly 10 years, watch the A's beat the Brewers (SAN JOSE
MERCURY NEWS, 4/23)...The Rangers host a 1:05pm start against the
White Sox, promoting it as "Excuses Day."  Last weekend, ballpark
attendants handed out letters signed by Rangers Manager Johnny
Oates telling bosses that workers needed a day off (FT. WORTH
STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/23).. ..Through Sunday, the Phillies have drawn
a total of 186,035 fans, a drop of 71,658 from the same amount of
games from '95  (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/23)....CLARIFICATION:
New information provided by the Phillies indicates their average
ticket price to be $11.50, down from $12.80 (THE DAILY).