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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          While two Houston groups, one led by Rockets Owner Les
     Alexander and the other by Aeros Owner Chuck Watson, "are in
     the process of putting together proposals" for the NHL
     Oilers, "in both cases, the team would be bought outright --
      but with a promise to keep the team in Edmonton as long as
     it maintains a positive cash-flow situation," according to
     Al Strachan of the TORONTO SUN.  Strachan writes that
     "reliable sources" say that the NHL "is heavily involved in
     the negotiations and is working to make sure the Oilers stay
     in Edmonton."  Strachan adds that the NHL "is willing to
     modify its long-range plan and allow a further expansion in
     the early part of the next century if doing so guarantees
     the stability of the Oilers."  For that to happen, the
     "successful purchaser" would have to "guarantee the league"
     that the Oilers will stay in Edmonton for "a certain period,
     probably three years."  If the team continues to have a
     positive cash-flow, then the owner would be allowed to sell
     the Oilers, and "in return," be "sold the rights to an NHL
     expansion team in Houston" (TORONTO SUN, 10/23).

          As the Ravens play their second season in Baltimore,
     its "flock is neither as large or as zealous as many NFL
     watchers had expected and Ravens officials had hoped,"
     according to Ken Denlinger of the WASHINGTON POST.  He adds
     that MD fans are "reluctant to totally embrace the Ravens"
     for "three reasons," one of which is "guilt" over the way
     the team came to Baltimore.  Another "is that the Ravens
     aren't the Colts," but "probably the major blame" is team's
     performance.  One "prominent" team exec said, "At some
     point, product matters."  The team has recently launched a
     campaign to sell the remaining 12,000 PSLs with the theme,
     "The Best Is Yet to Come."  But MD Stadium Authority Chair
     John Moag said the "only objective measure of fan interest
     is ticket sales" and that's been "extremely positive" for
     the Ravens.  Moag notes the team has sold 87 of 100 luxury
     boxes and all 7,900 club seats for its new stadium, set to
     open next season (WASHINGTON POST, 10/23).  

          Greg Sorbara, a former Ontario cabinet member, and
     Lawrence Dale, who was VP/Business Development & General
     Counsel for SkyDome from '91 until he left last month,
     confirmed "that they are part of a consortium attempting to
     buy" the Blue Jays, according to Tony Van Alphen of the
     TORONTO STAR.  Dale said that he "initiated and is leading"
     the group, which has "at least" six investors, "including
     two former owners" of "major" U.S. sports franchises, one of
     whom "previously owned" an MLB team.  Sorbara, a real estate
     developer, said that he would be a minority shareholder, and
     would be "putting up his own money" if the group's bid is
     successful.  Dale: "All I can say is that we have the
     financial ability to complete a deal for the Jays and the
     expertise to operate a franchise of this stature.  That's
     critical to the team and the fans" (TORONTO STAR, 10/23). 
     In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes that the "sands seem to be
     shifting" in terms of the Jays deal, and that "despite the
     continuing optimistic talk from [Murray] Frum, there remain
     indications that ... the proposition is a whole lot more
     complicated than it first appeared" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/23).

          In N.Y., Op-Ed columnist Sidney Zion writes in response
     to a column by Harvey Araton of the N.Y. Times on Yankees
     Owner George Steinbrenner's relationship with the Hispanic
     community.  Zion writes the facts show that the Yankees have
     the third most Hispanic players in MLB.  Zion: "How could
     Araton miss this? ... Say what you will about George
     Steinbrenner, you simply can't label him a racist" (N.Y.
     DAILY NEWS, 10/23)....Hoping to "refocus fans on the ...
     Hornets -- and away from owner George Shinn's troubles," a
     group of Charlotte businesses are putting on an open-to-the-
     public "pep rally" where fans can lunch with the team and
     hear coach Dave Cowens speak at the Charlotte Coliseum. 
     Charlotte Chamber President Caroll Gray: "[W]e want to make
     sure the team doesn't get confused with the other P.R.
     problem they have" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/23)....Only 1,009
     attended the ABL Xplosion-StingRays game in Long Beach, CA
     last night (Earl Gustkey, L.A. TIMES, 10/23).




          The Chargers are teaming up with Qualcomm to buy enough
     tickets to lift a local TV blackout on three of six
     remaining home games, according to Ray Huard of the SAN
     DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE.  Qualcomm and the team will give their
     tickets to county schools, to be used as rewards to
     students.  Mayor Susan Golding: "This solves a lot of
     potential problems for this year."  But the UNION-TRIBUNE's
     Huard notes, however, that the ticket-buying deal "still
     leaves the city on the hook for the controversial ticket
     guarantee that is at the heart of the stadium deal."  Under
     the guarantee, the city must give the Chargers a rent credit
     when fewer than 60,000 general admission tickets are sold
     for home games.  Golding's Press Secretary Todd Harris said
     that the guarantee "already has cost the city $705,900 in
     rent credits" through the Chargers first two home games. 
     With the new ticket deal, officials "estimate" that the city
     will wind up deducting $1.2M by the end of the season from
     the estimated $5.7M the Chargers will pay in rent (Ray
     Huard, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/23).