On Friday, D'Backs Managing General Partner Jerry
Colangelo christened Bank One Ballpark and demonstrated the
retractable roof for the media, according to Bill Muller of
the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Colangelo said the ballpark will not
be 100% complete on March 31, "mainly because the Cox
Clubhouse, an area with interactive games and a baseball
museum, would not be ready" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/21). In
AZ, Kerry Fehr-Snyder reported that the economic impact of
the D'Backs "will top" $300M a year in AZ, most of it in
downtown Phoenix. The estimate is a "substantial increase"
from the $230M impact predicted in '93 (AZ REPUBLIC, 3/21).
D'BUCKS: BUSINESS WEEK's Ronald Grover reports that
Colangelo and his group of 15 investors spent more than
$325M getting the franchise ready for this season, but the
D'Backs are "all but assured of placing among the leaders in
attendance and operating profits." The team has raised
$500M in marketing revenue and Colangelo predicts it will
draw 3.5 million this season (BUSINESS WEEK, 3/30 issue).
MEDIA CONFLICT? In AZ, consumer advocate writer Richard
de Uriarte said that some readers have complained that the
Arizona Republic "gives favorable treatment to the
Diamondbacks because of a conflict of interest." Phoenix
Newspaper Inc., Publisher of the Republic, has invested $5M
as a limited partner in the team. D'Backs Dir of Media
Relations Bob Crawford said the paper's investment in the
team "will not give Republic reporters an inside track."
Crawford: "We treat all reporters the same." de Uriarte:
"Editors are aware of the scrutiny. We've made no secret of
the investment. And we have promised our readers it would
not affect coverage" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/22).
DESERT NOTES: The D'Backs drew a crowd of 11,117 on
Saturday, the sixth time this spring the team has played in
front of a crowd of 10,000 or more (ARIZONA REPUBLIC,
3/22)....On ESPN SportsZone, Mitch Lawrence wrote that "more
than one" NBA GM "is privately accusing the Suns of
bypassing the salary cap" when Colangelo made Danny Manning
a minority owner in the D'Backs (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22).
...CNN/SI's Tom Verducci reported that the "scouting report"
on Bank One Ballpark is that "it's great for fans, but it's
a nightmare for umpires." NL officials said that due to the
park's different angles, they "might have to change the
ground rules during the season" ("CNN/SI," 3/20).
GREEN RAYS: Devil Rays Managing General Partner Vince
Naimoli projects revenues of $90-$100M in his team's first
year, which would rank among the top eight MLB teams. The
team expects to generate up to another $15M from other
events at Tropicana Field. Naimoli predicts Devils Rays'
attendance "should be around" 3.2-million, an average of
40,000 per game (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/22).
The Raptors drew a season-high 33,216 for their game
yesterday versus the Bulls (TORONTO STAR, 3/23)....The Hawks
will decide today whether to sell more tickets to next
Friday's Bulls game. Over 54,000 seats have already been
sold (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/22)....Twins Owner Carl Pohlad
"may retain ownership of his team" if it moves to NC "and
bring in Triad investors as partners" (NEWS & RECORD, 3/21).
Lightning attorneys have filed a request to have the
team's financial records kept out of public view, "citing
the text of a recent Tampa radio interview in which
plaintiff Marc Ganis ... promises next year's trial will be
a 'media circus,'" according to Larry Dougherty of the ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES. Ganis, who accuses the Lightning of
"thwarting his bid to start an NHL franchise in Tampa" and
is seeking more than $100M, said in a March 4 interview: "I
want this information to be made public. You and the press
are going to love the information that comes out of this."
But attorneys for the team and former Lightning exec David
LeFevre say that Ganis' interview "reveals a willingness to
abuse the legal system to damage the team and vent his
personal frustrations." Team attorneys are also worried
that Ganis "would publicize confidential business documents
provided to him during pretrial discovery." Ganis could not
be reached for comment (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21).
The message sent by MLB owners in approving the Dodgers
sale to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Group was that "the pluses of
having Fox's vast financial resources, as well as its
expertise on global television and marketing, outweigh
serious potential conflicts," according to Richard Sandomir
of the N.Y. TIMES. Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "You
have worries about conflicts. But the returns on Disney,
Tribune and Time Warner have been to the contrary. They've
been great partners." Giants Exec VP Larry Baer said that
"any analysis of a media company owning a team is more
positive than negative" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21). In L.A., Thomas
Mulligan wrote that media companies "are pushing further
into sports ownership in a trend that shows no sign of
reversing. ... The biggest motivator in the trends, experts
say, is fear of getting locked out of sports." Smith Barney
analyst Spencer Gaines said that Cablevision buying the
Yankees would be "a preemptive strike against what happened
in Los Angeles with ESPN West" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21). In
Boston, Peter Gammons wrote to "expect Viacom to be the next
media giant to buy into baseball and widen the chasm between
the haves and the have-notes" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/23). A N.Y.
TIMES editorial dismissed concern over Murdoch's purchase of
the Dodgers: "Baseball has always been a business run, with
rare exceptions, by proprietors with an aversion to red ink
far stronger than their professed loyalty to the traditions,
rhythms and solidifying virtues of the game." What matters,
"in the end" are "the numbers. ... That is just what
mattered to Mr. O'Malley and, if history is a guide, that is
all that will matter to Mr. Murdoch" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22).
The Sabres, Adelphia Communications Corp. and Adelphia
Chair John Rigas jointly announced the signing of a formal
agreement under which Rigas would acquire control of the
Sabres. Details were not released, but will be communicated
to the Sabres partners this week. The closing is expected
to take place in April, pending NHL approval (Sabres).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent Friday in Nashville
with Predators officials, Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen and
city business leaders, according to Jeff Legwold of the
Nashville TENNESSEAN. Bettman: "I believe in this market, I
believe in this ownership, I believe in the arena, I believe
in the mayor." As of Friday, the team had sold 11,059
season tickets, 941 short of the March 31 goal of 12,000.
Predators Majority Owner Craig Leipold said that the team
has sold the needed luxury suites, all dasher board
advertising space and "has in large part met the club seat
requirement" before the March 31 deadline. Leipold: "On the
club seats, we're very close and if we meet the ticket goal,
those will also fall in there" (TENNESSEAN, 3/21).
ESPN could "emerge as a key competitor" to Cablevision
for Yankees TV rights if Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner
"keeps the Yankees and is forced to negotiate a new deal"
when his MSG cable package expires in 2000, according to
Steve Zipay of NEWSDAY. Among Steinbrenner's "strongest"
possibilities would be to sell the Yankees' TV rights to
ESPN, which could create an ESPN New York, patterned after
ESPN West. ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys confirmed that the
net is "exploring several markets at this time, but we're
not going to identify any particular one." Other options
for Steinbrenner include creating his own "so-called 'Yankee
Network'" or selling Yankees TV rights to Time Warner, which
could put the games on its cable systems (NEWSDAY, 3/21).
REVENUE: New York City received $2.4M in rent from the
Yankees for the '97 season, double the $1.2M rent payment in
'96. The city also received $900,000 in TV revenue, up from
$700,000 in '96, and $1.4M from parking, up from $918,000 in
'96 (Frank Lombardi, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21).
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled that Vikings
President Roger Headrick "cannot be fired ... while the sale
of the team to author Tom Clancy is pending and under the
review process," according to Don Banks of the Minneapolis
STAR TRIBUNE. But some of the Vikings' board members "are
intent on challenging Tagliabue's jurisdiction in the
matter, claiming the board is within its right as a
corporation" to name its CEO. Vikings co-Owner Wheelock
Whitney, on Headrick: "He's the boss, until further notice.
But his presence continues to remain a concern to us."
Banks wrote that the board is looking to replace Headrick
"because it would prevent him from remaining in power should
the sale to Clancy "collapse" (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/21).