Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 114

Franchises

          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).