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Volume 24 No. 117

Facilities Venues

          Renewed efforts by Washington, DC, government officials
     and business leaders are under way to bring MLB back to the
     city, according to Thom Loverro of the WASHINGTON TIMES. 
     The effort will include a soon-to-be-released DC Sports
     Commission study that supports a movement to build a new
     downtown ballpark.  The $86,000 report also includes a
     feasibility study of renovating RFK Stadium for baseball as
     well as building a new stadium next to RFK.  Although it
     does not make a "firm recommendation," several DC government
     sources "said the study's conclusions favor building a new
     downtown ballpark."  Loverro reports that the prospects for
     a new baseball stadium "seem remote -- not only because of
     the financing questions," but also the "strong opposition"
     from Orioles Owner Peter Angelos (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/25). 
          LES EXPOS FACTOR: In Montreal, Jack Todd asked, "Will
     the Expos be back in Montreal?  Will they get their new ball
     park -- or play next season in northern Virginia?  No matter
     what happens, that will be the story of the Expos' 30th
     season.  By June 30, president Claude Brochu will make the
     call" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/24).  Todd speaks with a
     "confident-sounding" Brochu about a new ballpark.  Brochu:
     "Compared with where we were last June, when we announced
     this project, we've seen a massive shift of opinion in
     Montreal. People are more supportive, more understanding,
     more willing to get involved" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/25).

          A Deloitte & Touche study commissioned by the city of
     San Diego predicts that the city will lose more than $1M in
     rent receipts for Qualcomm Stadium every season through 2006
     "because of a ticket guarantee it signed with the Chargers,"
     according to Ronald Powell of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. 
     Estimates have ticket sales to Chargers games through 2020
     averaging 56,000 per game.  Under the agreement, the city
     must pay the team for any unsold general-admission seats
     below an average of 60,000, with the payment in the form of
     rent reduction.  Last year, the first of the deal, the team
     had a rent reduction of $1.3M.  City Manager Michael
     Uberuaga said he "hopes the Chargers have a successful
     season," because in that event "general-admission ticket
     sales should reach the 60,000-seat level."  Short of that,
     "he would be willing to ask the Chargers, Qualcomm or others
     to help pay for unsold tickets."  Last season, the Chargers
     and Qualcomm bought "nearly" 40,000 unsold seats, saving the
     city another $1.6M (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/24).

          Hamilton County, OH, and the Bengals will hold a
     groundbreaking ceremony for Paul Brown Stadium on April 25
     (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/24)....In Las Vegas, the U.S. Grand
     Prix [USGP] formally submitted a proposal to Clark County,
     NV, to build an 18-hole championship golf course and a 2
     1/2-mile F-1 route. In its proposal, the USGP's Tommy Baker
     said that F-1 circuit would be used only once a year, for a
     proposed season-ending U.S. Grand Prix.  Baker said that
     FIA, the sanctioning body for F-1 racing, "is behind the
     project" and would grant Las Vegas a race if the circuit is
     built (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/24)....In L.A., NHL Kings President
     Tim Leiweke said that negotiations for the Clippers to move
     into the new Staples Center, which breaks ground tomorrow,
     "have broken down again."  Clippers Owner Donald Sterling
     "initially rejected overtures from developers because the
     Kings and Lakers would get the choice dates and the Clippers
     would get the rest, probably a lot of weekday matinees"
     (L.A. TIMES, 3/24)....Unseasonably wet weather has put
     construction of the Astros ballpark about ten days behind
     schedule (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/25)....Ogden Entertainment is
     trying to stop picket action in front of the Corel Centre
     and its parking lots by striking cleaners.  Ogden said the
     seven-week long strike is causing "irreparable harm" to the
     company and limiting the ability of fans to get to the game
     on time (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/25).

          Efforts to get Tropicana Field ready for the Devil Rays
     opener on Tuesday "are running into a stack of problems,"
     with the "biggest headache" being a lack of glass,
     "especially glass that fits," according to David Rogers of
     the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES.  Assistant city attorney Mirella
     James sent a "blistering letter" to FL-based BCI Industries,
     the contractor for the glass installation, which "detailed
     the civic humiliation" the city has endured.  James wrote
     that the leaks in the facility's rotunda during last week's
     NCAA tournament generated "negative news coverage" for the
     stadium and caused "irreparable harm" to the community and
     to the Devil Rays.  The Devil Rays had no comment on the
     situation.  Rogers writes that the glass dispute "merely
     tops the list" of problems at Tropicana.  As of yesterday,
     "only about" one-third of the temporary seating erected for
     the NCAAs had been dismantled, and crews "still need several
     days" to haul in the dirt and unroll the surface of the
     Devil Rays' field (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/24).
          MORE TROUBLE? Tampa Bay resident and disabled activist
     George Locascio says that Tropicana Field is "deficient of
     state and federal standards for disabled people."  Locascio,
     who in '91 successfully sued the city and forced officials
     to add "about" $700,000 worth of improvements to make the
     stadium more accessible for disabled visitors, voiced his
     feelings yesterday at a meeting of stadium architects, city
     lawyers and disabled activists.  City lawyer Mirella James
     and legal consultant Fred Lyon said that they met with Devil
     Rays managing partner Vince Naimoli yesterday to "review ADA
     compliance and other problems" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/25).

          MN State Sen. John Marty, "who last year galvanized
     public opinion against a state-subsidized Twins stadium,"
     called on St. Paul officials Tuesday "to delay the imminent
     demolition of the RiverCentre arena until a private
     financing plan to 'take taxpayers off the hook' is in place
     for a new NHL arena," according to Whereatt & Weiner of the
     Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE.  Marty: "As each day passes, this
     hockey deal sounds worse and worse."  A spokesperson for St.
     Paul Mayor Norm Coleman said that demolition will go ahead
     as scheduled.  Wild VP/ Communications Bill Robertson:
     "We're too far along in the process to stop now."  Asked
     whether the team's investors would consider funding the
     arena of their own, Robertson said, "No.  We've already
     entered into an agreement with the city and the NHL."  A
     House-Senate conference committee seeking to resolve
     differences in capital-improvement bills will examine the
     Wild's financial arrangements today.  Meanwhile, NHL
     Commissioner Gary Bettman, in St. Paul yesterday, said the
     arena is "right on course," and called the proposed state-
     city-team arena-financing plan "a best-case public-private
     partnership" (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).  
          MARTY CRASHER: Marty: "Even if satisfactory answers are
     forthcoming to the questions about conflicts of interest and
     secret dealings, they cannot hide the fact that this subsidy
     is a bad deal for taxpayers."  Bettman: "I don't see a
     problem because we have here strong local ownership in Bob
     Naegele" (PIONEER PRESS, 3/25).  In an op-ed in the STAR
     TRIBUNE, Marty wrote, "Wealthy investors in professional
     sports teams need to take responsibility for their own
     financial needs.  If they fail to do so, why should
     Minnesota taxpayers foot the bill?" (STAR TRIBUNE, 3/25).

          The 49ers' "unsettled ownership situation" could cost
     San Francisco a chance to host the Super Bowl in 2003,
     according to Ira Miller of the S.F. CHRONICLE.  Although
     team President Carmen Policy said yesterday that he "was
     confident" about getting a stadium built in time for the
     game, NFL officials at the league meetings "were not quite
     so sure."  NFL President Neal Austrian said that the stadium
     project "would have to move forward significantly" by the
     end of this year to be completed by the league's timetable. 
     Austrian: "I think we'd have to see a commitment on the part
     of whoever is going to build the stadium that it's going to
     get done."  Miller writes that the league "clearly does not
     have a handle" on who will end up controlling the team, and
     Austrian said the league is "not going to get ... in the
     middle of an intrafamily fight at this point."  Several
     sources said that they "expect" Policy to lead a group to
     buy the team if the DeBartolos sell, but if Eddie DeBartolo
     regains control of the team, they "wouldn't expect" Policy
     to remain.  A "well-placed" source told Miller that the
     league "already was getting inquiries from outside parties
     interested in buying the team" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/25).
          BEST LAID PLANS? In San Jose, Jeordan Legon analyzed
     the stadium situation, and wrote that nine months after
     voters approved the project, "[k]ey players on the city's
     side of the deal" have shifted to other projects, opponents
     of the stadium "are mounting a new campaign," and rumors of
     the team's sale "have rocked the deal to its foundations." 
     Despite "assurances" from S.F. Mayor Willie Brown that the
     project will be built, "new questions are raised almost
     weekly," and the deal has "few assurances to guarantee
     completion."  Some "insiders" say that Eddie DeBartolo's
     latest strategy to regain control "could be to hand over his
     real estate interests to his sister if she will turn over
     total ownership" of the team (MERCURY NEWS, 3/24).