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).