Edwin Hale, Sr. has entered an agreement to purchase
the NPSL Baltimore Spirit. Hale, Chair of 1st Mariner Bank,
said his immediate plans include changing the team name back
to the Baltimore Blast and continuing to play at the
Baltimore Arena (NPSL). In Baltimore, Lowell Sunderland
reports that Hale operated the Blast between '89-'92. Hale
said that at that time, "the league failed, not his team."
His Blast averaged 8,550 a game in those three years, but he
said he lost "about $30,000 a game." Hale did not disclose
financial details of the deal (Baltimore SUN, 3/31).
In St. Paul, Charley Walters writes that Tom Clancy's
ownership group is expected to be among the NFL's "strongest
in terms of equity." Walters adds that the group could pay
half of the expected $200M purchase price in cash (PIONEER
PRESS, 3/31). Vikings Coach Dennis Green, on Clancy: "The
good news is he really wants the team ("Up Close," 3/30).
In celebrating the inaugural game of the Devil Rays
today at Tropicana Field, this morning's ST. PETE TIMES
featured a special pullout section called, "Devil Rays: The
First Game." Among the features is a Q&A with the team's
Managing Partner Vince Naimoli, who said the team is in
"good shape financially." Naimoli: "From our original 1992
pro formas which we gave out to the investors, we're only
about 5 percent off." On ticket sales: "The history of our
area says it's a walk-up (ticket purchase) market. We've
sold somewhere over 50 percent of our available tickets,
which is more than history told us because walk up crowds
are some 70-80 percent of sales" (ST. PETE TIMES, 3/31).
Ted Williams, Al Lopez, Stan Musial and Monte Irvine will
throw out today's first pitch (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/31).
RANGERS: The Rangers "will place a strong imaging focus
on star players like Juan Gonzalez and Rusty Greer through
TV spots highlighting their talents, sense of humor and
community involvement." A new 30-second spot, called
"Juan's Porch," shows Gonzalez swinging at a newspaper
tossed by a newsboy as a signal "he is anxious for the
season to begin" (ADWEEK, 3/30 issue). Rangers President
Tom Schieffer said the team is targeting to top 3 million in
total attendance, although pre-season ticket and licensed
merchandise sales are down (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/31).
REDS: In Cincinnati, Todd Archer wrote that the city,
"perhaps more than any other city, has been affected by the
strike the most." Last season, the team drew only one crowd
of 30,000-plus in their final 16 home games. For '98, they
have sold about 13,000 season tickets. Reds Marketing
Consultant Cal Levy: "Little by little it's getting better.
We're working on developing the right things and checking
out what other teams and seeing if they would work here"
(CINCINNATI POST, 3/30). The Reds have sold out today's
home opener against the Padres (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/31).
TICKET NEWS: The Brewers have sold over a million
tickets this season, the earliest date the club has reached
that plateau (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/31)....The
Mariners have sold a team-record 18,516 season tickets
(SEATTLE TIMES, 3/30)....A's President Sandy Alderson said
there are "plenty of seats left" for the team's home opener
Wednesday against the Red Sox (S.F. EXAMINER, 3/30)....The
Cubs have sold 39,000 tickets for their home opener Friday
against the Expos, with only standing room remaining. But
the White Sox have sold "only around" 20,000 tickets for
their home opener Monday versus the Rangers (CHICAGO SUN-
TIMES, 3/31)....The Mets will have over 50,000 on-hand today
for their season opener against the Phillies at Shea. In
N.Y., Jason Diamos writes that despite the team being 20%
ahead of last year's ticket sales when the team drew over
1.7 million in 78 dates, the Mets "are nowhere near the
attraction they were a decade ago" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/31).
NHL Oilers Exec VP/Business Operations Doug Piper
announced "across-the-board" ticket increases in the 20%
range for the '98-99 season, according to Robert Tychkowski
of the EDMONTON SUN. The cheapest seats will rise from C$12
to C$14; mid-range seating from C$30-C$36; and top-level
seats from C$60 to C$72. There will now be 5,700 seats at
the Coliseum priced under C$23 (EDMONTON SUN, 3/31).
WILL THE GREAT ONE RETURN? In Edmonton, Scott Haskins
writes that a "reliable" source told him that Wayne Gretzky
is putting up $35M to purchase controlling interest in the
Oilers. The source added that the deal will be announced at
the end of the Rangers' season (EDMONTON SUN, 3/31).
Of the six board members on the Raptors Foundation,
"three have been told their volunteer services no longer
will be required," according to Harris & Zicarelli of the
TORONTO SUN. Board Chair Ralph Lean, Basketball Canada exec
Sid Greenberg and Sylvia Sweeney were all asked to resign.
The Raptors Foundation reached the $5M mark in funds raised
last fall and on Saturday raised more than $300,000 at its
annual season wrapup dinner. Harris & Zicarelli report that
the Maple Leafs do not have a similar foundation, "so it's
not known if they are going to place their own people on
Raptors Foundation board or if even bigger changes are in
store" (TORONTO SUN, 3/30). Sweeney: "I'm not really
disappointed or surprised by the move, more in the way it
was done. To be asked to resign without so much as a thank
you was rather gauche" (TOR. STAR, 3/31). Maple Leafs Dir
Brian Bellmore: "This is not a firing, it's a new ownership
putting a new face on the company" (TORONTO SUN, 3/31).
More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the WNBA's
Detroit Shock's opening game, and approximately 1,100 seats
remain, according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. The
Shock has sold around 6,550 season tickets and "are
projecting" 9,000 sales. For the opener, the Shock is
expected to set a WNBA attendance record, topping the 18,937
that attended a Sting game last season (DETROIT NEWS, 3/31).
The Warriors have hired Burson-Marsteller, "one of the
world's largest public relations firms with hopes of
bolstering a sagging fan base," according to Steve Brandon
of the Portland OREGONIAN. Warriors legal counsel Robin
Baggett called the hiring of Burson "a kind of physical
examination for the organization." The company has begun a
"full-scale evaluation of the Warriors, from their business
and basketball operations to public relations." Burson's
Josh Luke, on the Warriors: "We've been brought on board to
kind of rebuild their image" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/30).