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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          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).