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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

          Talks to sell Bills tickets at Wegmans stores
     throughout Western NY starting this summer "have all but
     ended and now the team is leaning toward setting up kiosks
     in malls," according to Leo Roth of the Rochester DEMOCRAT &
     CHRONICLE.  Bills VP/Administration Jim Miller said that the
     stumbling blocks with Wegmans "involved concerns about
     surcharges, software and internal control policies."  A
     spokesperson for Wegmans said that the surcharge proposed
     "was highly competitive" (DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 5/8).
          

          The Nets have received a bid from N.Y. Sports Ventures,
     owners of the Islanders, which is believed to be in excess
     of $150M, "within the past two months," sources told Richard
     Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES.  But the NJ Sports & Exposition
     Authority (NJSEA) believes that talks to rework the Nets'
     Continental Airlines Arena lease "are going well, and that
     there have been no recent problems to upset the Nets'
     ownership."  NJSEA President Dennis Robinson: "We've had
     substantive and positive negotiations with the Nets." 
     Sandomir wrote that there is also "no guarantee" that the
     Nets' seven owners would sell at this time, as they have "a
     great attachment to the Nets and have fielded offers
     before."  Minority Partner Don Unger said, "We haven't even
     had a board meeting on this" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9).

          NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will meet in New York
     today with prospective Vikings Owner Tom Clancy, along with
     his adviser Marc Ganis "at the commissioner's request"
     (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/11)....The NFL Cardinals sold
     550 season tickets the Monday following the NFL Draft
     (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/10)....The brokerage firm of Raymond James
     and Associates stated that -- thanks "largely" to a new
     arena -- FL Panthers Holdings "should generate about" $29M
     more in revenue next fiscal year than this fiscal year.  The
     firm's report says the extra revenue will result in a
     projected $6.9M profit (MIAMI HERALD, 5/9)....Suns President
     Jerry Colangelo said that his team "turned only about a $1
     million profit last year" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/10).

          The Brewers have set a "franchise record" by securing
     9,062 season-ticket packages as of Sunday, according to Tom
     Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL.  The team has
     sold 1.25 million tickets so far this season, about 250,000
     more than at this point last year.  Through 20 home dates,
     the team has drawn 335,890, compared with 247,619 in '97
     (Tom Haudricourt, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/10). 
          A'S: In San Jose, Howard Bryant reported that
     attendance at the Oakland Coliseum  is "consistently under
     10,000 so far," and there are large, "macro issues that poor
     attendance continues to push to the forefront -- negotiating
     with the Oakland Coliseum Authority on a new lease, the
     possibility of selling the team, moving to a new location
     within the Bay Area or out of the region."  Bryant reports
     that various groups in the South Bay "are interested in
     attracting baseball" to Silicon Valley, and "[p]rivately,
     the A's believe a new start ... would allow them to be
     competitive with the bigger spenders" in the AL (SAN JOSE
     MERCURY NEWS, 5/10).  In Oakland, the TRIBUNE examined the
     sparse attendance, as the A's are on pace to draw fewer than
     one million for the first time since '80: "Is it the
     attitude of the current owners? ... Is it the coolness and
     distance of [co-Owners Steve] Schott and [Ken] Hofmann? ...
     Is it ownership's failure to express unconditional
     commitment to the area?" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/10).
          MARLINS: Marlins President Don Smiley, on his plan to
     reduce payroll to $12-16M in '99: "This is restructuring. 
     There is no doubt about it.  It's just like any other
     company restructuring that's in trouble.  You must make
     difficult decisions and you must accept the rough water that
     goes along with it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/10).  ESPN's Peter
     Gammons, on the team's payroll reductions: "What's so stupid
     to me is that, you know, you never get that attendance bump
     the year that you're going for it for the first time ... you
     get it the year after. ... I don't see that they've done
     anything for that franchise" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/10).
          OTHER MLB NOTES: In N.Y., Murray Chass, on New York
     City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's calls for increased attendance at
     Yankees Stadium: "Does he know the Mets exist?  He has been
     so busy tub-thumping for the Yankees that maybe he has
     forgotten that they do" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/11)....The Devil Rays
     drew 42,486 Saturday versus the Orioles, their second
     biggest crowd of the season (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/10).
     ....The Phillies announced during yesterday's game versus
     the D'Backs, which was played during inclement weather, that
     all used or unused tickets for the game could be exchanged
     for a future game (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/11)....The
     Pirates held their second "meet and greet the fan night"
     Friday, but it didn't go "quite as well" as last year's
     event, when the team was "mobbed by enthusiastic fans and
     the idea gained national media attention."  Paid attendance
     Friday was 13,848 (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 5/9).
          

          Cracks "are already surfacing" in the new $140M
     Warriors arena deal, and "once again, it looks like
     taxpayers will get stuck," according to Matier & Ross of the
     S.F. CHRONICLE.  The Warriors, who have been negotiating
     with Oakland and Alameda County to take over the management
     of the renovated Oakland Coliseum Arena, "have asked that
     the deal be put on ice for at least a year" due to "fear of
     a possible NBA players strike next season."  East Bay
     officials "are scrambling to find an outside firm to manage
     both the arena" and the Oakland Coliseum stadium, and two
     names "being mentioned for the job" are SMG and Ogden Ent.
     Meanwhile, Joint Powers Authority officials overseeing the
     arena "say they don't know if it's operating in the black,
     and they've brought in an outside auditor to look at the
     books."  Matier & Ross also report that the Warriors "are
     only guaranteeing to pick up" about $7.4M of the $11.4M in
     annual costs from the new arena.  The team says it "hopes to
     cover" the remaining $4M from a 5% ticket surcharge and from
     the sale of naming rights (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/11).

          Lawyers for the Twins, MLB and the MN Attorney
     General's office "were ordered Friday to work out an
     agreement on the scope of a preliminary antitrust
     investigation by the state against the team and the game's
     owners," according to Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis STAR
     TRIBUNE.  Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan
     told both sides to report to her today on any agreement they
     may reach, but Weiner reported that "resolution seemed
     unlikely."  Lawyers from the Attorney General's office said
     they were willing to "scale back" their earlier request for
     dozens of documents dating back to '61 and answers to
     questions to Twins Owner Carl Pohlad, Acting MLB
     Commissioner Bud Selig and others, and would instead settle
     for information from MLB dating to '83.  But Twins lawyer
     Roger Magnuson said, "We believe the law requires that there
     be no discovery in this case" (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/9).  
          SHOW HIM SOME MONEY: Pohlad, on rumors that he turned
     down a $100M offer to buy the Twins: "Nobody has made any
     offers to me. ... Clark Griffith and others talk, but I have
     never seen the color of their money."  On Wednesday, though,
     Mike Veeck "will meet" with Pohlad's financial adviser, Bob
     Starkey.  Veeck: "We have the financial backing to buy the
     club if it is for sale" (Sid Hartman, STAR TRIBUNE, 5/9). 
     On "Baseball Tonight," ESPN's Peter Gammons reported the
     Twins may be "able to work something out [and] eventually
     get a ballpark in either St. Paul or somewhere around
     Minneapolis, but in the meantime, why lose money with a $27
     million payroll if you're going to finish fourth in the
     division anyway?"  Gammons said it is "likely" that the
     Twins will pare down payroll to "maybe" $12 to $14 million
     and try to rebuild ("Baseball Tonight," 5/10)