Tom Clancy's pursuit of the Vikings "remains on track"
after a two-hour meeting Monday with NFL Commissioner Paul
Tagliabue, "but it appears likely to extend beyond next
week's owners' meeting in Miami," according to Paula Parrish
of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. NFL VP/Communications Greg
Aiello said it is uncertain whether the owners will formally
vote next week on Clancy's bid to buy the Vikings. Clancy
spokesperson Marc Ganis said Clancy's group presented a
package detailing 19 investors who comprise the group; the
percentage of the team each investor would own; and the
financial and operating structure of the group. Ganis said
actor Tom Selleck is not an investor (Minneapolis STAR
TRIBUNE, 5/12). In DC, Leonard Shapiro reports that while
the NFL described the meeting as "constructive," league
sources said that Tagliabue "still had many of the same
concerns he had before the meeting" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/12).
In St. Paul, Charley Walters writes to "count on" Clancy
selling his 24% interest in the Orioles, worth an estimated
$50M, in his bid for the Vikings (PIONEER PRESS, 5/12).
A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER? In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere
writes that there are "league-affiliated people with
concerns about Ganis' involvement" in the deal. Sansevere:
"The word is, people around the NFL worry that Ganis is fond
of litigation and fear he'll sue if things don't go his
way." Ganis, whose Sportscorp Ltd. consults on facility
development, said that during yesterday's meeting, the "only
issue with respect to me that came up (had to do with)
conflict of interest. ... If there are projects the league
feels conflict, I'll bow to the league." Ganis, asked if
he'd step aside if he somehow was hindering the deal: "Don't
even bother asking the question" (PIONEER PRESS, 5/12).
Pistons President Tom Wilson said that Pistons Owner
William Davidson and the Lightning "may have the outline of
a sale in place by the end of the week," according to Ira
Kaufman of the TAMPA TRIBUNE. Both sides "reported
progress" on Monday (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/12). Attorney Stephen
Wayne, who is representing the Lightning owners in the sale:
"We'd like to close by the Lightning's (fiscal) year-end,
which is June 30" (Tim Buckley, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/12).
LET'S MAKE A DEAL: After dropping 21% in attendance
last season, the Lightning is reducing its season-ticket
prices for the '98-99 season. Cuts have been made by as
much as $10 a game for some seats, and upper-deck tickets
"will cost less than during the inaugural Ice Palace season"
of '96-97. Incentives, such as trips to road games and
tickets to this year's All-Star Game at the Ice Palace, also
are included with certain packages if payments are made
early. Single-game prices remain unchanged, but some upper
level seats are dropping as much as $3 (TAMPA TRIBUNE,
5/12). In St. Pete, Tim Buckley reports that the team is
using "a blunt and rather self-deprecating marketing
campaign" to persuade ticket holders to renew. From the
brochure: "We lose 55 games. Had three coaches. (And
couldn't score to save our lives.) What do we have to say
for ourselves? We owe you big time" (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/12).
BASEBALL: In N.Y., gossip columnist Neal Travis creates
a scenario in which, following a World Series win this year,
"maximizing their value," Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner
sells his team for around $500M and buys his home-town Devil
Rays "for less than half that price." Travis: "I'm not
saying the owner has actively explored this scenario" (N.Y.
POST, 5/12)....ESPN's Peter Gammons, on Cubs P Kerry Wood:
"It's just wonderful for the Cubs. They're a team that in
the '90s [has] really struggled. ... But now to put out
there on WGN all the time, they have their home-grown hero
that people will look forward to pitching every five days"
("SportsCenter," 5/11). Wood, on whether he sees himself
getting endorsements soon: "I've had six starts. I don't
think it's commercial time yet" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/12).
..Former Durham Bulls Owner Miles Wolff Jr. will be the
owner of a new Quebec City franchise in the Northeast League
of Professional Baseball. The Quebec City team, yet
unnamed, will begin play in '99. Wolff also is Commissioner
of the independent Northern League and President of Baseball
America, the bi-weekly publication (Northeast League).
EN FUEGO: In its inaugural season, the MLS Fire is
drawing an average crowd of 29,413 per game at Soldier
Field. Fire GM Peter Wilt: "This isn't going to be typical
throughout the year. Especially when we get to weeknight
games." The Fire has only five weekend dates among its 13
remaining home games (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/12).
The NHL expansion Blue Jackets will have an average
ticket price of $47.50 when they begin play in 2000-2001,
according to Craig Merz of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. In all,
the team will have 17 different seating venues at Nationwide
Arena, ranging from $15 for '97-98 ECHL Columbus Chill
season-ticket holders to $125 for center ice lounge
"premium" seats. In order to qualify for the $15 seats,
Chill season-ticket holders must purchase a PSL for $500 and
pay $645 for a 43-game package (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/11).
In Columbus, Mike Pramik reported that as many as 15,500
seats at the 18,500-seat arena will be held by PSLs owners,
and the PSLs will range from $500 to $4,000, with 64% of
them costing less than $2,000. So far, more than 11,000
ticket requests have been made (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/10).
SUITE DEAL: The Blue Jackets also revealed prices and
other details of their 36 executive suites and 22 loges.
The suites are priced at $118,500, $128,500 and $138,500 and
average about $130,000. The loges are priced at $58,500 and
$68,500 and average $64,000. Income from the suites and
loges goes to the team, and if they are fully leased, the
Blue Jackets will receive $5.5M in the first year. Income
from PSLs and 16 Founders suites goes to Nationwide
Insurance Enterprise to pay for arena costs. Founders suites
cost a one-time fee of $2.5M. Founders suites and PSLs "are
expected" to raise $40-60M (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/12).
THRASHERS: The NHL expansion Thrashers announced ticket
prices ranging from $10 to $70 for their inaugural '99-2000
season. Price levels for season tickets are $10, $24, $35,
$40, $45, $50, $55, $65 and $70. The average season-ticket
price is expected to be $45 (Thrashers). In Atlanta, Steve
Hummer: "Just as feared, the numbers were high, reflective
of the fact that hockey players are as overpaid as any other
professional athlete" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/12).
The Raptors announced their season-ticket prices for
next season yesterday, which "for the first time in Toronto
sports history" will include a C$100 ticket for a regular-
season game, according to Frank Zicarelli of the TORONTO
SUN. The top seats increase to C$107.50 from C$98.50.
Other increases are as follows: C$82 to C$89.50; C$76-80;
C$53-56; C$20-29; C$12-18; and C$5-7.50. In explaining the
increases, Raptors VP/Sales & Marketing Michael Downey
"stressed the upgrade in seat locations" at SkyDome,
including for fans in the new C$18 and C$29 seats, and the
"overall quality of the sightlines and amenities" at the Air
Canada Centre. The Raptors will split the '98-99 season
between the two arenas (TORONTO SUN, 5/12).
Ramsey County, MN, District Judge Margaret Marrinan
ruled that MN's Attorney General "may ask questions and seek
documents" from the Twins and MLB about events dating to '92
to determine if the team and league execs violated antitrust
laws, according to Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis STAR
TRIBUNE. Twins attorney Roger Magnuson was "unavailable for
comment," but said last Friday that the team "would appeal"
any initial ruling "allowing an investigation of any kind."
The Twins "also sought an expedited appeal" to the MN
Supreme Court, which was denied by Marrinan. The Twins and
MLB "are expected" to take the case to the MN Court of
Appeals. Marrinan selected '92 as the cutoff date for the
investigation "because that year a similar case was heard in
Florida" (Jay Weiner, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/12).
Marlins President Don Smiley "expects the team to hit
rock bottom," according to his "confidential business
prospectus" to investors obtained by Alan Snel of the Fort
Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL. He projects that the team's '99
average attendance will hit a team-low 13,500 from a
projected 21,000 in '98, while season-ticket sales will drop
from the current 14,000 to 7,500 as the team cuts its
payroll to $16M. With the plan, Smiley is "pinning the
Marlins' future in South Florida squarely on the team's
ability to win a taxpayer-subsidized ballpark for the 2002
season." Snel writes that with a new stadium, team revenue
"supposedly will soar in several categories" by 2002. Total
team revenue will jump to $114.1M from $61.8M in 2001, and
ticket revenue would increase from $23.4M to $53.5M, in part
due to an increase in average ticket prices. The team is
projected to average 40,000 per game in 2002, up from the
23,000 in 2001. Smiley writes in his business plan that in
2002, a new stadium would generate $16.4M, including $4.9M
in advertising, $4.6M in luxury suite sales, $3M in naming
rights and $2.4M in ticket surcharges (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/12).
LEYLAND ON A JET PLAN? In Miami, Edwin Pope writes the
Marlins would lose manager Jim Leyland if Smiley conducts a
major rebuilding process. Leyland: "Don Smiley knows I
wouldn't want to be here if we had a team with a $12 million
payroll. I don't think any manager would want to go through
that" (Edwin Pope, MIAMI HERALD, 5/12).