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Volume 24 No. 159

Franchises

          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).