While the Capitals "have had to hustle to sell seats"
at the MCI Center for the NHL Playoffs and are registering
overall "flat" TV ratings, there is "new hope and
opportunity for Washington's often ignored hockey" team as
it plays in the Eastern Conference finals, according to
Thomas Heath of the WASHINGTON POST. Team officials hope
that the series against Buffalo will also help increase the
team's "modest" season-ticket base of "about" 6,500. As of
late yesterday, there were 3,200 tickets remaining for Game
One on Saturday and 7,400 for Game Two on Monday. The
league also changed the date of Games Five, Six and Seven
because league and team execs "failed to realize the
original date" of Game Five was reserved by WCW for a
"Monday Nitro" event at MCI Center. While the team has sold
out four of its six playoff games, they "have had to work to
do it," by offering discounted seats to season-ticket
holders and other "inducements, including spreading some
free tickets around town." But Washington Sports President
Susan O'Malley said, "Nothing helps ticket sales like
winning" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19).
SCHEDULE SNAFUS: With the date changes, if the Caps-
Sabres series goes to a Game Seven, it would be televised on
ESPN2, not ESPN. Since ESPN2 is not available to DC
Cablevision customers, the NHL is seeing whether RSN HTS
could carry it to "affected homes" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19).
In Dallas, schedule makers failed to notice a Champions on
Ice show at Reunion Arena on June 2 and were forced to move
Game Five from June 2 to June 3, and move Games Six and
Seven back a day as well (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/19).
A feasibility study unveiled yesterday concluded that
Charlotte "can make big league baseball work -- but only
with a first-class uptown ballpark that could come at a
steep price to taxpayers," according to Foon Rhee of the
CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The study, commissioned by the
Charlotte Regional Baseball Partnership, projects that a
team would draw an average of 25,000 and could raise $30M in
PSLs from 10,000 season tickets. Prospective Twins Owner
Don Beaver's group "might come up with an additional" $70M
or so through naming rights, parking and concessions, but
that would leave another $100M of financing to be found
(CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19). Muhleman Marketing's Max
Muhleman, who conducted the study: "What we conclude is the
Charlotte market at this time is likely to provide mid-level
support of [MLB]" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/19). NC Triad
Business Journal Exec Editor Justin Catanoso writes, "The
results, the advocates said, were encouraging but not
overwhelming" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/19).
Prospective Vikings Owner Tom Clancy on Monday "asked
for and was denied a one-week delay to address the NFL's
concerns about his finances," according to Don Banks of the
Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
instead gave Clancy "until the close of business Wednesday"
to provide written response to the league's concerns.
Clancy's group had been expected to make a preliminary
presentation before the NFL's Finance Committee Monday at
the league meetings in Miami, but neither Clancy nor his
partner Marc Ganis attended. Saints Owner Tom Bensen, on
Clancy's absence: "If I were him and I was that interested,
I'd be here. That might send a bad message (otherwise)."
Ganis told Banks: "It didn't really make sense for us to
come down there. All we were going to do is say the same
thing we said to the commissioner last Monday (in New York)"
(Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/19). NFL Oilers Owner Bud
Adams: "We really have a lot of questions ... and even as
prolific as (Clancy) is, I'm not sure that he can write fast
enough to answer them all" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/19).
CLANCY REAX: In Minneapolis, Paula Parrish reports that
Vikings co-Owners Wheelock Whitney and Jaye Dyer indicated
Clancy's bid to buy the team "is all but finished" after his
no-show. Dyer: "From what I can put together, it sounds
like (his bid) is deader than a doornail" (STAR TRIBUNE,
5/19). In Minneapolis, columnist Patrick Reusse writes that
"it has turned out Clancy was a fraud" (STAR TRIBUNE, 5/19).
In St. Paul, columnist Bob Sansevere writes that "even
wackier than Clancy are the current millionaire owners of
the Vikings. What were these folks thinking? A better
question: Were they thinking?" (PIONEER PRESS, 5/19).
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE FOR BROWNS? In Akron, Terry Pluto
writes on Calvin Hill and Paul Warfield joining Isles co-
Owner Howard Milstein on a possible Browns bid: "If they
have the money, they might be irresistible to the NFL. ...
[D]on't be surprised if they end up as the next owners of
the Browns." Pluto adds that the "conservative" Hill and
Warfield "don't make any moves without a great deal of
thought and research. ... It's hard to imagine them joining
any group that didn't have the bucks to pay the NFL's
expansion ransom" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/19). Also in
Akron, Chris Tomasson writes on minority interest in the
Browns under the sub-head, "Minority Ownership For New
Browns Could Be More Than Mere Talk" (BEACON JOURNAL, 5/19).
OTHER NOTES: In Miami, Cindy Krischer Goodman examined
Florida Panthers Holdings (FPH) and wrote, "Though
diversified, the bulk of its revenues now come from upscale
hotel properties." FPH Chair Wayne Huizenga has abandoned
"plans he once had to create a sports/entertainment empire.
Now, all efforts are aimed at building a presence in the
lodging industry. ... Next to go could be the company's
name, Panthers Holdings officials said, to signal to Wall
Street that the company wants to be a player in the resort
business" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/17)....The current issue of
BASEBALL AMERICA ranks MLB markets, listing the top three
MLB cities as St. Louis, Boston and Chicago (Cubs).
BASEBALL AMERICA also ranks the best minor league cities,
naming Rochester, NY; Durham, NC; and Reading, PA as the top
three, respectively (BASEBALL AMERICA, 5/25 issue).
Two Marlins season-ticket holders yesterday "filed
lawsuits seeking reimbursements," and one of the club's
original sponsors said it was "canceling advertisements for
the rest of the season," according to Barry Jackson of the
MIAMI HERALD. The separate class-action lawsuits were filed
by Miami chiropractor Octavio Fernandez and Palm Beach
attorney Henry Handler in reaction to Friday's payroll-
cutting trade with the Dodgers. Each suit seeks in excess
of $15,000 in damages. Meanwhile, Emilio Cruz, President of
two Miami stores, Miami Shoes and Wilderness Country, said
that he would "immediately pull his stores' advertising"
that appears on JumboTron at Pro Player Stadium, as well as
during Marlins broadcasts on SportsChannel FL and WQBA
radio. Cruz: "Our customers have been complaining. They
ask, 'What kind of organization is this that you're
supporting?' It hurts us in terms of image to continue
advertising with the Marlins. Why would we support
something that's not supporting the community?" Cruz's two
stores are in the final year of a three-year deal. The
company pays $150,000 for two JumboTron ads per game,
$100,000 this season for ads on SportsChannel FL's Marlins
and NHL Panthers telecasts, and $70,000 for ads on WQBA
(MIAMI HERALD, 5/19). Huizenga Holdings spokesperson Stan
Smith shrugged off the suits: "What will they think of
next?" (Alan Snel, Fort Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 5/19). In
Miami, columnist Greg Cote also dismisses the suit as
frivolous: "Your ticket, and by extension your season
ticket, assures you nothing, just as the previous season's
result assures nothing" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/19).
PR ADVICE: In Fort Lauderdale, Alan Snel examines the
Marlins' PR problems and notes that "spin doctors" say the
team "faces a stiff test" in trying to explain its moves.
Marlins VP/Sales & Marketing Jim Ross: "The biggest
challenge is to educate people on what's going on. We can't
rely on anyone doing that for us." FL-based Communications
Group President Ray Biagiotti: "They need to be very clear
and honest with the media. The public is forgiving as long
as you provide accurate information" (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/19).
I.L. ON THE D.L.: As part of their organization-wide
cost-cutting measures, the Marlins will not field an
Instructional League team this fall (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/19).
Arthur Williams, a retired insurance "magnate" living
in Palm Beach, FL, signed a purchase agreement on Monday to
acquire the Lightning, rights to the Ice Palace and adjacent
waterfront land, according to Ira Kaufman of the TAMPA
TRIBUNE. While the team "had been expected to sign off" on
a $130M offer by Pistons Owner William Davidson, Williams
"tendered a bid this weekend deemed more attractive" by the
team's Majority Owner, Takashi Okubo. Kaufman writes that
sources close to the negotiations indicate the purchase
price "mirrored Davidson's figure, but there are virtually
no contingencies listed" in Williams' bid, while Davidson's
"was linked to the modification of Lightning contracts with
lenders and vendors." The league will conduct due diligence
on Williams and is expected to vote on his offer on June 25
in Toronto (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19). In St. Petersburg, Tom
Jones reports that Williams, whose net worth is estimated at
$400M, agreed to pay $120M for the franchise and arena. The
deal "concludes a two-year search" to find a buyer for the
team "that is more than" $102M in debt. Lightning President
& CEO Chuck Hasegawa: "Art Williams offered the most
financially sound proposal of any of the groups who pursued
the team." Williams was traveling in Europe and was not
present during the announcement (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/19).
THE MOTOWN BLUES? Pistons President Tom Wilson said
that Davidson expected to have a deal Monday: "It was a
complete surprise to us. There was no indication this was
coming. ... It seems that they took our offer and went out
and shopped it around. We never played poker with them, we
never played hardball, and we were very straight with them.
... I just hope now this is good for the community. I'm not
sure, though" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/19). More Wilson:
"We were very, very surprised" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/19).
ART OF A DEAL: Williams founded A.L. Williams &
Associates in '77 and built the company "into the largest
seller of individual life insurance" in the U.S. (ST. PETE
TIMES, 5/19). He sold to Primerica in '89 for "about" $99M
and has been retired since. He was an unsuccessful suitor
for the Bucs in '94 and owned the CFL Birmingham franchise
for one year before it folded in '95 (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19).
In St. Pete, Robert Trigaux calls Williams "charismatic and
controversial," and adds that his "apparent ability to
motivate people who work for him could serve him well" as
the Lightning's owner. Republicans in GA and FL have "even
considered backing" Williams as a potential candidate for
Governor. But "his longstanding contempt for politicians
and his affection for blunt language make even his
supporters wary of political ventures" (ST. PETE TIMES,
5/19). In Tampa, Tom McEwen calls the agreement a "good
deal all around. Or, so it appears to be" (TAMPA TRIBUNE,
5/19). Also in Tampa, Roy Cummings notes that Lightning GM
Phil Esposito is "expected to stay on" through the June 27
entry draft, "if not permanently" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/19).
Despite throwing a perfect game Sunday against the
Twins, marketing experts say that Yankees P David Wells
"does not make a perfect pitchman," according to William
Neuman of the N.Y POST. ProServ President Bill Allard: "He
threw goose eggs all day Sunday, and he'll turn up goose
eggs in the national marketing game as well. It's a one-
time situation. What marketers are looking for is sustained
success and consistency." Neuman reports that the perfect
game "did raise his value" in the New York market, "with
experts speculating he could get $10,000 to $30,000 for one-
day appearances" (N.Y. POST, 5/19). Wells' agent, Gregg
Clifton, said that he "is fielding offers for endorsements
and speaking engagements." Wells was scheduled to appear on
the Howard Stern radio show and "Regis and Kathie Lee" today
(N.Y. TIMES, 5/19). Wells was a guest on the "Late Show"
last night with David Letterman. Letterman: "Usually, as
you know, a perfect game at Yankee Stadium is when nobody
gets hit with a chunk of falling concrete. ... After the
game, Wells was pretty excited, as you can understand, and
he celebrated by retiring 27 Heinekens in a row." Wells
said that while NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani offered him the key
to the city, "I told him that's not a good idea. Too many
doors I need to open out there, and that wouldn't be a good
idea. I'd let all my degenerate friends in the city. I
think they would fit right in" (CBS, 5/18). ESPN's Peter
Gammons said that Wells has "become a working class hero,
he's kind of an iconoclast, and I think now he's going to
end up a Yankee for a long time" ("SportsCenter," 5/18).
FIRST RATE: MSG Network drew a 4.52 rating for Sunday's
game -- equivalent to about 305,350 homes -- exceeding the
30-game season average of 3.44. WNBC, which was showing
Pacers-Bulls Game One, saw its rating drop from a 9.8 to an
8.1 at 4:30pm, as the perfect game was coming to a close
(Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 5/19). MSG's ratings rose
"almost every quarter hour" starting with a 2.4 at 1:30 and
reaching a 7.1 by the end of the game (N.Y. POST, 5/19).
IF ONLY EVERY DAY WAS BEANIE BABY DAY: After drawing
49,820 to Yankee Stadium for Sunday's Beanie Baby promo, the
Yankees attendance is 26% ahead of last season, and "within
reach of the all-time [Yankees] record." Through 16 home
dates, the Yankees have drawn 486,851, "well ahead" of last
year's 385,670 (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19). Giuliani: "When the
[Orioles] are not giving out Valentino [Beanie Baby], they
get 50,000 people per game (N.Y. POST, 5/19).