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Volume 24 No. 156

Facilities Venues

          The Astros and the Harris County-Houston Sports
     Authority are close to signing a lease and two other
     agreements on Wednesday that will make it "virtually
     impossible for the Astros to leave Houston for 32 years,"
     according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.  The
     deal includes "stiff penalties" should the team try to move
     from the new ballpark under construction downtown.  The
     agreements allow the Astros to keep all revenues generated
     at the ballpark in return for paying the authority $7.1M
     annually for 30 years after it opens in 2000.  The team can
     also use it for events other than baseball.  The authority
     is expected to spend $9.5M annually in tax dollars to
     subsidize building the park.  The authority "put a strict
     performance lease in the contract saying home games must be
     played there" in exchange for a $3.4M annual lease payment. 
     The deal states that the only "way out of a performance
     lease is if the franchise were to go into bankruptcy."  To
     get around that possibility, the authority has crafted a
     license agreement allowing the Astros to keep all revenues
     from naming, advertising, telecom and broadcast rights in
     exchange for a $1.2M annual payment, and a nonrelocation
     agreement that says the team must pay $75-250M to the
     authority "if it wants to leave, depending on how much of
     the lease is left" (John Williams, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).
          BIG MAC HITS HOUSTON: Tickets for the Astros' first
     home series against the Cardinals "were selling at a brisk
     pace" as of late yesterday afternoon, and the Astros were
     projecting at least 100,000 in attendance for the three-game
     series that begins tonight (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/16).  

          NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani took a private tour of Oriole
     Park at Camden Yards yesterday (N.Y. POST, 6/16)....In
     Baltimore, about half of the 100,000 square feet of
     SportGrass being laid at the Ravens' new stadium yesterday
     was transported by tractor trailers from Memorial Stadium
     (Baltimore SUN, 6/16).  With two months remaining before the
     Ravens' stadium opens, the SUN's Jon Morgan writes an
     extensive report on the construction efforts (SUN, 6/15).
     ...In Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick & Barnes wrote that Steelers
     President Dan Rooney's offer to contribute $50M toward a new
     football stadium "makes other teams in the Steelers'
     division look cheap by comparison."  The Jaguars, Ravens,
     Bengals and Browns "contributed less, percentage-wise to the
     construction of projects in their cities."  Only the Oilers
     will contribute more.  If the Plan B project stays on
     budget, Rooney's ownership group will pay 21.5% of the total
     price for a new stadium (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/15). 

          While the old Boston Garden "is cleared away for good,
     the still-infant FleetCenter is now poised to grow fully
     into the modern image of the American sports complex,"
     according to Cosmo Macero of the BOSTON HERALD.  Delaware
     North Cos. is looking to put in sports-themed restaurants
     and a "trendy" retail end to join the "massive office, hotel
     and apartment complex" that will occupy the old Garden.  The
     project also gives Delaware North the ability to add luxury
     suites to the FleetCenter.  By "retaining the rights to at
     least 150,000 square feet of retail space in the planned
     development, Delaware North could create a seamless link
     between the Fleet and its new amenities."  One person
     familiar with plans said that Delaware North is "going to
     merge the south side of the (arena) into the retail
     component.  By doing that, you can open up a new concourse
     level."  That would give enough room to add 10 to 12 luxury
     suites, which could mean up to $1.25-1.5M in additional
     revenue per year.  While FleetCenter President Richard
     Krezwick is "mum on specific plans," he will tour sports-
     themed restaurants this summer.  Macero said the possible
     options include Disney's ESPN Zone with a retail component,
     or one of the planned NBA-themed eateries that will be
     developed with Hard Rock Cafe (BOSTON HERALD, 6/15).   

          A proposed East Valley convention complex, including a 
     new domed stadium for the NFL Cardinals, "will include more
     pieces and perhaps less controversy when details are
     unveiled later this week," according to Lisa Gonderinger of
     the ARIZONA REPUBLIC.  A source who has seen the plans said
     that "enough private-sector funds have been rounded up to
     cover the football stadium."  The complex is backed by a
     group called NEXTSTEP, which will unveil the complete plans
     Friday at a meeting of the East Valley Partnership (EVP). 
     NEXTSTEP, an offshoot of the EVP, won't reveal its private
     investors until Friday, but Cardinals VP & General Counsel
     Michael Bidwill has said that the team likely would kick in
     a "substantial amount."  Cardinals officials declined
     comment on Monday (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/16).

          Final spending reports for the NC MLB ballpark
     referendum last month in the Triad area showed that ballpark
     proponents spent $899,000 on the campaign, "while the
     opponents -- and victors -- raised $33,000," according to
     Robert Lamme of the Greensboro NEWS & RECORD.  Ballpark
     supporters spent about $16.26 for each vote cast in support
     of the tax, while opponents of the tax spent "approximately"
     $.34 cents per vote.  The ballpark initiative failed by a
     "nearly" 2-to-1 margin on May 5.  The ballpark supporters,
     Vote Yes For MLB, received two contributions of $50,000 from
     NC Major League Baseball (NC MLB) in the last few days
     before the election.  NC MLB is led by NC business exec Don
     Beaver, who heads an ownership group looking to bring an MLB
     team to the state.  NC MLB contributed "at least" $200,000
     during the campaign.  Vote Yes For MLB received 99% of its
     contributions from corporations (NEWS & RECORD, 6/16).