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).