Hale disappointed Blast isn't scoring with businesses

Bill Tanton HC dBB

December 12, 1991|By Bill Tanton

You can't blame Ed Hale for being disappointed at the lack of corporate support for his Baltimore Blast.

Season ticket sales to the business community are an embarrassment.

Total season tickets sold: 3,000.

Total purchased by businesses: 220.

Hale, who owns the indoor professional soccer team, is happy with support from the general public.

"The fans have been great," Hale was saying at a luncheon at the Bank of Baltimore yesterday honoring the team's outstanding player of the first quarter of the season, Domenic Mobilio. "We weren't sure how the new format would work, going from 52 games to 40. But we can draw between 7,000 and 9,000 a game and break even for the first time."

If the team and the sport are to grow in Baltimore, there must be an increase in corporate support, however.

"We know we're considered the new kids on the block," Hale said. "We know we're not part of the establishment. We're not asking for the kind of support the Orioles get from businesses. But we are asking for something."

Chairing a committee to help the Blast gain corporate support is Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat on the Baltimore County Council who is a member of the Blast board of directors.

"The missing element is support from businesses. There's a void in Baltimore after the Oriole season ends," Ruppersberger said.

"We want to make Blast games at the Arena the place to be. That would be good from the standpoint of economic development."

"We've supported the business community," said Hale. Indeedthe Blast has, sending players to appearances everywhere. "Now it's time for them to support us."

The Blast, which has won five of its last six games, next plays at home Saturday night against Dallas. The team is at Cleveland tomorrow.

"We have a good group of guys now," said Blast coach KennCooper. "We have 11 new players, but we kept five who exemplified the attitude of the team. I like where we are now -- 6-5 and in the thick of things."

* Lou Michaelson, Orioles vice president for sales, is one of the busiest people in town as he oversees the tedious process of reassigning season ticket holders to seats in the new ballpark.

Michaelson said the Orioles sold 14,500 full season tickets thiyear. Eighty percent of those were to businesses. Next year?

"Wait until you see what we have by Opening Day of '92," hsaid. "We expect to have 25,000 season tickets sold for each of 81 games. That's 2 million tickets. We're very optimistic that we can draw 3 million next year."

The Blast's current inability to crack the corporate communitreminds me of the Orioles' frustration of 20 years ago. The O's were winning pennants and drawing 1 million. General manager Frank Cashen concluded that the corporate people would only "sit on their hands."

"What changed the whole focus," said Michaelson, "was thcreation of the Designated Hitters 12 years ago." Michaelson was the DH's No. 1 salesman the first four years. "We sold tickets to corporations as well as to individuals, and attendance took off."

That might be the answer for Ed Hale & Co. -- DesignateKickers.

Hale, of course, was one of those pursuing an NFL expansion team for Baltimore until he withdrew in mid-summer. He was totally absorbed at that time with gaining control of the Bank of Baltimore.

"The reason I backed out is that when I started, the price was going to be between $50 million and $75 million," Hale said. "Now it's $200 million. I couldn't ask partners to come up with that kind of money.

"On top of that, the TV revenue that looked so good before is now in jeopardy. Plus, it looked as if there would be a collective bargaining agreement with the players. Now they don't have one and they're saying that could delay expansion."

* George Holland, one of the many hundreds of Baltimoreans who played for the late Sheriff Fowble in his 46 years as an amateur baseball manager, already has gone to work to get the Patterson No. 1 diamond renamed Fowble Field. Holland was one of those who had another field at Patterson named for Utz Twardowicz.

"I think everybody would be pleased to see the field named for Sheriff," said Holland. "He spent his life over there working with kids."

Sounds like a great idea to me.

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