Bucs hope seating arrangement yields stadium help

ON THE NFL

October 15, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

How's this for a sale offer you can't refuse?

If you buy now, you get your money back over a 10-year period.

That's the gimmick that the Tampa Stadium Task Force is using this week when it opens something called the Charter Seat Deposit Program.

It's a variation of the personal-seat license idea that was invented in Carolina and tried successfully in St. Louis and not so successfully in Oakland.

It never has been tried in a city that already has a team. It's difficult to get season-ticket holders to pay a fee for tickets they already have.

That's why when Tampa puts 40,000 regular seats up for sale at a fee between $190 and $480, it is stipulating that 5 percent of the fee will be refunded each year.

If a fan keeps buying season tickets for 10 years, he eventually gets the whole fee back.

They also will be selling 15,000 club seats at between $950 and $2,450, plus 100 luxury boxes at prices between $55,000 and $85,000.

If the campaign is successful, it'll produce $30 million and might prod the politicians to come up with some public money for a new stadium.

Owner Malcolm Glazer has offered to pay for half the $168 million stadium, but Tampa must produce the rest. Glazer hasn't threatened to move, but he doesn't have to.

As one columnist wrote, if the campaign fails, "Hello L.A., or Baltimore, or Orlando, or . . . . [fill in the blanks.]"

When Glazer bought the team a year ago for $172 million -- and $20 million more if he gets a new stadium -- he said he'd stay for two years. But he's losing $15 million this year and has given Tampa a deadline to get a stadium plan in place by the end of the year.

Tampa is going all-out in the selling campaign. Five TV stations will run a half-hour show promoting the idea this week.

But after 12 years of double-digit losses, the fans seem to be having problems warming up to the Bucs even though they're in first place with a 4-2 record.

Coach Sam Wyche said, "We haven't earned our stripes yet."

They drew only 41,732 fans at last Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals and may have trouble drawing 50,000 for today's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Will fans who won't buy tickets for a 4-2 team put down money on a commitment to buy season tickets for 10 years even if they eventually get the original fee back?

If the answer is yes, the Bucs may stay in Tampa.

If it's no, Glazer may be calling the moving fans. The question then will be where they're heading.

Expansion fever?

When the NFL expanded in 1993, Carolina was considered the prime site. It got the team first.

Jacksonville was an afterthought as the second team because St. Louis didn't have its ownership act together and commissioner Paul Tagliabue didn't want a team in Baltimore.

The way it turned out, Jacksonville is the successful team. It is selling out in a new stadium and has won two games.

By contrast, Carolina is winless and is being virtually ignored by the fans in a state where basketball is king.

The Panthers not only can't come close to selling out the games in Clemson, S.C., but they continue to bomb on the tube.

Last Sunday, they played in Chicago, where the Bears got a 26.9 rating (percentage of TV sets) and a 58 share (of the sets turned on).

In Charlotte, the game got a 12.1 rating and a 27 share.

That's the kind of ratings that cities that were abandoned by the NFL get.

In Baltimore, the Dolphins-Colts game got a 13.0 rating and a 25 share.

In Los Angeles, the Raiders, who went back to Oakland this year, got a 12.1 rating and a 30 share.

Maybe the Panthers should try the four-corner offense. The basketball fans in Carolina could relate to that.

The zebras

The Cincinnati Bengals are the latest victims of the officials.

They've lost two straight games -- to the Dolphins and the Bucs -- when they were victimized by bad calls.

Last week in Tampa, the Bucs intercepted a pass after Martin Mayhew wasn't called for pushing Darnay Scott.

On the next play, Bracey Walker intercepted a pass in the end zone. The officials took it away, calling him for pass interference on Alvin Harper. What actually happened was that Harper pushed Walker.

Secondary coach Ron Meeks called the play a "travesty."

Last year, coach David Shula announced that the league admitted to him that there were bad calls in two of their losses. The league then warned him not to go public again and he didn't.

"Questionable calls," is all he would say. "We shouldn't be putting ourselves in those postions."

But David Shula's father, Don Shula, the Miami Dolphins coach and one of the most powerful men in the league, may be prodded to look into the state of the league's officiating if these losses wind up costing his son his job.

Despite the complaints , the league insists there's no problem with the officiating.

Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason called last week for the suspension or a fine of Tony Veteri because he didn't blow his whistle when Jets tackle Everett McIver was guilty of a false start and Bruce Smith blew by him and gave Esiason a concussion.

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