Meet the new Blast, same as the old? Name's the same, players familiar, but owner sees better financial standing

July 01, 1998|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

New uniforms, updated logo, games broadcast on radio and TV, plus Bill Rothe back at the Arena's microphone, not to mention 15 players -- as Rothe might shout into his mike: "Your Ballltimore Blaaaast is back!"

Let the light show begin. And it will, too, team spokesmen assured fans yesterday, complete with the loud music that helped make the old Blast the city's hottest winter-sports ticket during the 1980s.

Blast owner Edwin F. Hale Sr. gave a progress report yesterday on the National Professional Soccer League team, now about three months into his ownership. And the news was good, he proclaimed.

"Things are moving very, very quickly," Hale said, adding, after bubbling about new sponsors, lower ticket prices, community involvement and other team plans: "I don't think we are going to lose money here, and that's the first time I've said that."

When he last owned the Blast, before it went under along with the Major Soccer League in 1992, Hale said the team lost about $30,000 a game.

What has changed, he said, is a larger league and an array of new corporate sponsors who actually will pay to have their names promoted instead of trading services.

Those sponsors include Sparks-based Fila, which will produce the team's new uniforms -- trendy black with white and black shoulder trim at home -- Comcast Cablevision; Injured Workers' Insurance Fund; Mars Supermarkets; Len Stoler Ford; Augusta Title; Ferris, Baker, Watts Inc.; and Hale's own 1st Mariner Bank.

Hale said the addition of the sponsors, with more to come, means the team will sell tickets for $7 to $15 -- a dollar less than the Spirit, which was sold because of increasing financial losses, charged for less show a year ago.

Tickets are likely to be sold at 20 1st Mariner Bank branches, as well as at the Baltimore Arena. Call 410-73BLAST for ticket information.

Oh, and yes, general manager and coach Kevin Healey said 15 players, many from last year's NPSL Spirit but several with ties to the original Blast and/or ties to Maryland, are under contract.

Signees include defenders Derrick Marcano, Doug Neeley, Todd Hicks, Lance Johnson and Ronnie Simmons; midfielders Danny Santoro, Denison Cabral, Shane Dougherty, Barry Stitz and Mike Henning; forward Tarik Walker and goalkeeper Dave Tenney, along with veteran Troy Snyder and multi-positional Jason Dieter.

Healey said he hopes to add two more forwards and a goalkeeper before the Blast's season opens Oct. 24.

Hale said the team's games will be broadcast on WJFK radio (1300 AM). Home Team Sports will televise at least five.

The team's first home game will be Saturday, Oct. 24. League officials are still drawing up the 40-game season schedule.

The Blast will play in the again-revamped NPSL's East Division with Harrisburg, Philadelphia and a new franchise in Miami, the Florida Thundercats. The Central Division will include teams in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee. The Midwest Division's teams will be in Kansas City, St. Louis and Wichita, with the North Division including Buffalo, Detroit, Edmonton and Montreal.

Hale said the league is still negotiating with potential franchises in Indianapolis and Montreal.

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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