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Clippers, Anaheim On Again

Pro basketball: Continuing negotiations about a move to the Pond are now called serious.

June 02, 1996|CHRIS BAKER and GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers are in serious negotiations with the company that operates the Pond of Anaheim to move to Orange County, an NBA source said Saturday.

Although there have been unsubstantiated reports that the Clippers were considering a move, it's believed that the talks have taken a more serious turn in recent days.

"They've formulated offers that have gotten the attention of the only guy whose opinion matters," the source said, referring to Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling. "Only one opinion has ever mattered, and recent offers have made a difference.

"It has a chance now. It didn't have a chance a month ago."

There were published reports that Sterling would sign an agreement to turn over the day-to-day operation of the team to Ogden Corp., which manages the Pond, in exchange for a guaranteed $4 million a year.

But it's believed that the Clippers are now negotiating to hire Ogden, a $2-billion public company, to smooth the move to the Pond and to assist in the operation of the franchise.

"All I can say is that it's getting very interesting, and whatever happens bodes well for the future of the Clippers," team spokesman Joe Safety said Saturday night.

The Anaheim City Council will meet Tuesday night to consider incentives designed to entice Sterling to leave the Sports Arena, where the team has played since 1984.

Anaheim, which will profit if the Clippers move to the Pond, seems willing to make concessions to lure the team.

"We have told them that we would love to have them here, and there have been ongoing discussions," Councilman Lou Lopez said. "If there's some way that we can do it financially, do what you have to do to bring in the team."

Among the possibilities, he said, are giving the team money earmarked to pay off arena debt or offering tax incentives.

"If we have to spend several hundred thousand dollars, what difference does it make?" he said. "If we can have the Clippers here for 40 games, the revenue and the prestige it will bring will be very positive."

Under the terms of the Pond lease, Anaheim soon will have to start paying $1.5 million per year toward the arena's mortgage for every year it lacks an NBA team.

The Clippers have played 15 regular-season games at the Pond in the last three seasons, averaging 15,954 per game, and have applied to play an unspecified number of games there next season.

They set a franchise single-game attendance record of 18,321 for a game against the Chicago Bulls last December at the Pond.

The Clippers averaged 14,389 for eight games at the Pond in 1995-96 and 17,821 for six in 1994-95.

The Clippers averaged 9,074 for 33 games at the Sports Arena in 1995-96 and 9,473 for 35 regular-season games in 1994-95.

They signed a 10-year Sports Arena lease after moving here in 1984 and negotiated a three-year extension in 1994, with a clause allowing them to leave at the end of each season.

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