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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

The Clock Is Ticking on a Downtown Arena

December 04, 1996|RANDY HARVEY

Having seen the positive impact of new sports arenas on downtown Cleveland and Phoenix, I believe Los Angeles has a chance for similar revitalization.

But no one can guarantee that the gains in the long term outweigh the risks. That is why the City Council is meeting today behind closed doors with the city's negotiators, to gain as much understanding as possible of potential consequences.

If the majority of the 15 City Council members decide they want to proceed, here is my advice to them: Hurry.

There are signs that Philip Anschutz and Edward Roski, the Kings' owners who want to build the arena, are becoming increasingly more anxious about dealing with the city. One deadline for final Council approval passed weeks ago. Further delays jeopardize the goal of opening the arena in September 1999.

It would be hard to blame Anschutz or Roski if they choose not to wait much longer. Los Angeles is their first choice, but Inglewood has offered perhaps an even more attractive deal that would put the Kings and Lakers in a new arena next to the current site of the Forum.

Laker owner Jerry Buss has agreed to go wherever the Kings choose. He has made it clear, though, that he prefers to remain in Inglewood.

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According to the overnight ratings from major markets, the Skins Game, featuring Tiger Woods and three other guys, had more viewers than the final weekend of any other golf tournament this year except the Masters. . . .

Woods hasn't completed his schedule for next year, but he says he definitely will play in the Mercedes Championships at La Costa and will team with his father, Earl, at Pebble Beach. He also is believed to be leaning toward playing in the Nissan Open at Riviera because it's the tournament that gave him his first exemption when he was an amateur. . . .

Although the opponent Tuesday night at the Forum was Pacific Division leader Seattle, the Lakers still had tickets remaining late in the afternoon. Only three of their previous eight home games were sellouts, most likely because of the increase in the least expensive seats this season from $9 and $16 to $21. Contrary to popular opinion, the prices weren't raised to pay for Shaquille O'Neal. The announcement was made three weeks before he was signed. . . .

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The L.A version of New York's Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony takes place Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Century City Towers. Ours is more diverse because it also includes a celebration of Hanukkah. A 50-foot Douglas fir and a menorah will be the featured attractions of the "Tree of Life and Festival of Lights Celebration" to help raise funds for Children's Cancer Research Fund.

When Steve Garvey, co-host of the event with wife, Candace, called Tuesday to talk about it, the conversation naturally turned to the Dodgers. He said that he has confidence in former teammate Bill Russell as the manager but is concerned about the team's nine-game losing streak in big games--three in the 1995 playoffs against Cincinnati, three at the close of last season against San Diego and three in the '96 playoffs against Atlanta.

"Something's wrong with the chemistry there," he said.

He didn't offer any theories, but he did have a suggestion for Fred Claire: Find an experienced second baseman to team with shortstop Greg Gagne.

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Former UCLA Bruin and Laker Jamaal Wilkes will be among other athletes involved in the holiday celebration. He said that he was disappointed that the NBA's list of its 50 greatest players didn't include Bob McAdoo, the only MVP ignored.

"He had a bad reputation, but he wasn't anything like what I had heard about him when he came to the Lakers," Wilkes said. "He was a team guy here."

Wilkes wasn't among the 50 either, but he was recently nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

*

Magic Johnson and his All-Stars, who are every bit as much globe trotters as the Globetrotters, shouldn't have much trouble improving on their 71-0 record in their first trip to South Africa next week, despite recent signings by NBA teams of two of their best players, John Long and Earl Cureton.

But no matter what happens in the four games there, the highlight for Johnson will be his meetings scheduled next week with President Nelson Mandela and the king of the Zulu nation, Goodwill Zwelithini.

*

I think: The Heisman Trophy is the most overrated of all sports awards, quarterback Ron Powlus should stay at Notre Dame in case he finally gets a coach who takes advantage of his talent, Eddie Jones should be an all-star, the New York Giants have small minds if they let Dan Reeves go, the Dallas Cowboys' chances for another Super Bowl went down with Leon Lett.

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