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Anaheim, Pond Still Not Ready to Concede Defeat

Basketball: City, arena positioned as fallback candidate to land NBA's Grizzlies, whose owner appears to have narrowed his choices to Louisville or Memphis.

March 24, 2001|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The leaders of the bid to lure the Vancouver Grizzlies to Anaheim stopped short of conceding defeat Friday, leaving the door open for the Grizzlies to resume negotiations with the Arrowhead Pond should plans for a proposed new arena collapse in Louisville, Ky., or Memphis, Tenn.

The Grizzlies have not solicited another bid from Anaheim since rejecting the last offer Wednesday. While the Grizzlies' staff has continued to exchange information with officials in Anaheim--and New Orleans--sources confirmed team owner Michael Heisley plans to apply Monday for NBA permission to move to Louisville or Memphis.

"We recognize, based on the information we're getting from their staff, certainly it's going to be an uphill battle to get them to come to Anaheim at this point," Anaheim City Manager James Ruth said.

"We're not giving up. We'll give up when Mr. Heisley says they're going somewhere else."

The faint hope for Anaheim and New Orleans is this: Heisley and the NBA want a new arena, and proposals in Louisville and Memphis require public financing. Without assurances that funding would be approved, and without a strict construction timetable that would allow the Grizzlies to move quickly into a new arena and start making money from it, the NBA might reject Louisville or Memphis.

At the Pond, and in New Orleans, an arena already awaits Heisley.

"If he chooses another city over Anaheim, we need to be fully prepared in the event the hurdles he may face in another city are insurmountable," Pond General Manager Tim Ryan said. "We want to be in a position to be ready, willing and able to have a fine-tuned offer on the table if for any reason they need to come back to Anaheim."

Heisley is expected to choose Louisville or Memphis this weekend. Those cities battled frantically all week to generate multimillion-dollar commitments for minority ownership, arena naming rights, corporate sponsorships and purchases of luxury suites.

No one factor turned the Grizzlies away from Anaheim. The Grizzlies believe they can make more money in Louisville or Memphis than in the Pond, where they would have to share revenue with Disney's Mighty Ducks.

In Louisville or Memphis, the Grizzlies could help design an arena in which they would be the only tenant and control all revenue, in a market in which they would be the only major league team. In Anaheim, the Grizzlies could make the most revenue from local radio and television broadcasts but would fight the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, UCLA and USC for preferred air times and the attention of fans and media.

"All sides have exhausted every possibility to make this deal happen," Ryan said. "If the Grizzlies decide to come to Anaheim, we will embrace them. If they decide to play in another city, we will respect it. We'll be disappointed, but we can hold our heads up high."

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