Originally created 03/01/01

NBA votes to extend relocation application



NEW YORK -- The NBA's Board of Governors voted Wednesday to extend the deadline for teams applying for relocation next season.

The extension was aimed, in particular, at Vancouver Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, who is looking to move the team. Commissioner David Stern had originally given Heisley until Thursday to find a new city, but the deadline was pushed back to March 26.

"It gives us a chance to get a lot of things squared away," said Heisley, the Chicago businessman who claims he will lose more than $40 million operating in Vancouver this year.

A relocation committee would study any site Heisley chooses, then recommend to the NBA's Board of Governors to accept or reject the city.

Heisley, who visited the 18,300-seat Arrowhead Pond arena in Anaheim on Tuesday, was scheduled to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. He's also spoken to groups in New Orleans and Louisville, Ky.

Peter Ufford, spokesman for a Save the Grizzlies group in Vancouver, said the extension gives more time to find local owners.

"We needed the time," Ufford said. "Our ability to advance the business case and (look) for prospect buyers is much more viable now than with a March 1 deadline."

Ufford has already scheduled a March 16 meeting with Stern to argue that NBA basketball is viable in Vancouver. Heisley has blamed low season-ticket sales, dwindling attendance and a lack of corporate support for his losses.

The Grizzlies, 18-40 after Tuesday night's loss to Dallas, have never won more than 22 games during their six years in Vancouver.

Last year, Forbes magazine estimated the Grizzlies value at $118 million, the lowest of the NBA's 29 teams. The Grizzlies expansion fee was $125 million.

Ufford did not identify the three groups interested in the Grizzlies.

After visiting Anaheim, Heisley said the main stumbling block would be the lease agreement at the Pond.

The current lease calls for the NHL Mighty Ducks, owned by Walt Disney Co., to receive all revenue from The Pond's naming rights and all advertising within the arena, as well as 55 percent of the revenue from the sale of luxury suites, club and box seats.

New Orleans is offering Heisley a new 18,000-seat arena lease free. Both Louisville and Las Vegas are offering to build new arenas.