SELLING THE FARM?
New Hampshire is a unique state. It's the only one in the U.S. with no income tax and no sales tax. It also has the largest state legislature in the country, with 424 members who receive a $200 biennial salary and mileage expenses. Enter into this frugal environment Delaware North Companies, Inc. ( DNC) of Buffalo, N.Y., owned by Max, Jeremy and Lawrence Jacobs. Delaware North is descended from the Emprise Corp. (SI, May 29, 1972), which was convicted in 1972 of conspiracy and interstate transportation to aid racketeering.
After Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H., burned down last July, Governor Hugh Gallen wondered aloud if the horse track couldn't be rebuilt with state-approved low-interest revenue bonds, legally available only to industrial concerns. DNC, which owns Boston Garden and the Boston Bruins, grabbed at the suggestion. To the dismay of Boston fans, DNC proposed to abandon the Garden and move the Bruins to Salem, where the company would rebuild the horse track, and construct a dog track and an arena for the hockey team. Although Salem had voted down dog racing referenda three times in the last 10 years, DNC said that if it didn't get the dog track the whole deal was off. So a fortnight ago the Salem citizenry approved greyhound racing with the condition that the arena had to be under construction before the dogs could run.
But the matter isn't as simple as that. Besides seeking the $40 million in revenue bonds to build the complex, DNC wants a $125 million tax break from the state. Thus, the company has asked that it be allowed to keep the first $5 million of pari-mutuel taxes for each of the next 25 years, a measure that it didn't raise with Governor Gallen in initial talks. The legislature would have to approve any such tax break, and Dayton Duncan, chief of staff to the governor, says, "The legislature is dealing with this with some skepticism. We'd like the Bruins, but we're not willing to sell the farm for them."
There's also the question of where the NHL stands. Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, who has been trying to keep the Bruins in Boston, says he spoke to Commissioner John Ziegler, "and asked if it upset anybody that the Bruins were being dangled as a bauble for dog racing. Ziegler said, 'Well, that's not what the Jacobses told us they're doing, and we're obligated to believe them.' Not one of the other owners in hockey has spoken out—the NHL seems to be a very closed group. I was frankly astounded by the utter lack of embarrassment about what was going on."
Imagine the AFC championship game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills being played at Legion Field in Birmingham. Or an NFC championship game between Minnesota and Philadelphia being held at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Or perhaps at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Or the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
Don't laugh. If Tex Schramm, the president of the Cowboys, has his way, that's what will happen to the NFL conference championship games. At the league meeting on Maui last week, Schramm, the chairman of the NFL competition committee, the group that proposes new rules, suggested that the NFC and AFC finals be shifted to non-NFL, warm-weather sites. Said Schramm, "Our fans would rather see our teams play under good conditions, even if it means losing their chance to see a championship game at home." Had Schramm taken a survey? No, he hadn't, but last December he proposed Pontiac's Silver-dome as a possible site if either Minnesota or Buffalo became the home team and had an unplayable field. Pete Rozelle went so far as to check on the Silverdome but learned it was unavailable because of a boat show.
Schramm's idea, which was backed by fellow committee members Don Shula of the Dolphins and Eddie LeBaron of the Falcons, will be studied and brought up again at the league's June meeting in Detroit. By no means is everyone for it. General Manager Jim Murray of the Eagles says, "I called our owner, Leonard Tose, to tell him about it, and I had to hold the phone at arm's length because he was yelling so loud. Our fans would come after us with tire irons."
OUT OF THE MOOD