Mayor Tries to Keep Hornets

NEW YORK (AP) _ Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory met with the NBA relocation committee Monday in a last-ditch effort to keep the Hornets from moving to New Orleans. <br><br>``We had very good conversations

Monday, April 8th 2002, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory met with the NBA relocation committee Monday in a last-ditch effort to keep the Hornets from moving to New Orleans.

``We had very good conversations during the past week,'' McCrory said. ``They've given us an opportunity to present our case. We're going to take advantage of that and see what happens.''

McCrory arrived five minutes late for his 4 p.m. meeting with commissioner David Stern and the seven owners on the committee, which has until May 17 to issue a recommendation on whether the Hornets should be permitted to relocate.

After a recommendation is issued, the 29 team owners will wait at least seven days before voting.

League spokesman Tim Frank said the committee was not expected to issue a recommendation during the two-day Board of Governors meeting at a Manhattan hotel.

McCrory came to New York after meeting with President Bush earlier in the day in Knoxville, Tenn. He said he spent part of the meeting clarifying differences between the arena plan that failed by referendum in June and the one being proposed with a $100 million advance from Charlotte businesses.

The league extended an invitation to McCrory on Friday, and word of the meeting did not leak out until Monday morning.

Hornets owners George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge met with the relocation committee earlier in the afternoon. They had planned to speak at a news conference, but it was canceled at the request of league officials, team spokesman Harold Kaufman said.

The league has had a rocky relationship with civic leaders in Charlotte, and the politicians there have made no secret of their distaste for the current owners.

The Hornets routinely sold out the Charlotte Coliseum during their early years in the NBA, but attendance has now shrunk to the lowest level in the league.

Stern and the committee toured New Orleans last month. Stern said the city had many features that would make it attractive as an NBA site but added the Hornets must sell 2,400 club seats, find three more corporate sponsors, complete a TV deal and wrap up the paperwork on the sales of 55 suites before the close of business April 3.

The Hornets say they have met those requirements.

League officials had been telling Charlotte city officials that they had not been provided with enough information on the proposed arena deal.

McCrory said he hoped to answer some of the league's questions.

``We presented our case. I'm not sure what the next step in the process will be,'' McCrory said. ``We succeeded in clarifying some of the issues they presented. whether that impacts their conclusion, I don't know at this point in time.''

In Baton Rouge, La., a state Senate committee agreed Monday to give the Hornets up to a $3.6 million-a-year state tax credit.

At the same time, the full House gave final approval to a central financing bill for luring the Hornets and keeping the NFL Saints in New Orleans, sending it to the governor for his signature.

The financing bill, approved 80-17 with little discussion, would rededicate 1 percent of the New Orleans hotel-motel tax and give up to $6 million to the Saints and Hornets to fulfill the state's contractual obligations to the teams

The other bill stalled last week after some senators said they didn't feel that the team deserved to get the job credit, estimated to bring in $2.3 million to $3.6 million a year.

``Is it encouraging the job development we want?'' asked Sen. Robert Barham, R-Oak Ridge, chairman of the committee.

He said he believed without a cap on the tax credit the constantly increasing players' salaries could cost the state much more than anticipated.

``Are we opening the door too wide beyond what we're trying to accomplish? We as a state may be giving away the ranch on this one,'' he said before proposing an amendment to cap the credit at $3.65 million. The amendment passed unanimously.

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