Efforts Rise To Keep Grizzlies

Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Community leaders trying to save the Vancouver Grizzlies has received four offers willing to purchase all or part of the team and keep it here.

Two have been characterized as ``qualified offers,'' meaning a preliminary assessment indicates the potential buyers have the ability to finance such an investment.

Peter Ufford, spokesman for the latest Save the Grizzlies campaign, said the group has asked NBA commissioner David Stern for a 60-day extension beyond the March 1 deadline he has set for a final decision on whether to move the team.

``There's far too much at stake,'' Ufford said. ``We must make a constructive and concerted effort to keep the franchise here but failing that we must not allow the amateur sports and community programs now benefitting to be sacrificed. One month notice is not enough.''

The latest group includes many members of the former We Love Our Grizzlies campaign, set up a year ago when it looked like Bill Laurie might move the team to St. Louis. It includes former mayor Art Phillips, former city councilor Carole Taylor, Mayor Philip Owen and Arthur Griffiths, who brought the NBA to Vancouver in the first place.

Ufford said the group wants to hear from Stern by 7 p.m. EST Wednesday on the extension request.

Ufford said a business plan is now being worked on by several ``highly respected'' local business leaders who have volunteered their time to put together a definitive study on whether the NBA is viable in Vancouver, the value of the Canadian dollar and various tax issues.

The team has said it expects to lose between $45 and $50 million in US dollars this season. Several financial analysts have openly questioned those numbers, calling them implausible.

Ufford said four groups have come forward and expressed an interested in purchasing all or part the team. However, purchasing a share of the team looked like the more viable option from the proposals he'd seen.

He said further work needs to be done on whether the groups making the offers can finance such a purchase. However, he said those proposals become irrelevant if the feasibility study shows the NBA won't work here.

Until those matters are determined, Ufford said his group would not be releasing the names of those people offering to purchase any part of the team.