The Charlotte Observer
STADIUM USE OKD; WHEELS MAY GET WORD TO ROLL SOON
The Charlotte Park and Recreation Commission offered the orphaned Detroit Wheels of the World Football League a new home Thursday, and Upton Bell said h would know within two weeks whether he'll be able to buy the team and move it here.
The commission agreed during a meeting with Bell to rent Memorial Stadium to the team at a special rate for the next year and a half.
Bell, still trying to put together a group of investors to help him buy the Wheels, said he was "completely happy" with the stadium agreement and told the commission he would let them know by Sept. 20 whether the team will be here this year or next.
Neither Bell nor commission chairman Gen Warren would reveal the terms of the agreement. But The Observer has learned that the commission agreed to the two request which Bell had said he considered most important:
- A flat per-game rental charge, instead of the stadium's standard 12 percent of ticket sales or $30 minimum.
- Permission to sell higher at the games, if the state ABC board will grant the team a permit.
Bell, from Boston, carnet had asked for a rate of $2,500 to $3,000 per game. He and the commission agreed Thursday not to reveal the exact amount of rental. However, because the commission is an agency of city government, teams of the lease will become a matter of public record as soon as the commission signs a contract, according to City Attorney Henry Underhill.
The sale of beer could bring additional revenue to the team not directly, but also through possible promotional arrangement with a brewing company.
Bell, former general manager of the New England Patriots of the National Football League, said two weeks ago that a special consideration on stadium rental was essential to his plans because the team would not make money in the 24,000-seat faculty
If he moves the team here he'll be hoping it will have enough drawing power in encourage the city, or private investors to build a larger stadium.
Although the commission's decision Thursday represents a variation from as standard contract, it probably will bring the stadium more rental money than it averages on other events during the year.
Commission superintendents Marion Diehl said Thursday that the stadium receives only the $300 minimum on many of high school games played there.
Bell, son of the late NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, has said that he could buy the franchise and bring it to Charlotte personally, but he has determined to have enough money through other investors, to buy the new talent it would take to make the team successful.
He hopes to get at least part of that money from investors in Charlotte or the Charlotte area, and he said he was encouraged by conversations Thursday afternoon with potential investors from the area.
Bell said it probably would be more practical to move the team next season than come in mid-season this year, but circumstances make it impossible to work.
The Wheels haven't won a game and have gone deeply into debt while playing in a 22,000-seat stadium 35 miles from Detroit. The games have been drawing an average of about 12,000 fans.
Last week Wheel's owners appealed for the use of Tiger Stadium in Detroit and said they would have to sell the team if they couldn't play there. The owners of Tiger Stadium refused.
The Wheels moved their home game last week to London, Ontario.
If the team moves to Charlotte this season, it would play its last four home games in Memorial Stadium: against Houston Cot 2, Hawaii Oct 16, New York Nov.6,, and Philadelphia Nov 13.
Bell has an agreement the WFL for the rest right team in the Carolinas and for an option to buy the Wheels unless someone puts up the necessary money to bail the team out and keep it in Detroit.
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