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IS TIME CLOSING IN ON TRIAD BASEBALL VENTURE?

IS TIME CLOSING IN ON TRIAD BASEBALL VENTURE?

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The idea of a major league baseball team in the Triad area by 1991 remains alive, and Greensboro businessman Robert C. Eubanks has promised an announcement on the status of the local entry no later than the end of March.

He's the central figure hoping to make this area one of eight sites in a proposed new major league.``That's not a hard and fast deadline,' said Eubanks in a recent interview, ``but something I've placed on myself. Time is valuable to me, the way I make my living, and I only have so much to devote to this project.

``Within a few weeks we'll have to do something. It requires anywhere from 60 to 90 days to get started on a new stadium, and about April 1 puts us near a deadline where something must be done if we are thinking about 1991.'

The idea for this area's possible entry in the league first became known in October. Since then, virtually nothing has been made public.

``There are a lot of sensitive negotiations going on at the very top, things I can't say anything about,' Eubanks said. ``But I'm no less optimistic than I was earlier. A lot of positive steps have been taken.'

The three organizers of the proposed new league are conducting ongoing behind-the-scenes discussions at their informal headquarters in New York, according to Eubanks. They are Richard Moss, once heavily involved with the major league players union; David Lefevre, a lawyer and former minority owner of two big league clubs; and Doug Nelson, whose expertise is in the field of communications.

They've all got some money invested in the idea, Eubanks said.

``All potential owners in the original eight cities remain interested,' he went on. ``Most of them, if not all, other than Greensboro, will be owned by one person. Good people are involved. Indications point to progress being made at the top level, which is about all I can say about the league at this time.'

In addition to the Triad, other areas with tentative franchises in the league are Miami, Washington, Portland, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Denver and a site in New Jersey.

The next league meeting is set sometime in March, and it may be crucial to whatever happens in the future. Whether a national television contract becomes available undoubtedly weighs heavily on decisions to be made.

Eubanks does't plan to approach local and area governmental agencies further until plans for the league are more advanced.

``Until we have committed some non-refundable cash money to the project ourselves, we are not going to ask public officials to make a definite commitment,' he said.

When the time comes, he's hoping a way will be found to finance a multi-purpose stadium on land owned by the proposed team. The figure being mentioned for seating capacity is 30,000.

As of now, Eubanks said he's invested mostly ``sweat equity.'

``We don't even have a bank account set up, and actually we are trying to play it low key at the moment.'

However, he's received numerous inquires about the franchise and some people have even asked about jobs.

``I'm not on an ego trip,' said Eubanks, ``but I want to make sure the team would remain in the Triad area and in the control of local people. Maybe this is just the vehicle to bring the Triad together, an opportunity for real cooperation among these cities.'

He's still very interested in involving High Point and Winston-Salem, the counties of Guilford and Forsyth, and any other communities within those counties that might want to share a role in the project.

``There will not be any problem finding land,' said Eubanks. ``While 40 acres would be adequate for a stadium and parking, we're thinking in terms of 200 or more so that something else other than a baseball stadium can be developed at the site.'

A location near Interstates 85 and 40 is desired, ``and we want a stadium that could be used for a multitude of things, including maybe soccer and high school football,' Eubanks said. ``You don't want to put that kind of money into something and not use it.'

Eubanks is confident there are a sufficient number of investors in the Triad to assure the local franchise of being a viable operation, but he's alarmed somewhat by the continued escalation of salaries in the major leagues.

``It's insane the way salaries have increased in recent months,' said Eubanks. ``They make me a little bit nervous and that (trickle down effect) would add a $2-$3 million increase in start-up costs for clubs in our league.

``But I don't think we need to sign any $4-million players to be successful. There are a lot of name players out there, including outstanding prospects in college, who would make themselves available.

``We're talking about quality baseball similar to an expansion team.'

When LeFevre visited Winston-Salem in November, he told a group of interested Triad investors that some established major leaguers would gamble their future on the league because ``we have an attractive financial package that would allow players to share in profits.'

A master plan agreed upon earlier by potential club owners and organizers calls for 25-man rosters with 23 players signed by the league for each team, according to LeFevre. Each club then would be able to sign two more players and pay them whatever it chooses.

However, the plan is subject to change.

Eubanks, a native of Durham who now lives in Chapel Hill, has said that ``my judgment as a professional investor is that you look for good people and a good product, and that's the making of a good investment.

``We've got good people behind this and the product has been proven for 100 years.'

At the November meeting in the Twin City, LeFevre said, ``we are over 80 percent there.' Eubanks wants to be convinced at the next meeting of potential owners.

``Imagine the Triad team playing Los Angeles here,' said Eubanks. ``Wouldn't that be something?'

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