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Prospective NFL owners, including a group in Charlotte, will have to pay for the privilege of ownership.


Officials from the five cities vying for two National League Football franchises to be awarded in October learned Tuesday that the NFL owners' asking price is $140 million, the highest franchise fee in sports history.

When interest payments are included, along with the fact that the new teams will not receive a full share of television payments in their first three seasons, the fee is closer to $190 million.``When it comes to an NFL franchise,' said Pepper Rodgers, a leader of the Memphis group seeking a team, ``it's not what it's worth - it's what people are willing to pay for it.'

Memphis, Charlotte, Baltimore, Jacksonville and St. Louis are the finalists, and each city is expected to continue its bid to become part of the first NFL expansion since 1974, when the Tampa Bay Bucanneers and the Seattle Seahawks were added. Back then, the franchise fee was $16 million.

The fee is also $45 million more expensive than any other sport has charged. The owners of the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins paid $95 million each for their major-league baseball teams. The franchise fee for the latest teams added in the NBA was $32.5 million.

The owners here at their spring meeting maintained an expansion schedule that will increase the league's number of teams from 28 to 30. The two teams will be named at an Oct. 26-28 meeting in Chicago and are scheduled to begin play in the 1995 season.

It's ironic, but the high fee and tough terms for NFL expansion teams may help Charlotte's bid.

``We should be in the most advantageous position of anyone,' Mark Richardson of Richardson Sports said Tuesday. ``We're the only group that has a privately financed stadium.'

That means the owners will keep the revenue produced by the stadium, unlike other cities, which will have to share the money with the cities or counties helping to pay for stadiums, he said.

A joint committee of NFL owners decided on a $140 million expansion fee that will have to be paid over six years, with interest. The new teams also will receive only a half share of national television revenue in their first three seasons. In the teams' fourth seasons, they will receive a full share.

Richardson said he couldn't quote a range on ticket prices yet.

Richardson Sports will release details of a ticket sales plan June 3 and beginning accepting applications July 1.


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