Because they're convinced there's so much to do and so little time to do it for both the Salt Lake Trappers and Salt Lake Sting, who could both either get in on the ground floor of something big or be left out in the cold in their respective sports, the combined ownership of both clubs will get out of soccer and concentrate its interests on baseball.
That means the owners hope to sell what they say is a potential-laden Sting team to a local buyer by Jan. 4, a deadline imposed by the Western Conference of the American Professional Soccer League, of which the Sting are a member.Jack Donovan, a principal owner of both teams, says the management has already absorbed first-year operating expenses of the Sting and does not seek to make the lost money back through a sale. "We're not trying to recoup the loss," he said. "We're going to take a loss - a major one."
Donovan would not name a price range but said, "We would be easy to talk to." He said the ownership group is just looking for someone local who has enough financing to pass league scrutiny of a deal. He did say the franchise fee paid to the league escalates from the $25,000 the group paid last year to $130,000 for the 1991 season.
The Trapper group, which decided to sell the Sting about 10 days ago because of the gist of the baseball negotiations between the major and minor league teams regarding their working agreements, has talked with three groups in Salt Lake City so far but would be open to any others.
Donovan can be reached at Little America through Saturday.
"We hope someone from Salt Lake will step forward and take over the Sting," Donovan said Thursday at a news conference. "It's no reflection on soccer here in Salt Lake; the soccer community has backed the sport tremendously well."
The Sting, in their first year, set an APSL attendance record of 54,000 over 10 home games.
If the Sting aren't sold to local people, the franchise will be turned back to the league Jan. 4, and Salt Lake City will lose out on a revolutionary change in American soccer. Because of the agreement that will bring the World Cup to the U.S. in 1994, the U.S. Soccer Federation must set up a national league of teams to develop players.
Cities with existing franchises in pro leagues, and some with established nationality-club teams, would be given first right of refusal at becoming members of the new national league. That league could encompass perhaps 20 to 40 big-league teams, which might also have smaller-team affiliates.A franchise in the major soccer league could be worth millions, Donovan says. He says that's the prize for which some teams in the weary MISL are hanging on.
"This is the dream of soccer people for the last 25 years," Donovan says.
"What we're going to give whomever would step up is wonderful," Donovan asserts, citing an already-organized club that is considered a model operation by the league. "They're upset with us," he says of the league, "but they understand we're fighting two wars.
"The timing, for us, is terrible," he adds.
That's because of the major/minor baseball agreement that was signed Thursday (see story on page D3). The agreement leaves the Trapper ownership group with the feeling that minor-league baseball - the thing that gave baseball the nickname of "national pastime" - will be forced out of existence by major league baseball within four years.
The new agreement between major and minor clubs is an interim solution brought about through pressure on the minors' side from the Players' Association. That help would not be available in three to four years, when the new agreement ends.
Already minor teams will be strapped financially by the new agreement, which eliminates some money sent to them from major teams and forces the minors to pick up more operating expenses. The only reason it was agreed upon, says Donovan, is that smaller minor league franchises are hoping to buy time and the good will of big league clubs for four years from now.
It is the Trappers' opinion that the big league clubs hope to eventually disolve the minors and go to a "complex system" such as is used in spring training now, where all players from an organization train together without minor-league cities to disperse to.
At their annual winter meetings just concluded, several minor league franchise owners talked seriously about starting their own separate major league, and the Trappers were among the teams who expressed enthusiasm and willingness for such a move.
Donovan is sure it'll come to that. "We've got to start building a war chest now," he said. That's the reason for divesting themselves of the Sting, which would be an added organizational burden. The ownership group - the Trappers have 18 owners including actor Bill Murray and New York Yankee shareholder Marvin Goldklang; the Sting have 12 owners, many of them the same as the Trappers', not including Murray and Goldklang - has more expertise in running baseball teams than in running soccer teams and will stick within its expertise as things get critical, says Donovan.
The Trappers and Pioneer League should remain essentially the same for the next season or two, he said.