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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plans, Pitfalls for New League

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Backers of the United Baseball League, a new league to rival Major League Baseball, unveiled their plans and said they were on track to start their ambitious and expensive project in 1996.


But, despite the optimism of people like veteran player agent Dick Moss and economist and author Andrew Zimbalist, two of the UBL's founders, the new league faces major hurdles before getting to its first season, including signing quality players and finding first-rate stadiums to host its games.


In a telephone interview Tuesday, Moss acknowledged the obstacles. Still, he said: "I think people are looking for an alternative (to Major League Baseball). The fact there's not a World Series this year is a violation of a public trust. Perhaps there's a collective feeling that, if this is the way this system operates, there's got to be a better way."


At a news conference in New York, officials of the fledgling league explained what they have in mind. The UBL would start with 10 teams, including, very likely, a franchise in Washington, and one team each in Mexico and Canada.


Organizers said their long-term plans are to grow to 20 teams by 1999, with franchises in Venezuela, South Korea and Japan. Charter franchises in the new league are being offered for $5 million. In contrast, Major League Baseball is talking about adding two expansion franchises, at about $150 million apiece.


Groups from St. Petersburg, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona, and two from Northern Virginia made presentations to the Major League Baseball owners' expansion committee Tuesday. A group from Orlando, Florida will also bid for a new team.


The odds weigh heavily against a new baseball league, even one hoping to capitalize on the current standoff between major-league owners and players. Moss, formerly a lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association, and several other organizers briefly threatened to launch a league several years ago. That effort was doomed by a number of factors, including a poor economy, Moss said.


One of the immediate problems facing the league is filling its rosters with players baseball fans would pay to see. According to Moss, the league would attempt to sign free agents next winter and would also make efforts to sign amateur players next spring.


League organizers face a potentially bigger problem in lining up ballparks to play their games. The UBL hopes to entice cities into building stadiums by offering a variety of financial incentives, including a 15 percent equity share in each team and 15 percent of the pre-tax profits.


"From Camden Yards, a lot of people have learned what a new stadium can mean to the economy," Moss said, referring to the new Baltimore park.


In return for building the ballparks, cities would get 50 percent of luxury-suite revenue and 33 percent of parking proceeds. All the money raised from selling the names of the ballparks would go to the cities.


The new league also plans to make partners of the players, who would receive 35 percent of the equity of each team and 35 percent of pre-tax profits.