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Provo team would take Sunday off
Ballpark vendors could never shout, 'Cold beer here!'

PROVO -- Any professional baseball team that takes up residence in Provo's staid confines will have to forgo a couple of the national pastime's traditions: Sunday afternoon games and beer sales.

A city-funded stadium would be closed on Sundays and alcohol of any kind would not be sold, Mayor Lewis Billings said Thursday.No one will hear a vendor shout, "Cold beer, here!" And the Sabbath in the predominantly LDS Church oriented community will be reserved for church meetings or whatever else people do on Sunday that won't include taking in a ball game.

Billings said it's his understanding the Pioneer League and the owners of the Helena Brewers, a team city administrators expect to begin talks with Friday, will work under those conditions.

"The league is aware of the Sunday games obstacle and the alcohol obstacle," said Jim McCurdy, Pioneer League president. "Obviously, the respect will appropriately be made for things."

McCurdy said the league will make accommodations in the schedule.

Those are just a few of many hurdles that must be overcome before a team takes the field in Provo next season.

Brewers owners Rob Owens and Linda Gach Ray have a contractual obligation to keep the franchise in Helena for at least another 13 years.

It also owes the city about $230,000 for improvement made to Helena's Kindrick Legion Field, said Randy Lilje, parks director. The agreement requires the owners to pay the balance should the team leave town.

Owens and Ray have not returned messages left for them at their Los Angeles office all week. The two attorneys did put out a brief news release Thursday afternoon confirming their interest in Provo. Owens, Ray and McCurdy made a presentation to the city's baseball selection committee last Friday.

"Before the Helena Brewers franchise would move, there are many issues that would first need to be resolved," Owens and Ray said in a statement. "The Helena franchise will obviously honor its obligations."

Salt Lake Buzz owner Joe Buzas cleared the way for Helena to move to Utah Valley when he sold his territorial rights to the franchise for an undisclosed sum. Buzas owns the rights to counties contiguous to Salt Lake County under professional baseball rules. He thwarted efforts to bring a Pioneer League team to Provo three years ago.

Billings isn't willing to go to court over territorial rights issues.

He said Thursday that's he satisfied the Helena ownership can indemnify the city against any possible litigation.

There also has been talk of Buzas himself owning the Provo team. Leland Gamette, city economic development director, said that won't happen. McCurdy, however, did say "that's a possibility."

Initial discussions between the city and the franchise will center on money, Billings said. He wants to know what revenues and expenditures the city can expect. The mayor, who said he won't be directly involved in the negotiations, would like to know what the owners want and what they're willing to give.

Construction of a ballpark also ranks high on the list. The mayor said he wants to find a site that both the owner and the city can agree on. He anticipates building the stadium in four or five phases and doesn't expect it to be complete until 2001.

The stadium would host more than just ball games, Billings said. He foresees concerts and festivals as well.

"This isn't just about baseball," he said. "It's about entertainment."