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More luxury box reservations made than anticipated

6/17/2004 - Montreal Expos

NORFOLK, Va. -- A group trying to entice the Montreal Expos
to move to Norfolk has received reservations for more luxury boxes
than outlined in a stadium proposal, plus commitments for well more
than 5,000 season tickets.

"The season ticket count is right around where we had expected
it to be at this point," three weeks into a sales drive to show
the area can support a major league team, said William Somerindyke
Jr., co-founder and CEO of the Norfolk Baseball Company, which
represents a group of unidentified investors.

"But the luxury suites has been astronomical," Somerindyke
said in an interview this week. "I expected a good showing from
that but probably not that high, that quick."

More than 75 businesses and organizations, including Fortune 500
companies Smithfield Foods Inc. and Norfolk Southern Corp., have
pledged $1,000 apiece to reserve luxury suites, Somerindyke said.
The stadium plans call for at least 60 luxury boxes, as well as
35,000 to 38,000 seats.

The luxury suites would range from $75,000 to $125,000,
depending on location and amenities, while season-ticket packages
would cost $810 to $2,835 for 81 home games.

About 1,000 season-ticket deposits and about 40 luxury-suite
deposits were pledged before the campaign officially started May
26. The deposits are refundable.

The group is well on track to reach 10,000 season-ticket
deposits, Somerindyke said.

"From the support they've gotten to date, I think everybody is
hungry for" Major League Baseball, said Gary Brandt, president and
CEO of Marine Hydraulics International Inc. The Norfolk shipyard
has reserved a luxury suite to use as a marketing tool.

The Hampton Roads coastal region, with a population of more than
1.5 million, is among the largest metropolitan areas lacking a
major league sports franchise.

Brandt said he thinks Hampton Roads, home to a number of
military bases, has a better than 50 percent chance to snag the
Expos.

"I think it's a win because the Hampton Roads area is a melting
pot," Brandt said Thursday. "With the infusion of the military
here, you have people from all over the country. You're going to be
drawing a lot of people who will go to baseball games just to see
their home team."

Baseball has been trying to relocate the Expos since the
struggling franchise was purchased by the 29 other teams before the
2002 season.

Downtown Washington and Northern Virginia appear to be the
leading contenders. Other candidates are Las Vegas; Monterrey,
Mexico; Portland, Ore.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Norfolk season-ticket campaign includes billboards and
television, radio and print ads. One TV spot features five area
mayors wearing business attire and batting helmets.

To keep the momentum going, more than 500 manhole covers
designed to look like baseballs are now being put down on streets
in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Portsmouth.

"We really wanted to get the area really pumped up about
baseball," Somerindyke said of the campaign. "Manhole covers are
something you drive over or walk over every day. We want to ingrain
baseball in everybody's minds."

Somerindyke said the group also soon plans to reveal the
identity of some of the investors. He said they include a handful
of local people as well as "one big name" from outside the area.