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New League To Launch In '99


A new men's professional basketball league, with ambitions of going global, outlined plans Tuesday to start play next year in eight U.S. cities.

The International Basketball League intends to begin in November 1999 with franchises in Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Jacksonville, Fla.; Las Vegas; Richmond, Va.; San Diego; and Tampa, Fla.

The

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league hopes to expand to 20 cities worldwide during the next five years. A 64-game schedule is planned.

In a structure similar to that of Major League Soccer, players will be employed by the league rather than individual teams, allowing different markets to compete on equal footing.

Art Cipriani, an entrepreneur who founded an energy company in 1986, is the IBL's chief executive officer. Paul Martha, former general counsel to the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Francisco 49ers, is the league's vice president and general counsel.

Still to be announced are television and sponsorship deals, the league's commissioner and investors as well as team names and logos.

Tickets will be about $12 to $15, with player salaries in the low six figures.

The announcement in Baltimore, where the league's headquarters will be by year's end, comes amid an NBA player lockout that could last months. On Monday, the NBA said season-ticket payments will be refunded with interest if games are canceled.

"We don't really look at the International Basketball League as serious competition," NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said. "We feel that anything that brings more attention to the game of basketball is a good thing. We wish them luck."

The league will be open to any player over 18, with the presumption that those unable to meet NCAA standards or NBA-level talent would join. Officials expect some players to use the IBL as a springboard to the NBA.

"The International Basketball League is simply a new men's professional basketball league," Cipriani said. "We aren't trying to be a minor league."

A player draft is planned next summer.

"There are a lot of players out there who can't make it through thNCAA's system or need to go to work," Cipriani said. "There is no conflict whatsoever."

Organizers spent four years identifying the initial eight cities. Some of the cities have had pro basketball or pro franchises in other sports.

Three former NBA cities in the new league are Baltimore, Cincinnati and San Diego.

The IBL's Cincinnati team will play in the Crown, the former Riverfront Coliseum, which has been host for NCAA basketball regional tournaments and NBA exhibition games.

The Virginia team will play at 12,500-seat Richmond Coliseum. Richmond was home to a charter franchise in the women's ABL, but the league moved the team to Philadelphia after one season.

Larry Smith, a former Aramark Corp. executive who headed operations at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is leading the Baltimore group.

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