OWNER ABE POLLIN has looked at the books and given fans of the Washington Capitals his best shot: a summary of exactly what it will take for him to salvage his financially fragile hockey team. Within 30 days, he says, a combination of events must occur:
* A total of 7,500 season tickets must be sold, which is 3,300 more than were sold in the last season.
* About 85,000 single-game tickets must be sold, to guarantee sellouts for the first 10 home games this season.
* The rent for the Capital Centre must be lowered from 15 percent to 10 percent of the net after taxes, subject to approval by the arena's bond-holder.
* Prince George's County must lower the current 10 percent amusement tax to one-half of one percent (applying only to the Capitals, not other Capital Centre events) and then could increase it gradually after four years.
With this help, says Mr. Pollin, he can come up with investors to split the ownership with him, 50- 50. Without it, the Caps will either move or disappear. The question for the county, for the fans and for all of us who believe that Greater Washington is worthy of major league franchises is whether the region can rise to the challenge.
Why not give it a go?
True, that's a lot of season tickets and sellouts; but with an effort on the part of individual fans and business leaders who understand the prestige and revenue generated by a National Hockey League franchise, many more seats could be filled. And with the suggested temporary tax and rental relief, Prince George's at least could continue to enjoy the benefits of being host county for hockey, from sales taxes to jobs and other related services.
Sure, there's always a chance that some new set of team owners might meet Mr. Pollin's $7.5 million price tag for the franchise and vow to keep the team right here in perpetuity, come what may--which, for the life of the Caps to date, has included neither a Stanley Cup nor a playoff invitation.
But right now, the "Save the Caps" supporters have their work cut out for them--and those who agree that we should keep hockey here, better act fast.