Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Capitals, was ticking off reasons for optimism yesterday. For starters, 985 renewals and 246 new sales of season tickets, plus 168 single ticket 10-game packages for the coming hockey season.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "If not, I couldn't be in this crazy business. I want to be part of turning this team around."
(Pollin's optimism increased when officials in Prince George's County began drafting legislation to grant the Capitals temporary tax relief. Apparently the majority of the Prince George's County Council and the county executive have said they would support such tax relief. See story, C1.)
Pollin, who has watched his team lose a reported $20 million in its eight years, said he is dedicated to a plan of action he introduced at a Wednesday press conference. He outlined four conditions, required by potential investors, for the team's survival.
Pollin said the team must sell 7,500 season tickets, sell out its first 10 games, get a reduced rent at Capital Centre and receive a 95 percent amusement tax break from Prince George's County, all within 30 days.
If the terms aren't met, Pollin said, the team would be sold and moved from the city, merged with another team and moved, or folded.
Pollin said the group, which includes area businessmen Dick Patrick, Marty Irving, Jim Lewis and Albert Turner, formulated the conditions after studying the economics of the situation.
Earlier this summer, Pollin had said he was seeking investors for the club, but did not specify whether he hoped for an outright buyer or just an infusion of money. Under the proposed deal, Pollin would retain 50 percent ownership and the presidency of the team, for a limited partnership with his potential investors.
Asked if he would still consider selling all interest in the team, Pollin said: "It would depend on the kind of offer . . . I wouldn't foreclose anything, but I really am committed to this right now."
Pollin was questioned about a group of prospective buyers represented by New York agent-attorney Art Kaminsky, who has been in touch with the Capitals during the last few weeks.
"I'd say the communication I've received from Kaminsky's clients . . . I wouldn't even give a response to," Pollin said. He said no other potential buyers are under consideration. "I have not heard from anyone," he said.
Kaminsky could not be reached for comment.
Last season, Pollin's hockey team sold 4,200 season tickets, 300 fewer than the Colorado Rockies (now New Jersey Devils). The team has had 19 sellouts, including two last year, since it began in 1974.
Pollin's request for a rent reduction at the arena, from 15 percent to 10 percent of the net after taxes, is subject to approval by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, which holds the bond on the building.
"It (the request) is just a modification to an agreement we have," said Ralph Fletcher, Equitable vice president of corporate finance.
He declined to comment on the discussions or on the difficulty of fulfilling Pollin's request, but said, "We (the company) have something like 1,200 investments, and we do about 400 plus or minus modifications in a year. The degree of request and complexities of the transaction are individual things. They have to be addressed and adjusted to fit the situation."
Fletcher said he does not foresee Pollin's 30-day timetable as a problem. "There are some modifications we can do over the phone," he said. "This (Capital Centre) is not a normal type of investment, but I do not see any problems."
Pollin, who did a stint on the Capitals' special ticket phones the other night, was boyishly enthusiastic about fan support.
"Someone said the Caps meant so much to them, they'd buy 10 season tickets," he said. "I'm just hoping it continues. I want to prove the team can be successful in Washington."