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April 1, 2005
Thanks to a nine-month feud between promoter Angelo Medina and San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini, the Santurce Cangrejeros got a fancy new home for 10 of their home games when the Superior Basketball League season gets underway April 21.
Medina, Cangrejeros franchise holder claims hell take a bath financially paying the $15,000 per game fee to use the new Puerto Rico Coliseum in the 2005 season, but the fans are sure to love the place. Medina promised he wont gouge them. Tickets will be priced at $6 for general admission and hes cut a deal with the company that services the parking lot to drop the price by half.
Forced out of Roberto Clemente Coliseum, the Cangrejeros home for the past seven years, Medina officially announced this week that Santurce will play 10 home games beginning with the April 21 opener versus San German. The veteran promoter said hes still in search of an arena to host the team's remaining six games.
"Weve put the period at the end of the sentence in the political battle. Even though it makes us sad to not be playing in the [Roberto Clemente Coliseum] where we won five championships, this is historic and destiny put us here," Medina said. "Were celebrating."
More than destiny, Medinas decision to rent out the Puerto Rico Coliseum was based on sheer need. Having been handed his third straight legal defeat this week, this time by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, Medina was forced to throw in the towel in his bitter war with Santini over the use of Roberto Clemente Coliseum. In March, Santini terminated the citys contract with Medina for the use of the 12,000-seat facility.
Medinas $15,000 per game estimated fee for the use of the "Choliseo" is considerably pricier than the $200 per event fee he paid for the Clemente Coliseum in his contract with Santini.
The Cangrejeros remaining six games will likely be played at Guaynabos "Quijote Morales" Coliseum. Small market teams Isabela, Guayama and Humacao are Santurces opponents for those six games in question.
Santini, who accused Medina of monopolizing Clemente Coliseum and accommodating concert dates, had offered Medina and the league the use of Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum for the 2005 season. Last week, the SBL rejected the offer, saying the 2,500-seat Zorrilla arena did not meet league standards.
According to Santini, under his previous contract with the city, Medina had season access to the food concessions and the facilitys signage, which Santini said Medina turned around and sold to rival promoters for Medinas profit. Under Medinas management, the Santurce Cangrejeros won five championships in seven years playing out of Clemente Coliseum. Medina said post-season play at the Hato Rey venue always drew at least 100,000 fans. He estimated that post-season play in 2005 at the new facility would draw more than 150,000.
Veteran big man Jose "Piculin" Ortiz singled out the 10 home games as an opportunity for people who might otherwise not be able to afford a night in the new coliseum.
"The fans are going to have even more accessibility. Now there will be space for everyone," said Ortiz. "The prices are very attractive and fans who might not have been able to afford to see a concert or a fight here will not be able to come watch our league in the best coliseum Puerto Rico has to offer. Now no one has an excuse for not coming out to watch us and were going to thank them by having a good season."
Medina said the Urban Train will operate free to the public on game nights until 11:30 p.m.
Santurce coach Raymond Dalmau could not be happier with the move to the "Choliseo." Hired for the 2005 season to replace Julio Toro, Dalmau will coach his first game with the Cangrejeros in the new venue with two of his sons on his team and versus his third son, Christian, who plays for San German.
Even better, Dalmau lives within walking distance from the "Choliseo" in Santurce.
"This is the kind of team that is already a contender from the first day of the season," said the elder Dalmau of the Cangrejeros, who have eight Puerto Rico team players in their mix. "Im used to having scrappy teams and working for franchises that dont have enough money to make changes. This team was already good when I inherited it. Now its just a question of getting the best out of them."
In addition to having coached his sons previously, Dalmau also coached Ortiz in the early 90s with the Puerto Rico team.
"Ive always been in small-market teams and have had to do a lot with nothing," said Dalmau. "Here I have everything. Weve already been training for two and a half months. Im not saying its going to be an easy season because there are about five teams in the [10-team] league that are at the same level. The winner will be the team that is the fittest and has the deepest bench."
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.