The city will likely have to wait until 2002 to host the annual extravaganza. With the prospect of losing the entire 1998-99 season to a labor dispute looming larger than ever, the NBA yesterday canceled its February 14 All-Star Game at Philadelphia's First Union Center, taking away from the city an estimated $35 million in revenue -- not to mention a ton of good publicity. NBA Commissioner David Stern apologized to "everyone in Philadelphia" and promised to hold the annual event in the city in the next available year. That would likely be 2002, as the 2000 game will be hosted by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., and the 2001 contest is expected to be awarded to the Washington Wizards. It's the first time the midseason extravaganza -- which has been played annually since 1951 -- has been canceled. The 5-month-old lockout has already killed the first two months of the season, the first canceled games in league history. No negotiations have been held since last Thursday, and none are currently scheduled. "It would be unfair of us to ask the City of Philadelphia and our business partners to incur the expenditures necessary for this in light of the fact that we can't guarantee a season," Stern told reporters in a conference call. Neither Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell nor his chief spokesperson, Kevin Feeley, could be reached for comment yesterday. The cancellation is the latest blow to the once-highflying NBA. After years of record popularity, the league's reputation has been bloodied by the dispute over how to divide up the league's rising revenue between owners and players. Critics have lambasted the lockout as a quarrel between greedy millionaires and greedier billionaires. Even if the game had somehow been saved, it would have been without a companion event: the four-day Jam Session at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City. The interactive carnival was canceled last month because NBA officials could not guarantee vendors that the game would take place as scheduled. Despite the loss of such a marquee event, Mickey Rowley, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said the effect on area hotels is not so terrible. The NBA had booked about 5,000 rooms in 18 hotels to the tune of $3 million, and hotels expected another $2 million to $3 million in food and other revenue, Rowley said. But the facts that it's Valentine's Day weekend and that the NBA negotiated low rates mean hotels should be able to recoup a good portion of the revenue, he added. "It's a disappointment, but it's not that big a deal," Rowley said, noting that the effect pales in comparison to what would happen if, say, the Republican Party canceled or moved its 2000 convention. That event is expected to bring in as much as $300 million for Philadelphia. The loss of the All-Star Game is the third nationally publicized embarrassment or disappointment for Philadelphia sports in less than a week. Last Thursday, in the NFL Eagles' 17-14 win over the St. Louis Rams, an ESPN broadcaster said Veterans Stadium's 25-second play clock was not functioning because the city could not afford the cost of repairs. Rendell angrily denied the allegation. Two days later, at the Army-Navy football game, a group of 10 Army cadets and prep-school students cheering and mugging for a CBS television camera at the stadium fell about 15 feet to the artificial turf after they caused a railing to collapse. The most seriously injured cadet broke a vertebra in his neck but is expected to make a full recovery. The last time the city hosted an all-star game in one of the country's four major professional sports -- baseball, football, basketball and hockey -- was in 1996, when the Phillies hosted Major League Baseball's annual game at the Vet. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Edward Sherwin and the Associated Press contributed to this article.Comments powered by Disqus
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