While congratulations might be premature, Mr. Dave Checketts, once a deal is reached in your purchase of the St. Louis Blues and Savvis Center there are several things you should do upon completion of negotiations with the Laurie family.

First, find local partners to go in with you on the Blues/Savvis deal. Your history in sports management with Madison Square Garden and FoxSports is quite impressive, and your sincerity in keeping the franchise in St. Louis is not in question. However, if there were investors from this region involved with the team, it would make the average fan much more comfortable. In fact, local ownership partners would help you draw some fans that will be lost because of the abandoned 2004-05 NHL season.

The St. Louis Cardinals ownership group involved the Pulitzer family, Fred Hanser and Drew Bauer when it purchased the team. The decision-making takes place out of Cincinnati where William DeWitt resides, but the hometown influence is important and vital to the Cardinals on-going success and the construction of the new Busch Stadium.

When the Blues first were put on the sale block, this newspaper suggested the Lauries give the nation's No. 1 black entrepreneur, David Steward, founder and chair of World Wide Technology, a call to see if he was interested in purchasing some or all of the franchise. Steward is a sponsor of Blues hockey and Cardinals baseball. He could easily be an investor in your management group.

Once the Blues situation is settled, Mr. Checketts, feel free to pursue your interest in bringing a National Basketball Association franchise to St. Louis.

With the New Orleans Hornets playing in Oklahoma City and their future in New Orleans highly in doubt, that's a possibility. St. Louis' old team could become St. Louis' new team if you should bring the financially struggling Atlanta Hawks back to the franchise's first and best home.

You will hear from naysayers that St. Louis cannot support a NBA franchise. They will say that whites will not go and that blacks in St. Louis are poor, stupid and a brawl waiting to happen. You're too shrewd a businessman to listen to racial stereotyping and too genuine in your love for the NBA and other professional sports to ignore the weight of the black sports consumer dollar.

As for St. Louis, some will tell you it's a backwater with no future. St. Louis is about to boom. A major new casino and hotel is coming, so is a new entertainment district that borders on the so-called "bad side of town." New hotels are being constructed; hundreds of new lofts have just opened or are under construction. The time is now to invest in St. Louis with a NBA franchise.

Speaking of investment, give Steward and other black entrepreneurs a chance to purchase part of the franchise. The aforementioned Steward is No. 1 in the Black Enterprise Top 100 African-American-owned businesses in America. WWT's sales revenues surpassed $1.4 billion, and Fortune had the Blues and Savvis Center valued at $140 million.

Steward is not alone among St. Louisans in the prestigious ranking. Kelvin Westbrook, founder and CEO of Millennium Digital Cable ($101.6 million in 2004 sales) ranks at No. 34 and Mike and Steve Roberts of the Roberts Companies ($39.4 million in 2004 sales) are at No. 76.

In addition to those powerhouse firms, several of the fastest-growing construction firms in the region are black-owned, and several of the nation's top black entertainers - including Nelly and Cedric The Entertainer - not only hail from St. Louis, but reside here and take pride in their city. They are civic-minded enough to invest in a NBA team.

Of course, you also would have the backing of the nation's best African-American newspaper, the St. Louis American. Not a bad package!

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