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Palace Sports & Entertainment Purchases Asheville Tourists

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Ownership Group Adds to Stable That Includes 2004 Stanley Cup Champion
Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Shock

(ASHEVILLE, NC) -- Palace Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) announced the purchase today of the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (SAL) from Peter "Woody" Kern. The transaction is scheduled to close in early October, at which time PS&E will begin operating and managing the Class A minor league baseball team. Palace Sports & Entertainment is owned by William M. Davidson, managing partner of the Detroit Pistons. PS&E's current assets include the 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Detroit Shock of the WNBA and three outdoor amphitheaters. The Tourists will be managed from PS&E's southern offices, based at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL.

"We are thrilled with the opportunity to own and operate the Asheville Tourists," said Ronald J. Campbell, Executive Vice President of Palace Sports & Entertainment and President of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum. "Our intentions are to maintain, further develop and operate a first-class organization in Asheville, one the entire community will continue to be proud to call its own; a true partner.

"Anyone that has spent time in one of our venues realizes the importance that Palace Sports & Entertainment places on the guests in its venues. Our goal is to bring the PS&E 'guest-comes-first' philosophy to Asheville as quickly as possible. Creating a premier fan experience is at the core of our business practice."

Mr. Kern, who has owned the Tourists since purchasing the team from Asheville Community Baseball in 1981, also owns the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. The Storm plays its games in the St. Pete Times Forum, which PS&E operates and manages. PS&E also handles all sales and marketing for the Storm, earning awards from the AFL for its expertise in this area.

Team President Ron McKee has been with the Tourists since 1980, managing the entire operation for Kern during his 24 years of ownership. A four-time winner of the South Atlantic League's Executive of the Year Award, McKee has elected to step down at the conclusion of the 2005 season. His wife Carolyn, who serves as the team's business manager, will join him. She was named the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year in 2004.

"Facing the pending retirement of the McKees, Woody Kern approached us to manage the Tourists' business and marketing operation," said Campbell. "We did our homework with Asheville, the team and the South Atlantic League, and then told Woody we would be glad to step in, but as owner-operators.

"I think everyone in Asheville appreciates everything Mr. Kern and the McKees have done for the Tourists and the community. We know how special the McKees have been to the Tourists and their fans and we fully acknowledge the big shoes that need to be filled with their departure. We value their knowledge and experience and hope we will be able to tap into that wisdom on a regular basis as the new caretakers of the team."

The Tourists, Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, currently maintain the longest affiliation with a major league team of any team in the South Atlantic League (SAL). The two organizations have worked together since 1994. Palace Sports & Entertainment intends to further that relationship, lending to the continued stability of the franchise in Asheville.

The Tourists finished the first half of the 2005 SAL regular season with a 38-31 record in the Southern Division. They are currently 23-24 in the second half of the season. The season concludes on Sept. 5, 2005.
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