Friday, December 9, 2011

Capitals' sale leads to many happy returns

   Thursday's announcement of the Sacramento Capitals' sale to a group led by Ramey Osborne has something for everyone.
   Fans get their World TeamTennis franchise back for its 27th season and an owner who launched the team to a glorious 11-year run.
   Osborne, a tennis fanatic who owned the Capitals from 1988 through 1999, gets his team back.
   Matt McEvoy, the Capitals' 27-year-old general manager, keeps his job.
   And WTT not only is spared the embarrassment of losing its longest-running team and holder of a record six league titles, it gets an experienced, passionate owner who knows the market intimately.
   Previous owner Bob Cook, a local real estate developer, filed for personal bankruptcy in August with debts of $48 million. His financial woes stem largely from the development of Le Rivage, a struggling luxury hotel on the banks of the Sacramento River two miles south of downtown Sacramento.
   The Capitals' future was in doubt until Osborne came to the rescue.
   "I love tennis, and I've enjoyed it from the day (the Capitals) came, and so I want to keep it going," Osborne, the president of a real estate company in Gold River and member of the Sacramento Tennis Hall of Fame, told The Sacramento Bee. "It's been on my mind for quite a while, and when I realized or saw that there were some problems with the past ownership, I thought that somebody needed to step up, and so I did."
   Terms were not disclosed. The team will continue to play at a temporary facility, which now will be called Sunrise Marketplace Stadium, in the parking lot at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights.
   "Ramey played a major role in building the winning tradition and success of the Capitals both on and off the court," WTT CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss said in a statement. "We are fortunate to have him back leading their franchise along with general manager Matt McEvoy."
   Under Osborne's ownership, the Capitals won the first three of their four straight WTT titles (1997-2000). The initial crown was based on the team's regular-season record because the final was rained out in Orlando, Fla., and the next two came on the Capitals' home court.
   From 1997 through 2007, Sacramento compiled a record of 108-35 (.755) in the regular season and won all six of their WTT crowns.
   When Osborne -- whose wife, Jayna, also was active in the Capitals' operations -- sold the team to Lonnie Nielson in March 2000, the outgoing owner told The Bee: "What better time to get out than right now after the success we have had the last three years. Besides, I haven't had a summer vacation with my family in 13 years. This job really took over our lives.
   "And it wasn't as much fun as it used to be. Owners used to be able to go out and talk to players, recruit them for their teams and sign them. But now we have to deal with agents and the politics of the league, both of which make it harder to get players."
  But Osborne added: "It's going to be tough sitting back and watching. Just announcing this has made me happy one minute, sad the next."
  Since 2007, the Capitals have gone 30-30 in the regular season, including two of the three losing seasons (all at 6-8) in team history. Retirements and aging have been major reasons.
   Russian star Elena Likhovtseva quit at 33 at the end of 2008 after playing on four WTT championship teams in her nine seasons with the Capitals. Sam Warburg, a Sacramento native and key member of the Capitals' 2007 title team, retired at 26 in September 2009. Mark Knowles, a three-time WTT Male MVP for Sacramento and former world No. 1 in doubles, turned 40 last September but remains active.
   In addition to Cook's problems, Nielson pleaded guilty last year to grand theft related to his real estate business and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.
   After Nielson's plea and Cook's declaration of bankruptcy, WTT briefly revoked Sacramento's franchise.
   The Capitals went 8-6 in the regular season last year and returned to the playoffs for the first time in three years, losing to the St. Louis Aces 20-19 in the Western Conference final.
   This year's roster consisted of Knowles; Dusan Vemic, playing his sixth WTT season; Vania King, a two-time Grand Slam champion in women's doubles; and Yasmin Schnack, a WTT rookie who lives in the Sacramento area.
   The Capitals' roster for next season will be formed during the WTT draft in March.
   Orange Bowl -- All remaining players with Northern California ties were eliminated from the Orange Bowl, featuring many of the world's top juniors, Friday on clay in Plantation, Fla.
   In the girls 16 doubles final, the unseeded San Francisco Bay Area team of Hadley Berg (Greenbrae) and Mary Closs (Menlo Park) lost to fifth-seeded Charlotte Petrick and Erin Routliffe of Canada 6-3, 6-4.
   Also falling were:
   --Unseeded Krista Hardebeck, a Santa Ana resident who will enroll as a freshman at Stanford next fall, and Chalena Scholl of Pompano Beach, Fla., in the girls 18 doubles quarterfinals.
   --Sixth-seeded Connor Farren of Hillsborough and Marco Aurelio Nunez of Mexico in the boys 18 doubles quarters. Unseeded Markos Kalovelonis of Greece and Trey Stobel, a Bradenton, Fla., resident who is headed to Stanford, lost in a separate match in the same event.
    The Orange Bowl boys and girls 14s and 12s are scheduled for Dec. 17-23 Coral Gables, Fla.

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