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Vote in Conn. Clears Way for Hurricanes to...

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RALEIGH — There's a hurricane warning in the Trianglewith word that the Carolina Hurricanes will be blowing into town soonerrather than later.

The Connecticut Development Authority approved a$21.7 million early exit fee for Whalers owner Peter Karmanos, releasing theNational Hockey League team one year early from its Hartford Civic Centerlease. That means a major hurdle has been cleared to allow the team, to be renamed the Carolina Hurricanes, to start playing in its interim home in Greensboro next year.

Under the agreement, the Whalers must pay $5 million by July 1. The restof the amount would be paidin annual installments by 2012. Including interest, the Whalers would bepaying $21.7 million. The teamalso agreed not to pursue legal action regarding a television contract,essentially forgiving an additional $1 million. The possibility that the lease-exit amount may have been doubled tomore than $40 million had threatenedto stall plans to move the team to Greensboro for two years while an arenais built in 1999.

The relocation still mustbe approved by the National Hockey League's board of governors. That vote isexpect next month.

Team General Manager Jim Rutherford told WRAL-TV5'sMark RobertsWednesday that, with thatvote out of the way, he'll open the offices of the Carolina Hurricanesnext week. That means about 20 new jobs for the area. When Raleigh's newarena opens in two years and the team comes home, there will be another300 jobs created there.

Rutherford and Coach Paul Maurice toured commercial propertiesWednesday looking for an office site. While they looked at real estate,others looked at the economic impact of having the team here.

David Heinl is president of the Greater Raleigh Convention and VisitorsBureau. He held a similar post in Hartford in the 1970's when the Whalersfirst moved there. He said the team had a positive effect on the economy.

Dr. Mike Walden is not a hockey expert, but he has studied the economyof sports. He says big league teams don't necessarily bring in big leaguemoney.

Rutherford says not even analysts know what will happen, but that somegood things are guaranteed.

The team itself will pay state and local taxes and the players,several of whom earn seven-figure salaries, will pay plenty of incometax.

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