Rattlers returning with new arena league - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Rattlers returning with new arena league

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Posted: Monday, September 28, 2009 2:23 pm | Updated: 2:42 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

TULSA, Okla. — Arena football isn't dead yet. Officials from what will be known as Arena Football 1 said Monday they will have 16 teams ready to play in 2010, including three in former Arena Football League markets: Chicago, Phoenix and Orlando, Fla.

TULSA, Okla. — Arena football isn't dead yet.

Officials from what will be known as Arena Football 1 said Monday that they will have at least 16 teams ready to play in 2010, including four in former Arena Football League markets: Salt Lake City, Chicago, Phoenix and Orlando, Fla. The Arizona Rattlers and Orlando Predators played in the old AFL, but the new league's Chicago and Salt Lake City teams did not.

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The league will also have teams from the AFL offshoot arenafootball2, as well as at least one team from another indoor league. It will be based in Tulsa. Commissioner Jerry Kurz said it would be a "brand-new league" not connected with the AFL or af2.

"There has been arena football before," said Kurz, a former af2 commissioner. "It's been done well but not as good as it's going to be done this time."

Kurz said more details of the league's business structure — including what the players might be paid — will be announced during the coming weeks. He said the league would use a schedule similar to that used by the AFL and af2, with games starting in late March or early April and running through the summer.

Dan Newman, the owner of the Bossier-Shreveport (La.) BattleWings — who are moving from the af2 to the new league— said Arena Football 1 will use a rule book identical to those used by the AFL and af2.

"This is arena football," Newman said.

Arena Football 1 said its markets also will include Little Rock, Ark.; Fresno, Calif.; Des Moines, Iowa; Jacksonville, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; Spokane, Wash.; Huntsville, Ala.; Kennewick, Wash.; and Tulsa.

The new league said eight more teams have submitted membership applications. Newman said the league is negotiating with seven other former AFL franchises, including those in Tampa and San Jose.

Hank Stern, vice president of the San Jose SaberCats, said Monday that while that team was "looking to bring arena football back to San Jose," he wouldn't comment about the new league "until things become clearer."

Kurz said other franchises will be considered for inclusion in the league through Oct. 9.

"We'll grow as it fits us in a smooth economic model," he said. "Other leagues in many different sports have just grown to grow and we don't want to do that. We want to make sure we go into markets that want us."

The old AFL canceled its 2009 season and folded in August, ending a 22-year run for the high-scoring indoor brand of football that helped launch the career of Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner. Play in af2 was never disrupted, but teams ended the season unsure of what would happen next. The AFL owned 50.1 percent of af2.

Kurz said that while previous arena football leagues were "well-intended," their business model resulted in overspending.

"The sports business has to be like every other business," he said. "You can't spend more than you generate in revenue."

Kurz and Newman dismissed the possibility of a new version of the AFL forming. Newman noted the AFL canceled its 2009 season "because of a collective bargaining agreement that they agreed to that spiraled out of control. The financial model was broken and finally it broke the machine. It didn't work. The AFL is not in existence, it's in bankruptcy.

"They will not play in 2010. That precipitated the necessity to go to the drawing board and come up with a financially viable model that works to play arena football."

If the new league's owners are patient and market the league correctly, there's no reason it can't succeed, even during the current recession, said Mark Nagel, a professor who teaches sports management at the University of South Carolina.

"If they can keep those expenses in control and have a good plan to attract the consumer who's looking to do something that's affordable, it might work in this economy," Nagel said.

Shy Anderson, the chief operating officer for the AFL's Dallas Desperados — who won't play in the new league — agreed with Nagel's assessment, saying the business model for the AFL "wasn't solid." He said the new league "will be great for the fans and the players who want to continue playing football."

"It is an entertainment sport," Anderson said. "It's not a pure sport. It's football played indoors with a lesser number of players. But there is a niche for it."

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