Arena League's Kats to play in GEC next year
By PAUL KUHARSKY
A resurrected version of the Arena Football League's Nashville Kats will begin play at Gaylord Entertainment Center in February.
Titans owner Bud Adams, a founding owner in the old American Football League, beamed yesterday at the concept that he is now an owner in the new AFL.
''What goes around comes around,'' he said with a giggle. ''I think it will be great for Tennessee and Nashville to have football most of the year round.''
AFL Commissioner David Baker said he was ''tremendously heartened'' by Adams' commitment to the league, going so far as to call the new franchise a ''second Music City Miracle.''
Adams' representatives and officials from the GEC have been haggling over a lease since the AFL accepted Adams' bid for a Nashville franchise in August 2001. They finally settled on a one-year lease with two three-year options. The Kats will pay $3,500 per game and cover all the expenses of operating the facility.
They will get back 30 percent of the concessions and be able to sell signage on the dasher-boards providing those sponsors do not conflict with the GECs' regular advertising. Adams said the Kats will be able to sell only five of the building's suites for their games.
With a National Hockey League lockout that could extend into 2005 looming, the arena guaranteed itself at least eight games that will all be played on Friday or Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons. Adams said AFL games at the GEC will ''help the city out.''
The original Kats joined the AFL as an expansion team in 1997, but original owner Mark Bloom sold the team in 2001, it moved to Atlanta and became the Georgia Force.
Bloom is back, this time as a minority owner, and so is Coach Pat Sperduto. Adams hired Sperduto in in 2001 and he has worked in the Titans' offices as director of arena football operations ever since.
Sperduto said he will continue to work with offensive line coach Mike Munchak throughout Titans training camp, then gradually disconnect from the NFL team.
Bob Flynn, who has 14 years of AFL experience, is the team's general manager. He said his primary role will be building a base of ticket buyers.
Details of the team's expansion draft and the league schedule will be sorted out at an AFL meeting Aug. 17. AFL teams have 24-man rosters, and each team protected 16 players in the last expansion draft.
The Kats will also be able to build by signing free agents. Sperduto said some familiar names could be Kats again when training camp opens in January.
While there could be some overlap between administrative departments of the Titans and Kats, Adams said he will add staff to his AFL team as Sperduto and Flynn determine what they need.
Paul Kuharsky is a staff writer for The Tennessean. He can be reached at email@example.com or 259-8024.