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Play ball? Adams, GEC close to deal to bring back Kats in '05

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  • Play ball? Adams, GEC close to deal to bring back Kats in '05

    By John Lombardo
    Nashville Business Journal
    Updated: 8:00 p.m. ET July 04, 2004Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is nearing a deal to put an Arena Football League franchise back in Nashville for play next season, league officials said last week.


    Adams owns the rights for an AFL Nashville franchise and has been working to complete a deal with the Gaylord Entertainment Center for an arena team to begin play there in 2005.

    Adams bought the Nashville club rights in 2002 and has completed paying a reported $4 million expansion fee. League officials say the lease negotiations are the only remaining obstacle for the club to begin play.

    The AFL Nashville Kats played at the GEC from 1997 to 2001 until the team was relocated to Atlanta by then-owner Virgil Williams to become the Georgia Force. The Force this season was sold to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank for an undisclosed sum.

    "Nashville has been continuing to work on finalizing a lease agreement, and it is our understanding that they are close to accomplishing that goal," said league spokesman Chris McCloskey.

    Gaylord Entertainment Center General Manager Hugh Lombardi was unavailable for comment. Gerry Helper, the Nashville Predators' senior vice president for communications, returned Lombardi's calls and says nothing has been finalized with the GEC.

    "We have wanted to have them all along and Hugh has been actively trying to put something together," Helper says, adding that both sides have talked recently, but have determined not to speak publicly about the discussions.

    "The goal is to negotiate a deal for the Kats to play in Nashville in 2005," Helper says.

    The expected Nashville deal would give the AFL 20 teams next season, with additional expansion still possible. Other markets that may see teams for 2005 include Boston and Washington.

    The Nashville deal also would give the AFL another NFL owner in its ranks, with Adams joining Blank, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford in owning stakes in AFL teams.

    The AFL concluded its 2004 season this past weekend, when the San Jose SaberCats beat the Arizona Rattlers 69-62 to win ArenaBowl XVIII.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Arena League's Kats to play in GEC next year
    by DJRamFan
    Staff Writer

    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...
    -08-03-2004, 11:18 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Owner puts Firebirds up for sale
    by DJRamFan
    Arena football team may move if local buyer can't be found

    By Jeff Rabjohns
    [email protected]
    July 30, 2004

    The Indiana Firebirds are for sale and may move to Florida if a local buyer cannot be found in the next 30 days, owner David Lageschulte said Thursday.

    Lageschulte is searching for local ownership for the Arena Football League franchise that moved to Indianapolis from Albany, N.Y., before the 2001 season.

    If that doesn't happen, Lageschulte, a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., said he would look to move the team, possibly as soon as next season.

    "I would like that to be an option," he said. "First, I'd love to try to sell it and keep it in Indiana. We have wonderful crowds and wonderful games in Indiana.

    "If I can't, I would try to move it. Florida would be a choice of mine, but that would have to come with league approval."

    Lageschulte declined to tell his asking price for the team or what he paid for it. The most recent team to join the Arena league, the Austin (Texas) Wranglers, paid a $16.2 million expansion fee before the 2004 season. The sale of the Georgia Force before the 2003 season was reported at $14 million.

    With an influx of NFL ownership and a television deal with NBC, Arena football has seen its franchise values soar.

    "It's probably a little early to tell what the market will bear," said David Morton of Sunrise Sports Group, who along with Milt Thompson of Grand Slam III has been contracted by Lageschulte to search for potential owners.

    "To compare a new franchise . . . is difficult because this is an existing, established brand."

    Morton said he and Thompson are in the early stages of making proposals to potential buyers.

    Lageschulte purchased the team in August 2002 from Glenn Mazula, who owned the team since its inception in 1990.

    Lageschulte was an investor in the franchise since 1997. From 1993-95, he also owned an Arena franchise known as the Miami Hooters.

    One of the originators of the Hooters restaurant chain, Lageschulte is co-CEO of a company that runs 30 restaurants and bars. He also is part owner of a company involved in fitness centers, heavy equipment and environmental remediation.

    Lageschulte purchased control of the Firebirds with the intent that he would eventually sell the team.

    "We have some pretty stiff deadlines at this point. I love Indianapolis and the Indianapolis market," Lageschulte said. "Unfortunately, I live in Florida and that's the reason I wanted to sell the team or have someone take it over.

    "We have to find something in the next 30 days that at least smells like a deal."

    Playing in Conseco Fieldhouse, the Firebirds averaged...
    -08-02-2004, 03:59 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Adams to announce return of arena football
    by DJRamFan
    Staff Writer

    Titans owner Bud Adams will announce he's struck a deal to resurrect the Arena Football League's Nashville Kats in a press conference this afternoon,

    Adams has owned the right for a Nashville Arena League team for some time, but negotiations for the team to play at the Gaylord Entertainment Center moved at a glacial pace.

    Adams hired Pat Sperduto as the Titans' director of football league operations in 2001. Sperduto was head coach of the old Kats before they left town in 2001 and became the Georgia Force.
    -08-02-2004, 03:58 PM
  • DJRamFan
    NFL Owners Say They Won't Buy Stake in Arena Football League
    by DJRamFan
    Mon, 25 Mar 2002, 6:07pm EST
    By Curtis Eichelberger

    Orlando, Florida, March 19 (Bloomberg) -- National Football League owners said they won't exercise their option to become minority partners in the Arena Football League.

    The NFL had negotiated a three-year option in 1999 that allowed it to buy between 24.5 percent and 49.9 percent of the 16- team indoor league before March 31.

    During their annual meetings in Orlando, Florida, NFL owners said they supported individuals buying arena league teams, but were against the league taking an ownership stake. Eight NFL owners have bought arena league franchises.

    ``We couldn't reach a consensus,'' said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. ``It could be revisited, but not at this meeting.''

    Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker wasn't immediately available to comment.

    The decision, which would have required approval from 24 of the NFL's 32 owners, comes less than three weeks after the indoor football league signed a contract to play its games on General Electric's NBC network beginning in 2003.

    If the NFL had exercised its option, it would have shared in the arena league's advertising, sponsorship and merchandising revenue.

    ``A lot of people here think it's a good thing, but I'm not convinced it's football,'' said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

    NFL Ties

    The NFL still has a close relationship with the arena league, overseeing its officiating department and lending expertise in negotiating marketing agreements.

    The NFL owners who have bought arena league teams are Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, William Clay Ford of the Detroit Lions, Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Tom Benson of the New Orleans Saints, Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos, Wayne Weaver of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bud Adams of the Tennessee Titans, and John York and Denise DeBartolo York of the San Francisco *****.

    Orlando Predators Entertainment Inc., the only publicly traded company in the arena league, was down 36 cents to $3.10 a share.

    The arena league plays indoors on a 50-yard field with eight men to a team. It has produced many NFL players, including two- time Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams.
    -03-25-2002, 04:08 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Firebirds To Stop Operations, Continue Search For New Owner
    by DJRamFan
    League Could Control Team By Sept. 20

    POSTED: 8:56 pm EST September 8, 2004

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Firebirds, whose owner has been trying to sell the team, said Wednesday it will cease operations at the end of this week but continue to seek a new owner until Sept. 20, RTV6's Wil Hampton reported.

    If a new owner isn't found by Sept. 20, the Arena Football League -- to which the Firebirds belong -- will control the club. The AFL could then operate it in Indiana, move it, or shut it down, Hampton reported.

    Ticket orders for the 2005 season will be refunded, the team said.

    The Firebirds moved to Indianapolis from Albany, N.Y., before the 2001 season. In 2002, David Lageschulte bought the team from Glenn Mazula, who owned the franchise since its inception in 1990.

    In July, Lageschulte said he either wanted to sell the team or move it closer to his Florida home.

    Lageschulte, who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., and was a founder of the Hooters restaurant chain, also owned the AFL's former Miami team in the mid-1990s.

    The Firebirds averaged 10,874 fans at home games in Conseco Fieldhouse this year, ranking 11th out of 19 teams. They went 8-8 and missed the eight-team playoffs.
    Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    -09-09-2004, 11:25 AM