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  • A new Force field?

    By Corey Clark
    [email protected]

    Staff Photo: Craig Moore
    Georgia Force owner Arthur Blank speaks during an afternoon press conference Monday at the Falcons’ Flowery Branch headquarters. Blank spoke about the possibility of moving the team’s games to Philips Arena in Atlanta.

    FLOWERY BRANCH — In the next two weeks, the Georgia Force will officially announce whether it will continue to play games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    Though new team president Dick Sullivan called it a “coin flip” during a press conference Monday at the team’s new facility in Flowery Branch, it appears as if he and owner Arthur Blank are already presenting their case for a move back to Atlanta.
    “There’s a couple of things,” Sullivan said about the reasons to move the team to Philips Arena. “There’s a lot of excitement taking place downtown. Obviously with the addition of the World of Coke and the aquarium and all the great things that are being done downtown, it seems like a logical place for us to look at.
    “But importantly, we received research back, and the fans’ interest in Philips is very, very high. Every route — 75, 85, 400, 20 — it all leads to downtown. But at the same time we love Gwinnett. I think Gwinnett is terrific. I attended a couple of games there, and they’ve done a phenomenal job in that building.”
    However, it’s the building itself, or more specifically the seating capacity, that has the Force’s new management concerned. The Arena at Gwinnett Center has a capacity of just 11,200, while Philips seats 20,300 for Hawks games and 18,750 for Thrashers contests.
    “The difficulty we have is that it is the second-smallest arena in the AFL,” Sullivan said. “And nothing I know that Arthur’s ever done wants to be associated with the second smallest. Because of the demand that we already have within the marketplace, we think that we could fill up Philips. So when you’re dealing with the difference between 10 and 15,000, we want to be able to reach out to as many fans as possible.”
    The question is: Will they?
    The Force drew 9,160 people per home game in 2004, which ranked 16th in the 19-team league and was almost 3,000 below the AFL average of 12,019. But those figures were an improvement on the team’s attendance in 2002, when the Force drew just 7,070 people per game at Philips before deciding to move to Gwinnett under former owner Virgil Williams.
    Sullivan, who is also the marketing chief for the Falcons, doesn’t seem concerned about those low numbers repeating themselves if the team moves back for the 2005 season.
    “There are a lot of things that are stacked in our favor,” he said. “When you look at the last couple of years, NFL owners that have purchased AFL teams, their teams rank in the top five of the 20 teams in terms of attendance. So, if you’re an NFL-owned team, you’re going to historically be at the top of the pack, which means you (shouldn’t have) an arena that only holds the bottom of the pack.”
    “There are issues in terms of capacity,” Blank said. “While that may not be important today, we have a lot of confidence in our ability to fill up almost any place ... given the growth of Atlanta in the next 10, 15 years, going from 41¼2 to 7 million people, we’d have to have some capacity to grow.”
    The only worry Blank seems to have about returning to Philips is possible schedule conflicts. The Hawks and Thrashers will both be in the middle of their seasons when the Force begins in February, and the circus will also be in town for much of that month.
    “It’s one of the challenges to work out scheduling at Philips Arena,” Blank said. “So we’re still debating that and looking at all the options and things, and both facilities are working with us, but I would say my viewpoint is that Philips is a little more of a challenge in terms of scheduling. I think it’s workable, but not as easy.
    “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; you never really take on anything based on ease.”

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Georgia Force gets new owner
    by DJRamFan
    LAWRENCEVILLE — Arthur Blank can now win two football championships in the same year.
    Blank, who already owns the Atlanta Falcons, got the go-ahead Tuesday to become the new owner of the Georgia Force, the Arena Football League team that plays home games in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    The league board of directors approved Blank as the new Force owner during their meeting Tuesday in Las Vegas. It was the last step in purchasing the team from former owner and Gwinnett resident Virgil Williams.
    Transfer of the club is immediate, and Force staff members are relocating this week to the Atlanta Falcons training complex in Flowery Branch.
    Blank and team officials are expected to discuss plans for the Georgia Force in a media briefing Monday at the Flowery Branch training complex.
    Blank and Williams reached an agreement in principle May 24. At that time, team officials said it was unclear if the Force would continue playing home games in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    The announcement Tuesday gave no indication of the plans. The answer could come at the press conference Monday.
    Blank is the fifth NFL majority owner to purchase a stake in an AFL franchise. The NFL season typically ends in January, with the Arena League running from February to June.
    “We intend to put the same passion into the Force as we continue to put into the Atlanta Falcons,” Blank said Tuesday in a press release.
    “We have the same objectives with the Force as we do with the Falcons: putting a winning team on the field, creating a great game-day experience, and being a winning team off the field in the community. Our goal is to build a team the fans will embrace for years to come, and all of Georgia will be proud to call its own.”
    Also on Tuesday, Blank named Atlanta Falcons Marketing Chief Dick Sullivan president of the Georgia Force. Sullivan, who will continue to spearhead Atlanta Falcons marketing, will try to turn around a Force team that went 7-9 this past year.
    Williams acquired the Arena League franchise in February 2000, then relocated it from Nashville to Georgia. Renamed the Georgia Force, the team played its first season in downtown Atlanta before moving to the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth last year.
    -08-19-2004, 02:26 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Cities confident MLB will pick someone soon
    by DJRamFan
    Associated Press
    HOUSTON -- Baseball's No. 2 official expressed confidence Monday that the Montreal Expos will move before the 2005 season but wouldn't set a new deadline for a decision.

    The Expos were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season, and baseball at first hoped for a decision by July 2002 but later pushed it back to the 2003 All-Star break and then to this year's break. The bidding areas have said in recent weeks that they think a decision could be made by late July or early August.

    "I've been hanged out to dry by coming out with proposed dates," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said before the All-Star Home Run Derby. "The sooner we get it done the better. I believe it will happen this summer. I believe it's very important we get this done this year."

    Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, near Dulles International Airport, appear to be the top contenders to land the Expos. Also bidding are Las Vegas, Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk, Va.; Portland, Ore., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    Downtown Washington is about 40 miles from Baltimore's Camden Yards, and DuPuy acknowledged that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has openly opposed having a team move that close to his franchise. If the Expos move to either Washington or Northern Virginia, they would play at RFK Stadium, home of the expansion Washington Senators, before moving to a new ballpark in 2007 or 2008.

    "He's expressed his view with the regard an impact a club in the Washington area would have on the Orioles," DuPuy said.

    Commissioner Bud Selig said in May that he was concerned about the effect an Expos move to the nation's capital would have on the Orioles.

    "It isn't only the Orioles, it's all teams," Selig said then. "I think it's the commissioner's responsibility to protect the 30 franchises."

    Baseball officials met Friday with the Washington and Northern Virginia groups, and DuPuy said discussions are ongoing with all the bidding communities.

    He also said it's possible baseball will decide where the Expos move before finalizing a deal to sell the team, a process that could extend into early 2005. He said that areas that don't wind up with the Expos could become contenders for other franchises.

    "That's an inevitable conclusion you can draw if you're having eventual relocation," DuPuy said.

    Selig says the Florida Marlins and Oakland Athletics need new ballparks to survive in their areas.
    -07-12-2004, 06:12 PM
  • RamWraith
    Falcons are feeling no pain for playoffs
    by RamWraith
    By Dan O'Neill
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora opened his Tuesday news conference with news he particularly enjoyed sharing.

    "In terms of injuries, which is usually the first question, we will, for the first time in modern NFL history or NFL Falcons history, list no one on our injury report today," a grinning Mora said. "Everyone practiced and everyone is healthy to play and that's a positive. So we're excited about that."

    So much for the bye-week blues. Theorists, especially those favoring the Rams this weekend, have put forth the proposition that a team with a week off - particularly a certain team coming off a season-ending loss at Seattle - is a team without momentum, a team without its rhythm. In other words, down time can make a team vulnerable. But history, not to mention Mora's injury report, paints a contrasting picture.

    Fact is, over the past 15 years, NFC teams with the bye week leading into the divisional playoffs are 27-3, or 90 percent successful in shaking the rust. On the AFC side, teams coming off byes are 22-8 in their postseason opener. Overall, that computes to a rather decisive 49-11 over the same 60-game period.

    "I think having the week off is definitely a positive for us," said fullback Fred McCrary. "The big thing is, you don't spend the time trying to change too much, you know. You don't want to be Einstein and think up some magical game plan, there isn't one. You just go with what got you there."

    McCrary acknowledged something is to be said for rhythm, but he added: "Anyone who has watched us practice knows we practice fast. We simulate the game speed as close as possible. So as far as being in a rhythm, it shouldn't hurt us too much. We shouldn't be too far off."

    Home-field edge

    Linebacker Keith Brooking is looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. While some believe playing indoors helps the Rams, the Falcons were 7-1 at home during the season and Brooking said there is no question which team the field will favor.

    "I know one thing, 70,000-plus fans will be in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night and they will be cheering for us," he said. "Not only does it help us from a motivational standpoint, we feed off the energy and everything, but it creates a lot of problems for the other team.

    "Our fans are screaming and hollering at the top of their lungs. I've never played in a louder place; I can't even hear myself talk at times. It's tough for the opposing players to go through their checks and be on key with everything that is going on. So I think that is definitely in our favor. That's what we fought for over 16 games this year."

    "Mutual respect"
    -01-12-2005, 06:04 AM
  • 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
  • Guest's Avatar
    Hilltoppers to join FBS in 2009
    by Guest
    Hilltoppers ready to step out of their comfort zone

    AP Sports Writer

    BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - David Elson inched to the front of the line, peered out the door at the earth 13,000 feet below and jumped.
    The next few minutes were a blur of air, adrenaline and nausea.
    Ask the Western Kentucky coach why he decided to jump out of an airplane with members of the school's ROTC at Fort Knox last spring, and he'll tell you he wanted to do something that would get him out of his comfort zone. Guess what? He loved it.
    Good thing, because being out of his comfort zone is something Elson and the Hilltoppers will have to get used to as they begin their two-year journey from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).
    Western Kentucky, which won the I-AA national title five years ago, will play as an independent over the next two seasons before becoming a full member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2009.
    Moving up was a decision school administrators felt was necessary for a program trying to step out of the shadows of in state foes Louisville and Kentucky.
    For the players, however, it meant giving up any hopes of a postseason the next two years and enduring the growing pains as the program learns to play the big boys on a level playing field.
    Many of the team's seniors considered redshirting, and Elson held more than his fair share of heart-to-hearts with players who were wary of something they didn't sign up for when they joined the program years ago.
    ``It's tough because my goal coming into college was to win a championship,'' said senior cornerback Marion Rumph. ``Now we don't have that opportunity. But we came up with ways to find things we can achieve.''
    Ultimately, only two seniors decided to sit out the season. And even with the postseason out of the picture, Elson and the players came up with a way to reach for the thing all players covet: a ring.
    If the Hilltoppers can finish with at least seven wins, they'll each get a ring to commemorate the school's 12th consecutive (and hands down most difficult) winning season.
    Just to bring the point home that they did indeed have something to play for, the team decided to put a mock-up picture of the ring in the training room as a reminder of what's at stake.
    ``We're the pioneers,'' said defensive tackle Chris Walker. ``We're treading new waters.''
    Waters that are certain to get choppy at times. The Hilltoppers open the season on the road at defending national champion Florida. Other FBS opponents include Bowling Green and future Sun Belt rivals Middle Tennessee, North Texas and Troy.
    ``It's going to show us where we're at,'' said wide receiver Curtis Hamilton, a third-team All-American last year.
    It's also going to show them how far they have to go. Some aggressive recruiting...
    -08-20-2008, 12:21 AM