Date: January 5, 2005
On Thursday, Andrew Haines, president, of the Atlantic Indoor Football League (AIFL), will announce Canton, Ohio, as the fourth city to have a team in this new football league that plans to kickoff this April. An ownership group was also reportedly looking at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum, but Larry Wilson, general manager, of the coliseum said he wasn't sure on Tuesday whether that will happen or not.
Haines “asked us to put a proposal together on what we would require as far as rental structure and such to bring the team here,” Wilson said. “We have done that and we are now waiting for them to respond.”
Wilson said he would like to have the team. The venue, which can seat up to 11,000 for arena football, had an AF2 team up until two years ago. “I think for any team's success, time is important. They want to play on Fridays and/or Saturdays. Fortunately, the months they want to play will make that easier to schedule, because it is slow in arenas during that time.”
Wilson expects to know this week about the ownership group's decision.
Haines said that group is also looking at other cities as well. Meanwhile the Canton announcement will be made first. Haines said the newest team doesn't have a name as yet. The AIFL plans to kick off the first weekend in April 2005, and play over the next several months. Fourteen games will be played, seven home and seven away, Haines said.
So far the teams are the Erie (Pa.) Freeze, which will call the Louis J. Tullio Arena home; the Johnstown (Pa.) Riverhawks, calling the War Memorial Arena home; and the Carolina Sharks, which will call the Cricket Arena, Charlotte, N.C., home.
Haines said an owners meeting has been set for Jan. 15 so all teams will be named for this season by then.
“We want this to be a solid league,” Haines said. “We are building the foundation now. We will start in the East and eventually go to the West Coast.”
The franchise fee is $25,000, with league dues $15,000 a year. Team budgets will be, on average, about $400,000 a year, Haines said. Each player will receive $300 a game. Ticket prices will be set up team-by-team, but Haines said the Erie Freeze's ticket price ranges from $5 to $25. The Johnstown Riverhawks ticket ranges from $12 to $25 and the Canton ticket ranges from $7.50 to $25.50.Season tickets may be a hard sell this first year, but Johnstown has sold about 100 so far. Canton will start selling in about a week. Charlotte and Erie will start at the end of the month.
“Season tickets are hard to sell anywhere,” said Mike Esposito, general manager and head coach of the Erie Freeze. He said there have been no problems with the scheduling of the games at the 7,000-seat civic arena in Erie.
It is all happening quickly, he said. “We will have our draft on Jan. 23,” Esposito said.
Haines hopes to be able to recruit ownership groups and venues with at least 2,500seats. They want to play on Fridays and Saturdays, which is the reason the league decided to wait until April to play.
“Many of the buildings we would want to play in have hockey,” he said. “Our third option would be to play on Sundays. We don't want to play on a weekday.”
Interviewed for this story: Andrew Haines, (866) 390-2435; Larry Wilson, (804) 780-4970; Mike Esposito, (814) 454-0200