Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 5, 2016 - Texas League (TL)

BASEBALL

Texas League: The head of the Double-A Texas League stated that if Wichita (KS) wants to return to the league with the possible future relocation of the San Antonio Missions, the city will need a new stadium and not a renovation of its current older stadium. The Texas League's Wichita Wranglers moved out of the city after the 2007 season. The San Antonio relocation is contingent on a new Triple-A stadium being built in San Antonio. Besides Wichita, the Texas League has looked at Shreveport (LA) and the Texas locations of Amarillo, Lubbock, Waco and the Rio Grande Valley as other options for a relocated Missions team.

California League: The high Class-A California League recently announced its 2017 schedule that will feature only eight teams with the recent contraction of the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks (Adelanto, CA). No teams will change divisions for 2017 as Bakersfield will be removed from the North Division and High Desert from the South Division leaving two four-team divisions. The Bakersfield and High Desert teams will be replaced by two other teams in the high Class-A Carolina League for the 2017 season and that league will grow to ten teams. The 30-team high Class-A designation also features the 12-team Florida State League.

New York-Penn League: The future is uncertain for the Batavia (NY) Muckdogs of the short-season Class-A NYPL. The team has been for sale since 2010 and it suffers from the lowest attendance of the 14 teams in the league. A proposed sale and relocation to Waldorf (MD) fell through prior to the 2016 season due to territorial issues. The Muckdogs have been operated by the Rochester Red Wings of the Triple-A International League since the 2008 season. The Red Wings will earn 5 percent of the sale price for every year they have operated the team up to a maximum of 50 percent.

Western Major Baseball League: The Swift Current Indians (Saskatchewan) of Canada's summer-collegiate WMBL announced the team will undergo a nickname change prior to next season. The team will involve the community in selecting the new team name that will be announced in November.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada announced the ownership of the Cape Breton Highlanders expansion team, based in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and stated the team will start play in the 2016-17 season. Cape Breton has been added to the Atlantic Division to create a five-team division. The league has grown to ten teams for the 2016-17 season with the addition of the new KW Titans of Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) to create a five-team Central Division. The Cape Breton Highlanders are expected to become a natural rival to Nova Scotia's other NBL-Canada team called the Halifax Hurricanes. The league's season will start in late December 2016.

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): An individual in Athens (GA) is proposing construction of a new arena that could become home to an NBA D-League team, possibly affiliated with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks.

East Coast Basketball League: The ECBL announced another new team called the Carolina Thunder, based in Dillon (SC), has been added for its third season in 2017. The league previously announced three other teams called the Florence (SC) Wildcats, Charlotte Golden Bulls and Lumberton (NC) Showstoppers would be added for 2017.

American Basketball Association: The ABA has added another team called the Atlantic Coast Cardinals (Orange County, NY) for the 2016-17 season. The team will be added to the Northeast Division.

FOOTBALL

Supreme Indoor Football: The SIF, which sat idle for the 2016 season after being announced as part of the Indoor Football Alliance, will apparently operate on its own for the 2017 season. The SIF currently lists four member teams: the Cape Fear Heroes (Fayetteville, NC), South Carolina Ravens (Florence), Cap City Bulls (Austin, TX), and Coastal Outlaws (Savannah, GA). The Cape Fear Heroes have been around in various leagues over the past several seasons and the team's owner is the organizer of the SIF. The South Carolina Ravens were based in Charleston (SC) and played some 2016 games as part of American Indoor Football. The Cap City Bulls will be a travel-only team for the 2017. The Coastal Outlaws are also listed as a member of the Savannah-based semi-pro league called United States Indoor Football.

HOCKEY

ECHL: A group in Reno (NV) is trying to bring an ECHL expansion team to the city by the 2017-18 season and possibly have the team affiliated with the National Hockey League's Las Vegas expansion team, which starts play for the 2017-18 season. The group still needs to fund and complete renovations, including installation of a professional ice surface, for the Reno Events Center. A team called the Reno Renegades (1995-97) and then the Reno Rage (1997-98) played three seasons in the former West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). An individual purchased the rights to the dormant Reno WCHL team in 2000 and proposed a new WCHL team to be called the Reno Raiders. When the ECHL absorbed the WCHL prior to the 2003-04 season, it inherited the WCHL Reno expansion team. The inactive ECHL Reno expansion team kept up with league dues over the past ten-plus years, but was unable to build a new arena as planned and this past season was no longer listed a future ECHL market. The ECHL plans to review expansion applications later this month and a group in Jacksonville has also expressed interest.

A potential investor for a proposed 2017-18 ECHL expansion team in Portland (ME) has pulled out, so an expansion application will most likely not be available for consideration at the league meeting later this month. The group trying to bring an ECHL team to Portland, which recently lost its Portland Pirates American Hockey League team to Springfield (MA), will now consider purchasing an existing ECHL team for relocation, possibly in time for the 2017-18 season.

Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League: The Ontario Hockey Association has denied an application filed by Canada's Junior-B GOJHL to move up to the Junior-A level of play. The GOJHL would also need approval from the Canadian Junior Hockey League, which oversees the current ten Junior-A member leagues across Canada.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The Baltimore Blast, Harrisburg Heat and St. Louis Ambush, the three MASL teams that left the league after the 2015-16 season to try to form the new Indoor Professional League (IPL) for the 2016-17 season, have been reinstated by the MASL. These three teams, along with a new IPL team and now an MASL expansion team called the Florida Tropics SC (Lakeland), will be part of the 2016-17 MASL season with the IPL being dissolved. The MASL agreed to no longer operate under a single-entity model and all teams will be operated by individual franchise owners. The MASL season starts next month and it currently lists 22 member teams.

United Soccer League: The FC Dallas club of Major League Soccer has expressed interest in forming its own USL team, possibly by the 2018 season. The team could be based in the Dallas area or somewhere else in Texas. FC Dallas currently uses the Oklahoma City Energy FC as its USL affiliate.

North American Soccer League: The NASL's Ottawa Fury FC is expected to return to the league next season despite talk that the team is losing money and not drawing as many fans as needed to break even.

OTHER

American Ultimate Disc League: The professional AUDL announced that the Cincinnati Revolution team has ceased operations after five seasons in the league. The team started as the Bluegrass Revolution, based in Lexington (KY), for the league's first season in 2012 and moved to Cincinnati for the 2013 season. The owners of the Charlotte Express have transferred their ownership to the Atlanta Hustle team, which had been operated by the league since starting play in the 2015 season. The franchise rights to the Charlotte Express, which also started play in the 2015 season, will be reassumed by the league and the franchise will not be active in the 2017 season.

Pro12 Rugby: The Ireland-based professional rugby union Pro12 league is apparently getting serious about establishing a team in the United States with New York City, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago mentioned as possibilities. No timeline has been provided for the new team. For its 2015-16 season, the Pro12 had 12 teams in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Italy.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2015-16: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication will be available in one week at www.amazon.com.


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