Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 12, 2016 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

American Association: The city of Franklin (WI) in the Milwaukee area has given initial approval for a plan to finance a proposed development that will include a ballpark for a team in the American Association. The ballpark planning phase will move forward and the goal is to have the ballpark ready for the 2018 season. It is uncertain if the league's Joplin (MO) Blasters team will return next season due to financial and attendance issues. The team's ownership is reported to be under consideration to run the operations of the league's proposed Cleburne (TX) Railroaders expansion team, which is currently building a new ballpark in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Frontier League: The group trying to bring a Frontier League team to Jackson (MI) has received an extension through February 2017 to obtain funds from a naming rights agreement, which will help fund a proposed new ballpark to be built at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.

International League: The Gwinnett (GA) Braves of the Triple-A International League are having attendance issues and the team is considering a name change to stimulate interest. The team came to the Atlanta area when the Richmond (VA) Braves were relocated prior to the 2009 season. The team has the lowest attendance of the 30 teams in the Triple-A classification.

Texas League: The city of Wichita is trying to obtain state bonds to help finance a new stadium for a potential relocated Double-A Texas League team. The proposed stadium would be built on the site of the city's Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which is currently used by the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association. A new stadium would not be ready until at least 2019 and obtaining a Texas League team is contingent on the relocation of the San Antonio Missions team to Wichita.

New York-Penn League: The Staten Island Yankees of the short-season Class-A NYPL announced plans earlier this year to rebrand the team and recently announced five nickname choices for name-the-team voting. Choices include the Staten Island Bridge Trolls, Staten Island Heroes, Staten Island Killer Bees, Staten Island Pizza Rats and Staten Island Rock Pigeons.

West Coast League: The summer collegiate WCL announced a team called the Port Angeles (WA) Lefties will be part of the 2017 season. The Lefties will take the spot of the Kitsap BlueJackets team, which is moving to the Pacific International League next season.

BASKETBALL

Florida Basketball Association: The FBA announced it has added the Bradenton GymRatz team for the 2017 season. The Bradenton GymRatz were originally announced as new 2016 team for the Central Basketball Development League, but jumped to the North American Basketball League where they competed in the NABL's inaugural 2016 season.

National Basketball League of America: The new NBLA started its inaugural 2016-17 season earlier this month with five teams called the Dakota Magic (Mitchell, SD), Kansas City (KS) Spartans, Omaha Chargers, Omaha Nation Bison (Macy, NE) and Sioux City (IA) Hornets. The Kansas City team was originally announced as the Kansas City Steel and the Omaha Nation Bison was originally called the Siouxland Bison. The Siouxland Bison was listed as an American Basketball Association expansion team in March 2016 and the Sioux City Hornets played in the 2015-16 ABA as an "at large" team. The 2016 NBLA season runs through mid-November with each team scheduled for about 12 games.

Champions Basketball League: The proposed Champions Basketball League, which plans to be a professional men's summer basketball league with teams stocked with former National Basketball Association players, recently announced the Gotham Ballers (New York City) as its first team. The league is trying to develop 16 teams for an inaugural season in the summer of 2017. The league is said to be targeting Detroit for its next team.

Women's United States Basketball Association: The WUSBA, which has been trying to get off the ground with a summertime season since 2010, has cancelled a proposed European tour this fall that was to include four WUSBA-operated teams. The league will now concentrate on developing 32 teams in six regional divisions for a start in 2018-19.

FOOTBALL

Fall Experimental Football League: The FXFL, which hoped to become a developmental league for the National Football League, has ceased operations after only two seasons. The league played two short fall seasons with four teams in 2014 and three teams in 2015. Last season the Brooklyn Bolts played five games, the Hudson Valley Fort (Fishkill, NY) played three games and the Florida Blacktips travel team played two games.

Indoor Football Association: The proposed new IFA has added a team called the Iowa Elite (Davenport, IA) for its inaugural 2017 season. The Iowa Elite played some games as part of the 2015 North American Indoor Football and its National Pro Indoor League, but sat out the 2016 season.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens have chosen the Laval (Quebec) Rocket as the name of its AHL affiliate when the team starts play in a new Laval arena for the 2017-18 season. The Canadiens will be moving its current St. John's (New Brunswick) IceCaps AHL affiliate to Laval. Other nickname finalists were Patriots and Rapids.

Federal Hockey League: The new FHL franchise that will start play in Winston-Salem (NC) for the 2017-18 season will be called the Carolina Thunderbirds. The city had a previous minor hockey team called the Carolina Thunderbirds that played in two leagues before joining the East Coast Hockey League, now the ECHL, for the ECHL's inaugural 1988-89 season. The owner of the new Carolina Thunderbirds also owns the league's Danville (IL) Dashers and Port Huron (MI) Prowlers and those two teams will play two FHL regular-season games in Winston-Salem near the end of the 2016-17 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS commissioner recently stated its next round of expansion to 28 teams might be the league's last expansion. The league will grow from 20 to 23 teams with the addition of teams in Atlanta and Minnesota in 2017 and another team in Los Angeles in 2018. Miami is expected to become the league's 24th team when a new stadium is built. Some of the markets looking at the next round of MLS expansion include Sacramento, Cincinnati, Detroit, St. Louis, San Antonio and San Diego.

United Soccer League: The Orange County Blues (Irvine, CA) of the USL have come under new ownership and there are plans to rebrand the team. Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire does not appear interested in owning and operating its own developmental team in the USL at this time. The Chicago Fire currently has a USL affiliation with St. Louis FC.

Premier Arena Soccer League: The indoor PASL, which is the official developmental league for the Major Arena Soccer League, has added a new Phoenix-based team called the Arizona Fire.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The PDL's Albuquerque (NM) Sol is looking to build a new downtown stadium so the team can move up to the Division-III pro-level United Soccer League. A recent feasibility study indicated a USL team would draw enough fans to be successful in a new stadium seating 5,000 to 10,000. The team has a goal of 2018, but the stadium location and financing still need to be worked out.

OTHER

Canadian Lacrosse League (CLAX): The Ontario-based CLAX has decided to cease operations prior to a sixth season in 2017. The league started play in 2012 and has operated a winter season running from January through March. The league had five teams called the Barrie Blizzard, Durham TurfDogs, Niagara Lock Monsters (St. Catharines), Ohsweken Demons and Southwest Cyclops (Paris, Ontario) for the 2016 season. The league has not ruled out the possibility of a return sometime in the future.

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 is available for sale at www.amazon.com.

• Discuss this story on the American Hockey League message board