Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 10, 2016 - Southern League (SL)

BASEBALL

American Association: The independent American Association announced a new Fort Worth area team called the Cleburne Railroaders has joined the league. The team will start play in 2017 at a new stadium that is currently under construction. The American Association had 12 teams in the 2016 season with 2 Texas-based teams called the Laredo Lemurs and Texas AirHogs. The AirHogs played home games in both Amarillo and Grand Prairie in 2016. It looks as though Cleburne will replace the Joplin Blasters in the South Division, as the league voted this week to cancel the Blasters' membership. The Blasters suffered from low attendance and were involved in a dispute with the city about ballpark maintenance costs.

Carolina League: The city of Fayetteville (NC) has developed a timeline for construction of a ballpark for a new team in the high Class-A Carolina League that will be an affiliate of the Houston Astros. The team will begin play in 2017, but the ballpark will not be ready until the 2019 season, so the Astros are looking at potential temporary sites for the team.

Southern League: The owner of the Tennessee Smokies in the Double-A Southern League stated there are no plans to build a new ballpark in Knoxville for a possible return of the team from its current home in Sevierville. If a new ballpark was to be built in Knoxville, there was talk of a possible team in the advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League being placed in either Sevierville or Knoxville.

Major League Baseball: The MLB commissioner has expressed interest in MLB expanding from 30 to 32 teams after stadium situations are settled in the Oakland and Tampa Bay markets. MLB would like Montreal to be one of the cities considered for future expansion, but it would need a new stadium and the right ownership group.

Empire Pro Baseball League: The city of Watertown (NY) has initially agreed not to renew a lease with the Watertown Bucks baseball team that was part of the inaugural 2016 season of the EPL. The Bucks started play in the 2015 season as part of the North Country Baseball league, which folded after one season. BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The NBA's Denver Nuggets are considering the addition of a D-League team with Omaha (NE) mentioned as a possible location. The Nuggets have not yet decided if they want to own the D-League team or use the "hybrid affiliate" in which the Nuggets would run the basketball operations of the D-League team, but local ownership would run the business. The Nuggets once operated their own D-League team called the Colorado 14ers (Broomfield) for three seasons (2006-09) before it moved to Frisco (TX) to become the Texas Legends.

American Professional Basketball League: The APBL announced a team called the New York Crusaders has joined the league for the 2016-17 season, which will start on November 12, 2016.

Premier Basketball League: The PBL recently held its player draft involving ten teams for the upcoming 2017 season. Excluding the Southeast Division of teams from the Tobacco Road Basketball League that were listed in the 2016 standings, the PBL ended the 2016 season with 12 teams. The 2016 teams missing from the player draft included the New England Shamrocks (Boston), Danville (IL) Riverhawks, Grand Rapids Cyclones and Western NY Thundersnow, which moved to the American Basketball Association. Two new PBL teams on the 2017 draft list were the Washington (DC) Warhawks and Cincinnati Tigers.

Midwest Professional Basketball Association: The MPBA confirmed the addition of a team in Peoria (IL) for its upcoming 2017 season. A team name will be announced in the near future. Four of the seven MPBA teams in 2016 were based in Illinois and two other new Illinois-based teams in Jacksonville and Bloomington were previously announced for 2017. FOOTBALL

Champions Indoor Football: The recently announced new CIF team to be based in the Kansas City area will be called the Kansas City Phantoms when it starts play in the 2017 season. The area has had some previous professional indoor football teams. The Kansas City Brigade played three seasons (2006-08) in the original Arena Football League (AFL). A new version of the AFL was created for the 2010 season and the Kansas City Command participated for two seasons (2011-12). The Kansas City Renegades played only the 2013 season as part of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.

Arena Developmental League: The proposed new ADL announced a seventh team called the Anderson (SC) Gladiators will be part of a Southern Division of teams in the league's inaugural 2017 season. The ADL currently lists four Southern Division teams and three Northern Division teams.

Arena Pro Football: The previously announced National Arena Football League (NAFL), which plans to start play in 2017, has changed its name to Arena Pro Football (APF). One of the first teams to announce it has joined the APF is the Birmingham Outlawz, which played two seasons (2014-15) as the Alabama Outlawz in the now-defunct X-League of Indoor Football. When the X-League folded after the 2015 season, the Outlawz were sold and became the Birmingham Outlawz. The team sat out the 2016 season and planned to join American Indoor Football (AIF) for the 2017 season, but the AIF folded.

Supreme Indoor Football: A team called the Louisiana Cottonmouths (Baton Rouge) announced it will be part of the SIF for the league's inaugural 2017 season. The Louisiana Cottonmouths were announced as a 2016 expansion team in American Indoor Football, but the team decided to postpone a 2016 season.

China Arena Football League: The new six-team CAFL, which is considered as a professional developmental league for the U.S.-based Arena Football League, started its inaugural 2016 season earlier this month. The six China-based teams include the Beijing Lions, Dalian Dragon Kings, Guangzhou Power, Qingdao Clipper, Shanghai Skywalkers and Shenzhen Naja.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The proposed relocation of the ECHL's former Evansville IceMen team to Owensboro (KY) for the 2017-18 season will not move forward. After getting into an arena lease dispute in Evansville during the 2015-16 season, the IceMen ownership announced plans to move the team to Owensboro. The team decided to sit out the 2016-17 season and move into a proposed new arena in Owensboro starting with the 2017-18 season. The city of Owensboro objected to the cost of the new arena and plans fell through. The IceMen ownership had the option to renovate the older 5,000-seat Owensboro Sportscenter, but recently decided to drop those plans and the team's future is uncertain. At least two markets - Portland (ME) and Prescott Valley (AZ) - have expressed interest in obtaining an ECHL team.

Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League: A previously announced new team called the Breckenridge Bears in USA Hockey's Tier-III junior-level RMJHL has been dropped from the league's 2016-17 schedule. The RMJHL played its inaugural 2015-16 season with six teams and a first-season team called the Breckenridge Bucks decided to leave for the Western States Hockey League. The WSHL team then relocated to become the Vail (CO) Powder Hounds and the RMJHL's Breckenridge Bears were announced. The RMJHL also added another new team called the Steamboat (CO) Wranglers for 2016-17, while a first-season team called the Glacier Yetis (Grand Junction, CO) decided to sit out the 2016-17 season. With the loss of Breckenridge and Glacier and the addition of Steamboat, the league is at five teams for 2016-17.

American Hockey League: Officials in Thunder Bay (Ontario) are still trying to build a new arena that could become home to an AHL team. The National Hockey League's Winnipeg Jets have expressed interest in possibly placing its AHL affiliate, the Winnipeg-based Manitoba Moose, in Thunder Bay if a new arena is built.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: Due to the frustration with delays in the Miami-based Major League Soccer franchise getting off the ground, an individual in Palm Beach County wants to organize a following for a proposed lower-level USL team called Gold Coast Inter and eventually have interest in that team lead to the development of an MLS team called Inter Miami. The current Miami MLS expansion effort headed by former player David Beckham has been having trouble building a soccer-specific stadium that is required for its admission to the league. The organizer of the Gold Coast Inter recently presented the idea of the USL team to the Beckham group, which controls the rights to a USL team in South Florida.

North American Soccer League: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the Division-II NASL have been having financial difficulties and asked for assistance from the league. Late last month, an ownership group that also includes the FC Miami City of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League expressed interest in a possible purchase of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers club. The NASL expansion club called the San Francisco Deltas has confirmed it will start play next season. Other California-based teams in San Diego and Los Angeles are working to join the NASL in the next couple of years.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The Dallas Charge of the women's NPF announced plans to move to a yet-to-be-named location in Central Texas where the team will be renamed the Texas Charge. The Dallas Charge joined the league for the 2015 season and played the past two seasons in McKinney (TX). The team was forced to find a new home venue and could not find one in the Dallas area, so it is moving to Central Texas.

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.


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