Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 19, 2016 - NBA Development League (D-League)

BASEBALL

Pecos League: The independent Pecos League and its proposed Amarillo Lone Stars team will not be playing in Amarillo in 2017, as the city's Potter County Memorial Stadium will be subleased to a local high school baseball program. The Amarillo market had been occupied by the independent American Association since the 2011 season with the Amarillo Sox (2011-14), Amarillo ThunderHeads (2015) and the Texas AirHogs, who split 2016 home games between Amarillo and Grand Prairie before moving all home games to Grand Prairie for the 2017 season. The Pecos League announced the addition of two new California-based teams called the Bakersfield Train Robbers and High Desert YardBirds (Adelanto) that will be part of a new four-team Pacific Division in 2017. These markets became available when the affiliated high Class-A California League shut down the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks franchises after the 2016 season and two new high Class-A teams were added to the Carolina League. The Pecos League had a 2016 team called the Topeka Train Robbers that lasted only one season. The league currently lists two other yet-to-be-named teams in the new Pacific Division.

Atlantic League: The developer who had been trying to build a new ballpark in Malden (MA), a northern suburb of Boston, for a proposed independent Atlantic League team was granted permission by Minor League Baseball to explore bringing an affiliated team to the proposed ballpark. The developer would like a ballpark ready for the 2019 season. The Triple-A International League, Double-A Eastern League or short-season Class-A New York/Penn League could be under consideration for Malden.

Appalachian League: The Elizabethton (TN) Twins of the high rookie-level Appalachian League informed the city the team will return for the 2017 season, but it still wants a more modern facility and this is not a commitment to remain in Elizabethton beyond 2017.

Great West League: The summer-collegiate GWL announced a Yuba City (CA) team will be added for the 2017 season and it will share the home stadium of the league's neighboring Marysville (CA) Gold Sox.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The NBA's Orlando Magic has purchased its Erie (PA) BayHawks affiliate in the D-League and plans to move the team to Lakeland (FL) for the 2017-18 season. Kissimmee (FL) was the other market under consideration for the Magic's D-League team. The Magic is in the final year of a three-year hybrid single-affiliation with the BayHawks in which the Magic runs the basketball operations and local ownership manages the business operations. The former local ownership now wants to find another NBA team to place its D-League affiliate in Erie for the 2017-18 season. The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks had be trying to add a new D-League team for the 2017-18 season, but that might be pushed back until the 2018-19 season. There is a proposal for a new arena in Racine (WI) that could become home to the Bucks' D-League team and a Tier-I junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. The Bucks have also been considering Oshkosh (WI) and Sheboygan (WI) as a possible home for their D-League team. Oshkosh also wants to build a new arena, while Sheboygan would like to renovate an older existing arena.

Premier Basketball League: The PBL, which calls itself the Triple A league of professional basketball, announced a new team called the Ohio Bootleggers has been added for the upcoming 2017 season. The team will be based out of Otterbein University in Westerville, a northeast suburb of Columbus. Some teams from last season called the Buffalo 716ers, New England Shamrocks (Boston) and Indianapolis Diesels are now missing from the proposed 2017 standings.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The AFL's yet-to-be-named expansion team in Baltimore is getting organized and recently announced the head coach. The Baltimore team will be operated by the ownership of the AFL's 2017 expansion team called the Washington (DC) Valor.

Champions Indoor Football: The CIF announced the schedule for its third season that will start in February 2017 with 14 teams aligned in seven-team North and South conferences. The league had 12 teams last season, but the San Angelo Bandits did not return and new teams called the Centex Cavalry (Belton, TX), Kansas City (MO) Phantoms and Bismarck (ND) Bucks were added, along with the West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon) and River City Raiders (St. Louis, MO) from the 2016 American Indoor Football. The Mesquite Marshals were renamed the Dallas Marshals and the CIF announced a 16-team lineup with four four-team divisions. Last month, the Chicago Eagles and River City Raiders dropped out of the CIF and the remaining 14 teams were realigned.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL's Las Vegas-based expansion team called the Vegas Golden Knights had their trademark application denied by the U.S. Patent Office due to a conflict with the College of St. Rose Golden Knights in Albany (NY). The NHL stated there are a number of nicknames that overlap with college teams and the College of St. Rose does not have a hockey program. The NHL has until early June 2017 to respond. The U.S. Army might also have an issue with the nickname as it conflicts with the U.S. Army Parachute Team known as the Golden Knights.

North West Junior Hockey League: Canada's Junior-B NWJHL, which has teams based in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, announced the Beaverlodge Blades (Alberta) team has ceased operations for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS announced a timeline and potential markets for future expansion. The league wants to eventually grow to 28 teams. Atlanta and Minnesota will join in 2017 as the 21st and 22nd teams with Los Angeles FC joining as the 23rd team in 2018. The MLS had hoped a previously announced team for Miami would also join in 2018 as the 24th team, but financing for new stadium construction still needs to be finalized. The MLS plans to announce expansion teams number 25 and 26 sometime in 2017 and those teams would start play in 2020. Additional expansion teams number 27 and 28 will be announced at a later date. The MLS plans to move forward with or without Miami being ready and identified 10 markets that have expressed interest in an expansion team. These markets include Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham (NC), Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg. The Miami expansion group denied a report that it was considering a switch to Las Vegas as the home for its MLS team.

United Soccer League: The D.C. United of Major League Soccer could start its own USL affiliate by the 2018 season. The team has talked with George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) about construction of a new shared soccer stadium. The USL's Arizona United SC recently announced the team has been renamed the Phoenix Rising FC. The Long Island Rough Riders of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League are proposing a new shared stadium at Suffolk Community College with the Rough Riders moving up from the PDL to the USL. With the Ottawa Fury FC joining the USL for the 2017 season, the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer will now make the Ottawa Fury FC its new USL affiliate. The FC Montreal, which was the Impact's previous USL affiliate for the past two seasons, will not return in 2017. The USL's Austin Aztex club sat out the 2016 season as it tried to find a new home field, but it looks as though the team will again sit out the 2017 season.

North American Soccer League: The Jacksonville Armada of the Division-II NASL terminated all player contracts and notified the league it will not be part of the NASL in 2017, no matter what form the league takes. The NASL had 12 teams last season and has now lost 4 teams (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Ottawa) with 2 other teams (Fort Lauderdale and Oklahoma City) in doubt. The ownership of the New York Cosmos stated the team is not headed toward a long-term shutdown, but it has not yet committed to the NASL for 2017 due to the number of teams leaving the league. The Cosmos no longer have an agreement to use their home field at Hofstra University and plans were recently scrapped for a proposed 25,000-seat stadium near Belmont Park that was to become home to the Cosmos.

National Premier Soccer League: The organizer of a new Mesa-based team called FC Arizona plans to join the men's elite-level NPSL for the 2016 season. The goal is to grow the team into a North American Soccer League team after a few seasons, while keeping an NPSL team as a development team for the NASL team.

United Women's Soccer: As the pro-am UWS prepares for its second season in 2017, the league announced it has added four Midwest-based teams called the Detroit Sun FC, Fort Wayne United FC, Grand Rapids FC and FC Indiana (South Bend). After operating with a six-team East Conference and a five-team West Conference in 2016, the UWS plans to add the new teams to a Midwest Conference and could add one or two more teams to the new conference before the season starts.

United Soccer Leagues - Premier Development League: The PDL has added a new Florida team called Weston FC (Pembroke Pines) for the 2017 season. The San Diego area's North County Battalion is moving from the National Premier Soccer League and merging with the San Diego Surf Soccer Club to form a yet-to-be-named PDL team for the 2017 season. The PDL's Midland-Odessa Sockers FC is leaving the PDL to join the NPSL, which has more Texas-based teams than the PDL.

Premier Arena Soccer League: The PASL, which is the official development league for the Major Arena Soccer League, started its 2016-17 season last weekend. The PASL currently lists 16 teams aligned into Central, Great Lakes, Midwest, South Central and Southwest divisions.

OTHER

PRO Rugby: After playing its inaugural season in 2016 with five teams, the professional rugby league known as PRO Rugby announced that one of its first-year teams called the San Francisco Rush has been shut down due to issues with finding a suitable home venue.

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