Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
January 30, 2017 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

South Atlantic League (SALLY): The Asheville (NC) Tourists of the low Class-A SALLY will become the Asheville Hippies for one game in the 2017 season. The Tourists lost out on a wager with the league\'s Greenville (SC) Drive team as to which team would win the 24-game regular-season series in 2016. If Greenville had lost the wager, it would have become the Greenville Rednecks for one game.

Pacific Coast League: The Las Vegas 51s of the Triple-A PCL want out of their current outdated stadium and plans have been proposed for a new stadium in Summerlin, just west of Las Vegas.

Texas League: After a funding plan for a new stadium fell through in September 2016, Amarillo officials are still negotiating to bring an affiliated team in the Double-A Texas League to the city. The city hopes a new stadium would lure the Texas League\'s San Antonio Missions team, if and when San Antonio builds a new stadium for a Triple-A team.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The Oshkosh (WI) city council and planning commission have approved a proposal for a new 3,500-seat arena that could become home to a new D-League team affiliated with the NBA\'s Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have yet to commit to one of three cities - Oshkosh, Racine or Sheboygan - for its D-League team. The NBA\'s Memphis Grizzlies have acquired the rights to a new D-League team that will be owned and operated by the Grizzlies. The team will play out of the Landers Center in Southaven (MS), about 20 miles south of Memphis, starting with the 2017-18 season. The Grizzlies are in the final season of a three-year deal with the Des Moines-based Iowa Energy where the Grizzlies ran the basketball operations under a hybrid affiliation with the Energy. The D-League announced the NBA\'s Minnesota Timberwolves are undergoing a purchase of the Iowa Energy and plan to own and operate the Energy as its D-League affiliate. The Timberwolves had been considering a D-League team in the Twin Cities area, Rochester (MN) or Fargo (ND) and also considered taking over the league\'s Sioux Falls (SD) Skyforce. The D-League\'s Los Angeles D-Fenders, the D-League affiliate owned by the Los Angeles Lakers, announced the team will become the South Bay Lakers for the 2017-18 season. The team will stay in El Segundo (CA), but will move to a new arena that will also serve as the Los Angeles Lakers\' practice facility.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Pottstown (PA) Flames has been added as an expansion team for next season.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The new 2017 AFL expansion team in Baltimore announced the team will be called the Baltimore Brigade. The Brigade will be one of five teams comprising the AFL, which will also feature the returning Cleveland Gladiators, Philadelphia Soul, Tampa Bay Storm and another expansion team called the Washington (DC). Valor. A team called the Kansas City Brigade played in the last three seasons (2006-08) of the original AFL. After a new version of the AFL was created for the 2010 season, another Kansas City Brigade team was going to return in 2011 but the team changed to the Kansas City Command before the 2011 season started.

Elite Indoor Football Conference: The proposed new Florida-based EIFC has posted schedules for its seven teams that will be part of the inaugural 2017 season. Teams include the Central Florida Jags (Lakeland), Florida Generals (Kissimmee), Lake Park Tigers, Palm Beach Phantoms, Polk County Venom, South Florida Barracudas (Fort Lauderdale) and the latest addition called the Miracle City Great White, which recently replaced a briefly listed team called the Florida Wranglers. The 2017 season runs from early May with teams scheduled for eight to ten games.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL\'s Albany Devils team is reportedly moving to Binghamton (NY) after the 2016-17 season. The AHL\'s current Binghamton Senators team is moving to Belleville (Ontario) next season and the city has been looking for a replacement team. The Albany Devils joined the AHL when the Lowell (MA) Devils moved to the city for the 2010-11 season, but the team has suffered from poor attendance over the past few seasons. The Albany area has had other previous AHL teams called the Capital District Islanders and the Albany River Rats.

ECHL: The ECHL franchise formerly known as the Evansville IceMen, which failed in an attempt to move to Owensboro (KY) after the 2015-16 season and sat out the 2016-17 season when plans for a proposed new arena fell through, is reported to be in the process of being sold and relocated to Jacksonville (FL). Jacksonville had been home to the ECHL\'s Jacksonville Lizard Kings team for five seasons (1995-2000) and was trying to return to the league. Most recently, a team called the Jacksonville Barracudas played four seasons (2004-08) in the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League.

Western Hockey League: The city of Nanaimo (British Columbia) has selected a site for a new arena to be built to attract a team in the major-junior WHL. A referendum to borrow funds for the arena will be put to voters in March. If the project moves forward, the city is targeting September 2019 for completion.

Kootenay International Junior Hockey League: Canada\'s Junior-B KIJHL has decided not to expand at this time and has rejected recent expansion applications from the British Columbia cities of Williams Lake and Quesnel.

United States Premier Hockey League: With the Tier-III USPHL creating the new tuition-free Tier-II type National Collegiate Development Conference for next season, the USPHL Premier Division will remain the USPHL\'s top Tier-III pay-to-play league and the USPHL Elite Division will act as a feeder to the Premier Division. The USPHL will retire its USP3 Division for next season. The USP3 is operating with 27 teams in four regional divisions (North, South, Pacific and Midwest) for the 2016-17 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: A group of investors in San Diego is trying to finalize a bid for an MLS expansion team and released plans this week for a 20,000-to-30,000-seat stadium that would become home to an MLS team and the San Diego State football program. The group wants to build the new stadium on the site of Qualcomm Stadium, which was home to the National Football League\'s San Diego Chargers. If the plan moves forward, the stadium could open by 2020. The MLS has added Phoenix to its list of possible expansion markets and has invited the ownership of the Phoenix Rising FC from the United Soccer League to apply for an MLS expansion franchise. New ownership purchased the USL\'s Arizona United this summer, renamed the team the Phoenix Rising FC and announced plans to build a temporary 5,000-seat stadium in Scottsdale that could eventually be replaced by a 20,000-seat MLS stadium. A proposal for funding a new MLS soccer stadium in St. Louis is still alive and could be put before voters in the near future. In Charlotte, Mecklenburg County approved its portion of a funding plan for a new MLS stadium, but as of now the city of Charlotte decided to hold off on a decision for its portion of funding.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The PDL announced the Soccer Institute at the Montverde (FL) Academy, or SIMA, will operate a PDL expansion team in the 2017 season. The PDL has also added the FC Boulder U23 team for the 2017 season. Boulder had a previous PDL team called the Boulder Nova (2000-01) that became the Boulder Rapids Reserves (2002-06) and then the Colorado Rapids U-23 (2007-08). After playing the past two seasons (2015-16) in the men\'s National Premier Soccer League, the North County Battalion (San Diego) has merged with the San Diego Surf youth soccer club and will join the PDL for the 2017 season as the SoCal Surf. The team will move its home to just north of San Diego in Carlsbad (CA). The PDL also has a team called the San Diego Zest in the area.

National Premier Soccer League: The men\'s elite-level NPSL announced two more new teams called the Beaches FC (Jupiter, FL) and Spokane SC Shadow have been added for the 2017 season. The Shadow will continue to operate a men\'s team in the Evergreen Premier League of Washington and a women\'s team in the Northwest Premier League. A previous team by the name of the Spokane Shadow played ten seasons (1996-2005) in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League. The NPSL\'s previously announced new Napa Valley (CA) team will be called the Napa Valley 1839 FC when it starts play in 2017. The NPSL\'s Tulsa Athletics announced the team is now the Tulsa Athletic.

OTHER

League 1 Rugby: With the Toronto Wolfpack joining England\'s third-tier rugby league known as League 1 for the 2017 season, there is talk of other North American rugby teams possibly joining in the future. The Jacksonville Axemen club, which is a member of the USA Rugby League, is said to be in preliminary discussions with League 1. The amount and cost of travel will be the major concerns of any North American team in the league.

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