Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 20, 2017 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

Midwest League: The head of Minor League Baseball visited Beloit (WI) this week to emphasize the need for a new stadium to keep the Beloit Snappers of the low Class-A Midwest League as an affiliated team. There is a possibility Beloit could lose its franchise if it does not address the deficiencies of its current stadium. The team will be starting its 36th season this year.

International League: The Charlotte Knights of the Triple-A International League announced the team will be called the Charlotte Pitmasters for a regular-season game in July 2017. The game will be a tribute to barbeque lovers across the Carolinas as part of the "Carolina BBQ Battle Royale Night".

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: As part of its plans to create a national league in Mexico called ABA Mexico, the ABA will have four of its current teams participate in a tournament in Mexico during the first week of May 2017. The tournament will also feature several Mexican and Latin American teams. When ABA Mexico was first announced in January 2017, the start date was listed as August 2017, but the latest league logo shows "ABA Mexico National League 2018".

Women\'s Blue Chip Basketball League: A new team called the San Diego Sprint plans to be part the semi-pro developmental WBCBL for the 2017 season. The WBCBL has been trying to develop a West Coast division over the past couple of seasons and currently lists San Diego as part of a West Coast division with the Oakland Rise, Southern California Splash and Tucson Sol. The WBCBL started in 2005 and plays a season that runs from mid-April through July.

BIG3 League: The proposed new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league announced its first event will be June 25, 2017 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn followed by nine more events held every weekend in a different arena and city. The eight-team league will have four games on the same day and at the same venue for each event. So far, the league has announced six of the eight proposed touring teams that will consist of National Basketball Association players.

Women\'s Minor League Basketball Association: The proposed new WMLBA plans to start play in May 2017 and currently lists nine teams: the Nashville Charge, San Antonio Troopers, Houston Galaxy, Dallas Lightning, Cary (NC) Flight, Carolina Stars (Columbia, SC), Tennessee Storm, Georgia Classic and Midwest Reign. Exact locations are not listed for Tennessee, Georgia and the Midwest Reign.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: With the Albany (NY) Devils of the American Hockey League leaving the city after the 2016-17 season, local arena management is in discussions with the AFL and the indoor National Lacrosse League about placing teams in Albany. The original AFL had a team called the Albany Firebirds that played 11 seasons (1990-2000) before moving to Indianapolis and the NLL had the Albany Attack that played 4 seasons (2000-03) before moving to San Jose. Some of the current AFL owners could add an additional team in the league with the Tampa Bay Storm possibly starting a team in Orlando, where the AFL\'s Orlando Predators folded after the 2016 season. The AFL is also reported to be interest in Newark for a possible expansion team.

Can-American Indoor Football League: The new CAIFL started its inaugural 2017 season this week with nine teams aligned into a five-team Eastern Division and a four-team Western Division. The Eastern Division includes the New Hampshire Brigade (Hudson), Vermont Bucks (Burlington) and three road teams called the Boston Blaze, Connecticut Chiefs (New Haven) and Glens Falls (NY) Gladiators. The Western Division has the Buffalo Blitz, Niagara Falls (NY) Thunder, Niagara Spartans (Beamsville, Ontario, Canada) and Rochester (NY) Kings. The Vermont Bucks were originally announced as a 2017 expansion team for the league called American Indoor Football, but the AIF folded after the 2016 season. Teams called the Baltimore Lightning, Reading (PA) Raptors and Lockport (NY) Lightning were at one time announced as CAIFL members, but eventually disappeared. The owner of the Steel City Patriots (Hamilton, Ontario) outdoor team in the semi-pro Northern Football Conference will operate the Niagara Spartans team for the 2017 season.

National Arena League: The new NAL, which evolved from the proposed Arena Developmental League, started its inaugural 2017 season this week with eight teams. Teams include the Columbus (GA) Lions, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) and the Georgia Firebirds (Albany) from last season\'s American Indoor Football; the Jacksonville Sharks from last season\'s Arena Football League; and new teams called the Corpus Christi Rage, High Country Grizzlies (Boone, NC), Monterrey Steel (Mexico) and a travel-only team called the Wolfpack. An announced team called the Dayton Wolfpack folded last month and was replaced by a travel team called the Wolfpack based near Atlanta.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The ECHL\'s Missouri Mavericks, based in Independence (MO), announced the team will change to the Kansas City Mavericks after the current 2016-17 season. The Mavericks\' ownership emphasized the name change does not indicate the team will be changing leagues or arena and the team will remain in the ECHL. There had been rumors of the Missouri Mavericks moving up to the American Hockey League and relocating to the Sprint Center in Kansas City (MO) as an affiliate of the National Hockey League\'s St. Louis Blues. With the AHL\'s Albany Devils moving to Binghamton (NY) next season, the operators of the Albany arena indicated they are not interested in replacing the AHL team with a lower-level ECHL team.

North American Tier-III Hockey League: The Lockport (NY) Express of the junior-level NA3HL announced the team will be moving about a half an hour west to Niagara Falls (NY) for the 2017-18 season.

Western Hockey League: Voters in Nanaimo (British Columbia) turned down a proposal to borrow funds to build a new arena that could have become home to a team in the major-junior WHL. The city will now have to consider the future of the proposed arena that had been targeted for completion in September 2019.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: The Bahamas is looking to obtain a franchise in the USL, but the process is in the very early stages and it could be a couple of years before a team would start play.

Major League Soccer: Although there has not been much recent news about the MLS expansion franchise for Miami, the Miami expansion group led by former MLS player David Beckham is still alive and pursuing a new MLS stadium. The group still needs additional financial backing and is looking at a 2019 start, instead of starting in 2018 with the expansion Los Angeles FC.

United Soccer Leagues - Premier Development League: The PDL\'s K-W United, based in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario (Canada), has signed a two-year partnership with the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.

Evergreen Premier League of Washington: The elite men\'s amateur EPL, which has all of its teams located in the state of Washington, recently announced its 2017 season schedule that will again feature eight teams. The Wenatchee FC Capitals did not return, but the Oly Town Artesians (Olympia, WA) were added for the 2017 season. A team called the Snohomish County FC Steelheads is looking to apply to join the EPL for the 2018 season.

League 1 Ontario: Canada\'s lower-level professional League 1 Ontario soccer league recently announced the 2017 schedules for both its men\'s and women\'s divisions. The men\'s division will remain at 14 teams with the Kingston Clippers being replaced by the Ottawa South United Force, or OSU Force. The women\'s division will grow from 9 to 11 teams as the Kingston Clippers drop out, but three new teams called the Toronto Azzurri Blizzard, Unionville Milliken SC and West Ottawa SC were added.

OTHER

World TeamTennis: Billie Jean King, the founder and majority owner of the professional WTT, is selling her share to the owners of two WTT teams - the Washington (DC) Castles and the San Diego Aviators. King will still own the WTT\'s Philadelphia Freedoms franchise. It is hoped that new ownership can grow the league\'s membership that will be at six teams in 2017. There is a possibility that four new franchises could be added in 2018.

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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