Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
April 10, 2017 - International League (IL)

BASEBALL

Thoroughbred Baseball League: The proposed new independent developmental TBL plans to start play in June 2017 with all six teams playing games at a complex just outside of Lexington (KY). Proposed team names include the Mustangs, Blazers, Paints, Broncos, Pacers and Stallions. Each team will play a 55-game schedule.

Atlantic League: The city of High Point (NC), which is about midway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, has approved funds to purchase land for a proposed new downtown stadium that could become home to an Atlantic League team. The Atlantic League has expressed interest in the market if the stadium can be built and local team ownership is found. If plans move forward, a stadium could be ready by the 2019 season. The league\'s Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team has been having issues with the city of Bridgeport, which granted the team only a one-year lease extension for 2017. The city recently put the ballpark lease out for bid and it received three options - conversion to a soccer stadium, conversion to a concert amphitheater or a renewal by the Bluefish.

Pioneer League: Officials in Pueblo County (CO) have approved funds for a study on construction of a proposed ballpark for downtown Pueblo that could become home to a relocated team in the short-season advanced-rookie Pioneer League.

International League: Ownership of the Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox, or PawSox, in the Triple-A International League has confirmed the team will remain in Pawtucket and announced two possible sites for a proposed new stadium. The site of the team\'s current older stadium is not under consideration. The PawSox considered leaving Pawtucket in 2015, but a financing plan for a proposed new stadium in Providence (RI) fell through. Financing for a new Pawtucket stadium would still have to be finalized.

BASKETBALL

Independent Basketball Association: The IBA started its 2017 Spring Season late last month with eight teams. The league had six teams in its 2016 Winter Season, but the Hoopville Warriors (Belleville, IL) and Lansing Capital did not return. The IBA added four other teams for the Spring Season that include the new Memphis Blues, the Peoria Panthers from the 2016 Central Basketball Association, the Vehicle City Royals (Flint, MI) that were originally announced for the 2017 North American Basketball League and the Windy City Blazers that last played in the IBA\'s 2015 Winter Season.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced another 2017-18 expansion team called the Colorado Gray Wolves that will be based about 60 miles north of Denver in Windsor (CO). The league\'s Yuba City (CA) Gold Miners team is relocating to become the Modesto (CA) Super Kats for the 2017-18 season.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The AFL started its 2017 season this weekend with just five teams that include the returning Cleveland Gladiators, Philadelphia Soul and Tampa Bay Storm, along with the expansion Baltimore Brigade and Washington (DC) Valor. The league had eight teams last season, but five teams did not return to the AFL for 2017. The Portland Steel, Los Angeles KISS and Orlando Predators ceased operations, while the Jacksonville Sharks moved to the National Arena League and the Arizona Rattlers moved to the Indoor Football League.

National Arena League: The NAL, which started its inaugural 2017 season last month with eight teams, has reportedly taken over operation of the league\'s Corpus Christi Rage from team ownership so the Rage can finish out the season. Prior to the start of the season, one of the league\'s first-year teams called the Dayton Wolfpack had ownership issues and had to be replaced by a travel-only team called the Wolfpack based out of Atlanta.

Indoor Football Association: The semi-pro IFA started its inaugural 2017 season late last month with six teams. Three teams called the Kearney (IA) Hawks, Stateline Sting (Loves Park/Rockford, IL) and the Windy City Ravens were part of last season\'s Midwest Professional Indoor Football and are joined by three other teams called the Green County Outlaws (Middleton, WI), Lima (OH) Legends and the Madison (WI) Mad Dawgs. Teams are scheduled for ten games from late March to early June 2017.

HOCKEY

Federal Hockey League: The FHL held a regular-season game in Kingsville (Ontario, Canada) this week between the league\'s St. Clair (MI) Fighting Saints and the Danville (IL) Dashers. Kingsville is home to the Kingsville Kings team, which is a member of the independent Ontario-based junior-level Greater Metro Hockey League and serves as an affiliate for the St. Clair Fighting Saints.

Southern Professional Hockey League: Officials in Wicomico County (MD) are exploring the possibility of a team in the SPHL or the ECHL starting play in October 2018 at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury (MD). Last year, the area was reported to be considering a team in the Federal Hockey League for the Salisbury arena. Also last year, nearby Worcester County (MD) was considering construction of a new arena for minor hockey and basketball teams, but it was decided the area could not support the arena.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL announced it will expand into Canada with the addition of a Toronto-based team for the 2018-19 season. Toronto\'s most recent pro indoor soccer team called the Toronto ThunderHawks played in the 2000-01 season of the National Professional Soccer League and eventually ceased operations. The MASL also announced its former Brownsville (TX) Barracudas franchise, which played in the MASL for two seasons (2014-16), will return in 2017-18 as the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas based in Hidalgo (TX). A former MASL team called the Hidalgo La Fiera played a few games in the 2014-15 season before folding.

Major League Soccer: Voters in the city of St. Louis failed to approve public financing for a soccer-specific stadium that investors had hoped would become home to an MLS expansion team. The league had hoped to add a St. Louis team in its next round of expansion, but the future of a St. Louis bid now appears to be in doubt.

Canadian Premier League: Although the proposed professional CPL has not confirmed a start date or team locations, cities such as Calgary (Alberta), Edmonton (Alberta), Halifax (Nova Scotia), Hamilton (Ontario), Ottawa (Ontario) and Winnipeg (Manitoba) are said to be under consideration for first-year teams.

Premier Ligue de Soccer du Quebec: The semi-pro PLSQ, or Quebec Premiere Soccer League, will again operate with seven teams when its 2017 season starts next month. Of the seven teams from last season, the Ottawa Fury FC Academy team and Lakeshore FC did not return, but the league added new teams called CS St-Hubert and the Dynamo du Quebec (Quebec City). The L\'Assomption of Lenaudiere is now listed as FC Lenaudiere. The PLSQ has been around since the 2012 season and is similar to the Ontario provincial semi-pro league called League 1 Ontario.

OTHER

American Ultimate Disc League: The professional AUDL started its 2017 season last weekend with 24 teams aligned into six-team East, West, South and Midwest divisions. The league operated with 26 teams last season, but the Cincinnati Revolution ceased operations after five seasons and the owners of the Charlotte Express took over the Atlanta Hustle franchise with Charlotte becoming inactive in 2017. Each team will play a 14-game season from early April to late July. The AUDL has been around since the 2012 season. A competing league called Major League Ultimate started play in 2013, but ceased operations after the 2016 season.

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 International League message board