Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 24, 2017 - International League (IL)

BASEBALL

International League: The Gwinnett Braves of the Triple-A International League announced six nickname finalists in an effort to rebrand the team for the 2018 season. The finalists are the Gwinnett Big Mouths, Buttons, Gobblers, Hush Puppies, Lambchops and Sweet Teas. The team is located in the suburban Atlanta area and wants to distinguish itself from its Atlanta Braves parent club. The team was the former Richmond (VA) Braves who moved to Gwinnett County for the 2009 season.

Southern League: The Mobile (AL) BayBears of the Double-A Southern League are reported to be in the process of being sold and relocated upstate to the Huntsville suburb of Madison. The cities of Savannah (GA) and Baton Rouge (LA) have also been mentioned as alternate destinations for the team. The Huntsville market has been trying to bring back a Southern League team after the league\'s Huntsville Stars moved out to become the Biloxi (MS) Shuckers for the 2015 season. If the sale goes through, the city of Madison would work toward construction of a new ballpark that could be ready for the 2019 season.

Texas League: Even though Wichita appears to be out of the running for a Double-A Texas League team, it has still approved $12.5 million to either improve its older current stadium or build a new stadium. The current field is home to the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent professional American Association and to the annual tournament of the summer-collegiate National Baseball Congress.

Carolina League: Now that the owner of the Potomac Nationals (Woodbridge, VA) in the high Class-A Carolina League announced plans to explore moving the team to another location, Alexandria (VA) and Loudoun County (VA) have been mentioned as possible homes for the team. The team was based in Alexandria prior to moving to Woodbridge in Prince William County for the 1984 season. Loudoun County has an available site where a proposed independent Atlantic League team called the Loudoun Hounds was unable to follow through on building a new stadium.

Midwest League: The Beloit (WI) Snappers of the low Class-A Midwest League are seeking outside investment for a new stadium that is needed to keep the team in the city. The Snappers\' current stadium does not meet the standards of Minor League Baseball.

Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The proposed new Southwest League, which plans to have six Texas-based teams playing in new stadiums, announced it is pushing back its start from 2018 to the spring of 2019. So far, the league has announced two teams - the Royse City Griffins and the Waco BlueCats. The league organizer stated other teams are planned for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, East Texas, West Texas and a suburb of Houston.

Northwoods League: Although the summer-collegiate Northwoods League has not yet approved an expansion team for Hudson (WI), a potential owner has been identified and a developer wants to start ballpark construction next month on the site of a former local dog track.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: The ABA has added the new Dallas-based Texas Hurricanes as another 2017-18 expansion team. The ABA has had several other Dallas-based teams in the past like the Texas Tycoons, Dallas Generals, Dallas Impact, Arlington Bulldogs and Metroplex Lightning. The ABA\'s Salisbury (MD) Bulldogs have been renamed the West Maryland Bulldogs for the 2017-18 season.

Elite Basketball League: The EBL, which just completed its 2017 spring season with six men\'s teams, announced plans to start paying players when it starts its 2017-18 fall season. The EBL plays both a fall and spring season and got its start with a 2014-15 fall season. The Women\'s EBL usually has about five teams participating in only a fall season. The majority of EBL teams are based in Arkansas.

North of the Border Basketball League: The Advanced Division of the Canadian elite-level NBBL recently completed its 2017 spring-summer season with eight participating teams. All games were played at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton (Ontario).

FOOTBALL

Indoor Football League: After the recent loss of the Spokane Empire team for the 2018 season, the status of some of the nine other IFL teams is uncertain. The owner of the IFL\'s Colorado Crush and Salt Lake Screaming Eagles had previously announced plans to move the teams to a new fan-interactive league, while the Wichita Falls (TX) Nighthawks announced its intentions to move to the league known as Champions Indoor Football (CIF). There have been discussions that several other IFL teams are also considering a move to the CIF for the 2018 season.

National Arena League: The NAL announced some of its teams and markets for its second season in 2018. The league had eight teams last season, but only the Columbus Lions, Georgia Firebirds, High Country Grizzlies, Jacksonville Sharks, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks and Monterrey Steel will return. The Corpus Christi Rage and the Dayton Wolfpack travel team, which was based out of Atlanta as the Atlanta Wolfpack and then the Georgia Doom, will not return in 2018. A previously announced expansion team called the Jersey Flight (Trenton) has been added, along with an announcement this week of teams in the markets of Boston, Providence (RI), Richmond (VA) and Orlando. The Richmond team will be the Richmond Roughriders who were part of the 2017 league known as Arena Pro Football, which is changing to the American Arena League for 2018 after a merger with the Can-Am Indoor Football League. The Orlando market was home to the Orlando Predators team, which last played as part of the Arena Football League in the 2016 season. The NAL plans to finalize more markets in the near future and all teams must have leases in place by mid-August.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The new ECHL franchise that will start play in Portland (ME) for the 2018-19 season has started a name-the-team contest. The top five choices will be posted next month for final voting. The parent company of the National Hockey League\'s Philadelphia Flyers purchased the ECHL\'s Alaska Aces (Anchorage) franchise after the 2016-17 season and moved the team to Portland. The city had been home to the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League until that team moved to become the Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds for the 2016-17 season.

North American 3 Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level NA3HL, which is affiliated with the Tier-II NAHL, announced its 2017-18 schedule and divisional alignment that will feature 47 teams in 8 regional divisions. The league had 48 teams last season, but the East Coast Minutemen (Salem, NH) did not return. Several teams relocated and change their names. The Lockport (NY) Express moved to become the Niagara Falls (NY) Powerhawks; the Chicago Bulldogs moved to become the Wausau (WI) RiverWolves; the Battle Creek-based West Michigan Wolves moved to become the Lansing Wolves; the Glacier Nationals moved from Havre (MT) to become the Butte (MT) Cobras; the Syracuse Stampede moved to become the Oswego (NY) Stampede; and the Euless (TX) Stars were renamed the Mid Cities Stars.

United States Premier Hockey League "" Premier Division: The Traverse City (MI) North Stars of the Tier-III junior-level USPHL\'s Premier Division will sit out the upcoming 2017-18 season. The team was part of the USPHL\'s USP3 League last season and had been listed as part of the Premier Division\'s Midwest East for 2017-18.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The provisional Division-II NASL announced that a new owner will be taking over the Jacksonville Armada FC as the league moves into the Fall portion of its two-part 2017 season. The league had taken control of the franchise when its previous owner walked away from the team in January 2017. The new ownership is expected to keep the team in Jacksonville.

Major League Soccer: The owner of the North Carolina FC (Cary) from the provisional Division-II North American Soccer League presented plans for a proposed 22,000-seat soccer stadium to be built in downtown Raleigh (NC) as possible home to one of the future MLS expansion teams. The presentation was part of a visit to Raleigh this week by MLS officials. League officials also visited Charlotte (NC) this week, as that market is also looking to become home to a future MLS franchise.

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL is looking for new ownership to run the Kansas City Comets franchise for the 2017-18 season. As of now, all players that were under contract with the previous ownership are now considered free agents and can negotiate with a potential new ownership group or with any other MASL team. The Comets are based in Independence (MO) and have been part of the MASL since the league\'s first season in 2014-15. The team was known as the Missouri Comets for two seasons (2014-16) before changing to the Kansas City Comets name last season.

OTHER

World Series of Boxing: The team-based international boxing league known as the World Series of Boxing recently just completed its seventh season with 12 clubs aligned into 3 groups. The WSB had 16 clubs last season, but 7 clubs called the USA Knockouts, Mexico Guerreros, Azerbaijan Baku Fires, Puerto Rico Hurricanes, Turkiye Conquerors (Istanbul), Ukraine Otamans and Rafako Hussars Poland did not return. The WSB added two new clubs called the Colombia Heroicos and the France Fighting Roosters, along with the Italia Thunder club that returned after sitting out last season. Each club played six matches within its group from early February through April 2017. Playoffs were held in May and June and the final match was held last weekend.

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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