Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
April 18, 2016 - NBA Development League (D-League)

BASEBALL

American Association: The city of Cleburne (TX) in the Fort Worth area has selected a construction company to build a new minor league ballpark that could become home to an independent American Association team. In November 2015, voters approved the Cleburne Station, which will be a retail/dining complex with a minor league ballpark for a proposed team called the Cleburne Railroaders. An economic impact study for the project recommended an American Association team for the ballpark. The goal is to have the ballpark ready to open for the 2017 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The NBA\'s Phoenix Suns have purchased the D-League\'s Bakersfield Jam franchise, which was the single D-League affiliate of the Suns for the past two seasons. The Suns will move the Bakersfield team to Prescott Valley (AZ), about 85 miles north of Phoenix, where it will be renamed the Northern Arizona Suns, or NAZ Suns, for the 2016-17 season. The Bakersfield Jam joined the D-League as an expansion team for the 2006-07 season. The now former owners of the Jam stated they were in discussions with the NBA and the D-League to try to bring a new D-League expansion team to Bakersfield for the 2016-17 season.

Midwest Basketball League: The new MBL started its inaugural spring-summer season last week and currently lists 13 participating teams. The East Division has the Dayton AirStrikers, Hamilton (OH) Heroes, Indiana Dream (Muncie), Indiana Fury (Fort Wayne), and Northern Indiana Monarchs (South Bend), which were part of the 2015-16 American Basketball Association. The West Division includes the Cedar Valley Courtkings (Waterloo, IA), Chicago Clovers, Chicago Fury (2015-16 ABA team), Minnesota Broncos (St. Paul), Minnesota Rangers (Minneapolis) and Wisconsin Storm (Milwaukee). The league also lists two partial-schedule teams, or branding teams, called the Kentucky Flash and Lincoln Lions.

North American Basketball League: The proposed merger of the Central Basketball Development League (CBDL) into the new NABL for the 2016 spring-summer season has apparently fallen apart. The head of the CBDL plans to continue operating the CBDL, but might switch to a fall season later this year or start with a spring season in 2017. The NABL currently lists five-team East and a six-team West divisions.

FOOTBALL

Midwest Professional Indoor Football League: The four-team MPIFL completed the second week of its inaugural four-week season that includes teams called the Illinois Outlaws, Windy City Ravens (Elgin, IL), Stateline Sting (Loves Park/Rockford (IL) and Kearney (NE) Hawks. All teams are scheduled to participate in four weekend doubleheader events, two in Elgin and two in Loves Park. The Windy City Ravens participated in the inaugural short 2015 season of North American Indoor Football (NAIF). The Kearney Hawks team, which was listed as a travel-only team in the 2016 season of the NAIF, recently replaced the originally announced Michigan City (IN) Lions on the 2016 MPIFL schedule.

HOCKEY

Major League Roller Hockey: The MLRH plans to return this summer with the third season of the MLRH Super League. Last season, the Super League had 11 participating teams with 7 Eastern Division teams and 4 Western Division teams. During the winter, the MLRH sponsors its Pro Tour with several regional weekend tournaments generally involving four to six teams.

Southern Professional Hockey League: The SPHL expansion team to be based in Evansville (IN) starting with the 2016-17 season will be called the Evansville Thunderbolts. The name is taken from a World War II fighter jet that was manufactured in Evansville. The city had a junior hockey team called the Evansville Thunderbolts that played its first season in 2015-16 as part of the Tier-III North American 3 Hockey League. The NA3HL team will now be known as the Junior Thunderbolts, although there will be no management connection with the SPHL team.

National Hockey League: The owner of the NHL\'s Carolina Hurricanes (Raleigh, NC) denied rumors that the team will be relocated to Quebec City. The Hurricanes had one of the lowest per-game attendance records during the 2015-16 season and the owner has been trying to find local ownership to take control of the NHL franchise.

SOCCER

National Women\'s Soccer League: The NWSL started its fourth season this weekend and has grown to ten teams with the addition of the expansion Orlando Pride for the 2016 season. All teams are aligned into one table for the 2016 standings. The Orlando Pride is owned and operated by the men\'s Orlando City SC Lions of Major League Soccer (MLS). Two other MLS teams, the Portland Timbers FC and Houston Dynamo, own NWSL teams called the Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash in their respective markets. The NWSL would like to expand to 12 teams in the near future.

United Soccer League: The Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer is considering a move of its Seattle Sounder 2 USL team to Tacoma. The Sounders are working with the head of the Tacoma Rainiers Triple-A baseball team in the Pacific Coast League to develop a site for a soccer-specific stadium. The USL team could be re-branded as part of the move to Tacoma, but it is most likely the team would not move until 2018 or 2019.

American Soccer League: The lower-level professional ASL recently reported that the Delaware Copperheads (Wilmington), a previously announced 2016 ASL expansion team, has been re-branded as the Delaware Stars for the 2016 season. The team had played some 2015 ASL exhibition games as the Delaware Copperheads prior to joining the league for the 2016 season.

OTHER

Pro Rugby: The new 15-per-side league known as Pro Rugby started its initial 2016 season this weekend with five teams known simply as San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Denver and Ohio (Columbus). Nicknames will eventually be selected for each team that will play 12 matches from April 17 through July 31, 2016. The league plans to expand for next season.

World TeamTennis: The WTT recently announced the schedule for the six teams that will be participating in the two-week regular season that will run from July 31 through August 13. Of the seven teams from last season, the California Dream (Sacramento) and Boston Lobsters did not return, but the league-operated New York Empire team was added. The league will eliminate the Eastern and Western conferences and all six teams will be listed in one table with the top two teams going to the championship.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2014-15: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today\'s sports world. The publication is currently available at www.amazon.com.

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