Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
May 2, 2016 - American Hockey League (AHL)

BASEBALL

Carolina League: The owner of Major League Baseball\'s Houston Astros is considering a proposed ballpark in Fayetteville (NC) as a possible location to where the Astros could move their current high Class-A affiliate from the California League to the Carolina League. MLB\'s Texas Rangers are working to move its high Class-A affiliate from the California League to Kinston (NC), where the affiliate would be part of the Carolina League. The Rangers\' current high Class-A affiliate is the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League. Kinston lost a Carolina League team after the 2011 season. There has been talk over the past few years of Minor League Baseball considering a move of two high Class-A California League teams, namely the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks, to the Carolina League. The Astros\' owner would like a new Fayetteville ballpark ready for the 2018 season.

South Atlantic League: The Asheville (NC) Tourists of the low Class-A SAL announced the team will be called the Beer City Tourists for a game on June 2, 2016. The promotion will pay tribute to the local craft beer industry.

United Shore Professional Baseball League: The new three-team USPBL, which plans to start its inaugural 2016 season on Memorial Day with all teams playing a 50-game schedule out of a new ballpark in Utica (MI), has announced some of the team management and player tryout schedules. Teams will include the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers and Utica Unicorns. The league plans to add more teams and ballparks in the near future.

West Coast League: The summer-collegiate WCL is considering Port Angeles (WA) as a possible expansion site for the 2017 season.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: The ABA recently announced several new expansion teams called the Concord (NC) Kings, Carson City (NV) Senators, Oakland (CA) Golden Tigers, Hawaii Hammerheads (Honolulu), Pensacola Energy, The Seraphim (Universal City, Texas) and a yet-to-be-named team in Sarasota (FL). The ABA also announced plans to create an international committee to develop more international teams, such as the ABA\'s current Japanese Shizuoka Gymrats team based in San Francisco. The league will scout China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South America and Central America for teams to be located in U.S. cities with large international populations.

North American Basketball League: The new ten-team NABL started its inaugural season this weekend. An East Division includes the Atlanta Show, Bradenton GymRats, Music City Kings (Nashville) and Savannah Cavaliers, while a West Division includes the Austin Knights, Dallas Hoyas, DFW United, Miss-Lou Warriors (Ferriday, LA), San Antonio Lions and Shreveport-Bossier Flight. The 2016 NABL season runs through July.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: The owner of the NFL\'s Oakland Raiders agreed to pledge $500 million toward a new football stadium in Las Vegas that could become home to the Raiders. The initial completion date for the proposed stadium is 2019. The Raiders signed a one-year lease in Oakland for 2016 and have one-year options for 2017 and 2018. The Raiders could also have the option to move to a new Inglewood (CA) stadium with the Los Angeles Rams, if the San Diego Chargers decide to remain in San Diego.

American Indoor Football: The AIF\'s Atlanta Vultures team, which replaced the league\'s defunct Atlanta Sharks teams from last season, has apparently folded after playing a few games on the 2016 schedule. The league\'s Steel City Menace team, which was based in Pueblo (CO) and was forced to play home games at an outdoor venue due to the lack of an indoor arena, has apparently folded. This leaves only the New Mexico Stars and Corpus Christi Fury in the Western Division. The Stars have scheduled some non-league games against the Austin Cobras of the Athletic Indoor Football League and the Texas Stealth and Dallas Silverbacks from North American Indoor Football. Corpus Christi recently played a non-league game against the NAIF\'s Dallas Silverbacks.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: A downtown Tucson redevelopment district has agreed to fund arena renovations in Tucson, which could become home to the AHL\'s Springfield (MA) Falcons for the 2016-17 season. The Falcons\' parent team, the National Hockey League\'s Arizona Coyotes, recently signed an agreement to purchase the Falcons and move the team to Tucson, subject to AHL approval. The NHL\'s Ottawa Senators have expressed interest in moving its Binghamton (NY) Senators AHL affiliate closer to home in Belleville (Ontario), possibly for the 2017-18 season. Belleville was the long-time home to the Belleville Bulls of the major-junior Ontario Hockey League, but the team moved to Hamilton to become the Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2015-16 season. The OHL team replaced the AHL\'s Hamilton Bulldogs team, which was moved by the NHL\'s Montreal Canadiens to become the St. John\'s IceCaps (Newfoundland) for the 2015-16 season. If Binghamton would lose the Senators, another NHL team could consider the city for its affiliated AHL team.

Federal Hockey League: Officials in St. Clair Shores (MI) near Detroit recently approved an FHL team for the city\'s Civic Arena. An ownership group is expected to purchase an FHL expansion team and the city will help fund arena upgrades in time for the 2016-17 season. The team\'s name and logo is expected to be announced later this month.

Northern Pacific Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level NPHL appears to be breaking up after the 2015-16 season. The league had six teams for the 2015-16 season, but the Wenatchee Wolves (British Columbia) plan to concentrate on its their midget-level team next season and the Bellingham (WA) Blazers are hoping to move to the Western States Hockey League (WSHL). The Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, which just completed its inaugural season, apparently voted down a proposed merger with the NPHL. Some of the other four remaining NPHL teams could also move to the WSHL or be part of expansion by other Tier-III leagues like the United States Premier Hockey League or North American 3 Hockey League.

ECHL: The ECHL announced the schedule for its 2016-17 season that will feature 27 teams. The league had 28 teams this season, but the Evansville IceMen will not return as the team sits out the 2016-17 season and prepares to restart in Owensboro (KY) for the 2017-18 season. The ECHL also plans to add a new team called the Worcester Railers HC for the 2017-18. With the possible loss of the American Hockey League\'s Springfield (MA) Falcons to Tucson for next season, there has been speculation an ECHL team could be placed in Springfield in the future.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The owners of the National Basketball Association\'s Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons have joined together to try to bring an MLS expansion team to downtown Detroit. The city was mentioned last week by the MLS commissioner as a possible team location in the league\'s next round of expansion expected in 2020 and beyond. With the prospects of a new Las Vegas stadium being built with funding from the National Football League\'s Oakland Raiders, there has been talk of an MLS expansion team possibly sharing the new stadium with the NFL team.

OTHER

Continental Indoor Lacrosse League: According to league meetings held in March, the semi-pro CILL plans to add teams called the Minnesota Ox and St. Louis Centurions for the 2016 season.

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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