arenafootball2 acquires IFL

by Paul Reeths
October 20, 2000 - arenafootball2 (af2)

arenafootball2 acquires IFL

By Paul Reeths

In a move rumored for weeks, arenafootball2 announced today that it has acquired the Indoor Football League and 20 of its franchises from IFL founder Keary Ecklund. The move clears the way for some IFL teams to join af2 next season.

"This is a momentous day for arenafootball2," said af2 Executive Director Mary Ellen Garling. "The acquisition of the IFL gives arenafootball2 the ability to grow and generate a new fan base that has never been exposed to the game of Arena Football, while continuing our expansion goal of reducing travel expenses and creating natural geographical rivalries."

Orlando Predators Entertainment, owner of the Arena Football League's Orlando Predators, made the actual purchase of the IFL and reportedly holds the rights to three former IFL fanchises. One of them is the highly successful Peoria Pirates, who completed an undefeated season in August. Garling confirmed OPE and the Peoria arena have reached an oral agreement on a lease.

The sale, which spells the end of the IFL, could result in af2 fielding as many as 36 teams for the 2001 season. All 15 af2 teams from last season will be back next year along with expansion teams in Fort Myers, Florida; Lafayette, Louisiana; Bossier City, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Macon, Georgia; and Louisville, Kentucky. Columbus, Georgia may also join shortly. It is expected that at least 28 teams will compete in arenafootball2 for the 2001 season. Though no IFL teams have completed the expansion process, several will be joining the league.

"We are in (af2) now," said Lincoln Lightning co-owner Andrew Cheesman. "Our paperwork just has to catch up with us. We're absolutley ecstatic, just as we were when we joined the IFL. The af2 is a class organization run by exceptional people. The way it is set up makes it easy to be successful. You have a unity of purpose and commitment."

In a teleconference call Friday afternoon, Garling said that her league has heard from investors representing each IFL market, including Springfield, Illinois, the only announced IFL expansion team. Three franchises could be added in the next week with a total of 12 possible before Thanksgiving. Garling stated that a combination of travel costs, arena size and the presence of suitable owner/operators will determine the IFL markets that are admitted to af2.

Although Garling refused to confirm the immediate addition of any IFL franchises, she made it clear that it was simply a matter of time before some would join af2. In addition to Peoria, she cited Rapid City, South Dakota; Wichita, Kansas; Casper, Wyoming; Madison, Wisconsin; La Crosse, Wisconsin; Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Bismarck, North Dakota as current IFL markets that could join the league. Others could as well should they meet af2 expansion guidelines. Ecklund has shown an interest in operating the La Crosse River Rats.

"We're proud that the Indoor Football League can add an important building block to arenafootball2," said Ecklund. "By combining these leagues we can offer the greatest number of fans the best opportunity for their long term enjoyment of Arena Football. We think the excitement and support we've generated in IFL markets will blend well with the existing teams in af2."

The only IFL franchise not included in the purchase was the Topeka Kings. Garling cited legal issues involving the IFL as the reason. Ecklund, who had previously owned half the franchise, wrested total control of the team from businessman George Lemon in midseason, sparking a public squabble that damaged the franchise's reputation in the community.

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