Barnstormers back in Des Moines

by af2 Press Release
November 20, 2000 - arenafootball2 (af2)

BARNSTORMERS ARE BACK: ARENA FOOTBALL RETURNS TO DES MOINES

af2 Press Release

Local Partnership Awarded arenafootball2 Franchise

DES MOINES, IOWA (November 20, 2000) -- Arena Football returned to Des Moines today after less than a months’ absence. Managing Owner Jim Foster announced that the Iowa Pro Football Limited Partnership has been granted the rights to operate an arenafootball2 team (af2) in Des Moines. The team will begin play in April of 2001.

In October, the partnership sold the Arena Football League (AFL) franchise to computer software executive Charles Wang of Long Island, New York. Wang, who also owns the New York Islanders NHL franchise in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, renamed the former Des Moines AFL club the New York Dragons.

The new Des Moines af2 entity will play as the Iowa Barnstormers, using the same logos and uniform design.

In announcing the new af2 team, Foster pointed out that going to a Barnstormers game would be a familiar experience for most fans, despite the change in players and leagues.

“We will still play the same game with the same rules and the same intensity. The caliber or athleticism will still be very good,” Foster said. “The good news is that most ticket prices will be much more affordable for everyone.”

“The tremendous economic pressure we found ourselves operating under in the AFL as the league’s smallest market is now gone. We can be very competitive in this league economically while still playing against a number of well-known cities, many who are larger than Des Moines.”

Ticket prices will range from just $5.00 for children to $25.00 for VIP Club mid-field seating. The bulk of the adult seats will be priced between $10.00 and $17.00 with season tickets for eight regular season home games and a probable pre-season game for as little as $40.00.

Former Iowa State and Washington State Head Coach Jim Walden was announced as the team’s new General Manager and Marketing Director. Walden had joined the Barnstormers last year as New Business Development Director.

The team’s new Head Coach will be the AFL Barnstormers’ veteran assistant Art Haege who served six years since the team started in 1994 as the defensive coordinator and personnel director. Haege, a small college All-American and Hall of Famer from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, will square off against his son Frank Haege, who led the Quad City Steamwheelers to a perfect 19-0 record, in the inaugural year of the af2 in 2000.

Foster noted the selection of Haege as head coach for the new Des Moines team included his expertise of Arena Football personnel, as well as being a very sound, experienced Arena coach.

“I have every confidence that Art will find quality players for this league and then coach them up to be competitive winners,” Foster said.

Haege, who is now assembling his coaching staff, commented that he is looking forward to the challenge of being a head coach again after six years as an assistant on a very successful AFL team that played in two championships and won four division titles. Haege was named head coach of the Minnesota Fighting Pike in 1996 but stepped down prior to the season after suffering a mild aneurysm. He was also head coach of the Milwaukee Mustangs for most of the 1994 season after former NFL head coach Lou Saban was fired after several games.

Season tickets for the new team are currently being offered to existing Barnstormers season ticket holders on a renewal basis until November 30 and the response has been strong. Sales of 2001 af2 Barnstormers season tickets are also being taken starting today for non-season ticket holders by team Ticket Director Michelle Mickelson.

Final negotiations are underway with Veterans Memorial Auditorium – “The Barn” – management for a new lease for the new team and should be finalized shortly according to Administrative Executive Vice President of Business John Streets.

“We will reduce our seating capacity to under 10,000 seats from just over 11,000 in order to provide better seats for our fans at less cost,” Streets said. “The unpopular bleacher seats along the sides of the playing field downstairs will be replaced by cushioned seats on risers.”

The 28-member af2 league will begin its second season at the end of March with a 16-game regular season schedule. Thirteen new teams have joined the inaugural 15 clubs in 2000. The league’s teams filled their venues to more than 70-percent capacity last season, an average attendance of 7,239 per game; faring better than all but two other professional leagues in America.

General Manager Jim Walden noted that most observers of af2 play in 2000 felt that the level of play was quite comparable to that of the AFL about five years ago. In 1996, Kurt Warner led the AFL Barnstormers to an ArenaBowl Championship game on live network television in Des Moines before a number of home sellout crowds of appreciative, enthusiastic fans in the “Barn.”

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