Arena Football League (1987-2008)

Kats move to Atlanta; Adams buys new team

by AFL Press Release
September 22, 2001 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)


AFL Press Release


NEW YORK - Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker announced today that Atlanta businessman Virgil R. Williams, attorney James J. Thomas II and his firm of Long, Aldridge and Norman, LLP have been approved by the AFL's Board of Directors to purchase a majority of the Nashville Kats and to relocate them to Atlanta, Ga. Commissioner Baker also announced that K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., owner of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, has been approved for an expansion team for Nashville.

The Kats plan to begin regular season play in April 2002 at Philips Arena (18,653), which will assist in the sales and marketing of the team. Arena tenants also include the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and NHL's Atlanta Thrashers. Kats owner Mark Bloom will retain a percentage of ownership along with partners J.R. Scott, Al Ross, Larry Papel, and G.M.R. Investments.

"We are thrilled that Atlanta will be the next city on a growing list to be a part of the nation's true growth sport," said Mr. Williams, chairman of the team. "The relationship we are developing with Philips Arena is a perfect match, serving our community and helping to build our team. I think Atlantans will flock to see this high-energy game of football. Watching Arena Football is like seeing teams compete with two minute offenses, but all game long!"

Mr. Thomas, president and general manager, said: "This is an exciting, fast-break game that is affordable for the whole family and can bring people in our community together."

"Arena Football is emerging as a big-time, major league sport and this group, led by Mr. Williams and Mr. Thomas, is going to play a large part in that development," Commissioner Baker said. "Atlanta represents a continuing migration of the Arena Football League into major markets, and Mr. Adams' commitment also ensures that year-round football will thrive for many years in the city of Nashville."

The Kats have made an appearance in each of the last two ArenaBowl championship games, losing both, including a 64-42 setback August 19, 2001 against the Grand Rapids Rampage and a last-second 41-38 defeat August 20, 2000 against the Orlando Predators.

Mr. Adams is the eighth NFL owner to be approved for an AFL team. Most recently, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and John Elway were approved for a team in Denver.

"We believe the Arena Football League team will be a great complement to our Titans organization," said Mr. Adams. "We want to play as quickly as possible, once a satisfactory venue is secured." The Kats had competed in the Gaylord Entertainment Center since 1997.

"It is an honor to have one of the founders of the original AFL as a member of the Arena Football League," Commissioner Baker said of Mr. Adams. "He has done so much for the game of football and now he is contributing his leadership to the Arena Football League."

The AFL culminated its 15th season this past August, competing with a record 19 teams, including new franchises in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Long Island, NY, and Toronto, Canada. A record was established this past season when more than 2.4 million fans watched Arena Football games in both the AFL and arenafootball2.

The AFL is the second-longest running pro football league in the U.S. in history, behind only the NFL. On Feb. 8, 1999, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the NFL agreed to purchase an exclusive option to acquire an equity interest of 49.9 percent in the AFL, subject to the approval of NFL owners. Currently, eight NFL owners, including the Cowboys' Jerry Jones, Broncos' Pat Bowlen, Lions' William Ford Jr., Jaguars' Wayne Weaver, Saints' Tom Benson, the York family of the 49ers', Redskins' Daniel Snyder and Titans' K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., have been approved for teams.

Williams is chairman and CEO of Williams Group International, Inc., a diversified multi-company conglomerate with major subsidiaries in construction, construction labor, industrial maintenance, and environmental remediation and real estate. He serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of Bank of America, of which he is a major shareholder. Active in business and community affairs throughout the region, he is on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Thomas is a partner with the law firm of Long, Aldridge, and Norman LLP. From the outset of his career, he has represented clients in sports and entertainment in addition to his litigation practice. Some clients include Evander Holyfield, the Women's Senior Golf Tour, and the Professional Karate Association.

Entering his 42nd year as founder, owner, chairman of the board and CEO of the Titans/Oilers franchise, Adams is an enduring figure in the NFL. As one of the original team owners in the American Football League, he has guided his franchise to new heights since relocating from Houston to Nashville in 1997, posting the best back-to-back seasons in club history over the last two seasons. He currently is a member of the NFL's Finance and Hall of Fame Committees, and is a Trustee for the NFL Trust.

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