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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
February 19, 2018 - United Soccer League (USL)

BASEBALL

Southern League: The ownership of the Mobile BayBears in the Double-A Southern League has signed a lease agreement for a new ballpark to be built in the Huntsville (AL) suburb of Madison. The team plans to remain in Mobile through the 2019 season and move to the new 7,000-seat Madison ballpark for the 2020 season. The team still needs relocation approval from the league, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. Huntsville had the Huntsville Stars in the Southern League until the team moved to Biloxi for the 2015 season. The Mobile BayBears joined the Southern League when the Port City Roosters (Wilmington, NC) moved to Mobile for the 1997 season.

Texas League: The Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League will be renamed the Blue Ghosts for a home weekend series in June 2018. This is in honor of the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, which was known as "The Blue Ghost" during its World War II service and is currently docked as a museum in Corpus Christi. The "Blue Ghosts" was one of the proposed team nicknames when the Texas League team came to the city for the 2005 season.

Midwest League: The Peoria (IL) Chiefs and Bowling Green (KY) Hot Rods of the low Class-A Midwest League will be part of a cross-promotion for a three-game series during the 2018 season in which the teams will be renamed the Peoria Distillers and Bowling Green Bootleggers.

International League: The Rochester Red Wings of the Triple-A International League have agreed to a new ten-year lease that will keep the team at the city's Frontier Field. The league had set a deadline of March 1, 2018 for the Red Wings and Monroe County to come to a lease agreement or it would consider other league locations for the team's 2018 home schedule. In addition to Worcester (MA) and Attleboro (MA) trying to lure the league's Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox, the city of Weymouth (MA) is interested and met with team representatives last summer about a developing a ballpark district to include a new ballpark.

Northwoods League: The group trying to bring a summer-collegiate Northwoods League team to Waukesha (WI) will not move forward after the city rejected plans for a proposed new ballpark.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association G-League: The NBA's Atlanta Hawks broke ground this week on a new 5,000-seat arena in the College Park area of Atlanta and it will eventually become home to the Hawks' G-League affiliate. The Hawk's current G-League affiliate is the Erie (PA) BayHawks team, which will move to College Park when the arena is ready for the 2019-20 season. The NBA's New Orleans Pelicans want to establish a G-League affiliate in Pensacola (FL) for the 2019-20 season, but a decision has been put on hold until Pensacola officials decide whether to renovate its current Pensacola Bay Center or move forward on plans to build a new arena. Currently, there are only 4 of the 30 NBA teams without some sort of G-League affiliate. The NBA's Washington Wizards will start its G-League team next season, leaving New Orleans, the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers without their own G-League affiliate.

Women's National Basketball Association: The WNBA recently announced its schedule for the upcoming 2018 season that will run from mid-May to mid-August. The league will again have a six-team Eastern Conference and a six-team Western Conference. The only change from last season was the move of the San Antonio Stars to become the Las Vegas Aces. Las Vegas took San Antonio's spot in the Western Conference.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team in Little Rock (AR) will start play in the 2018-19 season. The ABA had a couple of previous Little Rock-based teams. The Arkansas RimRockers played in the ABA's 2004-05 season before leaving for the NBA D-League the next season. The Little Rock Lightning played a full schedule in the ABA's 2011-12 season, but disappeared after playing only a couple of games as an ABA travel team in the 2012-11 season.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The AFL announced its 2018 season schedule this week that will feature only four teams called the Albany (NY) Empire, Baltimore Brigade, Philadelphia Soul and Washington (DC) Valor. The AFL had five teams last season, but the Tampa Bay Storm and Cleveland Gladiators did not return. The league added the Albany Empire as a 2018 expansion team.

Elite Indoor Football: The semi-pro EIF announced it will be adding an EIF West division of teams for the 2019 season. Late in the 2018 season, four of the new 2019 EIF West teams will participate in a tournament called the EIF West Opener. The EIF has one western team called the Sacramento Rush that is on the 2018 league schedule with five road games.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The group interested in bringing an NHL expansion team to Seattle submitted its expansion application and a deposit to the league this week. Renovations have been planned for the city's KeyArena where the team could start play in 2020. The potential ownership group is expected to hold a season ticket drive in the near future to gauge support for an NHL team.

ECHL: The ECHL's Norfolk Admirals signed a three-year arena lease extension that should keep the team through the 2020-21 season. There had been speculation the team might relocate due to low attendance, but new ownership that took over prior to the 2017-18 season has no intention of moving the team. The Admirals lost its National Hockey League affiliation with the Nashville Predators early in the 2017-18 season, but expect to have an NHL affiliation next season.

United States Premier Hockey League: The Kalkaska (MI) Rhinos team in the Tier-III junior-level USPHL Premier Division ended its 2017-18 season a few weeks early last month due to a lack of players. Some of the other teams in the six-team Premier Midwest-East were forced to make schedule adjustments.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Phoenix Rising FC of the Division-II United Soccer League are still working to become future MLS expansion teams. The owner of the Rowdies is seeking additional investors to help purchase an MLS expansion team and renovate Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg to MLS standards. The Rising ownership is trying to develop an MLS-style soccer-specific stadium in the Phoenix area. The MLS could announce its next round of expansion by the end of the year. Officials with the league's Columbus Crew SC claim operating the team at its current stadium is not financially sustainable. The Columbus Crew has been around since the league's first season in 1996, but its ownership has been considering a move to Austin.

United Soccer League: Major League Soccer's Minnesota United Loons, which started its inaugural season in 2017 without an official affiliated team in the Division-II USL, has signed an agreement for the USL's St. Louis FC to act as its Division-II affiliate for the 2018 season. St. Louis FC did not have an MLS affiliation last season after playing its first two seasons (2015-16) as an affiliate of the MLS's Chicago Fire.

Arena Premier League: A new semi-professional indoor league called the APL started its inaugural 2017-18 season in December with seven teams called the Caribbean Stars AC, Croatia AC, Italy AC, Portugal AC, Serbia AC, South American AC and Ukraine AC. The APL is associated with the Canadian Arena Soccer Association (CASA) and will be a feeder league for the Canadian National Arena Team and the new Toronto-based team in the 2018-19 season of the Major Arena Soccer League. All games are played at the Canlan Sportsplex in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga with the season running from early December 2017 to late April 2018. The CASA also operates a Youth Arena Premier League.

OTHER

Arena Lacrosse League: The ALL started its second season last month with seven men's teams based in Ontario (Canada). For the 2018 season, the ALL started a women's division that had three teams called the Six Nations Snipers, Paris RiverWolves and St. Catharines ShockWave that took the name of their men's counterpart. This week the ALL women's division teams are each completing their short eight-game schedules that started in January 2018.

Major League Rugby: The new professional MLR, which plans to start play in April with seven teams called the Austin Elite Rugby, Glendale (CO) Raptors, Houston SaberCats (originally the Strikers), NOLA Gold (New Orleans), San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves and the Utah Warriors (Salt Lake City), recently announced Rugby United New York will compete as an associate member in 2018 and will play a full MLR schedule starting in 2019. The New York team will announce its official MLR team name later this year. Another potential future MLR team called the Ontario Arrows (Canada) is scheduled to play two games against the Rugby United New York and two games against other MLR teams as part of its 2018 schedule. The MLR will play under the 15-player "rugby union" format.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames, which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is available for sale at www.amazon.com.

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United Soccer League Stories from February 19, 2018


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