SBD/Issue 21/Franchises

AFL VooDoo Cease Operations Despite Strong Attendance Figures

VooDoo Decision To Cease Operations Surprising
As Franchise Considered One Of AFL's Strongest
Saints VP/Communications Greg Bensel said that AFL New Orleans VooDoo Owner Tom Benson yesterday informed the AFL of his "plans to terminate operations of the franchise," according to Hogan & Allee-Walsh of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Benson in a statement said that the decision to fold the team, which began play in '04, "is not an indictment on this marketplace," and added that he "believes in New Orleans." AFL VooDoo Owner & Exec VP Rita Benson LeBlanc said in a statement: "It is a sad day for our community and our organization, but circumstances prevented us from continuing in the AFL." Hogan & Allee-Walsh note it "doesn't help that the VooDoo is the secondary tenant at the New Orleans Arena, meaning the VooDoo must yield to the Hornets on most matters and can't generate much income from the building outside of ticket sales." But the move "caught many observers by surprise, especially considering the AFL is coming off one of its best years in terms of viewership and merchandise sales." The VooDoo, which has hosted the past two ArenaBowls, also led the AFL in '07 with an average crowd of 16,645 in eight home games and "set an AFL record for season-ticket sales with more than 13,000." Though VooDoo attendance dropped to fifth in the league at 14,321 this past season, the club "still was considered one of the stronger franchises in the AFL" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/14).

MORE TO FOLLOW? WGNO-ABC’s Ed Daniels cited a source as saying that "other teams may soon fold.” Daniels noted the VooDoo were "one of the more successful franchises in the AFL, but the league itself is having financial troubles.” Daniels: "Arena Football did very well here over the first couple of years, and I think it did okay last year, but there were a few more empty seats, and that’s been a problem around the league" (ABC26.com, 10/13).

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