SBD/August 11, 2011/Franchises

Financial Woes Force UFL Hartford Colonials To Suspend Operations For '11

UFL holding out possibility of returning to Hartford in '12
The UFL Hartford Colonials "have suspended operations at least for now, and possibly forever," according to Shawn Courchesne of the HARTFORD COURANT. UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue yesterday said that he "hopes the league can return to Hartford, but that finances dictated that the league operate with four teams this season, not five, and Hartford lost out." Huyghue said that the UFL, which will kick off its third season next month with teams in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Omaha and Virginia Beach, will "re-evaluate Hartford at the end of the season." He added, "We did have ownership in Hartford. We didn't have it in Virginia. As we evaluated the two markets, what became clear to us was the cost of operation in Virginia was almost half, relative to day of game costs, stadium costs, those type of issues, than it was in Hartford." Huyghue noted that the "cost of playing at Rentschler Field drove the decision to suspend operations of the team." He said that it "was at least 50 percent more than other stadiums in the league." Courchesne notes the Colonials averaged "just more than 14,000 a game in four games last fall in East Hartford," compared to the league average of "just below 15,000 a game." Huyghue said that attendance "was not a factor in suspending operations" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/11).

TIME TO PAY UP: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs notes with the Colonials suspending operations, there is a "trail of unpaid bills left behind." As Huyghue "insists on keeping Hartford in play, instead of flatly folding the franchise, it is something he and his core investors must face." If UFL officials "expect one iota of support in negotiating the costs of Rentschler Field, they must pay people they already owe." Motion Inc. is owed $16,500 for producing a weekly television show for the Colonials, and company Owner Glenn Orkin said that he "gave the Colonials a favored rate and got burned." He added that he "talked to others who had given the Colonials good deals, too, and got burned." Huyghue, who grew up just minutes outside Hartford, claims that he "hasn't given up hope on Hartford." But Jacobs writes, "Why should Hartford put any hope in the UFL? ... Before they even think about looking for a better stadium deal, they have to face up to the fact they have burned bridges around here. When all the bills are paid, then come back" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/11).

A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB: In Sacramento, Mark Billingsley reports while the UFL has cut its schedule from eight games to six for the '11 regular season, Sacramento Mountain Lions Owner Paul Pelosi is "increasingly optimistic about the future of the UFL and his franchise." While not guaranteeing a '12 season, Pelosi said that the "hard economic decision to fold the Hartford franchise was a smart one for the UFL in the long run." Pelosi: "This is not going to be our last year in operation. I'm confident of that reality. I'm very enthusiastic about our start. This is better for the league from a business standpoint." He added, "We know we have a viable product on the field, and what we need is four or five other cities with investment groups to say to us, 'Hey, sell us a franchise.'" Billingsley notes TV contracts "continue to be a sticking point for the UFL and the Mountain Lions." The team has been "trying to secure a TV deal since the end of last season, when Versus carried all four home games." But NBC's cable network "is not broadcasting games in 2011, at least not yet." Some UFL games will appear on HDNet this season, and the Mountain Lions are "scrambling so hard they have even contacted" the local PBS station (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/11).
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