SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/This Week's News

AF1 gets Arena Football League assets for $6.1M, plans to start playing in April

The newly created AF1 won a court order to buy the assets of the shuttered AFL on Dec. 7, clearing the way for a relaunch of arena football in the spring of 2010.

AF1 paid $6.1 million in a bankruptcy auction for the rights to the AFL’s intellectual property, including the names and logos of the league and all of its teams. The deal is set to close on Friday.

Tulsa, Okla.-based AF1 is planning to kick off its inaugural season during the first weekend of April. AF1 announced plans to play in 15 markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, Cleveland and Salt Lake City, all of which are former AFL markets. Other teams will be located in Huntsville, Ala.; Bossier City-Shreveport, La.; Des Moines, Iowa; Jacksonville; Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; Spokane, Wash.; and Tulsa.

The league will be structured as a single entity, with players’ and coaches’ salaries paid by the league. Teams will sell their own tickets, local sponsorships and local media deals.

Each team will play a 16-game schedule during a season that will run from early April to late August. Jerry Kurz, an investor in the original AFL, is the commissioner of AF1.

“A single entity gives us the economic model that gives us buying power on behalf of the league, with so much savings to be realized,” Kurz said.

The league does not yet have a television partner to replace the AFL’s deal with ESPN, which also owned a minority share in the league, but AF1 has hired television consultant Neal Pilson to develop a national media strategy.

AF1 is owned equally by the league’s 15 team owners. The league plans to hire a 15-member staff to work out of its Tulsa office.

“Each team is an equal member,” Kurz said. “We have a good group of owners who stepped up to launch the game.”

The deal’s closing marks the official end of the Arena Football League, which shut down in 2009 after 22 seasons.

The league was sent into forced Chapter 7 bankruptcy and then, in late August, it successfully filed to move into Chapter 11 protection.

Proceeds of the $6.1 million sale are earmarked for Fifth Third Bank, which is owed $7.7 million and is the largest secured creditor named in the AFL’s Chapter 11 filing.

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