SBJ/20101129/This Week's Issue

Lightning in negotiations to buy AFL’s Storm


A deal would give Jeff Vinik another team at
St. Pete Times Forum

The Arena Football League may soon have an NHL investor as the Tampa Bay Lightning negotiates a deal to buy the indoor league’s Tampa Bay Storm.

A deal could be completed by early December and the AFL’s board of directors already has approved the potential sale.

“A purchase is being considered,” said Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett. “The AFL team has some tangible assets and it only makes sense to keep the Storm playing in the market. [The AFL’s] season is basically in the NHL offseason and it keeps the building busy.”

The purchase price is estimated to range between $2 million and $3 million, sources said.

The Lightning is owned by Jeff Vinik, who bought the NHL team in March for $110 million. A deal would give Vinik control of an additional franchise that plays in the 19,758-seat St. Pete Times Forum. The AFL’s season runs from mid-March through August.

The Storm currently is owned by a group led by Todd Boren, who bought the team last year for an undisclosed amount after the AFL was bought out of bankruptcy and relaunched as a single-entity. Last year, the Storm ran the team’s football operations while giving the Lightning control of its ticketing, sponsorship and broadcast business in return for an undisclosed per game fee. The Storm led the AFL in average attendance in 2010 by drawing 15,237 fans per game, nearly double the league’s 8,154 average attendance.

AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz would not comment on the negotiations and Storm officials did not return calls for comment.

The fledgling AFL continues to try to bolster its ownership, with the league expanding during its offseason to 18 teams from 15. The league has added teams this year in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and San Jose while shuttering the Oklahoma City franchise.

“We are moving out of small markets to large markets and after our hiatus, I am pleased with our progress, but we have a long way to go,” Kurz said.

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