Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s northeast Ohio sports franchise shopping spree is over after his recent purchase of the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators.
The Jan. 17 acquisition of the Gladiators comes after Gilbert bought an NBA Development League team last summer. His Cavaliers Holdings now owns four teams — his flagship Cavaliers, the D-League’s Canton Charge, the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters, and the Gladiators. The Cavs, Monsters and Gladiators play in Quicken Loans Arena, with the Charge in the Canton Memorial Civic Center, an hour’s drive from Cleveland. Those are enough assets at least for now for the Cavaliers front office, which oversees all of the teams.
“We have gone from a dead stop from the NBA lockout to launching a new D-League team and now the Gladiators, so we are going to work on making what we have as good as we can,” said Cavaliers President Len Komoroski.
Komoroski said the Cavs’ senior management team will run the Gladiators, but the organization will also hire 12 new staff members, including a chief operating officer, dedicated to the indoor league team. Most of the new hires will be in sales and marketing.
The Gladiators begin their home season March 26, giving the Cavs about two months to market the team that last year drew an average of 6,507 fans per game, substantially below last year’s AFL average attendance of 8,363 per game.
“We will rapidly put in place our infrastructure and we will do a tremendous amount of cross-marketing between our different entities,” Komoroski said.
Financial terms of the AFL sale were not disclosed, but Gilbert has bought 100 percent of the team from former owner Jim Ferraro, who owned the franchise since 2000. The team has played in Quicken Loans Arena for the past three seasons, giving the Cavs a close view of the AFL business.
“The AFL made sense,” Komoroski said. “We have seen firsthand the team operating in our building and ultimately we feel we can help put the team in a situation to thrive.”
“The Gladiators are another asset for the Cavaliers, and while in some aspects they are starting anew, there is a fan base and there is name recognition,” said AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz. “[The Cavs] know they can do better and they wouldn’t have come in unless they saw the upside.”