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Volume 21 No. 31
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Fitness league hires Park Lane to raise $20M

Fund money has flowed into sports at a rapid rate in recent years, with investors looking to latch onto entertainment’s last must-see, DVR-proof content in some form or fashion.

Will it find a new pro fitness league to its liking?

The year-old National Pro Grid League has hired investment bank Park Lane to raise $20 million from funds and other institutional investors. Borrowing from the CrossFit training craze, NPGL stages two-hour matches with teams competing in races that feature weight lifting and other fitness events.

Last week, NPGL announced it had hired former YouTube head of sports Claude Ruibal to manage media and launch an over-the-top network next year.

Jim Kean, CEO of NPGL, said the league also is opening its first dedicated office next month in Vancouver, Wash.

“We are looking at a much more expanded season because we will need more content for the OTT network,” Kean said, explaining the need for extra capital. “We also need to support the growth of the amateur system, and we have interested groups in Australia and Europe who want a Grid league.”

Fitness competitions grew in large part out of the CrossFit regimen and its nationwide network of gyms. The annual Reebok CrossFit Games are televised by ESPN.

The National Pro Grid League pits teams in two-hour matches featuring fitness events.
Photo by: NPGL
NPGL launched last year and features eight teams that compete in matches through the summer. The first matches of the 2015 season were scheduled for this past weekend in San Jose at the city’s convention center. The season concludes with a playoff series at the end of August.

NBC Sports Network provides coverage of the league. Each team has a salary cap of $200,000 to pay the competitors for their participation.

Kean tapped individual investors to launch the league. The top investor (by dollars) is Ryan Schaper, a former fund manager with an interest in physical fitness.

Park Lane, which began marketing NPGL three weeks ago, declined to comment.

The league’s name derives from the arena floor for competitions being divided into eight equal spaces. Competitors started referring to the layout as the “grid,” and thus the name was born, Kean said.

The league originally was to be called the National Pro Fitness League, but the NFL has the acronym NPFL copyrighted for National Pro Football League, Kean said. In its early years, the NFL was at times referred to as the National Pro Football League.