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Wheat King
2008-05-30, 16:38
Saskatoon poised to catch arena football franchise

Kevin Mitchell, Saskatchewan News Network; Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008

Arena football executive Doug MacGregor is taking some probing kicks at Saskatoon's tires.

MacGregor, who currently has an ownership stake in nine arenafootball2 teams, confirmed Thursday that he's looking at making Saskatoon the league's only Canadian city. He talked to Credit Union Centre general manager Ken Wood for the first time on Thursday, and said he'd like a Saskatoon team to start af2 play in 2009 if the market's right.

"I have a lot of excitement about what I believe the potential could be," MacGregor said from Austin, Texas, where his Austin Wranglers are based. "But there's so many elements that need to line up if it's going to work right. We're not interested in something that's not going to be successful for the community and for us."

MacGregor said it's "too early to tell" if a Saskatoon franchise would be an expansion team or one shifting over from an existing af2 market.

The Arena Football League holds a majority interest in af2, which currently has 30 teams across the U.S. af2 granted Buffalo a franchise this month; that group reportedly includes former Bills Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly in minority-ownership roles.

John Gregory, the Saskatchewan Roughriders' head coach when they won the Grey Cup in 1989, coaches the af2's Iowa Barnstormers.

The af2 is a secondary circuit to the AFL but plays by the same rules -- including a 50-yard-long field, with eight players on at a time. The league's been around since 2000.

MacGregor said he's aware of Saskatoon's professional-sports past -- a dysfunctional tale full of jilted fans and businesses, broken promises, and terribly-run teams and leagues.

But Saskatoon remains an attractive site for various leagues because of its size, current economic boom, and lack of professional-sports options within the city limits.

MacGregor, who is looking to partner with local ownership, said he's entered oft-burned markets in the past and is prepared to fight that battle in Saskatoon.

"I'm never worried about another team as competition," he said. "The only thing I worry about is the shady operators who poison the well. That's where local ownership is so important. If we don't have people from the community with a reputation for being first-class operators, it's too hard to overcome the negative acts of others.

"What we ask," he adds, "is that people suspend disbelief. If they'll give us a shot, we'll do fine, because we do things the right way."

He says he'd be looking at a minimum fan base of 3,000 for arena football to work in Saskatoon.

The time-line, he adds, is tight for 2009. He says things would have to come together by the end of June.

"This is the stage where you have some discussions and see if there's a fit," MacGregor said. "A lot of elements need to line up if it's going to work. Not only does it have to have a good community fit, but the venue has to be interested and there's got to be fan and business interest. A lot of elements go into making a successful team."

af2 isn't the first arena-football league to look at Saskatoon. The North American Indoor Football League failed at its attempt to start up 14 franchises across Canada in 2005. Saskatoon and Regina were both on that ill-fated league's radar.

"There's been a couple of them," says the CUC's Wood. "But this one is an existing league and that has some impact. We're taking a preliminary look at it, anyways."




The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008

cjstora
2008-05-30, 19:19
...and in keeping with Canadian tradition, they will be called the Roughriders. ;)

Of course, the real challenge here will be to give the arena game that "real Saskatchewan feel" and finding an air conditioner large enough to plunge the building into -20 degree temperatures. :D

In all seriousness, it would be neat to see it.

Shootmaster_44
2008-05-31, 00:49
...and in keeping with Canadian tradition, they will be called the Roughriders. ;)

Of course, the real challenge here will be to give the arena game that "real Saskatchewan feel" and finding an air conditioner large enough to plunge the building into -20 degree temperatures. :D

In all seriousness, it would be neat to see it.

I hope it pans out. It would be a place for many of the former Huskies to continue their playing career.

The best thing about it would be if the Riders and the team could work out some agreement whereby players the Riders are interested in, but have no roster space for (like Teale Orban probably) could play under the watchful eye of the coaching staff.