A Tuesday teleconference of the arenafootball2 board of directors could end with the Quad-City Steamwheelers indoor football franchise under new management, af2 president Jerry Kurz said Sunday.
Contrary to rumors circulating inside the i wireless Center during Saturday’s Steamwheelers home game, however, Kurz insisted the Quad-City team will finish its 2009 season as scheduled.
“The league has never had a team not finish the season, and we won’t start now,” Kurz said. A&J, I don’t believe, will be going forward.’’
A&J Football Inc., is a 33-member group of local investors led by Alan Millage and Joe Sisler. The group assumed operating control of the decade-old franchise from Mike Bawden and Friday Night Football Inc. last fall. A.J. Football is the fourth ownership group to fly the Steamwheelers flag in the last five years.
Kurz would not elaborate on reasons A&J might be removed from the ownership/management picture, but with some Steamwheelers employees currently working without paychecks, Millage conceded, “there definitely is a cash flow issue.”
He also indicated there is an issue with the group’s workers’ compensation letter of credit with the league.
Kurz could not say who might assume management of the team through the final nine games of the season, but Millage said founding team owner Jim Foster, who is a managing owner of the Peoria Pirates, is working to broker “a potential solution.’’
Foster confirmed he is attempting to find new money for the team and said he has spoken to i wireless Center executive director Scott Mullen about the situation.
Mullen could not be reached for comment Sunday. Mullen also currently is busy working to find a hockey tenant for his building in the winter. News on that front also is expected this week.
Foster, who was the Steamwheelers’ majority owner from 2000-2005 and also invented the arenafootball game a quarter century ago, stressed he won’t be involved in the new management of the team.
“I’m doing this on behalf of the league and as original owner of the team,” he said of attempting to find a way to keep the Steamwheelers alive this season and beyond. “I have no financial interest.”
The Steamwheelers have struggled financially and at the gate since averaging more than 8,300 fans per game in their first two seasons, both af2 championship campaigns. The team had averaged 4,337 through its first four games this season, a marginal increase over last year’s average of 4,295 and the team’s best per-game draw since 2005.
However, despite the the addition of 31 support investors, Millage conceded before the season that A&J did not have enough in cash reserves to get through a full season and that the team was counting on paid attendance and other in-season income to pay the club’s way.
Despite a disappointing 56-49 loss to South Georgia on Saturday, the Steamwheelers are 4-3 on the field this year and are tied for the lead of the af2’s Midwest Division.
Without new management and new money coming forward, Millage indicated not allowing the Steamwheelers to complete its 10th season was something the league’s board of directors might consider on Tuesday.
Kurz insisted that won’t be the result.
“Af2 has never had a game scheduled and then cancelled,” he said. “We’re not going to start now. I don’t have any doubt that everything is going to be OK.”
The Steamwheelers are scheduled to visit Foster’s Peoria Pirates on Saturday night. The team’s next scheduled home game is June 6 against Iowa.