One official believes Youngstown has a big market for arena football.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Concerns about competition have a group of area investors that wants to bring arena football to the Youngstown Convocation Center in 2006 facing fourth-and-long.
Jerry Kurz, executive director of ArenaFootball2 (af2), says his league wants to set up shop in Youngstown as soon as possible but has been told it won't be before 2007.
The reason, according to the group headed by Dr. Michael Slyk of Warren, is a clause in the Youngstown SteelHounds' contract that gives the hockey team sports exclusivity for one year because they are considered the top tenant in the new arena.
Jeff Kossow, executive director of the Youngstown Convocation Center, said Friday that he cannot comment on what's in the SteelHounds' lease. He referred questions to Global Entertainment Corp., the Phoenix company that operates the Central Hockey League, and also will operate the arena.
The SteelHounds are joining the CHL as an expansion team.
A franchise to sell
Slyk, president and owner of Pharmacotherapy Associates of Warren, and three other regional businessmen approached Global officials last fall, about a month before Herb Washington was named owner of the Youngstown SteelHounds.
Slyk's partners had been awarded the rights to an af2 franchise, Kurz said.
The league is operated as a subsidiary of the Arena Football League, which is staging ArenaBowl XI Sunday in Las Vegas.
"We told them to go ahead, so they went to the building [managers]," Kurz said. "They were informed by the building that the hockey team has a clause in their contract that allows them to control competition for the first season.
"So the local ownership group is unable to get a lease for '06 but could come [into the building] in '07."
Last October, Slyk's group met with Kossow and thought it was in negotiations for the 2006 arena football season that begins in March.
However, after Washington was named SteelHounds owner Nov. 17, Slyk's group was told that it would have to wait until 2007.
Running into roadblocks
The SteelHounds will play 32 home games in the Youngstown Convocation Center from November through March. The $41 million arena will have approximately 5,800 seats for ice hockey.
ArenaFootball2 teams play 16 regular-season games plus playoffs in a season that runs from April through July. Slyk says the cost of an arena football franchise is $500,000. Factoring equipment costs of $200,000, Slyk's group figured it would cost approximately $1 million to field a team in the first season.
After the group secured funding, Slyk said Kossow asked the group to submit a formal proposal to Global. Slyk says the group did, developing one with the guidance of af2.
Slyk said Global looked at the proposal, then countered with a different proposal that the group found cost-prohibitive.
When Slyk's group asked for negotiations, it was told that the SteelHounds had sports exclusivity for one year.
A choice audience
Kurz said he is not happy about af2's being shut out of what he considers to be a prime football market.
"We very much would like to be there in '06," Kurz said. "We think citizens there would like to have our product in '06. We are ready, willing and able, but we were told that they cannot obtain a lease for '06.
"We like that market very much," Kurz said of Youngstown. "It's going to be a tremendous market for arena football."
ArenaFootball2 has 20 teams this season. Four of those teams -- Rio Grande Valley Dorados, Tulsa Talons, Memphis Explorers and Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings -- are in markets that have CHL teams.
"Everyone knows that across Ohio is football country," Kurz said. "We love the market and want to be there."