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Georgia Force (AFL) Purchased by Arthur Blank


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In a story in today's ajc, it was announced that the Falcons owner bought the Force, and was combining operations between the two teams. Sounds like a good money-saver... plus it works as a sort of training ground for the Falcons, as well as improves drastically the facilities the Force has at their disposal.

Myself, I hope he leaves them in Gwinnett, then buys the Hawks, Braves, and Thrashers, and moves all of the Atlanta teams out of the god-and-civilization-forsaken down town area.

http://www.ajc.com/sports/content/sports/f...04/25force.html

Blank buying arena football's Georgia Force

By KEN SUGIURA

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Published on: 5/24/04

Trying to save one foundering pro football team wasn't quite enough for Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank in retirement.

The Atlanta Falcons owner has now added the Georgia Force to his to-do list.

Blank reached an agreement Monday to buy the Force, an Arena Football League team that plays its games in Gwinnett County. The team has a losing record (20-25) and has gone through three coaches since moving to the Atlanta area three years ago.

"Our staff and the Falcons will be very much involved in running the Force," said Blank, who declined to disclose the sale price.

Blank is acquiring the team from Atlanta businessman Virgil Williams, who bought the Nashville Kats in 2001 for a reported $12 million and moved them to Atlanta. Williams will retain a small minority share in the team for four years.

Blank is the fifth NFL owner with a financial stake in the AFL, a league created 18 years ago to offer an indoor version of football in the winter and spring.

Arena football is different from the standard game primarily in that it is played on a 50-yard field with eight players on a side, and with rules heavily favoring the offense. Games with final scores in the 50s are common.

"We attended one game earlier this year with my wife and my 7-year-old and we had a wonderful time," Blank said. "It's a very exciting kind of football."

This doesn't mean, though, that Michael Vick will be moonlighting with the Force next spring. NFL rules prohibit teams from putting players on arena football rosters in the offÂseason.

The Falcons will share resources with the Force, which concludes its season Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The Force will move its operations to the Falcons' Flowery Branch headquarters, which is already at capacity, with an expansion coming less than four years after opening. Falcons staff, primarily those in ticket sales and marketing, will also work on behalf of the Force. Falcons executive vice president of marketing Dick Sullivan will direct the operations of the Force.

On the football end, the Falcons training, scouting and equipment staffs will also work with the Force, Blank said, and Force players will use the Falcons' training facilities.

"We think we can add a lot of pluses to this team," Blank said.

Williams and Blank insisted the deal was not financially driven -- though Williams admitted the team had been losing money. "This is not a financial transaction for Virgil," Blank said.

Williams first contacted Blank about the possibility of buying the team about 18 months ago, near the end of Blank's first season as the Falcons' owner.

"I think Virgil realized that they were at a competitive disadvantage" without NFL backing, Blank said. For instance, the team has practiced at a high school and in an indoor soccer field when the weather was inclement.

"They're going to have first-class facilities," Williams said of the new Force.

Blank was noncommittal about keeping the team in Gwinnett County, its home for the past two seasons after playing its inaugural season at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta. The team has averaged selling about 9,000 tickets in the 11,200-seat Gwinnett Arena after having averaged about 7,000 a game at Philips in 2002. Last year, the league average was about 10,800 tickets.

Significant changes could be ahead for the Force. Blank said: "There's no commitment to keep anybody or keep everybody. We'll look at it kind of on a person-by-person basis."

This would apparently include Vince Dooley, the legendary University of Georgia coach and athletics director who was hired as a team adviser in the past year.

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Actually the NFL has rules against the using of Arena players as "minor leaguers" they have to go on waivers before the team can sign them. Jerry Jones has been part owner of the Dallas Desperados since their inception. It's more complicated and really can't be used as a "farm system". Anyways just some info I've aquired.

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Does anyone else wish that a minor league football system in the US? Same rules as the NFL. You could play NFL Europe during the current dates and the NFL Minor Leagues would play on Saturday before the Sunday NFL game.

This way you can run it like minor league baseball with call-ups and the such. A player would have to be called up by Thursday to play in a Sunday game to eliminate players play 2 days in a row. Teams would play in already built college stadiums. Each team would have it's own minor league franchise, thus running the same playbook and making and easier transition up and down from team to team.

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Maybe we could test out a minor league NFL team in Canada?

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The problem with a fall minor league for the NFL is that there is no way to develop a profitable enterprise without either encroaching on college football or high school football. In order to make money (which it will have to do for the NFL owners to be interested), there must be a television package. So unless you play on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, you aren't going to get any kind of TV package - you can't play on Monday night, obviously and you can't play on Thursday night (college games). I think the league would be reluctant to play games on Friday night since that interferes with HS football (bad for promotion of the game among young people) and Friday is a crappy TV night anyway. Saturdays are clearly out. Besides, the NCAA is really the unofficial minor league for the NFL as it is and the NFL doesn't have to pay for it. I would love to see a minor league for the NFL and get pro football out to some midsized markets that perhaps don't even have a significant college team, but I just don't see the NFL running to do this.

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Would "god-and-civilization-forsaken down town area" be a codephrase for "minorities live nearby and suburbanites are fearful?"

Besides I don't think I've ever walked down Peachtree without being handed some kind of bible-thumper's literature... not exactly what I'd call "God forsaken." :D

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Does anyone else wish that a minor league football system in the US? Same rules as the NFL. You could play NFL Europe during the current dates and the NFL Minor Leagues would play on Saturday before the Sunday NFL game.

This way you can run it like minor league baseball with call-ups and the such. A player would have to be called up by Thursday to play in a Sunday game to eliminate players play 2 days in a row. Teams would play in already built college stadiums. Each team would have it's own minor league franchise, thus running the same playbook and making and easier transition up and down from team to team.

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Maybe we could test out a minor league NFL team in Canada?

They won't do this unless Maruice Clarett somehow gets that ruling overturned.

Not that I wouldn't like to see an NFL Minor League happen...

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Myself, I hope he leaves them in Gwinnett, then buys the Hawks, Braves, and Thrashers, and moves all of the Atlanta teams out of the god-and-civilization-forsaken down town area.

You are insane. Downtown is the perfect place for these teams. Not everybody lives out in the middle of nowhere like you do. I'd much rather drive downtown than to the overgrown parking lot known as Gwinnett.

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Brilliant! Move the Force to bee-you-tee-ful downtown Atlanta and play at the Georgia Dome. Why? People can see them, and with a capacity of at least 25,000 there from February through June, people will go there and watch.

Besides, Mr. Blank joins Tom Benson (New Orleans), the afforementioned Jerry Jones (Dallas), Dan Snyder (Washington), Bud Adams (Nashville Kats II) and Wayne Weaver (Jacksonville) along with the Maras (former part-owners of the former NJ Gladiators) as owners in both Arena Football and the NFL.

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