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AFL commissioner: Power on solid ground

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 8:07 p.m.

Commissioner Jerry Kurz admits indoor football is not relevant in every Arena Football League market, but he said Pittsburgh has no such problem.

“I believe we are relevant in Pittsburgh,” Kurz said Saturday before the Power's final home game of the season at Consol Energy Center. “I've been here a number of times. I've talked to a lot of people when I come to towns. They are on TV. They are marketed. They are there.”

With two games remaining, the Power (3-13) will finish no better than their 5-13 record of a year ago. Nonetheless, attendance rose 13.5 percent to an average of 5,865 over nine home games.

A total of 10 games were televised — either on thisTV Pittsburgh or CBS Sports Network ­— and all 18 will be broadcast on TribLiveRadio. Co-owners Matt Shaner and Lynn Swann said publicly that they expect the franchise to return next year for its fourth season.

“As far as I know, (every team) is coming back,” Kurz said.

League membership has fallen from 18 teams in 2011 to 17 to 14 this year, but the commissioner said expansion next year is “more probable than not.”

Nonetheless, he said the AFL must deal with what he calls “issues and challenges.”

“I don't know any business anywhere that doesn't (have issues), including our government,” Kurz said.

Chief among those issues are a lack of sufficient visibility in some cities, he said.

“In some markets, we're only going to get more fans if more people know we're there,” he said, suggesting that some franchises need to step up marketing efforts. “In some of our markets, we are almost non-existent.”

Kurz didn't name the league's troubled franchises, but average attendance in Chicago and New Orleans was only 4,378 and 4,086, respectively, through last Saturday. The Chicago Rush have been forced to find alternate venues for home games after former owner David Staral Jr. defaulted on a $50,000 payment to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.

But Kurz said he expects to have a franchise next year in Chicago, the AFL's base of operations.

Overall, he said he is pleased with the league's direction, with the arenas filled to 75 percent of capacity and Arena Bowl XVI set to be telecast on CBS on Aug. 17 from Orlando, Fla.

Also, the new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union allows for multi-year contracts that help improve franchise stability.

“Any time you can build up a fan base with players who are going to be there multiple years, football-wise, of course that helps,” Kurz said. “But fans appreciate that, as well.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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