Power's owners decide to pull plug on AFL franchise
After several attempts to keep the Power in Pittsburgh next season, the Arena Football League said Monday the four-year-old franchise will not field a team in 2015.
“The team was losing money,” majority owner Matt Shaner said.
Team ownership, including minority owners Lynn Swann and Trib Total Media, was split on a willingness to spend more money.
The Power, who reached the playoffs for the first time this year, appeared dead Nov. 17 when Shaner issued a news release announcing plans to cease operations. That triggered a series of negotiations between Shaner, Swann, Trib Total Media and AFL officials.
Commissioner Scott C. Butera said the Pittsburgh market was vital to the AFL's marketing plans, and he had spearheaded efforts to revive the Power.
“There were very active negotiations to keep the team going,” Butera said. “There were several instances when, at least from the league's perspective, we thought we were coming together.
“At the end of the day, ownership decided circumstances weren't right, and they didn't want to continue.”
Shaner started the expansion franchise in 2011, attracting a crowd of 13,904 to Consol Energy Center for the first game, an AFL record for a new team's first game.
But the team struggled over the next two seasons before finding the right combination of coaches and players this year when it won 12 straight games and finished 15-3 in the regular season before losing its first playoff game.
Coach Ron James, who has been a coach on many levels since 1986, was reluctant to comment on the franchise folding. He said he wants to continue coaching, “whether that's in this league or somewhere else.”
Butera didn't rule out returning a franchise to Pittsburgh.
“The Arena Football League remains dedicated to maintaining a franchise in the Pittsburgh market and hopes to secure a new franchise with new ownership in the near future,” he said.
Shaner, who said he values the franchise at $10 million, said he has spoken to “a couple” of interested buyers.
Power players will either become free agents or be part of an assignment draft, Butera said.
Pittsburgh is one of three cities losing AFL franchises next year, joining San Antonio and Des Moines, Iowa. Las Vegas will be an expansion franchise in the 12-team league.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.