Blaze Has Been Put Out in Utah
And then there were 13…
ArenaBowl XXVI came and went, and all around the Arena Football League seemed to revel in the celebration that was the league's championship game. The LA KISS have been formed, bringing the AFL back to one of the biggest markets in the country. Commissioner Jerry B. Kurz promised "more discussions" on future expansion and more television deals. And yet here we are on September 5th, and the most notable news on the AFL front is that the Utah Blaze will be the second of the 14 teams that were in the league last year that will not be returning in 2014.
Multiple independent sources have confirmed to ArenaFan that the Blaze are not going to be returning to the league in 2014. The team was stricken with financial disaster over the course of the entire 2013 season, and it was kicked out of EnergySolutions Arena for failure to pay rent. Though the Deseret News reported that rent had been paid through the 2014 season at the ESA, obviously, further woes plagued the team and forced it to fold.
The Blaze and the Chicago Rush are now both extinct, joining the ranks of the Georgia Force, Kansas City Command, Alabama Vipers, Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Milwaukee Mustangs and Dallas Vigilantes who have all folded, moved, or otherwise ceased operations in the last three years.
ArenaFan reached out to Utah's Director of Communications, Michael Dijulio, who declined comment.
The 2014 season could very conceivably go forward with just 13 teams. The Oregonian is reporting that the bid for Portland to join the AFL could have hit a snag. A source told John Canzano of The Oregonian, "We are still deciding if we will do it."
Presumably, the KISS would join the Arizona Rattlers, Spokane Shock, and San Jose SaberCats in the Western Division, while it is unknown what will happen to the San Antonio Talons and Iowa Barnstormers, the two of which would be in the Central Division by themselves heading into 2014. Sources have confirmed to ArenaFan that the idea of switching to two conferences is most certainly in play, but no decision has been definitively made one way or the other at this point.
In other offseason news, the Orlando Predators will officially be homeless come Monday. A source close to the team confirmed to ArenaFan that the situation could be remedied and that the new ownership of the team, headed by David Pearsall, is going to do everything that it can to stay in the city of Orlando for the 2014 season. A new lease at the Amway Center certainly seems to be coming down the line, but at least for the time being, the Predators are without a place to play in 2014.