A Brief Interview with Commissioner Jerry Kurz
Wednesday June 19, 2013
After the game against the Chicago Rush in Salt Lake City, I found myself on the field standing in the general proximity to Commissioner Jerry Kurz. I wanted to say something, and ask some questions, but I didn’t know how (or if) he’d respond. I knew relations between the League and ArenaFan can be… strained, at times, but I also knew that I might not have been known as a writer for ArenaFan. In the end, I decided against it. There was probably some fear there, after 4 seasons covering the Blaze I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and fear is very common. I want to get the scoop, I want to know everything, but I don’t want to annoy anyone. So I didn’t talk to the commissioner, and I was so mad I didn’t take the opportunity.
This week as the commissioner was once again in town for the CBS Sports Network game of the week, I decided to try, and I had some help. While talking to members of the Salt Lake Media as the game was ending I realized that they were willing to come along. My fear was eased, although I had no reason to be afraid, Commissioner Kurz is a nice fellow who’s about half my size, but having a couple other people from a few other outlets made me feel more at ease.
The game was over and the players and coaches were in their 10 minute cool down period. We approached the commissioner and I called him over. I still was a little worried that if he knew I was with ArenaFan, he’d leave. So I started asking the questions, and he answered. When I was done, no other questions were asked and we all dispersed.
I’m not going to comment on these remarks (that’s what the message board is for), but I am going to say that I was fascinated, concerned and surprised by what the commissioner had to say about these three subjects. Ultimately I was really happy to take this moment and talk to the man that is, for better or worse, the head of the sport that I completely enjoy and love. After 2009, I’ve learned to never take “next year” for granted, but if the Blaze are around and host another CBS Sports Network game, I would hope that we could have another interview again, because we all know that Jerry will be there.
Don Eisenbarth: I was hoping we could have a second to talk about the state of the league. Attendance is down pretty much across the board. Do you feel like this is a bad sign for the future of the league and how can the league help teams overcome it?
Jerry Kurz: You know some of the markets have been up. Orlando, even with what they did last year, Orlando has been up. A number of the teams are up, and some of the teams are down. There's no doubt that the market and things outside our control affect it. There's no disposable income anymore.
Each of our teams work very hard and have to work harder, because the league could advertise nationally, but it's what is done in each market. The owners are concerned about it. However, you got to make sure that there's going to be a return, in the business sense, for spending for money in advertising and marketing.
The thing teams need to do, and this team does well, as do others, is become part of the community year round. We can't go into a town, roll out the field for 6 months, then roll up the field after 6 months and leave town. We have to be an integral part. Arizona probably does the best. They did 193 community appearances last year. Utah is doing a good job, but they've got to do more, as do other teams.
DE: What do you think the future of Chicago is? With the issue at the Allstate Arena, will they be able to get back in or do you think this is a team that has burnt the bridge there.
JK: No, I don't think they have. The Allstate they're great people. The previous major, the current mayor, and the management there... they're in the business of renting the facility out. When we can demonstrate to them that we have the proper and correct ownership group, there's no doubt in my mind that the Allstate Arena and the City of Rosemont will welcome them back. However, the burden is on us to bring to Allstate, the city of Rosemont and to the fans of Chicago, the right ownership group.
DE: So you're actively looking for another ownership group?
JK: We are. We are. You know, we've never done a criminal background check on anybody in the league. Maybe we should have... Someone said one word to me the other day: Rutgers. They spent $70,000 to do a background check and it didn't work. Some things come out. A lot of that's in litigation, so I can't say too much. We didn't do a criminal background check. In the 26 years of the league's history we've never done a background check on anybody. We figure if they're out on the street they're a good contributing member of society. Everybody has civil litigation. We made a mistake, there's no doubt about it. We got hoodwinked with false documents given to us.
The bottom line is we as a league have to make sure that we find the right, the best ownership group that can do the right job that can demonstrate to the fans as well to Allstate and the city of Rosemont that they're the group that deserves to be there and we'll be fine.
DE: Have you had a chance to look at the real time fantasy game that (Blaze owner) Kim Brown has going? Do you think it has any traction in making the AFL a more viable product?
JK: I like it. I don't know about vital product, I think it helps us with relevance. The key word for us to do is not vital, it's relevance. We in our community need to become a relevant part of our community. Spokane has done a wonderful job, the Barnstormers have, and other teams have.
We need to become integral relevant parts of the community and we can do that. The owners are very determined to do it the right way, the best way, and we can do that. They just don't want to repeat history and make the same mistake that the old league did and spend yourself out of existence. You can't operate any business if you spend more money then you bring in. It has to be crawling before you walk before you run. All of us want us to happen sooner then later but we want to be a sustained league and we will.
Look at what we're able to do with the neutral site ArenaBowl; KISS in concert with us. Does anyone think that KISS would agree to be partners with us without them seeing a bright future for the league as well? There's a lot of things we've done right, there's a lot of things we haven't done right. There's a lot of things that I haven't done as I would have liked to. However, we're all working together, with our fans included, we'll get better.
Don Eisenbarth has been following the Utah Blaze since 2006, but this is his first year covering for ArenaFan. Born in Provo to a family of BYU fans and having graduated from the University of Utah, Don has enjoyed all sides of the Utah college football landscape for decades and is excited for the return of professional football to the Beehive State. You can follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/bigdondoo
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.