Valley gets another shot at indoor football

PREDATORS: Ex-Alaska Wild coach lands American Indoor Football Association team.

January 5, 2010 

WASILLA -- Indoor football fans, hope for watching professional football games in Wasilla might be on the horizon after all.

The Indoor Football League team that was to play at the Wasilla Sports Center this year moved to Kent, Wash., in December after a dispute between its Wisconsin owners and former Alaska Wild football coach Hans Deemer, who has worked for a year to bring indoor football to Wasilla.

Deemer says he's committed to bringing a professional indoor football team to Wasilla anyway, and he plans to make it happen this spring.

Deemer is asking the city of Wasilla to grant office space and rink time for seven home games and regular practices this year under a contract city officials say will earn the city $36,000 to $39,000.

The team will still be known as the Arctic Predators -- a name an indoor football fan picked when Deemer and others were working to bring indoor football to the Valley last year through the Indoor Football League, or IFL.

Deemer said he trademarked the name, but Chris Kokalis and Ken Moninski, owners of the Kent Predators and the LaCrosse Spartans of Wisconsin, another IFL team, say the name is theirs.

The naming dispute is one facet of an ongoing disagreement among Deemer and the two men. Deemer said he didn't want to talk about the dispute until it was settled.

"There were things behind the scenes that it doesn't do any good to air out," he said.

Also unclear is who the owners of the new team are. Deemer said an ownership group made up of several local people is being finalized and he won't be ready to name names until possibly later this month.

When the deal between Deemer, Kokalis and Moninski soured last month, Deemer sought a new league. Michael Mink, co-founder of the American Indoor Football Association, said the Arctic Predators were accepted Tuesday into the league, making them the first AIFA team in Alaska.

The AIFA is a 16-team professional indoor football league that formed in 2006. Alaska would play seven home and seven away games with teams in Western states, Deemer said. The roster includes the New Mexico Wildcats, Ogden Knights, San Jose Wolves, Wenatchee Valley Venom, Wyoming Cavalry and Yakima Valley Warriors.

Negotiations between the city and the new Predators franchise should also be final this month. City Council will consider at its Jan. 11 meeting a contract for office space, storage and use of the Curtis C. Menard II Memorial Ice Arena, said city recreation and cultural services manager James Hastings, who oversees the sports center.

Hastings said the team would play on the ice rink using a turf field overlaying the ice. Protective glass around the rink will be taken down, and the team would put pads over the dasher boards.

The contract, if approved, should be ready just in time for tryouts. Deemer said open tryouts are scheduled for Jan. 30, from noon to 4 p.m. at the sports center. He plans to make announcements about the team and who will be coaching -- it might not be him -- in early February.

Hastings said the Predators' schedule shows plans to host seven games in Wasilla on Saturday nights in April, May and June. The team would practice when the rink isn't booked for other uses, he said.

Hastings said having the Predators play in the Valley should increase traffic to the sports center, which is good for the city, and it would give Valley-based Alaska Wild fans a home team to root for.

"A good portion of the Alaska Wild fan base comes from the Valley," Hastings said.

The Alaska Wild and the Fairbanks Grizzlies belong to the IFL. Not playing in the IFL means foregoing budget-friendly in-state games with the Wild and Grizzlies. But Deemer said playing strictly Western teams, two of which are in Washington State, should help the Predators keep its travel budget low.

"The first year with the Wild, we paid about $225,000 in travel," he said. "I really think we can do it for under $100,000."


Find Rindi White online at adn.com/contact/rwhite or call 352-6709.

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