The Arctic Predators have left the Arctic behind.
The Indoor Football League franchise, which last month announced it would unveil a team in the Valley this spring, has abruptly switched course and moved to the Seattle area to become the Kent Predators.
Predators owners Chris Kokalis and Ken Moninski were unable to come to an agreement with the City of Wasilla to play in the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Complex and quickly moved the franchise to Kent, where they are working on a lease to play in the ShoWare Center in 2010.
Wasilla officials said they would not sign a lease agreement with the Predators because of possible legal action between the owners and Hans Deemer, who initially was set to coach the Valley team.
"We were not going to enter a contract with there being the potential of pending litigation," said James Hastings, Wasilla's recreation and cultural services manager. "It was not in the best interest of the city."
Deemer, a former Alaska Wild head coach, had signed a contract to coach the Arctic Predators. He did much of the initial legwork to get an IFL team in the Valley and sought out Kokalis and Moninski as potential owners after being unable to secure commitments from local businessmen.
Kokalis said Deemer wanted a larger share in the ownership of the franchise than the organization was prepared to offer.
"There may have been some miscommunication between us originally," Kokalis said. "We did have an agreement with him as a coach and we were going to offer him a piece of the ownership. That was not enough for him. We were not going to give somebody with no financial risk half of the team.
"We were set to move on without him, but the City of Wasilla didn't want to get between a potential legal battle. Time was not on our side, we had committed to the IFL to have a team by 2010, and so we moved on."
Deemer said he didn't have a chance to sit down and talk with Kokalis initially and that there was a misunderstanding on what they each wanted.
"They made a business offer to me and I didn't feel it was acceptable," said Deemer, who was hoping the organization eventually would be owned and operated by people from the Valley. "I'm aware of situations to avoid. If you are going to marry a gal, then find her cheating with your best friend, you probably shouldn't marry her."
One of the potential sources of litigation was that Deemer said he owns the rights to the name Arctic Predators. The Predators owners took only the nickname to Kent.
Deemer is still hoping to have an indoor football team playing in the Valley in 2010, whether the team is a part of the IFL or possibly the American Indoor Football League.
"We will put a team in the Valley. We have lots and lots of support," Deemer said. "It's not just me. I'm just the most well-known, I guess. There are people outside of myself that are working diligently to have a team in the Valley. I believe the region will have a team this year."
Kokalis was adamant that if there is a team in the Valley, Hans Deemer will not be involved with it.
"We hope that this gets resolved and there will be football in the Valley, but I can promise you it won't be Hans Deemer fielding a team," Kokalis said. "The IFL has voted him down twice now and no other owners will have him as the coach."
The Predators owner also said an AIFA team cannot play in the Valley in 2010.
"We have a singed contract, a non-compete agreement, in place for one year with the city of Wasilla," Kokalis said. "It is in writing that any competing league is not allowed to play and if so there could be legal ramifications."
Kokalis also said that with the other two teams in Alaska being IFL squads -- the Alaska Wild in Anchorage and the Fairbanks Grizzlies -- an AIFA team, "won't be successful. It's not going to work for him."
The closest AIFA teams are located in Utah.
Hastings disputes that a non-compete agreement exists between the IFL and Wasilla. He contends the city never signed a contract for the league to operate in the Valley.
Hastings said Kokalis on Nov. 10 faxed him a form to sign and send to the IFL saying the Arctic Predators were in the negotiation phase to have a facility to compete in for the 2010 season.
"Nothing in that document refers to a no-compete clause," Hastings said. "We could only enter into a contract with the league with the approval of the city council and the authority of the mayor. We never got to that point in the negotiations."
Hastings said the only thing the city agreed to was to set aside certain dates at the Menard Complex as practice and game dates for the Arctic Predators.
"Anybody can call to reserve dates," Hastings said. "If the Dallas Cowboys called and asked if we had an open date to rent, we would set it aside for them, even though I don't like the Cowboys."
Groups that reserve dates have until 30 days before the requested date to complete a contract and pay for use of the facility.
The questionable start to indoor football in the Valley is certainly not unique in Alaska.
The IFL franchise in Anchorage has had its own share of problems on and off the field.
The Alaska Wild, which began in 2007 in the Intense Football League, have an overall record of 8-35, including losing games by scores of 76-9, 73-18 and 88-13. In only three seasons the Wild are on their eighth head coach -- going from Haywood Hill to Keith Evans, Randy Magner, Deemer, Floyd Johnson, Sonny Rodriguez and now Darnell Lee. The organization is also on its third owner -- David Weatherholt and Randy Deeter were followed by current owner Charles Matthews. Deemer coached the Wild for a total of 27 games, including seven of the franchise's eight victories.
Kokalis has his own shaky history with indoor football. He was previously the general manager of the Milwaukee Bonecrushers in the Continental Indoor Football League. Kokalis, head coach Gilbert Brown -- a former Green Bay Packer star -- and the team's offensive and defensive coordinators abruptly resigned before the team's first season began, complaining about the team's ownership and payroll.
Brown is now the head coach of the LaCrosse Spartans, an IFL organization that is also owned by Kokalis and Moniski, and is one of nine new franchises in the 26-team IFL.
Find Richard Larson online at adn.com/contact/rlarson or call 257-4335.
By RICHARD LARSON