Saturday, October 23, 1999
Future in doubtBy Pat Bigold
for financially strapped
The Hawaii Hammerheads, winners of the 1999 Indoor Professional Football League championship, financially are on shaky ground.
Co-owner George Hetherington said this week the franchise's chances of coming back to defend its title are 50-50.
The Hammerheads office at 1507 Kapiolani Blvd. has been closed and calls are being routed to another number.
"They are trying to reorganize," said Jeff Viergutz, director of IPFL operations.
Viergutz said the league is concerned about the possibility of losing its championship franchise. But, he said, the IPFL is working with Hammerheads owners to find investors to keep the club going.
On Aug. 22, as the Hammerheads arrived home from the IPFL championship game in Austin, Texas, Hetherington declared amid the airport terminal celebration, "We'll be back in a big way."
Another co-owner, Robert Wu, echoed Hetherington, saying, "We're definitely coming back."
But Hetherington, one of four remaining contributing investors, said Thursday that major new capital he had counted on did not materialize.
He said the league has given the team owners until Nov. 15 to decide if they can venture into another season.
Hetherington and his co-investors have been candid about the team's lack of profitability. In August, when the Hammerheads secured home field advantage for a playoff game, they said it would have been financially wiser to yield the home field to first-round opponent Mississippi. That franchise was doing substantially better at the gate than Hawaii.
But the owners decided to keep the home field. The Hammerheads beat Mississippi and then traveled to Texas to beat the Terminators for the IPFL title.
Hetherington said the club is not in a position right now to avoid losing money again.
"I don't know what it would take to be in a break-even situation," he said.
"If you triple the attendance and get 50 percent more per ticket, that still will result in a fairly substantial deficit."
He said he needs a major corporate investor who is willing "to stay the course" for the franchise.