Thursday, October 14, 2004

Funding blitz fails for
isle football franchise

The Islanders cease operations
after efforts to find new revenue
sources run out of time

The Hawaiian Islanders, an arenafootball2 franchise that played its games at Blaisdell Arena, announced yesterday that it has ceased operations after three years of existence.

"It's been very emotional today," said Chris Dey, Islanders executive director and general manager. "We left it all on the field."

The Islanders, which lost $1.3 million this past season, reduced projected operating expenses for the 2005 fiscal year by almost $500,000, and had been directed by owner Charles Wang to generate $525,000 in new revenue for the upcoming season. The goal was to cut the operating loss to about $250,000-$350,000 a year.

Teams had until tomorrow to declare their intention to participate in the 2005 af2 season. This week, it became clear that the Islanders could not raise the money in time.

"It's a business and you've got to make money. They've (Wang and his daughter, co-owner Kimberly) taken one for the team for three years," said Islanders quarterback Darnell Arceneaux, the first player signed when the team was founded in 2001.

Dey said that the Islanders had been able to secure about $315,000 in new revenue for the next season, thanks in part to a final two-month blitz that saw the team meet with about 110 companies.

"As valiant as it was, raising that much, we were still staring down the barrel" of tomorrow's deadline, Dey said.

"You have to make a sound business decision."

The Islanders came up short despite a full-court blitz that included personal pleas from Charles Wang, who also owns the National Hockey League's New York Islanders (the NHL also might not play this season) and the Arena Football League's New York Islanders.

"I met with Mr. Wang," said Ken Stanford, JN Automotive vice president and general manager, who serves on the Islanders board of advisers, "and he supported it to the tune of a lot of money the past few years. And he wanted to see most of that red ink stop, and I don't blame him."

Wang urged his corporate sponsors to increase their contributions and bring business friends to the Islanders table, Stanford said.

Dey lauded the Islanders' corporate sponsors (of which the Star-Bulletin was one). The team just could not find enough of them in time, he said.

"The ones that were there did a great job and were very supportive," he said. "The emotion that they displayed in the meetings (to announce the news) and the disappointment was very moving."

"I'm just very disappointed," Stanford said. "I don't know how many that is, how many sports franchises our state has lost."

The Islanders had lost close to $5.5 million in their three years of operation.

The Islanders were awarded the af2's Best Marketing Plan and Execution award in 2003. They won af2 awards for their team Web site, television commercial and community relations program this year.

The team won the af2 West Division championship in 2003.

Islanders players who have gone on to other levels include Isaac White, who went to training camp with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs; Josh White and Olen Rosehill, who played in the AFL; and Kohei Satomi, who played for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe.

Arceneaux, a former Saint Louis School coach and current Waipio Panthers Pop Warner assistant, noted the number of his teammates who had become coaches.

"I think the Islanders were a part of that," he said.

Dey chose to remember the "Islanders Inspires" program, which, with corporate sponsors, paid for more than 4,000 kids to attend Islanders games.

"I was really disappointed," Stanford said, "because we don't have any professional sports. And it's so disheartening that this community won't support a professional sport."



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