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Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, January 27, 2001

A R E N A _ F O O T B A L L

Arena Football
League to Hawaii

A new franchise called the
Hawaii Land Sharks will play their
home games at Blaisdell
Center next year

By Pat Bigold

Hawaii will have a franchise next year in the AF2, the Arena Football League's development circuit for grass roots talent.

The team will be called the Hawaii Land Sharks and will play at the Blaisdell Center, according to franchise co-owners.

The three principal owners -- Carl Vincenti, Jim Byrem and Jerry Kurz -- are partners in an Oahu diving business.

Kurz, who is based in Chicago, is also AF2 director of international development and executive director of the league's management council.

Gridiron Enterprises, which launched arena football, is behind the franchise.

Vincenti and Kurz said they will meet with AFL commissioner C. David Baker and other league executives who will be here next week for the Pro Bowl.

The NFL has purchased an option to acquire 49.5 percent of the AFL.

"They've already taken over administration and training of officials and given some assistance in sales presentation and promotion," said Kurz.

"We're working on a few last issues and we're trying to start the season in 2002," said Vincenti. "We're starting the marketing effort this year."

Kurz said he is looking for a start-up office downtown.

"Then we'll want to find a facility that has office space and workout facilities in the same place," said Kurz.

Kurz said he will pursue a local TV deal at a later time.

The preseason would open in March with league championships held in August.

The last pro football franchise in the state was the Hawaii Hammerheads, who won the Indoor Professional Football League championship in 1999 and then folded.

"This is a different league of people and coaches, and with the NFL being a participant, there's a different level of expectation," said Vincenti.

He said general admission tickets would cost about $8.

"The AF2 is a different type of venue from the AFL with a different audience base," said Vincenti, emphasizing that it's better to start small. "We're looking at this over a five- or 10-year period. We're taking it in bite-size chunks."

He said the Land Sharks' roster will be composed mostly of local players, but there will be a sprinkling of mainland imports.

Kurz said players would probably be paid $200 to $300 a game. "But we perk them well," he said. "Their road accommodations will always be a name hotel and they'll have all the equipment they need."

Kurz said the incentive to play in the AF2 is clear. After one year of operation, the smaller league is sending 59 of its players to tryouts with higher-paying AFL teams this year.

The AFL, which has national TV contracts, has been a launching pad to the NFL for some players. St. Louis Rams' quarterback Kurt Warner is the highest profile graduate of the AFL. Kurz said the AF2 will have 28 teams in 2001 but will have 34 to 40 in 2002.

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