Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, September 7, 2001

Boxer Jesus Salud is the director of community relations
for the Hawaiian Islanders of the arenafootball2 league.

Arena football
Islanders start
up in Hawaii

With backing from a hockey
mogul, the team will play in AF2,
the AFL's developmental league

Star-Bulletin staff

Honolulu Hale was the backdrop for the announcement of the return of indoor football to Hawaii yesterday, this time with the backing of the business mogul owner of the New York Islanders, and, ultimately, the National Football League.

The Hawaiian Islanders will be one of nine new teams in arenafootball2 next season, playing its games at Blaisdell Arena. AF2 is the developmental league for the Arena Football League, which in turn is partly owned and operated (up to 49.9 percent) under the eye of the NFL.

Islanders owners are Charles B. Wang, CEO of Computer Associates International and pro sports owner in the National Hockey League and Arena Football League, and his daughter Kimberly, a seven-year Hawaii resident.

"We've been overwhelmed so far by interest and support ... from business executives, entrepreneurs, officials, the media," Kimberly Wang said.

The Hawaii Hammerheads won the 1999 Indoor Professional Football League title, succeeding on the field, but failing as a business and folding in early 2000. The principals in the Islanders announcement said things will be different this time around.

"One of the things we did when we created Arena Football, more than 15 years ago now, was that it had to be a sport, but it also had to be a business," said Islanders managing director Jerry Kurz, who also serves as executive director of the AFL Council and vice president of AFL international development and was a founding member of the AFL. "The people that have been here before doing football did a great job, but it was more so on an amateur basis. We're a professional organization." The Arena Football League has been around for 15 years and the AF2 is in its third, he said. "We have a foundation that we bring to the table that the other people before us didn't have. ... That's the difference."

Players will be paid $200 per game with a $50 bonus for each win. The Islanders will have to pay for visiting teams' lodging and airfare.

"That's huge," Kurz said. The team's goal is to develop partnerships with airlines, and symbiotic hotel partnerships are pretty much in place.

Honolulu mayor Jeremy Harris said that the arrival of the team is in sync with his vision of using sports to help diversify the island's economy. After helping the AF2 get started in Honolulu, Harris is optimistic about the team's future.

"We're talking about a sizable commitment, financially guarantee, that I think for three years they're going to be here," Harris said.

Harris' executive director of economic development Manny Menendez said that the mayor's office did what it could to help the Islanders with local connections.

"They've opened up more doors than I can count at this point," Kurz said.

Kurz, who first came to Hawaii to play in the 1971 Hula Bowl, has tried to get arena football to the state for a long time.

"When we developed AF2," he said, "first day, I said, We're here."

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin