Will Predators return to Kent for a second season of arena football? Owners not sure

The co-owners of the Kent Predators of the professional Indoor Football League will decide over the several weeks whether the team will return to the ShoWare Center for a second season in 2011, after losing "a lot of money" the first year.

Predators line up on the 1-yard line against the Grizzlies in their home opener March 12 at the Kent ShoWare Center.

Predators line up on the 1-yard line against the Grizzlies in their home opener March 12 at the Kent ShoWare Center.

The co-owners of the Kent Predators of the professional Indoor Football League will decide over the several weeks whether the team will return to the ShoWare Center for a second season in 2011, after losing “a lot of money” the first year.

“We’re going to evaluate over the next couple of weeks where everything is and see if there is interest in additional investors with hopes of keeping the team in Kent,” co-owner Chris Kokalis said during a June 14 phone interview. “I think myself and (co-owner) Ken (Moninski) have the intentions that we would like the team to be here.”

Moninski got married June 12 and is out of town on his honeymoon until late June. Kokalis said he will meet with Moninski when he returns to help decide the fate of the Predators.

“It has been tough,” Kokalis said of making arena football work in Kent. “We lost a lot of money, but we knew that going in. Now if we can find additional investors or buyers, then we will review our options. As far as I am concerned, we would like to have a team back here next year.”

The Predators finished the 2010 season with a 5-9 record after a 49-42 loss June 12 at Fairbanks. They were fourth out of five teams in the Pacific North Division and failed to make the 16-team playoffs in the 25-team league.

The Predators drew about 2,000 fans per game at the ShoWare Center, Kokalis said. They played seven home games from March through June at the 6,000-seat arena.

ShoWare Center officials want the Predators back.

“I thought it was a great event for those who came to the games,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager. “They walked out pleased with the product.”

Higgins said the Predators paid all of their bills to the arena.

“We are putting together dates for them for next year,” Higgins said. “It’s seven very good events for us and we are looking forward to next year.”

The Predators signed a three-year lease with the ShoWare Center with options to extend the lease for a second and third year after evaluating results of the first year, Kokalis said.

The lease has not yet been extended beyond the first year.

Kokalis said he wants to find out the IFL’s plans for expansion as he weighs whether to keep a team in Kent. The league fielded 25 teams this year.

The IFL, based in Richmond, Va., was created in 2008 with the merger of the Intense Football League and United Indoor Football. The league runs a 14-game schedule from March through June, followed by playoffs. It has teams in 13 states from Maryland to Alaska.

“We also need to wait and see what happens with the IFL and its expansion efforts and what it does with the division,” Kokalis said. “We need to know what’s going to happen in Alaska and whether there’s going to be another team in Anchorage.”

Kent played in a division with Billings, Mont., the Tri-Cities and teams in Fairbanks and Anchorage. The Alaska Wild team of Anchorage folded partway through the season when the owner ran out of money and failed to pay players their $225 fee per game.

The Predators were scheduled to play the Wild in Anchorage June 19 to finish the regular season, but received a forfeit win instead after the league cancelled the game.

IFL officials announced the addition of a team in 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., but now officials are focused on running the 2010 playoffs that start later this month and conclude with the United Bowl on July 17.

Kokalis and Moninski also are two of the three owners of the La Crosse (Wis.) Spartans, which joined the IFL in November and made its debut in 2010. The cost of a franchise is about $300,000.

Kokalis is president and chief executive officer of CKME Group Marketing & Entertainment, a full-service marketing firm with offices in Milwaukee, Wis., and Los Angeles.

Moninski, of West Seattle, owns Tukwila-based Global Aircraft Services, a company that provides flight crews and logistics for the managed movement of commercial aircraft around the world.

Kokalis and Moninski announced in December that Kent would have a team after a their plans to own a team in Wasilla, Alaska fell through at the last minute.

That gave the organization just a few months to sell tickets and find business sponsors in Kent.

“The late start getting on board hurt their ticket sales,” Higgins said.

Kokalis agreed.

“We got off to a late start and that hampered our efforts,” Kokalis said. “We did not have time for a campaign to sell season tickets and to find sponsorships.”

Kokalis said he appreciated the support the team received from several sponsors, ShoWare officials, the city of Kent and fans.

“It is one of the best arenas in the league and Kent is a great community,” Kokalis said. “The Puget Sound region is full of football fans. But a lot of people have not heard about the Predators. We need to reach out to them.”

Click here to learn more about the Predators.

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