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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

Indoor sport plans dead in Toledo

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Davenport Davenport
HO / HANDOUT Enlarge

The idea of playing football indoors in Toledo will remain just that after the plans of a Cincinnati native to bring a franchise came up incomplete on two attempts to find a home site.

Ramone Davenport doesn't quite understand how an initial deal with the SeaGate Centre back in May to serve as the home site for his indoor football team starting in 2007 fell through. He was surprised only last week that a deal reached in June to play at the Sports Arena next year would also end up falling flat.

"I provided everything they asked me to provide for them," said Davenport, 30, a former indoor football league player turned team official.

Jim Donnelly, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the agreement with Davenport was not continued based upon SeaGate officials' concerns about the instability of indoor football leagues in general.

Davenport's original plan had the Toledo team playing in the National Indoor Football League, which is a seven-year-old league that has had its share of team ownership concerns. Davenport backed away from a plan to be affiliated with the NIFL and was set to become associated with the Great Lakes Indoor Football League, which is nearing the end of its first season.

"Our board just felt it's not in our best interest at this time to be the host venue for the [indoor football] league," Donnelly said. "They felt it wasn't right for us. We're more into conventions and trade shows."

Davenport then approached the Sports Arena as another local option. Initially, an agreement was reached and he delivered $5,000 to reserve the dates for potential home games starting in 2007. Davenport said he was informed last week the old building on Toledo's east side wouldn't be available for football next year.

As a result, Davenport has taken his plans to Wooster, where he intends to establish the second Ohio-based team in the GLIFL. The Marion Mayhem is currently the lone Ohio team among six teams, including four based in Michigan, that participated in the league's inaugural season.

Davenport said he's disappointed his plans to put a team in Toledo didn't work out but is looking to make the most of the situation in Wooster.

"It was a shock," Davenport said. "I thought I was squared away with the Sports Arena. I had given them money and everything they requested from me."

Attempts yesterday to reach Sports Arena vice president and general manager Gary Wyse were not successful.

GLIFL owner Jeff Spitaleri believes Toledo represents a good market to support an indoor football league franchise. He also believes Davenport had everything in place to make a team work in the Glass City, which included having already purchased an artificial playing surface.

"He was all ready to go in Toledo," said Spitaleri, of Davenport's initial plans. "He's never balked at any of the league payments he's needed to make. He was psyched about playing in Toledo and getting into a new market."

Spitaleri expressed concerns about Toledo politics having an effect on Davenport ultimately being denied a place to settle into Toledo.

He believes the continual debate about the need for building a new arena in Toledo may have played a role in Davenport ending up moving his operation to Wooster.

"My impression is, they want indoor football in the city of Toledo," said Spitaleri, whose league headquarters are based in North Canton. "But if they already have a team playing indoor football at either place, then that could hurt support that would favor the need to build a new arena."

Original plans between Davenport and the SeaGate Centre called for a Toledo-based team to play seven home dates inside the 75,000-square-foot facility starting in 2007. Yet, the project never even reached the point where the local public had input in determining a team name nor were local tryouts scheduled to fill the 25-man roster. Each player would have earned $200 per game.

Davenport, who also served as the general manager/coach of the NIFL expansion Dayton Bulldogs, believed the Toledo community and northwest Ohio were ideal for an indoor football franchise. He thought the level of interest for football and potential talent from local area schools and universities would have served as ideal draws to build a fan base for a team which would have had an average ticket price of approximately $10.

Contact Donald Emmons

at demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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