Uncertain future for Revolution as first season ends

by Amy Kingsley

The Greensboro Revolution may have finished the season with five wins and nine losses, a record that earned them last place in the Atlantic Conference east division of the National Indoor Football League. But the fact that they finished it without any major meltdowns is a partial victory for team owner Anthony Pewonski and the league.

Team owners denied rumors that players’ paychecks had been delayed and Andrew Brown from the Greensboro Coliseum said the team had fulfilled its obligations for facility rentals as well. That record exceeds the one Pewonski compiled in his previous year as an owner of teams in the National Indoor Football League, also known as NIFL. During the 2005 season, Pewonski made late payments to arenas in Osceola and Daytona Beach, Fla. where he owned teams.

Of the four teams Pewonski owned in 2005 ‘— the Daytona Beach Hawgs, Lakeland Thunderbolts, Kissimmee Kreatures and Dayton Warbirds ‘— only one still exists this year. The Lakeland Thunderbolts amassed a winning record this year under new ownership, but the other three teams dissolved or migrated to other arena football leagues.

Dan Ryan, who was director of communications for the Daytona Beach Hawgs, had nothing positive to say about Pewonski.

‘“I would rather pass a kidney stone than ever deal with [Anthony Pewonski] again,’” Ryan said. ‘“That would be my on-the-record quote.’”

Arena football players will often continue to play even if they are not receiving a promised paycheck, Ryan said.

‘“Never underestimate the love of the game,’” he said.

The Revolution’s first coach, Mark Saunders, resigned halfway through the season, citing personal reasons. He did not return phone calls for this article. Likewise, none of the players on the 2006 roster could be reached for comment.

‘“We will be back with the same coach, Mitch Jenkins,’” said spokeswoman Dee Mittman. ‘“I don’t know how many of the players will be back.’”

Brown concurred that the team had reserved space in the Coliseum for next season. Such predictability from one year to the next is not usually the league’s strong suit. In addition to the NIFL, a number of other arena football leagues operate across the country, including the American Professional Football League, the American Indoor Football League and the Intense Football League.

‘“Apparently it’s not uncommon for teams to change leagues pretty frequently,’” said Joseph Zito, an attorney representing the NIFL. ‘“It’s not unusual to start with 12 teams, maybe drop down to 10 teams then finish the season with 14.’”

The NIFL currently has 22 teams playing in six divisions, with plans to add five teams next season. Since the league’s inception in 2000, a number of its former teams have folded or moved to other indoor football leagues.

The proliferation of arena football teams and leagues had led to at least one legal confrontation. League president Carolyn Shiver, on behalf of the NIFL, filed suit in May against four other indoor football leagues, alleging that they infringed on her patent for indoor football rules. One of those, United Indoor Football, formed from teams that defected from other leagues including the NIFL.

In the suit, Shiver alleges that other leagues copied almost word-for-word from the rulebook penned for NIFL teams. She secured a patent titled ‘“Football Game for Reduced Size Playing Areas, Especially Indoor Playing Areas,’” in 2000. The complaint said that other leagues playing in accordance to the NIFL’s 2005 rulebook are infringing on the patent.

Shiver filed the suit in federal court in Louisiana, but portions were dismissed just last month because of lack of jurisdiction. Zito said the league plans to pursue litigation in Nebraska.

As for the Greensboro team, Mittman said the organization has plans for more promotion and looks forward to a better home schedule. Average attendance at games last year numbered 2,647, Brown said. Those numbers reflect both paid and unpaid admissions. The Coliseum netted about $71,000 from the Revolution’s presence, he added. Mittman said the team hopes to improve on those numbers next year.

‘“We just have to show that we are here to stay so the community won’t forget that we are here,’” she said.

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