Augusta will be without indoor football next spring for the first time since 2005. Augusta Colts majority owner and team president John Sisson confirmed Tuesday that the Colts won't field a team for the 2009 season.
"We're not folding. We're not going bankrupt. We're just not going to play in 2009, but we will be back in 2010," Sisson said.
The organization, which is nearing the completion of its first year of operation under Sisson, went 7-7 and just missed a playoff spot in the competitive American Indoor Football Association this spring.
The Colts have encountered a number of obstacles this off-season, including the firing of longtime Augusta indoor football coach Bubba Diggs and the addition of two new minority owners. Tony Zefiretto, vice president of business affairs, and Andrew Wright, vice president of operations, joined the front office this summer and will remain with the team through its dormancy.
The Colts hadn't secured a lease to play in James Brown Arena for the 2009 season, and that became a growing issue as the AIFA league owners meetings approached, Sisson said. The league meetings were held last weekend in Baltimore and Sisson said he made the decision to skip the 2009 season just before the meetings began.
"We were constantly working from behind," Sisson said. "Now we're going to go back and start planning for the next 18 months. We should emerge stronger in 2010."
Sisson said the Colts players, who become free agents today, according to league rules, were informed of the decision over the weekend so they could begin the search to play for another team.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST?
Should the Colts fold, that makes three Augusta indoor football teams to have come and gone.
AUGUSTA STALLIONS, 2000-02: Augusta's original indoor football squad, an arenafootball2 team, went 35-13 during its three-year run. The city's most successful team drew an average of 4,327 fans per game in its final season, but owner Frank Lawrence folded the team in August 2002 blaming lack of advertising space and shoddy service at James Brown Arena.
AUGUSTA SPARTANS, 2006-07: After three seasons without indoor football, the Spartans filled the void when the American Indoor Football League created a team in late 2005. Local business owner Jimmy Young purchased the team in February 2006 and named Stallions assistant coach Bubba Diggs the head coach. The Spartans left the AIFL the following year and created a four-team league called the World Indoor Football League. The team won the championship before folding under what was revealed to be more than $300,000 of debt.[CAPTION]
AUGUSTA COLTS, 2008: Local business owner John Sisson assumed the Spartans' debt and created the Colts for the 2008 season. The team joined the American Indoor Football Association and went 7-7 under Diggs, who was later let go after a contract dispute.
THE COLTS OFFICIAL STATEMENT FOR THE 2009 SEASON
The Augusta Colts would like to announce that an agreement has been reached between the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA), the Global Spectrum management team, and the Augusta Colts Pro Indoor Football Club which will allow the Colts to sit out the 2009 indoor football season; with a return to the James Brown Arena in 2010.
Terms of this agreement include:
1) While the Augusta Colts will not play football in 2009, the Colts are not folding. Quite the contrary, the Colts remain in good standing with the AIFA; having paid (in advance) their AIFA membership dues for the entire 2009 season.
2) Global Spectrum has affirmed their intent to continue to negotiate a 2010 arena lease with the Colts; a process scheduled to resume tomorrow, (Sept. 24, 2008). Indeed, there is great expectation within our respective organizations about the prospect of working together to help re-create the excitement of pro indoor football in the CSRA.
3) During this "off season" Colts' fans can expect to see an increase in our community presence (to create an awareness & support for the home team). We will also use this time to "tweak" our business plan (to better meet the challenges of a weak economy); to retire any lingering debt; and to continue our search for a new head coach & dance team coordinator. Fans can follow our progress over the next 18 months via weekly updates on the Colts' official website, www.augustacolts.com.
In conclusion, while saddened by the prospect of sitting out the 2009 indoor season, the Augusta Colts realize that we have been presented with a tremendous opportunity; one which will allow us to evaluate the lessons learned during our inaugural (2008) season and thus move the franchise forward with greater success & stability in the future.
President & General Manager
Augusta Colts Professional Indoor
Football Club (AIFA)
P.O. Box 9
Augusta, GA 30903