WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley Venom football team will sit out the 2012 Indoor Football League season to restructure its organization, the team announced Tuesday.
The Venom have suffered from low ticket sales since their debut season in 2010, when they finished 8-6 in the American Indoor Football Association. Though they moved to the more financially-stable IFL for the 2011 season, the team posted a 3-11 record and continued to have issues drawing fans.
“This is just a function of too many components that need to be repaired and not enough time to do it,” said Daryn Klinginsmith, a managing member of the ownership team. “The intent is that we take this year off, we regroup, reorganize, and do everything we should have done originally.”
The decision was made in meetings between the Venom’s eight owners.
“We all wanted to keep going, but it wasn’t an issue of what we wanted, it was an issue of what was real and practical,” Klinginsmith said. “We can either quit or take this avenue, and none of us wanted to quit so here we are.”
All of the Venom’s players will become free agents for the 2012 season, said head coach Brian Smith.
“The players will all be free to sign with any other team. It’s a difficult part for me to lose all the players. We have a really good nucleus of players,” said Smith. “I’m disappointed with the decision (the owners) made, but I understand their decision behind it.”
Smith said he is unsure what he will do for 2012.
“I love it here. The fans have been great, the city’s been very supportive, this was a great place for me at this point, but it’s part of the business. There’s going to be some tough decisions to be made in the near future.”
It is not rare for teams to suspend operations for a season in the IFL. In 2011 alone, five franchises — the Billings Outlaws, Maryland Maniacs, Rochester (N.Y.) Raiders, San Angelo (Texas) Stampede Express, and West Michigan ThunderHawks — sat out the year with the intention of returning for the 2012 season.
“It’s (the owners’) call to make, but as a coach and an organization you definitely don’t want to see them take a year off,” said Smith.
In 2011, the Venom drew an estimated paid attendance of 3,100 for their March 5 home opener at the 4,300-capacity Town Toyota Center, but they didn’t pull in more than 2,000 in any of their final six home games. The low point was a count of 1,300 on May 7, the last Saturday of the Apple Blossom Festival.
“We have to figure out how to get people to come to the games,” said Klinginsmith.
The low attendance figures hit the organization hard considering its other expenses, including the $200 salary it pays players per game, which is bumped up to $250 for a win.
“This thing gets compared to the Wild, but it’s so completely different,” said Klinginsmith, referencing Town Toyota Center’s other main tenant, the Wenatchee Wild junior hockey team, which does not pay its players. “We’re providing these guys transportation, housing them, feeding them, paying them. It’s expensive, and if nobody’s going to the games it’s only going to work for so long.”
Klinginsmith said the team will also look to restructure it’s agreement with Town Toyota Center before the 2013 season.
“They have been really workable with us, but there’s room for improvement in our agreement,” he said. “I think if that‘s going to be our home stadium then we should have more of a presence there.”
Town Toyota Center general manager Mark Miller said the arena is supportive of the Venom’s decision.
“We just wish them the best. We would love to see them in 2013,” said Miller. “We will try and be there any way we can and be helpful in any way we can. The great part is the guys are going to reorganize and keep it going. It’s a fun sport. It’s fast-paced and I think there’s definitely a place for it.”
Below is the official press release from the Venom. Check wenatcheeworld.com throughout the day for more updates.
The indoor football team, Wenatchee Valley Venom, is set to go dark for the 2012 Indoor Football League (“IFL”) season in order to restructure their organization and resume operations for the 2013 season.
“We want any product to be of the highest quality, and taking this year off will give us the time to create an experience families in the Valley will really get excited about,” said Managing Member Rob Tidd. “Clearly this organization has room to grow and we think that over this next year, we will be able create momentum and excitement while evaluating some of the key elements to success such as community support, sponsorships and rental arrangements with the Town Toyota Center.”
The team will continue to maintain a website and phone line that the public can contact. They will return to action in the Indoor Football League, which boasts 22 teams—the largest indoor football league in the world.