Frankes shoot out to fresh start with K’s
By BLAKE SEBRING
Of The News-Sentinel
The new owners of the Fort Wayne Komets would like to bring the franchise to new heights by employing some old tricks.
Stephen J. Franke and his family began boldly implementing plans yesterday in a press conference announcing the purchase of the Flint franchise and its transfer to Fort Wayne.
The team will replace the David Welker-owned franchise that moved to Albany, N.Y. The IHL Board of Governors is expected to unanimously approve the Flint move next week.
Final negotiations were not completed until 6 p.m. Tuesday. The league must still approve the sale and transfer of the Flint franchise. Also, the lease with Memorial Coli- seum must be signed, and then team officials will move into their new offices in the rotunda of the building.
Finally, a coach and players must be signed. Former Coach Al Sims may stay with the team.
Stephen Franke is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Franke Inc. Minority
stockholder Michael Franke is the club’s president, and David Franke is the executive vice president and general manager. Tammy Franke, a niece, will serve as administrative assistant and corporate secretary.
Stephen Franke is the mfgority stockholder, while David Franke, Mike Franke and Perfection Biscuit Co. are minority stockholders. John Popp of Perfection will serve on the board of directors for the team. While Stephen Franke returns to Chillicothe, Mo., to run his Mid West Quality Gloves Inc. business, David and Mike Franke will handle the daily operation of the team.
Already the new owners are predicting a sellout on opening night, a bold statement considering the team hasn’t made money in eight years.
“The bottom line for all of this is a fresh start for Komets hockey,” Stephen Franke said. “Our goal is to forget the negatives of the past and dwell on the positives of the future. This is a great opportunity for the Franke family to take the city’s oldest sports franchise and make it a reality again.”
All ticket prices will be slashed
In addition, former Komet players have been asked to help and perhaps play in an old-timers1 series. The Frankes promised the players would be available for community projects and events.
A Komets caravan will travel to outlying communities, trying to encourage new fans. There will even be a return to the black and burnt orange colors of the past. Plans are already in motion for an extensive advertising and marketing budget
“The unique things that this operation brings that has been missing for years in the Fort Wayne Komets hockey club are sales, marketing and promotion orientated people,” David Franke said. “Let’s face it, sports is now entertainment and needs all of these things.”
Stephen Franke said he doesn’t mind the fact his team will be competing against many major markets in the IHL.
“We feel that Fort Wayne is a big city in itself and that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league” he said. “We have a beautiful facility, our ticket prices are
going to be competitive, and we’ll have a good product We feel very strong about what we have in Fort Wayne and what we can do with it”
Mike Franke said the coach will be in charge of recruiting players, but that he has already talked with several National Hockey League teams about possible working agreements. An affiliation agreement is impossible for next year but may be possible in the future. He expects an announcement on the coaching situation to be made in the next 10 days.
A competitive team will be the main draw, the Frankes hope, but there will be other attractions for the fans,
“The thing we want to do is make it so when people walk in the door, it’s not just somebody throwing six players out on the ice,” Stephen Franke said.
“We want to make each game an event. We want to promote the event with special nights. I guarantee you it may not be Elvis Presley coming to the game, it may be something minor, but we want this to be a major event for the families.”