Franchise deal shifts to slow gear
By BLAKE SEBRING of The News-Sentinel
No news may not be good news for Fort Wayne hockey fans*'’
A proposed deal to bring the Flint franchise to Fort Wayne to replace the Komets was supposed to take another step yesterday. The prospective owners have said no to a Memorial Coliseum rent proposal. The new group, headed by Stephen J. Franke, gave the coliseum a proposal yesterday.
There was no word on the coliseum’s reaction. Coliseum General Manager Phil Olofson was unavailable for comment, as were members of the Franke family.
The fate of the team rests with the coliseum, according to IHL Commissioner N. Thomas Berry Jr. and former Komets owner David Welker.
“The group involved is doing everything they can to make the deal fly," Berry said. “They want to have hockey in Fort Wayne. It depends on the coliseum.”
Berry said his organization could quickly approve the move during a telephone conference. The league’s Board of
Governors spent a great deal of time talking about the possible move during recent league meetings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Berry said.
The absolute latest date the new owners need to be in place is July 15, when the league must begin organizing next year’s schedule! Berry said. Welker thinks July 1 would be a better date, but it depends on the coliseum board.
“You have to start selling for next year as soon as possible” Welker said. “You have outstanding businessmen on that board, and if they really care about the community, I think it will get worked out.”
Welker said he is already working on organizing the new Albany franchise.
Berry said that if this current proposal falls through, he still wants an IHL team in Fort Wayne.
“We haven’t given up at all,” Berry said. “The league is working diligently to ensure that we have a team there. There are too many loyal fans there and there is too much history there to lose that.”