VooDoo get the gris gris
AFL takes ownership of New Orleans’ arena football team
When the latest incarnation of the New Orleans VooDoo arose from the ashes of the franchise formerly located in Shreveport, one didn’t need tea leaves to see the cards weren’t likely to play in the team’s favor. This week, death may have arrived at the team’s door as the Arena Football League Board of Directors took over operation of the VooDoo and Las Vegas Outlaws for the remainder of the 2015 season with hopes of finding new ownership for each franchise.
The VooDoo’s current incarnation moved to New Orleans in 2012. But losses have piled like bones in a catacomb with the team going 8-10, 5-13 and 3-15, respectively, the last three years. The team is 2-12 with four games remaining, including Saturday’s final home game against the Tampa Bay Storm at the Smoothie King Center at 7 p.m.
The VooDoo have had an average attendance of 3,839 fans per game this season, the lowest in its franchise's history. Adam Markowitz of arenafan.com broke news of the takeover including word that all VooDoo employees were dismissed but were retained on week-to-week contracts.
The VooDoo was one of the AFL’s brightest franchises when they began play in 2004. The team ended their first two seasons among the AFL’s top attendance leaders with more than 15,240 per game. The city also had the league’s top television market for NBC’s Sunday afternoon games. But natural and financial troubles soon spelled doom for the team and the league. The VooDoo did not field a team in 2006 due to Hurricane Katrina, but returned strong in 2007. With civic pride running deep, they set an AFL season ticket record with more than 13,000 season tickets sold and led the league in average attendance with16,645. League economic troubles the next year, however, caused Benson to cease the team’s operations. With approximately $14 million owed to its creditors, the AFL suspended the entire 2009 season before returning in 2010.
“I came in with the intention of shoring up the AFL's financial growth and positive steps have been taken over the past year,” AFL Commissioner Scott C. Butera said in an AFL press release this Wednesday. “AFL ownership requires significant financial commitment and operational expertise. We're excited about moving forward with members who share the same vision.”
“We appreciate the efforts that have been made to keep Arena Football viable in each of these high quality sports markets and have begun fielding inquiries from other interested parties. Our new direction has a supreme commitment to putting the right people in place with all of our teams and we're making the proper strides in getting that done."
Price point is a major selling point for Arena Football when compared to the NFL. VooDoo season tickets run from $100-$800 apiece compared to $340-$3080 each for the Saints. However, the 70,000-person waiting list for Saints season tickets makes any argument for causation a moot point.
People want to see a winning product, and a handful of wins – especially at the minor league level – just won’t cut it. Obviously that has a major part to do with the VooDoo’s success at the turnstyle. But hopefully it’s indicative of something else. The Pelicans are gradually moving up in the NBA’s Western Division, earning a play-off spot this past season. With rising superstar Anthony Davis leading the way, a second top-tier professional team is proving successful in the Crescent City. That ultimately means New Orleans is the major league city we believe it to be. Ina city that likes to celebrate loss, this may be a win we should relish as we continue to recover and grow.