Ted Leonsis announced on Monday in a WTOP interview that Monumental Sports will own a second Arena Football League team that will start play next spring in Baltimore at Royal Farms Arena. Earlier this year, the company announced that they would own a Washington-based team, which is known as the Valor. You can download an audio file of Leonsis’ interview here.
The announcement comes as a surprise for two reasons.
First, it is unprecedented for a major sports enterprise to own two teams in the same league, especially when they play in overlapping regional markets. However, this announcement likely came about because the AFL’s long term future is in danger.
The Orlando Predators and the Portland Steel closed shop in mid October. Two other teams, the Arizona Rattlers and Jacksonville Sharks made announcements that they will move to rival indoor football leagues next season. That dropped the AFL from eight teams in 2016 to four, including the Washingotn Valor. Therefore, the addition of the Baltimore AFL team brings the total up to five. I’m calling this a face-saving move for the AFL.
The second reason why this move is a surprise is because Monumental Sports is claiming losses of up to $40 million this year. If the $40 million loss is significantly hampering their financial health, I don’t get why owning a second AFL team makes much sense. In addition, Monumental Sports is expected own an NBA D-League franchise as early as 2018 once the St. Elizabeth’s practice facility is scheduled to be completed.
Leonsis added his thoughts about the Wizards. He gave a vote of confidence to everyone under him, including President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld, but added that “we have to accountable.”
In summary, the AFL news doesn’t affect the Wizards, Capitals, or Mystics immediately. But again, it’s questionable as to why Monumental Sports is owning two teams in a sports league that is on life support. I’d like to see the Valor and the Baltimore AFL team “save the league.” But if it doesn’t happen, people will raise questions about whether it was worth investing in those teams to begin with.