San Diego Business Journal

Arena football is making a comeback in San Diego this spring with the San Diego Shockwave, a new franchise in the National Indoor Football League.

The franchise hopes to capture fans of the now-defunct San Diego Riptide, which shut down last year after a four-year stint at the iPayOne Center.

Jeff Sprowls, Shockwave owner and general manager, said he hopes to attract fans of both the outdoor and indoor game to Cox Arena, where the team will play seven home games.

"We looked at a number of sites to figure out where we would play our games, and Cox was the best by far," Sprowls said. "It's newer, cleaner and has nicer amenities."

Sprowls said he hopes to attract at least 5,000 fans per game to the 12,000-seat facility on the campus of San Diego State University.

Indoor football is played on a 50-yard field with eight players on a side, versus a 100-yard field with 11 players for the outdoor version of the game.

Players in the NIFL, which has been around for eight years, play either on offense or defense, not both, as did the Riptide players who competed in the league called af2.

That should increase the skill level of play and make for far more exciting games, Sprowls said.

As for salaries, the paychecks will be a bit fatter, but not by much. Players get $300 per game, but with incentives some can earn up to $30,000 per season, he said.

At press time, the team was scheduled to hold a tryout Dec. 16. It expects to sign a few athletes who have competed in the National Football League, Sprowls said.

"I don't want to say anything just yet, but we're working on a few names that local fans will definitely recognize."

Sprowls, 43, was a defensive back for Brigham Young University's 1984 national championship team, which defeated the University of Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. He currently works for his father's company, Carlsbad International Export Inc. in North County, which sells medical devices.

"He's my silent partner in the venture," he said of his dad, Robert.

Jeff got the idea of buying an indoor team after reading an article in the Sporting News about a team folding in Montgomery, Ala. League officials told him that rather than trying to buy that franchise, he should wait a bit as the league was expanding into California.

The Shockwave will compete in a five-team league with the other teams based in Alameda, Pomona, San Bernardino and the City of Industry.

The team will also play a few times outside the state in Colorado and Texas, Sprowls said.

To purchase the franchise, the Sprowls family had to put up $250,000. Then came a $100,000 cash deposit and several other payments to bring the investment to $372,000, he said.

The team's operating budget will run between $500,000 to $600,000, with most of the money going to pay the lease at Cox Arena, he said.

Sprowls came up with the name Shockwave by combining two key elements where the team makes its home, a large military presence plus an area that is earthquake prone.

"I wanted to make it a singular name to make sure that all of us, the owner, staff and players, are all one entity," he said.

The team has already hired its head coach, Bob Bees, who played with another indoor team, the San Jose Sabercats, as a quarterback, and coached the Billings Outlaws, a championship team with yet another indoor league.

The team plans to carry a 25-player roster.

The Shockwave has begun selling tickets for the season that begins in late February, but won't have its first home game until March 31.

Prices are $15, $20 and $30, but season tickets for seniors, military, students and children are half-price.

The Cox venue features executive boxes on the field that contain eight to 12 seats.

One thing that's the same as Riptidegames: Footballs flying into the stands are up for grabs. "It's a great idea and we have it as well," Sprowls said. "We expect to lose between 30 to 50 balls per game."

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San Diego Bowl Game Updates: The second annual Poinsettia Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 19 at Qualcomm Stadium, kicks off the year's collegiate bowl season. The game pits the Huskies of Northern Illinois University against the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian Poinsettia.

Bruce Binkowski, director of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, said he had sold about 38,000 tickets for the Poinsettia as of last week, and said the total may approach the 43,000 sold for the first game last year between the U.S. Naval Academy and Colorado State University.

The Poinsettia had a deal with Army (the U.S. Military Academy at West Point) to play in the game if it reached six wins, but the team fell short, and the bowl committee picked the Huskies, who feature one of the top running backs in the nation in Garrett Wolfe.

The Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 at the Q features the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears against the Texas A & M; University Aggies.

In its 29th year, the Holiday Bowl has a long history of down-to-the-wire exciting games, and this one should be no different, said Binkowski.

The game has been sold out since Dec. 4 and will draw more than 60,000.

Both bowl games should provide a nice shot in the arm to local hoteliers during what is one of the slowest times of the year. "Between the two schools for the Holiday Bowl we've sold more than 22,000 tickets and most of those fans are coming from out of town," Binkowski said.

The Poinsettia game, televised on ESPN2, pays out about $750,000 to each team, while the Holiday, on ESPN, pays $2.2 million to each team.

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Chargers Holding Tight For Now: The Chargers' lease allows the team to begin talking to cities outside the county starting Jan. 1, but they don't intend to, said team special counsel Mark Fabiani.

Instead, he said the team will continue to work with the cities of Chula Vista and National City, both of which have made overtures to host a new football stadium.

Fabiani said each of the sites has pluses and minuses, but the important thing is the two cities are making an effort to find a solution in the Chargers' search.

While Fabiani said the team would continue working with the cities, he backed away from a deadline. He said that would detract from the task at hand of finding a new site.

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Surf Dawgs Look To Next Season: The San Diego Surf Dawgs, the area's entry in the Golden Baseball League, are looking forward to their third season at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of SDSU. But there's still no definite news the team will play there.

GBL Commissioner Kevin Outcalt said the league was still negotiating with the school about its lease, and hoped to have things resolved by the end of this year.

The minor league team playing in what is equivalent to a Class A baseball league saw its attendance drop in its second season to about 1,200 per game compared with about 1,300 last year, Outcalt said.

For the season set to begin in May, the GBL has increased its total clubs to seven franchises by adding one based in St. George, Utah. The league said it plans to add an eighth club, probably in the Bay Area.

Send any sports business news to Mike Allen via e-mail at mallen@sdbj.com. He can be reached at (858) 277-6359.