If a Canton-based marketing group has its way, the Akron Fire will be burning up the abandoned football field of the Rubber Bowl next spring.
Sean Mason, president of Team1 Marketing Group, announced Wednesday that an investment group his company heads intends to purchase the dormant Rubber Bowl and place a United State Football League team in the facility. The Fire would potentially begin play next spring as part of the eight-team USFL, whose formation was announced earlier this year.
Team1 Marketing Group has been in existence for 16 months, Mason said.
Mason said he began contact with USFL chief operating officer Fred Biletnikoff Jr. some 10 months ago, and the goal was always for the team to play in the Rubber Bowl.
It’s a curious choice, given that InfoCision Stadium at the University of Akron is virtually dormant at the time of year that the Fire could play and is considered to be one of the best football facilities in the state. But Mason said there are practical reasons for wanting to purchase the Rubber Bowl, a stadium that holds fond memories for fans in the region.
“The thing with InfoCision Stadium, it limits our revenue,” Mason said. “By having our own stadium when the league is not playing, it gives us the opportunity to have other sporting events and concerts in the venue that just draws that revenue in to make us more solid within the league.”
Although a search of the Summit County Fiscal Office tax appraisal database couldn’t provide a figure as to what the property could fetch, there’s little doubt that purchasing and repairing the historic stadium, which UA owns, would be a hefty investment.
Mason and his investors along with Biletnikoff and USFL president Jaime Cuadra toured the Rubber Bowl on Wednesday with representatives of a construction company. The last football game played there was nearly four years ago.
“Structurally, we feel it’s still pretty sound. We know which areas need to be taken care of. A lot of stuff is just cosmetic,” he said. “We have good plans for updating the facility to get it up and running and functioning properly.”
Representatives of the university would not comment about specifics, but the presumption is that they would be willing and possibly motivated sellers. Mason declined to identify other investors or to disclose potential repair costs, only saying that it’s definitely more than seven figures.
Other considerations for the startup of a team in Akron include a league franchise fee of $1 million and an escrow account of $6.5 million to ensure that operating costs are met by each team.
Cuadra called the visit by him and Biletnikoff the beginning of the vetting process for Mason’s investment group.
“One of the things we’re doing is getting to know these guys. We want our league to be a very close-knit group of owners and operators,” he said.
While here, they met with officials from the mayor’s office and the Greater Akron Chamber, a business group that promotes the region.
“They are 100 percent behind this group to help them get the kind of exposure they need with the city and with business leaders because you need to have all of that,” Cuadra said.
The group has captured the attention of local business leaders. Dan Colantone, president of the Greater Akron Chamber, and the group’s executive vice president of economic development, Rick Rebadow, met with them Wednesday.
“From a pure economic development standpoint, if this effort continues to move forward, I’m sure business leaders will be interested in knowing more about it, what the opportunities might be and what it means to Akron and the region,” Colantone said.
Having identified 24 potential cities where franchises might be successful, Cuadra and Biletnikoff will continue visiting other locations, which include Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio and possibly Memphis, among others.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.