TEAMS ARE FALLING
Report says L.A. KISS football team folded, players and fans left in the dark
OC Register — The Arena Football League’s L.A. KISS, faced with dwindling attendance and concerns about the league’s viability, has ceased operations.
“As I understand, (the KISS) won’t be involved in any football moving forward,” AFL Player’s Union Executive Director Ivan Soto wrote in an email on Monday.
The KISS, named after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band led by co-owners Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, became the third AFL team to fold and the fifth to leave the league over the past week. In that span, the Orlando Predators and Portland Steel also folded, and the Jacksonville and Arizona franchises announced intentions to join the rival Indoor Football League. That leaves just four teams in the AFL, half the number that started the 2015 season.
KISS players and season ticket-holders remain completely in the dark. No official announcement about the team’s status has been made by the team or the league. Calls made to KISS officials over several days were not returned. When pressed about the future of the KISS, a spokesperson for the league referred only to a recent release that said the AFL was “focused on solidifying its foundation for the long term.”
That future apparently won’t include the KISS. The team’s players, along with those from the other two folding franchises, were put in a player pool for a dispersal draft held Friday for the league’s remaining teams. All undrafted players become free agents, according to an AFL spokesperson.
The dispersal draft was news to Caesar Rayford, a defensive end who joined the KISS before last season. Rayford had another year left on his contract with the KISS, but was drafted Friday by the Tampa Bay Storm – one of eight KISS players selected.
It wasn’t until this weekend, however, when Rayford searched the league’s site, that he found out his rights belonged to another team. By Monday, he still hadn’t heard from any KISS officials. He’s still not sure what his next step will be.
“Arena Football didn’t notify us,” Rayford said. “The team didn’t notify us. And then boom. You have guys who are out of a job now, guys that are still in the dark. People have to make decisions. With Arena Football, these are guys that have to get things in order.”
Meanwhile, many fans have already renewed season tickets for the 2017 season, which was expected to start in the spring. Gerald Brady, 80, of Seal Beach spent $1,000 in July to renew season tickets he’s had since the team’s inaugural season. Last week, he started hearing rumblings that the KISS may fold and left several messages with the team’s ticket office – none of which has been returned. Other fans have since taken to the team’s Facebook page to air their concerns.
“I would think that we’d get refunds,” Brady said. “But I guess you never know.”
The team’s formation was announced with much fanfare in August 2013. Joining Simmons and Stanley in the team’s ownership was the band’s manager, Doc McGhee. But much of the buzz faded after the team’s first season in 2014.
Attendance dropped sharply in the second season, to an average of 7,913 fans at Honda Center in 2015. That was down from the 10,945 the KISS averaged in 2014, when they were second in the AFL in attendance.
The team drew an average of 7,056 this past season, next to last in the league.
The KISS, which was the fourth attempt at an AFL team in the Los Angeles-Orange County market, were 14-39 in their three seasons.
The team’s only playoff appearance came in August, the KISS losing to Cleveland in a game played at San Diego County’s Valley View Casino Center because of a conflict with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus at Honda Center.
Staff writer Scott M. Reid contributed to this report.
— Metal Sludge (@MetalSludge) October 19, 2016