Despite shrinking AFL, owner of Baltimore Brigade says league will 'make this work'

Despite the suspension of operations by two Arena Football League teams over the past month, the owner of the Baltimore Brigade said Thursday that he still believes in the league’s “great positioning” as a sport.

Ted Leonsis, founder and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which also owns the AFL’s Washington Valor, acknowledged on his “Ted’s Take” blog that the Tampa Bay Storm’s decision Thursday to sit out the 2018 season less than a month after the Cleveland Gladiators announced a two-year hiatus was a “step back” for the league.

The AFL has shrunk from 18 teams in 2011 to five last season — the first for the Brigade and Valor — to just four ahead of next season. Along with the Brigade and Valor, only the Philadelphia Soul and an as-yet-unnnamed franchise in Albany, N.Y., are set to compete this spring and summer.

But Leonsis, citing the turnaround of the NBA, which the Monumental-owned Washington Wizards compete in, as well as of the Washington Capitals, which he also owns, wrote he believes in “taking on challenges if it benefits the community, the fan base, the players and can build long term value,” even if doing so requires patience.

The Storm, a founding member of the league, said rising league costs and reduced revenue drove their decision to suspend operations.The Gladiators will not play while $140 million in renovations are made to Quicken Loans Arena.

AFL commissioner Scott Butera said in a release Thursday that the league “remains steadfast in building our organization to be stronger than ever," and Leonsis wrote that “we will continue to support the league.”

“We invested much last season, I am proud of our organization for what it accomplished—we carry on,” he wrote. “We go forward, we will make this work.”

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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