Hornets Helmet Archives World Football League

The New York Times
September 26, 1974
By Al Havin


The migration of World Football League teams into the Deep South and reports of "floods of red ink" all over the league continued yesterday as the New York Stars officially announced their sale and shift to Charlotte, N.C, effective immediately.

Poor attendance, the inadequacies of Downing Stadium and its access routes, and more than $2-million in red ink shared the blame for the W.F.L.'s abandonment of nation's No. 1 market in its first year. But league officials promised an expansion franchise for New York in 1976 after Yankee Stadium is refurbished.

"New York is a key city in any league, but the question of how long we could stay on Randalls Island and absorb losses was paramount in our minds when we decided to shift the franchise," said Upton Bell. He heads the group that is purchasing the Stars from Bob Schmertz. no sale price was announced.

"We had to decide whether we waned to stay her an take a bath or move to Charlotte, where we have a chance of making some money at the box office with a winning tea," said Bell, a former general manager of the New England Patriots of the National Football League. He also is the son of former N.F.L commissioner Bert Bell.

"Charlotte has a population of some 4.5 million living within within a radius of 90 to 100 miles, and I think the fans will support the team," said Bell.

He will serve as acting president of the team, which well play its last three home games in the 24,000-seat American Legion Stadium starting Oct. 9 against Memphis.

According to Stars' officials, although Bell has reached terms with Schmertz, he is still putting together the groups with the money to pay Schmertz, who also owns the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics and the World Hockey Association's New England Whalers.

"There's till going to be a New York office of the Stars at 415 Madison Avenue, and we'll be refunding money to our season ticket-holders," said Howard Baldwin, the Stars' executive vie president, who also runs the Whalers for Schmertz. "Those on our season-ticket list will be given priority in buying season tickets for the new team.

"The year isn't over yet but we've lost in excess of $2-million."

That gave rise to speculation that the Stars had to be sol din the neighborhood of $3-million, since Schmertz paid $500,000 for the franchise. "We didn't expect to make money at Randalls, but we did think we might draw between 15,000 and 20,000 a game."

In seven home games at the 21,587-seat Downing Stadium, which had to be refurbished by the Stars, they drew a total of 76, 037, an average of 10,862. The last two games attracted only 8,050 fans, 3,830 during a monsoon-like rainstorm and 4,320 Tuesday night, the smallest two crowds of the season. They were hardly enough to pay for the newly installed lights that were still too dim for football.

The move by the Stars marks the eighth franchise shift since the 12-team W.F.L. was created. Only two of the moves have not been in a southerly direction - the one major one by the original New York franchise, which moved west to Portland, Ore.

The Boston franchise moved slightly south to become the Stars, before going farther south yesterday. Other moves saw the original Memphis team move south to Houston and then move slightly north to Shreveport, La., a few days ago. The Toronto team went south to Memphis and the Washington team to Norfolk, Va., and then to Orlando, Fla.

The league's financial trouble don't appear to be over. The Detroit Wheels, who lost by 37-7 to the Stars in New York's final game at Randalls Island Tuesday night, had been rumored to be moving to Charlotte. Instead, they filed bankruptcy papers, citing debts of $2.5-million.

In addition, the league announced on Tuesday that it was taking over the Jacksonville Sharks' franchise, which had missed four paydays,. Last night, the Florida (Orlando) team, which has missed one week's pay, said it had given up on the idea of moving its remain home games to Tampa in order to generate money for the players' pay checks.

Florida, leading the second-place Stars by half a game in the Eastern Division, was averaging fewer than 11,000 fans a game, about the same as the Stars. The Blazers have an 8-4 won-lost record and the Stars are 8-5.

Bob Keating, general manger of the Stars, disputed the contention that the league might need a New York franchise right now, particularly to retain the television income that usually means solvency to a new league.

"If we were saying we're going out of New York and not coming back, yes, it might make a difference," said Keating, who also hopes to catch on with the owners of the new New York franchise. "But right now, the television money [from the Hughes network - TVS] amounts to about $100,000 per team, or maybe now about $90,000, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what we were losing."