Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Council Bluffs Express moving to Lincoln

The Council Bluffs Express is on a one-way trip out of town.
The indoor professional team, which has played in the last four American Professional Football League championship games, is ceasing operations to start anew in a different city and new league.
The Lincoln (Neb.) Haymakers will open play in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League at Pershing Auditorium in early March.
Owners Justin Hayes and Brad Lindgren have sold the majority interest of the franchise to Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe.
Both will remain with the team as minority owners. Lindgren will also serve as the team's general manager while Hayes will be the director of football operations and player personnel.
The CPIFL formed last month during a potential owners meeting in Council Bluffs. After weighing the options of staying in Council Bluffs or moving to either Lincoln or Salina, Kan., the ownership group eventually settled on Lincoln within the last month.
The Haymakers opened their Lincoln office in the Haymarket Monday.
The CPIFL also currently includes champion Sioux City, Tulsa (Okla.) and Mid-Missouri from the APFL. Wichita (Kan.), previously in the Indoor Football League, and Kansas City will join them.
Unlike the APFL, the CPIFL has a commissioner and head of officials that are not affiliated with any team.
"I think it is important to be in a league that has professionalism, first and foremost, along with sportsmanship and provides an atmosphere that is conducive to the fans," Hayes said.
The former Express, which averaged 850 fans per home date in 2012, weren't a big hit in C.B.
"We had great fans and sponsors," Lindgren said, "just not enough of them."
The move brings the end to a successful run by the Council Bluffs organization. The franchise, founded in 2000 by Jake Hiffernan, reached a championship level from a modest beginning.
The team started in the recreational Nebraska Indoor Football League as the Council Bluffs Rams, playing with football equipment purchased by Hiffernan, then 24, with his first credit card.
Its games were played indoors in Lincoln for two years before moving to an outdoor eight-man field in Malcolm, Neb. The team, which changed its name to the River City Redemption, won the NIFL title in 2003 and was invited to play an indoor exhibition game against the APFL champion Kansas Koyotes.
The Council Bluffs franchise, which later became the Iowa Blackhawks, was competitive enough that it was invited to join the APFL in 2004. It has played in that indoor professional league ever since.
Iowa won back-to-back APFL championships in 2009 and 2010. The Blackhawks, who became the Express prior to last season, have been the league's runner-up to Sioux City for the past two years.
Citing financial concerns, Hiffernan sold the team in 2011 to local businessman John Jerkovich in an attempt to keep it in C.B. Lindgren and Hayes purchased the franchise and changed its name this year.
The recent owners were actually exploring the possibility of starting an expansion franchise in Lincoln prior to last season. Their plan changed when Jerkovich offered the Blackhawks to them instead.

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