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OT:NLL's Ravens won't play in 2005


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NLL's Ravens won't play in 2005

Canadian Press


VANCOUVER (CP) - After struggling to stay alive financially since their inception, the Vancouver Ravens announced Tuesday they won't participate in the 2005 National Lacrosse League season and the team's long-term survival remains in doubt.

The final straw for the franchise, which was entering its fourth season, came when the team couldn't reach a lease agreement to play out of the Pacific Coliseum this year.

"Being put consistently behind the eight-ball made it very difficult for us," said managing partner Tom Mayenknecht.

"When you're fighting fires it's very difficult to do what you need to do to build the product long-term. Today it simply was that we were put in a difficult position probably one more time than we had the capacity to deal with.

"Without a viable arena partnership we simply felt we would not be able to do things properly and we would not be able to rebuild the franchise."

In a release, the NLL said Vancouver has been removed from the schedule and a dispersal draft of Raven players will be held Wednesday.

The NLL will continue to play with 10 teams, including franchises in Toronto and Calgary.

Mayenknecht wouldn't rule out some reincarnation of the Ravens returning for the 2006 season.

"There has to be the right conditions in place," he said.

"There has to be financial stability. There needs to be consistent marketing over a three-to-five-year period to really build his franchise. With those conditions in place I believe Vancouver would be very successful as a NLL franchise."

Last Tuesday the NLL gave Mayenknecht five business days to provide "certain financial assurances" that the team could survive.

In three full years of operations the Ravens have accumulated debts of over $1.5 million and became an orphan no one wanted to own. Hovering near extinction, the club missed payrolls and the playoffs last spring.

The Ravens spent their first three seasons at GM Place, home of the NHL Vancouver Canucks. Attendance dropped from 10,211 the first year to 8,333 the second.

Last year the average crowd was 7,124, leaving the Ravens seventh in attendance in the league.

Mayenknecht, who has spent his own money trying to keep the team alive, attempted to convince Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Canucks, to buy a stake in the club.

When that failed, he tried to reach an agreement with the Pacific Coliseum - home of the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants - for the Ravens to play their eight home games.

The Ravens have struggled with ownership problems since the team's birth.

Mayenknecht, David Stadnyk, former owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps A-League soccer team, and local businessman Bob Smart were unveiled as the Ravens owners back in April of 2001.

Stadnyk pulled out before the team's first season and Mayenknecht talked former NHL defenceman Paul Reinhart into bankrolling the team.

Citing losses of over $1 million, Reinhart handed the team back to the NLL in February of 2003.

The team limped through the 2004 season, staying alive because of various bridge financing and Mayenknecht again was forced to find an owner.

There was a bright spot last April when Raj Kalra and Atlanta-based Partners Group 1 signed a letter of intent to purchase the team, but that group has disappeared like the warm summer days.

"The interruption to seamless committed ownership, that made it difficult for th franchise," Mayenknecht said.

The Ravens are just the latest Vancouver sports franchise to slip off the map.

It was announced in November that Molson Sports and Entertainment was pulling the plug on the Molson Indy Champ Car race.

The NBA Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001 and the last putt dropped in the PGA Air Canada Championship in 2002 when Air Canada quit as sponsor.

With the Ravens gone and the NHL involved in a labour dispute, the junior hockey Giants remain as one of the few venues left for Vancouver sports fans.


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