Time Running Out For Fayetteville Force; Officials Want To Play In Different League
Posted June 12, 2001 5:10 a.m. EDT
FAYETTEVILLE — It is like the
is in the third period with only minutes left on the clock, down by a point. Except if time runs out, there will not be another hockey season. Hockey players and fans are pleading with the Civic Center Commission to give the team's owner another chance.
Lynn Nathan is the majority owner of Cherokee Partners, the group that owns the team. She wants to move the Force from the Central Hockey League (CHL) to the East Coast League. The problem is the CHL will not let the team go.
"She had every good intention of bringing in the ECHL. I think she was railroaded by higher people," said player Darren McLean.
So many other teams have gotten out of the Central Hockey League that the closest team for the Force to play against is now 11 hours away, which means travel expenses would left the team broke. As a result, Nathan moved out of the Crown Coliseum and laid off all Force workers.
"If Cherokee Partners cannot get out of having to play in the Central League, I don't believe there will be hockey here," said Randy Gregory, Nathan's attorney.
County Commissioner Breeden Blackwell calls the situation an embarassment. The Crown Coliseum has not made money since it opened, and now it will face new challenges.
"This is a bump in the road, and we'll get over that, too," said George Breece of the Civic Center Commission.
The commission will give Nathan until July 3 to commit to the CHL or score the new league. If not, they will look for someone who can win at the Coliseum.
Still, Advertisers and season ticket holders have a lot to lose. Nathan's attorney says he cannot guarantee they will get a refund for the upcoming season. Despite being down, fans are hoping for a comeback.
"You improve the community with it. It gives everyone a place to go," said fan George Butterfly.
Even if Nathan did come through by July 3, it could be too late. The CHL makes its schedule at the end of this week.
If she does not come through, she will be in default of her lease and the Civic Center Commission will then have to consider legal action against her. In the meantime, members of the Civic Center Commission will also lobby the CHL to let the Force out of the league.