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SPARTANS' COACH:
Spartans' coach Gilbert Brown speaks at a press conference for the La Crosse Spartans, an indoor football team, in this 2009 file photo. Erik Daily

Touchdown, Spartans. The La Crosse Center Board approved a one-year lease Wednesday afternoon with the La Crosse Spartans football team.

The team will begin Indoor Football League play at the center in March 2010.

"Based on everything we did, based on everything we saw, it seems as though these are two very solid owners and the league is solid," said Brent Smith, board chairman. "We don't know why it wouldn't succeed here."

The team's lease - which includes a base rental price of $6,000 a game, plus $250 a day for practices - now goes to La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter for his signature.

Harter said Wednesday that while he hasn't yet seen the lease, he expects to receive it today and plans to sign it.

"I think I trust in the center board to negotiate a good lease over there," Harter said.

The Indoor Football League kicks off in March 2010.

"We're ready to put up our sleeves and go to work to make this happen for the community," Spartans co-owner Bob Sullivan said.

Key terms of the lease include:

  • Rental for seven regular-season games, with rent including game management personnel.
  • La Crosse Center, via Ticketmaster, gets $1.50 from any ticket priced at $7.51 or more, including season tickets. The team will establish ticket prices.
  • The center gets 15 percent of team's souvenir sales made inside the building.
  • Lease negotiations for future years will not begin until all 2010 financial obligations are paid in full.

Sullivan and co-owner Chris Kokalis approached the city this summer about becoming the center's third indoor football tenant since 2000.

The Spartans hired former Green Bay Packers nose tackle Gilbert Brown as head coach, established a Web site at www.lacrossespartans.com, and began selling tickets in August, believing a deal would get done with the city.

"Now we're excited to focus on football," Kokalis said. "This was our as last hurdle and we've cleared it."

The La Crosse Center previously had the River Rats in 2000 and Night Train from 2002 to 2003. Both franchises folded in part due to problems with league management.

Sullivan and Kokalis said they'd done their homework on La Crosse's history with indoor football, and believe they learned from it.

At a press conference in August, Kokalis predicted the Spartans would draw 3,000 to 4,000 fans a game. Season tickets on the team Web site are listed at $84 to $252 a seat.

"We plan on doing a lot and being here for a long time," Sullivan said.

The IFL has 20 teams in 14 states. Each will play a 14-game regular season from March through June, followed by playoffs. Players are paid $200 a game, plus $50 if the team wins.

The Spartans have set open tryouts for 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 10 and 8 to 11 a.m. Oct. 11 at Veterans Freedom Park, 400 Clinton St. Kokalis said he expects the roster to be made up of players with NCAA Division I, II or III college experience; some likely will have pro experience.

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