The Tri-Cities Fever indoor football era was put to rest Thursday afternoon, when team owners JR and Teri Carr announced the team was shutting down.
In a news release, the Carrs said the team would go “dormant” for the 2017 Indoor Football League season.
That means that they’ll still own the franchise and be in good standing with the IFL.
But rarely does a minor league franchise shut down, then pick up after a year off.
The Carrs have a few options.
They could sell to someone else who would like to run it in the Tri-Cities. Or, with IFL approval, they could sell it to someone who might want to move the team. Or the Carrs could move the team to another city and run it.
Or, the most likely scenario, the franchise is done completely.
Teri Carr said via text Thursday that the Fever have played their last game at Toyota Center.
“Unless someone were to purchase it to keep it in the Tri-Cities,” she said.
The announcement is a terrible blow for the IFL.
“Since the Fever’s arrival in 2010, Teri and JR Carr have been instrumental to the success and growth of the IFL,” league commissioner Mike Allshouse said in a statement. “They possess all of the traits that you look for in an ownership group and playing partner. The entire IFL family wishes them well.”
Both the league and the Fever said it would entertain offers of a new ownership group.
Under the Carrs, the Fever have always been known as one of the best-run franchises in the league.
The Carrs and Teri Carr’s father, Randy Schillinger, purchased the expansion franchise in 2004 to play in the National Indoor Football League. In the team’s first season, it won the NIFL title in front of a sold-out Toyota Center crowd.
Teri and JR Carr stepped away a few years later before coming back to run it for the past seven years.
The team played for the IFL title in 2011 and 2012, losing both times to the Sioux Falls Storm.
But Teri Carr says it has never been about wins and losses.
“This decision was based on increasing expenses without recognizing an increase in revenue,” she said in the release.
It was the same old battle for the Fever, who had a strong, vociferous if small fan base.
The team could never draw a large crowd. The past few games had barely over 2,000 fans, if that.
After the 2013 season, Teri Carr told the Herald that she needed community feedback to determine whether it was worth it to keep running the franchise.
“I need to know if this means enough to the Tri-Cities to keep doing it,” she said in that 2013 interview. “I know it means a lot to the fans and sponsors who have stayed with us. But to anyone else, what does it mean to them?”
Finances also were a concern.
“On the record, Carr won’t say exactly how much the team’s losses are, but she does admit that losses each season have been in the six-figures range,” the Herald reported in 2013.
But Carr got enough interest from the community to keep things going.
The team kept up its public appearances and community events, and visited local schools. But attendance numbers only improved in the short term.
“All of the efforts that members of the team and the business have put into the community have not led to increased support from the Tri-Cities,” Carr said in the news release.
In 2013, Carr said the magic average attendance number to break even would be 4,200. It never came close to that.
The Fever went 3-13 this year, but their record wasn’t the reason they shut things down.
“I’m at peace with (this decision),” Carr texted. “I wasn’t (at peace with it) in 2013. I am doing this knowing that I gave and did everything we could. In the end, the community made the decision for us. It was just the knowledge that nothing changes no matter what you do.”
It was also tough for her knowing that the rabid fan base the Fever did have wouldn’t get to cheer anymore.
“I feel it is important that all of the season-ticket holders and sponsors know how much their support over the last 12 seasons has meant to us,” Carr said. “We survived as long as we did because of them.”
NOTE: In the bittersweet category, Fever defensive backs Boubacar Cissoko and Dee Maggitt Jr. were named to the second unit of the All-IFL team Thursday.