WASHINGTON — How did the Baltimore Arena Football League, the Brigade, come to be? It was a phone call to Royal Farms Arena General Manager Frank Remesch from D.C. sports mogul Ted Leonsis, who apparently has some clout.
“It’s like the pope calls you. When they call, you answer,” Remesch said, via the Washington Business Journal. “You pick up the phone and just ask him what dates he wants.”
That’s quite the comparison.
The article goes on to explain why Leonsis invested in the AFL at all, much less doubling down on his investment to build a local rivalry between the Brigade and D.C. Valor.
Setting up the Brigade in time for the 2017 season took a Herculean effort, as Leonsis and his team had only 100 days to assemble the coaching staff and players.
“We stood up, we did something impossible. People said, ‘Your team’s not going to be very good,’” Leonsis said. “As an entrepreneur, I tend to look at whatever conventional wisdom is, and it’s almost always wrong.”
This isn’t the first time that Leonsis has bet on the unconventional rise in popularity. Using his AOL fortune, he bet on the Capitals in 1999 at a low point in popularity. Over the last 18 years, he has built a model franchise and multiplied the number of season ticket holders by five.
“Maybe culturally it’s because I’ve always been in startups and believed in startups, but I firmly believe this is the best time to be in the league,” said Leonsis. “Yeah, you’re learning as you’re going, but we’re reimagining what indoor football could be, and how we could help re-launch the Arena Football League.”
Unlike other sports owners in middling leagues, Leonsis has the ability to wait for his marketing efforts to come to fruition. He also has the benefit of owning two franchises, thus creating his own rivalry and story line; owning his on sports media empire with Monumental Sports and Entertainment, thus protecting his own messaging; and the financial backing of bigger sports teams and leagues like the NHL and NBA.
Whether or not Leonsis is a sports Pope remains to be seen, but it’s hard to bet against his AFL investment at this point.