ROSEMONT With an estimated 1,500 out of a possible 16,000 seats filled at Allstate Arena at kickoff of Sunday's Rush game, Arena Football League commissioner Jerry Kurz wanted to make one thing clear.
"(The Rush) won't fold," he said. "They won't relocate. There'll be a team here."
Since returning to action after a league-wide shutdown in 2009, the Rush have gone through three general managers in three years. The league currently owns the team after a previous ownership group didn't work out.
"The group that was here were really nice people but not very good businesspeople in this venue," Kurz said.
While the team has won consistently since its rebirth, the most important number—attendance—has fallen off a cliff.
Sunday's announced crowd was a shade over 6,000, though a quick glimpse around the arena seemed to suggest that number was far lower. An usher informed RedEye that arena officials decided against opening any of the concession stands in the second deck because there weren't enough fans there to justify the cost. This despite the fact that it was raining outside, the game was being held at three on a Sunday afternoon and the team was in first place in the National Conference's Central Division.
"We've got very passionate fans who are our best salespeople," Kurz said. "They need to help us to go out and bring a friend each time."
Of course, even if the fans aren't lining up, prospective owners are.
Kurz said there are at least seven ownership groups—none of whom currently involved with the team—interested in ponying up to buy the team, valued at around $3 million, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
"(Chicago) is absolutely essential (to the future of the league)," Kurz said. "It's a cornerstone; it's where the league office is, that's why the league is operating them this year—no different than the NHL with the Coyotes."
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.