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Indoor Football League ponders Fargo expansion, too

FARGO -- After making a pitch to potential investors in Bemidji, the Indoor Football League is also looking for other markets for potential expansion.

One such target is Fargo's Scheels Arena.

"But there are a number of things that have to happen for this to be a go," said Chris Kokalis, chairman of the league's expansion committee. "We have to secure local ownership for the franchise first and foremost."

That is a big reason why Kokalis has scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference today at Fargo's Radisson Hotel. The press conference will follow a morning meeting between league officials and Scheels Arena representatives.

IFL officials held a similar press conference Thursday at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. At that press conference Koklis mentioned the league had several other expansion markets in mind "in the northern part of the country" but did not specify which cities the league was looking into.

Officials at Scheels Arena could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. Kokalis said it was the league that contacted Scheels Arena officials about exploring the possibility of fielding a team.

Scheels Arena has been the home of the Fargo Force junior hockey team for the last five seasons. The Force have made the United State Hockey League playoffs each of those five seasons and has routinely ranked in the top five for attendance.

"That caught our interest and attention, so we think the Fargo market would fit perfectly with our league," Kokalis said, who also is co-owner of the IFL's Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Titans. "But this is very preliminary. No promises have been made and nothing has been set in stone."

The IFL has been in existence since 2008 with teams in Cedar Rapids, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Green Bay, Wis.; Chicago; Allen, Texas; Kennewick, Wash.; Casper, Wyo.; Ft. Collins, Colo. and Grand Island, Neb.

The IFL season begins in February and concludes in June with the league's championship game, the United Bowl. The USHL season begins in September and ends with its playoffs in May.

Kokalis sees the Fargo market as being as successful as the IFL's top two franchises in Cedar Rapids and Sioux Falls - which share arenas with USHL teams.

"We've been able to make it work in Cedar Rapids," Kokalis said. "We averaged 4,200 fans a game in Cedar Rapids and Sioux Falls averaged 5,000 fans. We are always looking to grow but we have to find the markets that fit."

Each team in the IFL plays 14 games, seven at home and seven on the road. The IFL player rosters are comprised of former Division I and II college football players.

This wouldn't be the first indoor football team in Fargo. The Fargo Freeze, which played games in the Fargodome, lasted one season in the spring and summer of 2000. It was part of the old Indoor Football League.

The new IFL was created in 2008 from a merger between the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football Association.

Kevin Schnepf, Forum News Service.

Bemidji Pioneer reporter Jack Hittinger contributed to this story.

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