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New Axemen GM starting fresh: Changes on the horizon as IFL team will drop ‘Bemidji,’ become ‘Minnesota Axemen’

BEMIDJI — Change is here for the Bemidji Axemen.

Actually, make that the “Minnesota Axemen.”

New head coach/general manager Richard Davis has quickly made his presence felt in the organization, looking to change the name of Bemidji’s Indoor Football League franchise, and much more.

For a team that has had its issues, both on and off the field, in two short years of existence, Davis hopes to move quickly to make sure those days are in the past.

Aside from a possible name change — a new LLC was recently created under the name “Minnesota Axemen” — Davis started his tenure in Bemidji by making sure the team’s finances were in order.

“We got through some of the basic elephants in the room and now we’ve started a new fiscal year with a new company starting on Aug. 1,” Davis said. “The owners (Nate Coffin, Phil Sallberg and Dan Skaug) have a new fully operational budget and now we need to finalize a lease with Curtis (Webb) and the Sanford Center.”

The first hurdle to finalizing that lease with the Sanford Center was paying all the debts of the previous ownership.

According to the minutes during a recent meeting of the Sanford Center advisory board, all payments were caught up and a new LLC was created under the name “Minnesota Axemen,” which will likely be the team’s new name.

Davis said he and Webb are currently in negotiation to finalizing a lease.

“Curtis and I are down the road on that and we feel good with each other,” Davis said. “I think we’re going to get along great, he’s a man of my cloth, or should I say I’m cut from his.”

The Axemen are finalizing ticket prices, which will need to be adjusted as the Indoor Football League announced a change from a 14-game-season to 16 games. That will give the team an extra home game.

“We have eight home games now instead of seven and our ticket prices will be reflective as such,” Davis said. “We’re in the final stages of ticket prices which we’ll then move to graphic design work (on a new logo).”

Davis said he expects the new ticket prices and potential new logo and visual identity to come out within the next month.

The team is also looking to change its marketing strategy — Davis said he wanted the target audience to be families across the region.

“Everything we do as an organization from this point forward as long as I’m involved will have families and children at the forefront,” he said. “Every effort we make will be related to trying to draw families and kids into our events and serving them outside of the building.”

That, he said, goes hand in hand with how he expects to go about composing the roster. He expects only a handful of former Axemen players to return, but he will be actively recruiting players that interact well with fans.

“I do not anticipate to bring back more than three or four players,” Davis said. “From the lack of productivity on the field to their off-the-field behavior. Those days are done, we will vet out as deeply as possible.

“We are going to run a professional football operation and expect them to have an attitude of gratitude and they will uphold the standards that we set. One mistake on character issues and they’re out. Done.”

The Axemen finished 2-12 last season, their second in the league and Davis, an experienced IFL coach and executive, is the team’s fourth different head coach in three years.

He’s moving quickly with the Axemen.

“We’re doing this as fast as anytime I’ve ever done this,” Davis said. “We’ve condensed everything down to 30 days running hot, so that’s where we are.”

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