City of Albany terminates lease with Panthers (UPDATED: 7:50 p.m.)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Assistant City Manager Wes Smith informed The Herald on Tuesday that the city of Albany has terminated its lease agreement with the Albany Panthers, leaving the Professional Indoor Football League without a venue for the 2014 season, which was already in jeopardy for financial reasons.

Smith said that the Panthers owe the city around $12,000 for use of the Albany Civic Center plus a percentage of its revenue from concessions. City officials sent Panthers owner Rod Chappell a written notice on Jan. 23 informing him that the lease agreement to play at the Civic Center would be terminated because of lack of payments dating back to December.

“They were in breach of their contract, so we notified them of termination,” Smith said. “Mr. Chappell certainly has the opportunity to come to the city and try to fix this, but the current situation is that we don’t have a contract with him.”

In an email sent Tuesday, Chappell wrote that the Panthers intend to pay their dues to the city and will join PIFL representatives this week in a meeting with city officials in an attempt to renew the lease. Chappell also wrote that the team has 30 days from the time of the written notice to “cure any default.”

“The Albany Panthers' lease agreement includes an ability to cure any default once an official letter is received from the City of Albany,” Chappell said.

PIFL Director of Compliance Jeff Gonos said in statement that league representatives hope to find a solution and agreement during meetings this week.

“The PIFL has been working constructively with the Albany Panthers on a potential financial solution to enable the Panthers to play the 2014 season,” Gonos said. “The league would anticipate that the Panthers, city of Albany, and local constituents of the team are working together in a similar fashion to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.”

The Panthers have spent the last two weeks making a plea to sponsors and season ticket holders in an attempt to raise an additional $100,000, which Chappell said the franchise needed to field a team in 2014.

On Monday, Chappell sent an email to local media stating that the Panthers are “finalizing a potential solution which would allow the team to play in 2014 and beyond,” but there had been no mention from Chappell or other Panthers officials about their breach of contract with the city of Albany.

Smith said that he has had an open dialogue with Chappell over the past few months and that it’s still possible for Chappell and the Panthers to agree on a new contract before the start of the season.

“I would not be surprised if Mr. Chappell attempted,” Smith said. “But again, this is a facts thing. We don’t have a contract with him now, and for all of this conjecture out there we felt like others needed to know that there was no contract at this time.”

Details were limited about the Panthers’ proposed financial agreement with the PIFL that would allow them to play this season, but Chappell wrote in Monday’s email that “the solution would require the Panthers’ (original season opener on) March 22nd … against Nashville to be rescheduled for June 7th. Assuming all details of the financing structure are confirmed this week, the Panthers’ season would kick off at home against 2013 PIFL champion Alabama Hammers on Saturday, April 5th.”

The Panthers, who won league championships in 2011 and 2012, lost many of their star players to retirement last season after finishing the year 7-6 and losing in the semifinals to Alabama. They are coached by Lucious Davis, who said two weeks ago that the cancellation of the 2014 Panthers season would be devastating news to his players.

“This means a lot to them,” he said. “For some of these guys, this is their world. A lot of guys live for this. A few of us have talked about it the last couple of days, but it is what it is. The only thing I can tell those guys is to be positive and keep working out. That’s all I can tell them.”