Owner Paul Pelosi is guaranteeing there will be a 2012 edition of the Mountain Lions in Sacramento. He's making plans to guarantee the 2013 United Football League season and beyond.
Despite leaguewide financial losses and the Mountain Lions' 0-3 record going into Saturday's home finale against the UFL's only undefeated team, the Virginia Destroyers, Pelosi said he intends to be back for a third season in Sacramento albeit with a refocused business model.
"There will be a 2012 season," Pelosi said. "We have to develop more on the business side. We have already established that this league and this team can play some good football. The business is struggling, quite frankly, but I'm going to be actively involved with things next year and get someone in there to help out on that business side."
Pelosi said he is pleased with the efforts of Joe Wagoner, the team's vice president who oversees the day-to-day operations. Ticket sales have been strong, but Pelosi believes that untapped corporate sponsorship dollars are out there that need to be captured for the team's economic outlook to stabilize. Pelosi said he has no plans to shake up the front office but will bolster its numbers and its results.
Wagoner says ticket sales have been brisk for Saturday's 4 p.m. game, with a second sellout a possibility.
The first two home games this season drew announced crowds of 19,938 and 17,612, but there were large sections of empty seats on both sides of Hornet Stadium. Team officials speculate that could mean fans are buying tickets but for whatever reason aren't showing up.
"I think the 4 p.m. starts have had an impact (on no-shows) and we looked into getting it changed, but the league told us no," Wagoner said.
"We allocate 5,000 tickets a game to be sold to youth football teams as fundraisers. It's a 50-50 split. It helps support the kids, but I got a feeling a lot of those people aren't coming to the game and I don't know why."
The ideal start times for the home games would be either 1 or 6 p.m., Wagoner said. The reason for the 4 p.m. start times is to accommodate Comcast Sports Net, which Thursday decided to drop its planned broadcast Saturday because the game might not be over before it shows a Sharks game at 7 p.m.
Pelosi said the key to the league's financial stability remains signing a lucrative TV contract where the teams divide the money paid for broadcast rights. Right now, Comcast and the Mountain Lions split advertising revenue, with no upfront money paid to the team.
The UFL has lost $50 million each of its first two seasons and expects to lose another $30 million to $40 million this year. Despite those losses, Pelosi is talking about expansion in 2012. He also intends to launch an initial public offering to raise money and give Mountain Lions fans a chance to buy a stake in the team. Pelosi said he wants to sell as much as 33 percent of the team to fans in the IPO.
On expansion, Pelosi said, "There are a half-dozen cities on our radar, such as Portland, Salt Lake City, Chattanooga and Austin, Texas ... all non-NFL cities with a huge potential fan base. We're putting together packages right now for prospective new markets, and we hope to have at least six teams, and ideally eight, next season." There are four teams this season.
The IPO would likely take place in the spring, Pelosi said, after a valuation period. Pelosi, an investment banker, has made a fortune doing just that: determining if a business is a sound financial risk.
"Right now I have no idea what that initial offering would be," Pelosi said. "But with a successful IPO, we'd pick up operating money that would enable us to compete in Sacramento for years to come."