ANAHEIM — Ogden Facility Management might have turned a feeble franchise into an on-field success story, but on Wednesday, the corporation that owns the Splash turned the team over to the Continental Indoor Soccer League.
Ogden operates the Pond, and Brad Mayne, arena general manager and Splash co-governor, notified the league that he was relinquishing rights to the Los Angeles area effective today.
It means the Splash will not play this season unless a buyer steps forward by noon Saturday.
The Splash was nearly saved by Bob Bell, who brought professional soccer to San Diego and won five straight Major Indoor Soccer League titles from 1982-86. He left in 1987 after losing nearly $10 million over 10 years. At the time of his departure, team salary caps were $1.275 million, more than five times that of the CISL.
Bell mulled over various proposals to become a partner with Ogden for about two weeks before informing Mayne on Monday that he couldn't move forward.
"I'm sending to the CISL a letter communicating to them that effective [today], Ogden will discontinue the operation of the Anaheim Splash," Mayne said.
The "big picture" forced his hand, Mayne said. The team was not yet profitable and his full-time staff, responsible for about 200 events annually, was devoting 30% of its time to an operation that wasn't reaping a like reward, he said.
The company needed a partner to cover staff operations, he said, and any losses that might be incurred by Ogden. Mayne offered a rent-free arrangement.
The franchise moved from Los Angeles (where it was 7-21) to Anaheim in 1994. Renamed the Splash, it won two division titles and had the league's second-best attendance last year.
Players expressed disappointment. Goalkeeper Jorge Valenzuela has been on four teams that have folded and now, one more that barely has a heartbeat.
"It's a little upsetting, but it's not surprising because I've been on enough teams to know that no team is secure," Valenzuela said. "From a business standpoint, they're doing the right thing.
"[But] I don't agree with their decision, because I think they were a great role model for the rest of the league and every team in the country."
Mayne said the 1,106 season ticket-holders will be notified by mail and receive full refunds.
League Commissioner Ron Weinstein said the search for a partner should have begun six months ago instead of two. Roy Englebrecht, part-owner of the newly acquired Piranhas of the Arena Football League, said if Mayne had offered the Splash in August, his company, Orange County Arena Football, would have bit on a partnership.
"Timing was the biggest thing," Englebrecht said. "I did not want to distract our staff because our response has been so overwhelming and I didn't want to take over another responsibility in such a short amount of time."