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Splash Might Have Savior in Ogden

December 05, 1997|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — The beleaguered Splash, whose franchise rights were seized by the Continental Indoor Soccer League during the playoffs, may again be run by the company that brought it to Orange County.

Ogden Facility Management, which operates the Pond, is seeking a partner to help assume the team's franchise rights and continue playing next summer.

Brad Mayne, general manager of the Pond, said Thursday he is in discussion with two groups and is open to speaking to more who might be interested.

"We're looking for someone committed to the community," Mayne said. "Someone who has the financial ability to promote correctly; if the team's not doing well and comes upon difficult financial times, they can still handle the marketing. They have to have the ability to reach into their pocket and market the franchise through its difficult financial times. And someone who has respect for the sports industry and what it's all about."

The Splash became the league's model franchise under Ogden, but running the team ate into its personnel resources that also ran the arena. It was sold to Arizona businessman Bill Williams, a former minority owner of the New Orleans Saints. Williams sold it two months later to Gary Sparks, who headed Anaheim Splash, Inc., which owes the league, employees, players and Ogden collectively hundreds of thousands of dollars. The CISL seized the team Sept. 29, a day after the regular season ended.

"At the time we stepped out, we had arena football and roller hockey, and we thought we were selling to an ownership group that would do well with it, having had pro football ownership and management background," Mayne said. "But that turned into something different.. . ."

Mayne said he has not spoken to Sparks in two months, but will try to recover what is owed.

Ogden's decision to get involved in ownership comes at a time when the arena, the fifth-busiest in the nation with more than 220 events this year, could lose all three of its summer sports teams, including the Bullfrogs of Roller Hockey International, and the Piranhas of the Arena Football League because of team or league troubles. The loss of all three would represent 34 summer dates (not including playoffs)--about 15% of the arena's events.

Mayne said Ogden would not take over the Splash without a partner.

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