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December 20, 2014

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UFL’s first season served as a “dress rehearsal”

Commissioner focused on next season

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Steve Silver

UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue fields questions at a press conference inside Sam Boyd Stadium.

United Football League Commissioner Michael Huyghue has a message to all of the league’s naysayers and detractors.

This year, the league’s inaugural season, was only the beginning. To illustrate his point, Huyghue used a metaphor.

“In many ways, it was a dress rehearsal for us — the way a show opens on Broadway with previews and then opens to the full cast,” Huyghue said.

“That’s what it was for us. It was a way to take a fairly well-buttoned up process and look at it more closely in sort of a test audience.”

The UFL completed its regular season last week and is preparing for Friday’s championship game at Noon at Sam Boyd Stadium between the Las Vegas Locomotives and the Florida Tuskers.

Huyghue said in many ways, the league’s first season exceeded his expectations.

“We’ve had an outstanding time,” Huyghue said. “It gives us good comfort in going forward with our full launch in 2010.”

Huyghue insists that some of the oddities of the league — including the teams practicing and being based outside of their home cities and the lack of major marketing efforts — were only in place for the first year.

That will all change next year. For example, the Locomotives will be in Las Vegas for the whole season instead of traveling from Phoenix to play home games.

The league hopes a stronger local presence from the teams and expanded advertising efforts will boost attendance in 2010.

The average announced attendance of the Locomotives’ three home games was 13,225, but there appeared to be fewer fans than that.

“I would expect next year to be more incremental instead of full stadiums in the second year,” Huyghue said. “But we’re prepared to work through that and build that. I don’t think you build a league overnight and we are realistic about that. We planned financially for that.”

Financially, the league was not dependant on attendance at all this season. Because of its relatively low budget and Versus television contract, officials were not concerned with the attendance numbers.

It might not be that easy next season. The UFL plans to add two new franchises — Hartford, Conn., and Los Angeles appear to be the likely expansion cities — and play a full schedule.

With more games and teams based in their own cities, costs will rise. The UFL’s challenge will be attracting new fans.

“The competition for the dollar out there is tough,” Huyghue said. “We have to think very carefully about what night of the week we play, the size of our venues and the strategies to reach and retain fans will be very important.”

If there’s one area UFL officials are confident in, it’s the quality of football. From day one, the UFL promised strong play and everyone involved believes that’s been accomplished.

Locomotives coach Jim Fassel said that would prove to be the key to success in the long run.

“That’s better than any league I’ve ever seen without a doubt other than the NFL,” Fassel said. “By far, it’s not even close.”

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