Unless an investor or group of investors makes a financial commitment of more than $1 million by Friday, Washington's chances of having a team in Arena Football for its first full season this spring appear doubtful, league president Jim Foster said yesterday.
A previously scheduled business commitment in Australia kept Morton H. Levine from attending league meetings last Thursday and Friday in Chicago. Levine is a Bethesda-based real estate developer who is heading a group that, in November, Foster called a "likely" purchaser of the management contract for the Washington Commandos.
Those meetings were to have resulted in the announcement of an eight-team league for this year; now a six-team league is possible, without two of the league's four teams that played what Foster calls a "demonstration season," Washington and Denver.
Although Levine was in telephone contact during the meetings, Foster said, his absence left Washington as the only one of 10 possible league cities not represented. At the meetings, groups from six cities concluded management agreements with the league.
"We pretty much have the league in place," said Foster, who refused to say which six cities had landed teams. "We have commitments from six teams. We were hoping to have eight, but we're still working with Washington and Denver. We'd like to have those markets, but this is no longer just a company-owned league. We have to get a schedule set and we have to go where the dollars are. We may have to go with a six-team league."
Levine, who is expected to be in Australia at least three more weeks, could not be reached for comment.
Sources said Pittsburgh and Chicago, the other two original franchises, will be part of this year's league as well as newcomers New York, Providence, R.I., Los Angeles and Detroit.
In order to obtain a team for this season, Foster said, an investor has to pay a nonrefundable $25,000 fee to the league immediately and make subsequent lump sum payments of $250,000 and $500,000. A $250,000 letter of credit also must be submitted.
Foster said the league had not given up on Levine's group, but that negotiations have begun with officials from Capital Centre (site of the Commandos' home games last summer) and other possible investors.
Capital Centre officials could not be reached for comment.