The Arena Football League is attempting to place an expansion team in the Washington area, and its search for an owner for the franchise apparently is focusing on the new owners of the Washington Redskins and the Washington Capitals.
Capitals co-owner Jon Ledecky met Wednesday night with David Baker, commissioner of the indoor football league. Ledecky said yesterday that neither he nor his partner in the Capitals, America Online executive Ted Leonsis, is interested in owning an Arena League franchise in D.C., and Ledecky indicated he expects the indoor football team to be owned by Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder.
Leonsis said he is not interested in buying an Arena League team. However, an Arena League official yesterday mentioned Ledecky and Leonsis as possible owners for the franchise, as well as mentioning Snyder. And Ledecky recently wrote to Baker expressing interest in buying a team.
Ledecky said last night he spoke to Baker for about 30 minutes Wednesday evening about the possibility of purchasing, along with a family member, one or more franchises in the less expensive Arena League 2. Ledecky said that Baker met Leonsis in the owners' box at MCI Center during the Capitals-Dallas Stars game Wednesday night. But, according to Ledecky, that meeting consisted of only a brief handshake and didn't include any discussions about buying an Arena League team in Washington.
Ledecky said that, because of the NFL's possible future ownership stake in the Arena League, NFL owners are being offered Arena League franchises for $4 million, or $4 million less than the cost to outside buyers.
"I have been informed several times that Dan Snyder will be buying that team," Ledecky said. "It's about facilities and it's about football operations. Nobody has better football operations than the Redskins. . . . My family has an interest in buying some AFL 2 franchises. . . . I know Ted has no interest in Arena Football, and any indication to the contrary would be inaccurate."
However, a letter sent from Ledecky to Baker at the Arena League office on Nov. 3 via electronic mail, a printed copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post yesterday, expresses interest in purchasing an Arena Football League franchise and setting up a meeting with Baker to discuss the matter.
"My partner, Ted Leonsis of AOL, and I are interested in purchasing an AFL team," Ledecky wrote. "How can we set up a meeting with you?"
Earlier yesterday, Leonsis said he does not intend to buy an indoor football team.
"The commissioner of the league was in town [Wednesday] night," Leonsis said. "It's one of those things of who you're spotted sitting with. We talked about hockey. We didn't talk about football. I have no interest in Arena League football right now. I have my hands full right now. When we can fill up the arena for hockey, we'll talk about filling it up for football."
Arena League spokesman David Cooper said yesterday that Baker was in Washington on Wednesday on other business, and spoke informally with Ledecky and Leonsis at the hockey game that night.
"If the Washington Redskins want to own an Arena League team, we'd be all ears, just like if someone with Ted and Jon's expertise wanted to get into the league," Cooper said. "We'd love to have a team in Washington."
Snyder, the Bethesda marketing executive who became the NFL's youngest owner when he and his partners closed their $800 million purchase of the Redskins in July, might be the Arena League's first choice to own a Washington-area franchise because the indoor league wants NFL owners. Snyder declined to comment yesterday.
Cooper said: "We have had expressions of interest from Mr. Snyder. Where we are in that process, I'm not able to say. . . . We target ownership. One of our main priorities is to get NFL ownership or another form of first-class ownership. . . . Washington has been high on our list."
Baker was not available to comment.
The NFL recently modified its rules to permit its team owners to own Arena League franchises in their markets. This year, the NFL also purchased an option to buy a minority ownership stake in the Arena League of up to 49.9 percent.
Arena League 2 is a separate league with teams in 16 markets, according to Cooper. Ledecky said Arena League 2 teams are being sold for $300,000 apiece.