Titans football, Rampage soccer face uncertain futures in Cedar Rapids

Tuesday press conference will announce Titans football for sale, while Rampage soccer possibly on the move

Cedar Rapids Titans General Manager/Co-Owner Chris Kokalis, pictured during the 2012 expansion season, will announce at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, that the club is for sale. (The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Titans General Manager/Co-Owner Chris Kokalis, pictured during the 2012 expansion season, will announce at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, that the club is for sale. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Changes are afoot for two of the city’s professional sports franchises.

It just remains to be seen how drastic those changes will be.

A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday to announce that the Cedar Rapids Titans, an Indoor Football League franchise that will begin their seventh season under first-year Coach Marvin Jones next month, are for sale.

“It has had its ups and downs, but we’ve got a lot of still-strong elements in place,” said Chris Kokalis, who is listed as a co-owner of both the Titans and the Cedar Rapids Rampage professional soccer franchise. “We want to find good, suitable local ownership. The league is committed to having the Titans remain in the league in Cedar Rapids, as well.”

The club will also announce that marketing consultant and former radio host Bob Bruce will be named Titans team president and will lead the sale of the club.

“Bob knows the organization, he has been around the team, he has a very good reputation here in the community,” Kokalis said. “I think he’ll do really well. When you’ve done something for seven years, Cedar Rapids has been home and I’ve committed to (it). We want to keep the team here. That’s the main thing.”

The future of the Rampage soccer club — which plays indoor ball in the Major Arena Soccer League during the winter and was to play outdoor as the Rampage United in the United Premier Soccer League this summer — will not be a subject of the press conference.

A source close to both situations said the Rampage franchise — which has been in Cedar Rapids for three years — is actively working on a move to Orlando, Fla.

“Nothing has been decided,” Kokalis said. “Obviously, the attendance numbers have struggled, as they have the past couple of years, but nothing has been decided. The league is looking at different markets for expansion growth, but as far as a rumor of the team heading to Orlando or anything of that nature, nothing has been decided. … Until anything is announced specifically, anything else is hearsay and rumor.”

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A Rampage relocation and Titans sale would leave the ownership group — Kokalis, Bob Sullivan of Milwaukee, Wis., David Bradley of Cedar Rapids, Kenneth Moninski of Seattle, Wash, and Barry, Toni and Alexis Smith of Marion — with no sporting ties to Cedar Rapids.

Kokalis said a Rampage move from the MASL to its feeder-league MASL2 is an option. That type of switch would require a much-lower operating budget and eliminate long road trips to Mexico and both coasts. MASL franchises like Chicago and Detroit made similar moves after last season.

Kokalis expects a Rampage decision to be made in the next two months. The core issue remains attendance. Rampage attendance numbers have decreased from 2,772 fans per game in their 2015-16 expansion year to 1,973 last season and 1,489 this year. By contrast, the Titans averaged 2,982 fans during their 1-15 season last year.

Both teams play at the U.S. Cellular Center, which has a seating capacity of 6,900.

“We’ve lost a substantial amount of money in the Rampage venture,” Kokalis said. “The Titans have still been able to kind of carry itself. It’s a football market. We want to finish strong during the Rampage season and see what takes place. We have two home games left, plus we’re in a good spot for the playoffs and kind of go from there.”

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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