CEDAR RAPIDS — A new era for the Cedar Rapids Titans is here.
The Indoor Football League franchise, which concluded its seventh season Saturday night in Des Moines, has been purchased by a Los Angeles-based investment firm after four months on the market.
Knighted Ventures — which has an emphasis on entertainment and gaming — and its principal owner, Roy Choi, received league approval to assume ownership of the team effective immediately.
“The big thing for us, like we’ve said from the beginning, was finding someone that was going to keep the team in Cedar Rapids,” outgoing co-owner/General Manager Chris Kokalis told The Gazette. “That was the one thing for me that was very important and for all of our ownership group. This has been a team that for seven years has been in Cedar Rapids and while a couple of years, the past couple of years, haven’t lived up to any of our expectations, that doesn’t mean that it was not some good, solid football marketing. I think that was a big thing for me, was to find an ownership group that, one, could put the proper money into the team to get it back up to where it was, but also to keep the team in Cedar Rapids.”
Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but an earlier source close to the process revealed the asking price had dropped to as low as $50,000.
Choi also serves as Chief Executive Officer of KCM Agency, an advertising and marketing agency also based in California. In addition, Choi is heavily involved with two non-profit organizations. As Executive Producer and CEO of Kollaboration, Choi highlights the work of Asian-American artists and leaders. He also founded and serves as Chairman for Children in Harmony, which uses music and emotional intelligence education to empower young girls and build empathy in all children.
This will be the first sporting venture for Choi and Knighted Ventures.
“I’m very excited about their plan, their vision,” Kokalis said. “They understand that they’re going to have to reinvest and put some money into the community. They know that it is not going to happen overnight. After the past two years, obviously it is kind of a rebuild. Our ownership group is certainly going to support them in any way that we can in helping make this a smooth transition and helping them get to a point where they can get the team back to its glory days.”
The Titans are 50-57 in seven seasons in the IFL. After four playoff seasons in a row from 2013-16, attendance plummeted at the U.S. Cellular Center as the Titans won just four of 30 games over the past two seasons.
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“We have a great fan base,” Kokalis said. “Loyal fans who supported the team in its good times and its bad times. It was only four years ago that we were doing 4,200 fans a night at the arena. I have wanted to make sure that, and we as a group, have wanted to make sure that whoever took over the team had a plan. These guys have a plan. Obviously, they’ve got some work to do to hire a general manager. Obviously, they are going to interview coaching candidates.”
The sale of the Titans allows Kokalis and fellow exiting owners Barry Smith, Toni Smith and Alexis Smith of Marion to cut sporting ties with Cedar Rapids. In March, the group also moved the membership of Cedar Rapids’ Major Arena Soccer League franchise — the Rampage — to Florida and established a new team known as the Orlando SeaWolves.
There has been no interest to date from an outside group to revive the Rampage in Cedar Rapids. The deadline for inclusion in the 2018-19 MASL season is in August.
“It’s hard,” Kokalis said. “We had a very committed ownership group and I do believe when we brought the Rampage on board, we hoped for a different outcome. Self-admittedly, maybe we spread ourselves too thin. But I think these guys have the passion and desire focusing on one team instead of having multiple teams. I definitely think that they can get the franchise back in the right direction.”
When asked about an internet rumor that had the Titans sold and on the move to Tucson, Ariz., Kokalis said the information was born from an Arena Football League website blogger and is “1 million percent false.”
“This group is absolutely, 100 percent committed to Cedar Rapids,” Kokalis said. “They have already begun preparations for the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids.”
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