CEDAR RAPIDS — The new owners of the Cedar Rapids Titans are off and running.
Principal owners Roy Choi and Matt Stone, who agreed to purchase the seven-year Indoor Football League franchise in June, have hired a general manager.
Ryan Eucker, 32, brings seven seasons of indoor football experience to Cedar Rapids, most recently a two-year stint as General Manager of the Spokane (Wash.) Empire during the 2015-16 IFL seasons in which he also served on the IFL expansion committee and rules committee.
“I’m very excited,” Eucker told The Gazette. “I had a great run working in arena football. … It’s a great group of teams, great group of owners, great group of managers. I had an excellent time those two seasons in Spokane participating in the Indoor Football League, so I am looking forward to getting back and working with those folks at the league level as well as the other teams and those in this area, as well.”
Eucker began his career in indoor football in 2010 with the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League, where his duties progressed from Account Executive to Director of Marketing, Communications and Player Operations and finally Director of Operations.
Once the Empire ceased operations after the 2016 season, Eucker worked in independent baseball as Vice President of Ticket Sales for the Normal (Ill.) CornBelters.
“Really looking forward to being out here in the region and planted in the community,” Eucker said. “And not only having those opponents a little bit closer to us (Spokane had just one 2016 IFL opponent within 500 miles of it), but getting involved and doing some great things out here.”
After four playoff seasons in a row from 2013-16, the Titans are just 4-26 over the past two seasons.
For Choi, 43, and Stone, 30, the opportunity to get into sports ownership with the Titans was an attractive one due to the past successes of the franchise and elements within the Cedar Rapids community.
Where the previous ownership group attempted to juggle administration of the Titans, the Cedar Rapids Rampage arena soccer team and the Rampage United outdoor soccer team, Choi and Stone feel their advantage is a focus exclusively on football.
“They were able to show some success early and it was taking on that soccer team that was probably the main culprit in terms of becoming more of a struggle for them,” said Choi, who is the Co-Founder and General Partner of Knighted Ventures, a Los Angeles-based investment firm. “Now that it is going to return to a focus on football, that made it attractive. After visiting and meeting with a lot of the folks on the ground, once people got wind of it, they were really supportive. They wanted to keep football in Cedar Rapids and they were excited about a new energy coming in. That really locked it in for us and convinced us that we wanted to pursue buying the team as well as keeping it in Cedar Rapids.”
This will be the first sporting venture for Choi, while Stone has performed a consultancy role for major league sports teams on the financial side, but never in an ownership capacity.
“We’ve been raised watching football and it has always been a dream of ours to get involved with a football team,” Stone said. “When this opportunity came across, we really looked into it and came out to Cedar Rapids and went to some of the local bars, met some of the folks in town. … Everyone was really excited.”
The search for a coach has already begun. Choi and Stone have conducted interviews with several candidates, including 2018 Coach Marvin Jones. With Eucker now in the fold, the pace quickens.
“We’ve got to get moving here pretty fast,” Eucker said. “We definitely, obviously want a guy that is going to help us win football games. You need a good guy that is well connected and has a network and a reach as far as scouting and recruiting. … The final piece of it is the community aspect. .. Finding someone who is going to align with us in terms of that understanding and getting involved in the community. Off the field is as important as what we’ve got going on on the field.”
With as many as five arena and indoor football leagues currently operating within the U.S., franchise ownership has proven to be a volatile operation. Choi and Stone feel they have picked the right league in the right city.
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“In doing our research, it was kind of dizzying how many leagues there are in the history of arena, indoor football,” Choi said. “It took some time to sort it all out. After sorting it all out, speaking to Mike Allshouse the (IFL) commissioner and some of the other owners, we felt we were entering the best league. … That solidified it for us as well.”
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