Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:54 AM
The Louisiana Swashbucklers have walked the plank.
After nine seasons the area’s professional indoor football team called it quits Thursday morning, citing a lack of ticket sales as the cause for the franchise’s demise.
Saturday’s home finale against Alabama has been postponed. Those holding tickets for the game can go to their source of purchase for a refund, according to Bucs officials.
The three remaining road games are also in question as Pro Indoor Football League officials decide on the players’ fates.
Multiple sources have told the American Press the league is likely to pick up the tab for the remaining games, including the salaries of players and coaches. Also, the Bucs’ game against Alabama is expected to be played in Nashville, Tenn., at the end of the regular season.
That would be as a test balloon for a possible franchise relocation or an expansion club.
No official announcement has come from the league and phone calls and emails to administrators were not returned.
“This is very sad news for me,” said Bucs president Chris Meaux. “It is very disappointing to me personally. I hope the league can come up with a way to have our players finish out the season.”
It was a twist of fate for the club that was used to being one of the cornerstones of whatever league it was playing in, having won three championships in the past.
The Swashbucklers (4-4) were in the midst of making a playoff run this season after winning four of their last five games. They have never missed the postseason.
“That makes this doubly tough, because we have been playing so much better,” Meaux said. “We have come around as a team and I really liked our chances to not only make the playoffs but also make a run in the playoffs.”
Unfortunately, the fans didn’t support the team.
“This came as a total surprise to me,” said Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach. “It is a sad day for our city and the community. It’s a disappointment because it is a good event for the community.”
Last Saturday, in what now is the final home game for the franchise, the Bucs rallied for a 68-66 double-overtime win over first-place Richmond. Yet there were fewer than 700 fans in the stands at the end of the game and not more than a 1,000.
“The nail in the coffin was the lack of ticket sales,” Meaux said. “It was no longer financially viable to play.”
Meaux and his group bought the team two years ago and had big plans in not only expanding the Bucs’ operation but also trying to bring professional baseball back to Lake Charles.
“I don’t know what the future will be,” Meaux said. “I just dealing with this right now. I know that I will still be living in the community, but as for me and sports, I am not sure.”
News of the franchise’s fate hit former owner Thom Hager especially hard.
Hager owned the club before selling to the Meaux group. He also owned the Ice Pirates, the minor league hockey team which also played in the Civic Center.
“My heart is bleeding brother,” Hager said. “It is like my child is hurting. It is sad to see the Swashbucklers go away.
“I feel bad for Chris. He put his heart and soul into the team to make it work and in the end he just could not do it.”
It is an ironic twist of fortune that the Swashbucklers are the team to cease operations during the season after that being one of the complaints against the old league they played in.
“We really hate doing that to the league, but we really don’t have any other options,” Meaux said. “We do this with heavy hearts and as a last resort.”
The Bucs’ exit leaves a void in the Lake Charles sports scene.
“We have had some talks with them about some things they wanted to do,” Roach said. “I don’t know what their plans are for the future. We are just getting the news.
“I do believe this is a good market for a sports team. I hope one can return soon.”
When asked if he would ever be interested in bringing back a football team to Lake Charles, Hager was pretty clear on his response.
“That book has closed for me,” he said. “I enjoyed being a part of a football franchise but I have moved on.”
So too have the Swashbucklers.