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NEW ARENA TEAM READY FOR LIFT-OFF

A little more than a year before kickoff, Buffalo's new Arena Football League entry has no name, logo or identity to the city.

That is about to change.

All will be unveiled Friday night during a gala celebrating the expansion franchise at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

More than 1,500 invited guests are expected for the event, which includes special guest appearances by the California Fantasy Cheerleaders and international recording artists Jefferson Starship.

Mike Adamle, game announcer and sideline reporter for ESPN and ABC, will be master of ceremonies. The winner of the $10,000 Name The Team contest will be announced as well.

"This will be, among other things, one of the largest sports parties of its kind to ever hit Buffalo," proclaimed Mark Hamister, team owner and chairman and chief executive officer of Buffalo Sports Enterprise, the management arm of the franchise.

"The last six months since we won the expansion franchise, we've been quietly behind the scenes developing our organization, starting with Dave Whinham, our head coach and vice president of operations," Hamister said.

"Friday is the first day we publicly launch ourselves as an organization and from that day forward, we expect to be operating in the public's eye."

Hamister hopes the "coming out party" will show Western New York that the organization is committed to being world class in everything it does.

"Those are easy words to say, difficult words to deliver on," he said. "We have to start walking our talk (Friday)."

The Buffalo Sports Enterprise conducted two substantial surveys last year, asking area fans what they wanted to see in the team in terms of name, image, team colors, ticket prices, etc.

"(Friday) will be our response to what the Niagara Frontier said they want," said Whinham, former assistant head coach and player personnel director of AFL power Tampa Bay Storm. "This is going to be a very fan-friendly team, just as it is a fan-intimate and fan-involved sport."

For those who can't get to the games, Empire Sports Network and radio station WBEN will carry them live.

Hamister said Empire has agreed to televise nine or more games per season, complementing the AFL's national broadcasting schedule that includes games on ESPN and ESPN 2. ABC will show the season-ending Arena Bowl, in late August. The season typically begins in May.

WBEN, formerly the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills, will carry all the new franchise's contests, most of which will be on Friday nights.

"We couldn't be happier with the level of commitment and the level of quality that we've been able to hitch our wagons to relative to broadcasting," Hamister said.

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