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SIGNS POINT TO DESTROYERS' DEPARTURE

The Buffalo Destroyers apparently have one foot out the door.

Owner and CEO Mark Hamister was in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday negotiating a deal with Nationwide Arena officials about relocating the franchise. Hamister was unavailable to comment, but said through a team spokesman that an announcement won't come until sometime next week. Nationwide Arena officials also said that no announcement has been scheduled. Still, there are strong signs that the Destroyers aren't long for Buffalo.

An Arena Football League source confirmed that Hamister has filed an application for relocation and has board approval with contingencies. The source, however, was unaware of the details of the contingencies. Chris McCloskey, AFL vice president of communications, declined comment on the Destroyers' pending move but said league owners filing relocation applications is a common occurrence and doesn't necessarily mean the team is moving.

Also, the Destroyers' entire front office staff has either been laid off or reassigned within Hamister Group of Companies, Inc. Then on Thursday, the team's signs were removed from the front of their Delaware Ave., building, which is owned by Hamister, although a team spokesman said that is merely coincidental. A new tenant -- World Trade Center of Buffalo Niagara -- moved into the building with the understanding that their signs would be placed in front of the building.

The 5-year-old franchise's future in Buffalo has been dim at best since the end of the season in May.

Later that month, Hamister said he was committed to keeping the team in Buffalo after the Destroyers' five-year lease agreement with HSBC Arena expires. But Hamister said if he couldn't come to terms on a lease, he would explore other options, including relocation.

Negotiations between Hamister and HSBC Arena officials reached a stalemate earlier this month. At the time, Buffalo Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn, who served as the point man in the discussions for HSBC Arena, described the talks as "not very active," and that he hadn't spoken with Hamister in nearly a month.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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