Football team becomes 'community-based'

Recognizing the loss of two professional hockey teams, a group of Lexingtonians will use a charitable foundation to secure the immediate future of the Kentucky Horsemen.

Previous owners Lennie and Vicki House turned over the team to the Horsemen Charitable Foundation, which will run the arenafootball2 franchise as a non-profit, community-based organization.

The foundation was formed in March to expand the community and charitable outreach of the team, according to attorney Foster Ockerman Jr.

An executive committee and a board of directors operate the foundation. Ockerman said House is not on the board. It is unclear whether he would retain any involvement with the team's operations.

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry and foundation board chairman Phil Harmon accepted the team at a news conference Thursday.

"In addition to winning on the field, I'm glad the Horsemen will be more involved in our community," Newberry said. "I appreciate what the House family has done, and I'm grateful for their generosity."

When the Houses decided not to continue as owners earlier this year, the foundation went into an "explore your options" mode.

"We didn't want to see another team leave Central Kentucky," Horsemen General Manager Bryan Boehm said. "How to make this more of a community-based team was our biggest focus."

While baseball's Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League have been successful since they started in 2001, two teams were not.

The Kentucky Thoroughblades of the American Hockey League moved to Cleveland and now play in Worcester, Mass. The Lexington Men O' War of the East Coast Hockey League disbanded.

A couple of minor-league baseball teams, in Memphis and Michigan, are using the community-based ownership model. The NFL Green Bay Packers have for-profit and not-for-profit entities as part of their local ownership.

The decision to donate assets and transfer the team to the foundation were major steps for the Houses, Boehm said.

"We're going to survive this first year," Harmon said. "It depends on how well we'll survive. If we get by the first year cash-flow wise, and if attendance gets up to the 5,000 range, I think we'll be all right."

Af2 President Jerry Kurz supported the Horsemen's decision.

"It ensures us that one of our valuable league members will continue to call Lexington its home," Kurz said in a statement. "We believe in the expanded philanthropic and community efforts the foundation is committed to."