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Bloomington Edge

Bloomington Edge quarterback Dusty Burk throws a pass against the Lehigh Valley on Saturday, March 24, 2012, at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloominton. (Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)

BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Edge indoor football team will have a new owner, and a new group of opponents next year.

The franchise will play its eighth season in the newly formed Champions Professional Indoor Football League. The upcoming move was revealed at a Friday afternoon news conference announcing the sale of the team from Twin City businessman Jim Morris to Sandra Hunnewell’s group that owns the Bloomington Blaze hockey organization.

“Indoor football has proven to be popular in Central Illinois and we are happy to include the Edge in our operations,” Hunnewell said in a news release. The New Jersey pharmaceutical company owner was not in town for Friday’s announcement.

“Our organization is very excited about being able to continue with arena football here,” said Blaze President David Holt, who also helps operate the group’s Junior Blaze hockey entity. “It’s a great time for us right now. Now being able to add a third team to our portfolio, we’re very excited about that.”

The ownership group, Hockey Sensations LLC, still needs City Council approval to take over the Edge’s current football license agreement with the city-owned U.S. Cellular Coliseum, which is operated by Central Illinois Arena Management.

“There are many advantages to the Blaze operating the football team,” CIAM President John Butler said in the news release. “They have a full-time dedicated front office staff and Mr. Holt understands the commitment it takes to operate successful minor league teams.”

The new league will be the third for the football team, which began as the Extreme in 2006 as part of United Indoor Football. The team moved to the Indoor Football League in 2009 and changed its name to the Edge last year when Morris bought the franchise from Ed Brady.

“The product we produced with the Edge was truly one of the best entertainment values that you could ask for in our community,” said Morris. “I expect David to capitalize on some of the basis that we established last year and continue to grow and improve the Edge as he moves forward with it.”

The Edge are the eighth team to join the geographically-based CPIFL, with six of the other teams in the league entering as existing franchises including former IFL members from Sioux City, Iowa, and Wichita, Kan. The league expects to complete a 10-team roster with the addition of two organizations in the next week.

“Adding Bloomington adds so much credibility to what we’re trying to do,” CPIFL Commissioner James Bain said in a telephone interview. “It’s an affirmation on business model and how we’re doing things on a league level.”

Other teams in the league are located in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Bain said the CPIFL season will begin in March with a 12-game regular season and conclude with a two-week, four-team playoff.

Holt said the team will remain as the Edge and keep its red, white and blue color scheme.

“One of the things I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been in this market is the importance of stability,” said Holt. “We want to do everything we can to have a stable front. That’s how you build your brand and build loyalty from the community.”

Drive update

Morris remains hopeful for finding new owners for his other Coliseum tenant, the Central Illinois Drive basketball team. He mentioned Holt’s group and current Drive vice president Scott Henderson as having potential interest in the reigning Premier Basketball League champions.

“If I hand it off, I expect whoever takes the reins to accomplish what we did,” Morris said.

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