Northern Minnesota Attracts a Professional Football Team: The Axemen

By Gilyard, Burl | MinnPost.com, September 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Northern Minnesota Attracts a Professional Football Team: The Axemen


Gilyard, Burl, MinnPost.com


The small northern Minnesota city of Bemidji is known for statues of folklore icons Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, as well as its proximity to hundreds of fishing lakes. But professional indoor football?

Bemidji has landed an expansion franchise in the Indoor Football League (IFL), home to colorfully named teams including the Green Bay Blizzard, Nebraska Danger, and Wyoming Cavalry.

The name of the new team, the Bemidji Axemen, was announced Thursday morning. The team marks the first professional sports team for Bemidji, which will be the smallest city in the 10-team league.

"I definitely believe in the potential of this market," Chris Kokalis, co-owner and president of the new team, said, adding that he was impressed with Bemidji and the city-owned Sanford Center arena, where the football team will play.

But can indoor football be an economic development tool for the city?

Kokalis said that he's received an encouraging response from the Bemidji business community about potential sponsorships. Kokalis said that there are 60,000 people within a 60-mile radius of Bemidji and that he's hoping that the team can draw 3,700 to 4,000 fans per game.

"It's bringing professional sports into markets that might not always have that," he said. "The team has already sold a couple hundred season tickets. …

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