Indoor football attempt misses goal – Upset fans tailgate outside Civic Center with game canceled

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Batesville Civic Center was the site of disappointed football fans Saturday afternoon after the MS Raiders announced that its game against Corpus Christi had been canceled due to unsafe field conditions.

Saturday’s event was to be the beginning of indoor football in Batesville, highly touted by Mayor Hal Ferell and supported by city officials and civic leaders. The MS Raiders, with Batesville native Eddie Strong as head coach, was seen as an regional attraction for the Civic Center and a boost to the city’s travel industry.

Instead, fans were left without the opportunity to see indoor football locally, and Strong was “hurt and devastated” by what he deemed as completely unacceptable business behavior from the team’s owners.

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“I’m embarrassed for myself and for my city,” Strong said Tuesday. “When this began to unfold on Friday I told the owners that this is not how we do things in Batesville and in the State of Mississippi. We have Ole Miss fans here and Mississippi State right down the road that has a lot of fans here and they know what to expect from a football program and what we saw this weekend as not acceptable.

The City of Batesville, nor Strong, have seen much backlash over the cancellation because most fans understood the problem was with the management and not the venue nor the players and coaching staff.

“This was all on them,” Strong said. “Batesville did what it was supposed to do and I formed relationships with the players and did everything I could to make this work.” The former South Panola and Ole Miss football star said he worked without a contract or salary in an effort to help the ownership get established.

The City of Batesville profited from the failed venture, having collected $2,500 each for the reservation of last week’s forfeited date and this weekend’s scheduled game. From that $5,000 the city will have to cover a $700 invoice for security personnel that were retained for the Corpus Christi game, but not used.

Social media posts blaming the Civic Center for the cancellation were quickly rebutted when officials from the American Indoor Football league posted a statement blaming owners James and Tami Germany for failure to provide a safe playing service and announcing that the MS Raiders had been suspended from league participation for one year.

The Germanys, reached by telephone Monday, said the problem was the result of a miscommunication with a turf vendor in Dallas. “I went to Dallas and saw the turf and then what they shipped was not what I had been shown,” James Germany said.

“We received it on Wednesday and I tried to roll it out and check everything but the mayor and the Civic Center would not let us do that. When I finally did see what they had sent we did our best to make it playable for Saturday but when the head referee inspected it he deemed it unsafe.”

County inmates helped install some of the turf that was shipped here and some that was taken from the arena in Tunica where the team had tried to establish before. When the turf and padding was found to be short, the owners reportedly purchased turf-type patio and porch covering at Home Depot in Oxford to piece with the league-approved portions of turf.

“I’ve never been kicked out of any league before because we have always done things above board and I really believed that we would have something big here,” Germany said. “We are going to return the sponsorship money we raised.”

Tami Germany said the couple appreciates the initial welcome from city officials, but admitted the venture was underfunded from the start. “We really needed the community to get behind us more than they did,” she said. “In other cities the teams have a lot more sponsorships and that’s what it takes to cover all the costs.”

Fans, many of whom spent much of Saturday cooking and enjoying tailgating activities outside the Civic Center were refunded for tickets purchased in advance by the ticketing agency. But players, who had paid $100 each to tryout and another $100 for uniform costs, had not been reimbursed as of Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Hampton Inn told several players they must leave their hotel rooms because the room charges had not been paid. Strong said the players were told they would be provided lodging at Hampton Inn for the week between the two scheduled games as some live several hours’ drive away.

“I played a lot of football and some arena ball and players were always provided with meals and hotel rooms and the expenses of getting to games,” Strong said. “My heart goes out to these players because they really worked hard getting ready for this first game and their dreams of continuing their football careers.”