Thursday, August 15, 2013

Honda Center, Arena Football To KISS, Make Up

The Arena Football League announced that the LA KISS will be an expansion team that will play in Honda Center and be owned in part by band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

Professional football returns to Orange County next spring in a story so intriguing that the return of the sport isn't even the story.

No, the story is who will own the team, a pair of men likely to wear more makeup than the cheerleaders do. Higher heels, too.

Twenty years after Georgia Frontiere moved her Rams out of Anaheim and became the villain, we're going to have an owner known literally as "The Demon," an owner famous for breathing actual fire.

Are you ready for some football? Probably. But are you ready for some KISS?

The LA KISS – owned in part by painted-up rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley – is one of the new expansion franchises in the Arena Football League.

As much as this story sounds make-believe – and, over the past 40 years, the band KISS has been the subject of comic books, cartoons and action figures – it is all very true.

League officials made the announcement Thursday afternoon. The KISS is scheduled to begin play at Honda Center starting in March.

"No one comes away from a KISS concert saying they didn't have a great time or it wasn't a great show," says Brett Bouchy, who will serve as the team's managing partner. "The same thing is going to happen with the LA KISS football team. People will be entertained. They are going to come out of there thinking, 'I got my money's worth.'"

On second thought, maybe this idea isn't so strange. KISS has appeared at the Super Bowl and performed well there, which is more than can be said of the San Diego Chargers.

Simmons and Stanley became involved when AFL officials began negotiating with the band to perform at ArenaBowl XXVI, the league's championship game to be played Saturday in Orlando.

From halftime act to part-time owners, Simmons and Stanley have "a significant" stake in the new team, according to Bouchy.

Stanley also designed the team's logo, which, though yet to be revealed, almost certainly will incorporate flames in some way.

"This isn't just another licensing deal for KISS," Bouchy says. "We are joint partners in the venture. They all have ownership. They are going to be very involved and active with the team."

This partnership does make sense in that KISS, much like the AFL, is famous for its elaborate presentation. Both feature a lot of bright lights, snorting smoke and chaotic noise.

Both also typically are big on the outrageous. At halftime Saturday, for example, KISS is expected to take the stage in Orlando riding atop a giant mechanical spider.

"I always say that going to an arena football game is like drinking water from a fire hose," says Bouchy, who has been affiliated with the AFL for 16 years. "It's a full-sensory experience."

As for a KISS concert, Bouchy says he attended his first show at 15.

"You come out of the concert feeling like you got hit over the head with a sledgehammer," he says, "and that's a good thing."

This will mark the AFL's second try in Anaheim and fourth in the Southland. The Anaheim Piranhas played two seasons at the former Arrowhead Pond in the mid-1990s. Los Angeles has had two AFL franchises – the Avengers (2000-09) and the Cobras (1988).

The league was founded in 1987 and has had an uneven history, even suspending operations during what would have been the 2009 season.

Out of that rock bottom, however, came a new labor agreement between ownership and the players, an agreement that Bouchy says makes teams like the KISS a much more viable business proposition.

"We had an economic model that struggled because of labor costs," he says. "What we've done with our last labor deal is we've broken the mold from other sports. In our model today, you can be very, very profitable when you have 11,000 people in attendance. That wasn't the case before."

Who knows if this will succeed but one thing seems guaranteed: Given the team's ownership, it should be difficult for the LA KISS to be uninteresting. The team promises to make enough noise to be heard.

Along with a special $99 season ticket, for instance, will come a free KISS concert at Honda Center.

As Simmons once said, "Life is too short to have anything but delusional notions about yourself."

"Nobody in music understands business, promotion and entertainment like KISS does," Bouchy says. "That's why I think they're a unique band to do this with. There is no other band that could pull something like this off.

"We're going to shock people. I fully expect to have 17,000 in the building for our opening game. This will work. I think you're going to see the LA KISS playing in Honda Center 30 years from now."

We definitely should see them playing there eight months from now. See them, hear them, feel them.

Filling our senses with a partnership that's either crazy or perfectly logical.