Writing a check to restore Albany Empire
ALBANY – When the Albany Empire franchise was yanked away from the community, it left an indelible void inside the MVP Arena and with diehard fans. Now a downtown business owner is heaving a Hail Mary pass, hoping the Empire strikes back.
“I offered to write the check myself,” asserted Todd Shapiro, owner of the War Room Restaurant on Eagle Street. “If it’s only about dollars and cents, I’ll write the 20-something thousand dollar check myself.”
Shapiro strongly believes football fans and business owners like him should not have to suffer for the sins of somebody else. That somebody else is Antonio Brown, owner of the Albany Empire arena football team that was booted out of the National Arena League last week for failure to pay $21,000 in dues.
Shapiro said it is well worth his while to pony up his own money.
“Every time there’s a game, our business increases about between 20% and 22%,” he said. “Our economic indicators are based on steaks, cheeseburgers, sushi and food. When you don’t have people coming in, it hurts your business.”
“It’s pretty rare where you’ll see during the middle of a season that a team gets thrown out of a league,” Bob Belber, general manager of MVP Arena, pointed out.
Belber said he believes Brown had a genuine passion to do good things for the community in which he grew up.
“At the end of the day, he’s a man that had money, and wanted to do good things for the community and made decisions that many people might find fault with,” Belber added.
It’s because of the impact of those decisions on football fans and on many business owners that Shapiro wants arena league officials to reconsider their decision to crush the Empire.
“To take the football team away from us, that’s a foul, that’s bad, that’s going into our end zone,” Shapiro stated. “Unfortunately, the War Room got tackled.”
From Belber’s perspective, it’s not if another arena team arrives, it’s when, and if he gets to put together a game plan, it would be sooner rather than later.
“We hope that the fans will come back when we bring another football team,” Belber said. “We’ll install all the protections. We will make sure that there is a good front office that operates the team the way that the fans expect it to, and that they have coaches and players that are good.”