Owners of the individual National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) teams announced today a plan intended to transition operations of the women’s professional fastpitch league from the founding Cowles family to an operating group consisting of team owners. The Cowles family which has championed women’s professional fastpitch efforts for over 15 years, are reviewing the proposal designed to maintain NPF league play and operations.
Spearheading the ownership transition is new team owner Bill Conroy of the Chicago Bandits. Conroy will assume the role of league president under the new structure. The ownership team is comprised of Rabitt Blake, principal owner of the Texas Thunder; Joey Arrietta, of the Akron Racers Foundation; Joe and Lauri Adlman, owners of the New England Riptide; and Glenn Wolff, principal owner of the California Sunbirds.
“The owners of this league are committed to the vision the Cowles laid out 15 years ago,” said Conroy. “The Cowles family built a first-rate brand in NPF and we want to continue their efforts to provide professional fastpitch opportunities for women and to give fans exciting games to watch. As owners, we are already invested in the success of this league and committed to making it thrive going forward.”
After an 11-city exhibition tour in 2003, NPF launched its first season of league play in 2004 with six teams in: Akron, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Lowell, Mass.; Montclair, N.J.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Stockton, Calif., each playing a 60-game schedule.
Having managed and supported the league financially since its inception, the Cowles decided that the league in its current state no longer fits their business model. “We’re proud of what we’ve created and the positive impact NPF has had on women’s professional sports. The NPF staff, led by Richard Levine, has built a remarkable record of accomplishments and partnerships. But at some point every professional sports league evolves to team owner leadership, and it’s time for us to step aside,” said Chairman Jay Cowles. “Looking to the future, we are very encouraged by the proposal of the new ownership group to continue our vision of a women’s professional fastpitch league.”
The efforts of the new ownership group will center around solidifying broadcast agreements locally and nationally, soliciting sponsorship support, and aligning with national softball associations to bring clinics and competition to various grassroots events across the country. With a planned schedule of 48 games per team in 2005, the group will continue to recruit new teams and strengthen team ownership in each market.
The team owners group is currently working with the Cowles on an agreement that would transfer ownership starting in early 2005. An official announcement on the specific details of the transition will be announced in late-December. Player tryouts at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association convention in Las Vegas will still take place, but the draft has been postponed until an ownership agreement and 2005 teams have been finalized.
The Cowles family started the early iteration of NPF in 1989, when daughter and fastpitch college star Jane Cowles envisioned a sports league in which women could pursue their fastpitch career on a professional level. After several years of touring teams in the 1990’s, the first fastpitch league started up in 1997 as Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and changed its name to Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL) in 1999. After regrouping in 2002, the league re-emerged in 2003 as National Pro Fastpitch, and became the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball. NPF and its predecessor organizations have played nearly 1,000 games in dozens of markets nationwide, employed more than 400 players and coaches in league and exhibition play, and produced national broadcasts of more than 40 games distributed on ESPN and ESPN2 channels.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Colorado and can be reached at 303-679-9831 or online at www.profastpitch.com.