Bon Jovi Members Take Stake In AFL Team

Jon Bon Jovi is bringing arena rock to arena football. Just don't expect him to perform during games. Bon Jovi will be co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an expansion Arena Football League team that w

Jon Bon Jovi is bringing arena rock to arena football. Just don't expect him to perform during games. Bon Jovi will be co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an expansion Arena Football League team that will play next season in the city's Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum. Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora also has a stake in the team.

Their partner is developer Craig A. Spencer, whose properties include the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia. "I love football, always have," said Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native. "It's the only sport I really live and breathe."

The Soul become the league's 18th team and second expansion team this year, following the New Orleans VooDoo. A team in Austin, Texas, is expected to enter next season.

Bon Jovi had to overcome skepticism among league executives. But the 41-year-old rocker quickly impressed with his business acumen, work ethic and football knowledge, league commissioner David Baker said.

"We're driving on our way to a concert and he's asking me about the emergency quarterback rule," Baker said. "Nobody ever asks me about the emergency quarterback rule."

Arena football is a fast-paced version of the outdoor game that sent quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Tommy Maddox to the NFL. The 17-year-old AFL debuted last season on NBC, drawing 65 million viewers while attendance increased 15 percent to an average of more than 11,000.

The value of a typical AFL team has gone from $400,000 six years ago to about $16 million, said Baker, who declined to put a price tag on the Soul.

The Soul's president is Ron Jaworski, who once quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl. The coach is Mike Trigg, who won an ArenaBowl title with Grand Rapids.

"This is a very sports-minded town," Bon Jovi said. "You know what they think of their sports teams: They love them, they love to hate them. But they'll love you if you try, if you give everything you have."

He'll require players to sign autographs, visit elementary schools and, generally, behave. Bon Jovi will hold a private performance for season ticket-holders. But that's all the singing he'll do, at least for now. "I'm not going to be the halftime entertainment," he said. "I'm going to sit in the owners' box."


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