Eye on KELOLAND: Weathering the Storm

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls Storm changed ownership in October 2019, with a local family, made up of three sisters and their husbands, taking control of the franchise.

More than 18 months later, the new owners have yet to see their team play a game. The 2020 campaign was canceled, while the start of this season was postponed due to COVID-19.

In March 2020, Sioux Falls was set to defend its Indoor Football League championship, but it was COVID-19 taking the country by storm.

“It was at the walk-through that we let the guys know there’s a chance we may postpone this,” Storm Head Coach Kurtiss Riggs said.

Two weeks later, the IFL season was over before it started for the Storm and its new owners.

“It’s one thing to try and get the ball rolling, it’s another thing to stop it and put the ball away,” Storm Owner & President Jason Headlee said.

Jason Headlee owns the franchise alongside wife Valerie and in-laws David & Stephanie Richter and Patrick & Amber Garry. It’s a true family football affair.

“Those always have challenges, but we understand each other enough to handle our weaknesses and our strengths, so it’s been good, it’s been fun,” Headlee said.

“They’re blue-collar, hard-working, they’re not going to ask you to do something that they wouldn’t expect themselves to do too. I think that’s something you really appreciate. The players will be very fortunate to see that these guys are going to be right there in the trenches with them,” Riggs said.

Kurtiss Riggs is entering his 18th season as the Storm’s head coach. He rebuilt the roster prior to the 2020 season, and again this past off-season.

“Guys that were committed, life happens, and they decided to move on. They’re not going to be able to get into NFL camps with another year of sitting around, so you’ve got to find new players and our roster’s changed a lot because of that,” Riggs said.

“Get kicks up and stay as consistent as possible,” Storm kicker Chase Vinatieri said.

Former SDSU kicker Chase Vinatieri is among the new additions.

“Even though uprights are a little bit different and the field’s a little bit smaller, same thing applies, I go out there and do what I’ve got to do and stay consistent and hopefully we win football games,” Vinatieri said.

The franchise took a financial hit with the cancellation of the 2020 season. There’s no quick fix, but Headlee can’t thank the team’s 1,800 season ticket holders enough.

“The season ticket holders that bought and stayed with us. They didn’t ask for refunds, they were committed to staying with us and letting us use the money towards bills and pay toward this year, so we owe them a ton of gratitude,” Headlee said.

12 months after canceling the 2020 season, the IFL delayed the start of the ’21 campaign.

“Our midwest was pretty open, but the east and west coast were not and so out of respect to all the playing partners we had to push things back a bit,” IFL Commissioner Todd Tryon said.

IFL Commissioner, and former Storm owner, Todd Tryon says 12 of the league’s 16 teams will play this season. Those 12 franchises are spread across ten different states.

The Storm will offer players the COVID vaccine. If they decline, they’ll be tested multiple times every week. Riggs says he’ll be more nervous on testing day than gameday.

“Those are more the butterflies, holding your breath that you don’t get caught with a surprise right hook on a Thursday before a Saturday game,” Riggs said.

The Storm kicks off the regular season May 15th and the new ownership is willing to lend a hand.

“If we need to run out and help pick up balls off the field, we’ll go out there and do it so I don’t see us sitting in any suite, I don’t see us sitting in the chair. We may be right next to Riggs making sure he’s making the right call (laugh)… that may be too micromanaging,” Headlee said.

“To put all the time and money and effort they put into last season, to get canceled two days before the thrill of the product it’s going to be that much sweeter when they’re able to kick off May 15th,” Tryon said.

It hasn’t been an ideal start, but Headlee is thankful to have family by his side.

“I don’t know if it would have worked without them. It would have been a struggle without the family, our family, together doing it. It would have been tough,” Headlee said.

The Storm opens the regular season Saturday, May 15th against Iowa at the PREMIER Center. The game is scheduled to be televised on Bally Sports North, formerly Fox Sports North.

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