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Indoor football: Rio Rancho’s Stars cease operations

The New Mexico Stars, who played pro indoor football at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center from 2012-16, with a year off to reboot in 2015, have ceased operations, co-owner Tracy Duran told the Journal.

Duran, who had owned the franchise since January 2015 with wife Crystal, recently moved to Mississippi and found operating the team untenable from such a distance.

“When we moved a couple of months ago we had been thinking about it (shutting down the franchise),” Tracy Duran said in a phone interview. “We just came to the conclusion we should call it a day and move forward.”

He said there were talks to sell the franchise, but nothing developed.

Duran’s team completed its 2016 season with a first-round loss in the American Indoor Football league’s postseason. The league folded soon after the season, leaving Duran’s franchise an orphan out West in a sport that regularly sees teams and leagues come and go.

He said the high point of his tenure in Rio Rancho was all throughout last season.

“These were great guys, great people, great to be around,” he said of his team.” I enjoyed every minute.”

The low point? “Leaving.”

This marks the second time in recent years a pro indoor franchise that played in Rio Rancho dissolved. The New Mexico Wildcats competed from 2008-09.

That leaves the metro area with one indoor pro team, the Duke City Gladiators.

“It’s unfortunate they weren’t able to put it together,” Gladiators co-owner/GM Matt Caward said of the Stars. “… It’s a tough market.”

Caward was a member of the Stars’ inaugural team that played a game in the Star Center vs. NFL star Terrell Owens and the Allen Wranglers.

“That was the height of the Stars’ games,” said Caward, who was a backup QB that day. “The stadium was packed – they sold over 6,200 tickets and couldn’t have sold another. It was an incredible experience.”

But outside of that game, the Stars rarely drew a crowd even approaching half the Star Center’s capacity. Duran said his team averaged about 1,200 a game last season.

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