End near for the Everett Hawks?

EVERETT — The Everett Hawks arena football team may not be back for a fourth season in the Everett Events Center as uncertainty swirls around its ownership and its finances.

League board members of arenafootball2 were scheduled to consider the team’s fate this weekend during their meeting in Shreveport, La. The board could decide to take the team out of the hands of majority owner Sam Adams. That would give his minority partner, Michael Tuckman, the option of taking full ownership of the Hawks.

As of late Saturday, the af2’s head office hadn’t indicated to The Herald what decision, if any, was made at the Shreveport meeting. Several calls to a league spokesman went unreturned.

Questions about the team’s ownership come after the Hawks’ second losing season on the field and declining attendance. The team also owes back taxes to at least two state agencies and is being sued by at least one business that claims it’s owed money.

The team’s three-year lease with the events center, renamed this week as Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center, is done and has yet to be renewed. That leaves open the possibility that the Hawks could become the second team to move out of the events center this summer. Earlier, the Everett Explosion minor league basketball team announced that it’s moving to Monroe.

Reached on Friday, Tuckman said he’d have plenty to say after an ownership decision and wanted to withhold most comments until then.

When Tuckman announced his purchase of 49 percent of the Hawks at the team’s final game of the season July 29, he acknowledged there have been problems in the front office.

“A big part of the problem (in Everett) is Sam Adams is an absentee owner,” Tuckman said, saying as team president, he planned to do things differently.

Efforts to reach Adams, a 14-year NFL defensive tackle now in training camp for the Denver Broncos, were unsuccessful.

The team has seen high turnover with its front office staff since starting in Everett with the National Indoor Football League team in 2005. By spring 2006, problems with unpaid bills surfaced publicly. At the time, Adams pledged to deal with those.

But more than a year later, the team’s being pursued by several people and state agencies who say they’re owed money.

In the middle of the Hawks’ season two months ago, Mike Lowen’s UPS store shipped a load of footballs to Cincinnati. While the Hawks didn’t play in Cincinnati this year, Adams does own a second af2 team there. He paid for the football shipment with an Everett Hawks check for a little more than $280.

The team’s check was returned unpaid, Lowen said.

Attempts to reach the front office didn’t work, he added.

It’s locked much of the time in recent days, as the team has kept on just a skeleton staff since the season ended last month. Lowen said he tried a cell phone number someone gave him for owner Adams, and that didn’t work.

“Everything seems to be shut down, and their answering machines seem to be full,” Lowen said.

He’s still wondering, two months later, how to get paid.

It turns out he’s not alone.

On Aug. 1, the state Department of Revenue proclaimed the Hawks were paid up on $9,408.61 in state taxes, penalties and interest owned since the first quarter of 2006. But it still owes a much smaller amount to be in full compliance, said Department of Revenue spokesman Rick Manugian.

The team also owes the state Employment Security Department $6,053.23 for unemployment insurance taxes dating back to 2005, according to a Superior Court filing from June.

Additionally, the team owes just under $300 in workman’s compensation payments to the Department of Labor and Industries. The agency went to court for the amount earlier this month.

Otto Chase, the Hawks’ accountant, said he didn’t know any details about what the team owes the state.

Tim Rehberg of Everett, owner of The Hungry Painter, also is in line for repayment from the Hawks. He filed suit last month to reclaim $4,200 — plus interest and attorney fees — he claims Adams and the Hawks owe him.

Rehberg said the Hawks hired him in 2006 for some last-minute painting of the team’s goal posts and advertising logos on the field.

“I made my own stencils and stayed up until 4 a.m. to paint their field,” Rehberg said.

He and Lowen said they’ve only been given a list of excuses by the owner and the front office staff.

“He just won’t pay anyone anything,” Rehberg said of Adams.

It would be easier to deal with the team, Rehberg and Lowen said, if there still was a working front office.

Hawks coach Cedric Walker said he and a couple other team personnel members still work in the office at 2213 Everett Ave. But last week, it was locked during the day and looked empty. The Hawks’ phone number provides a recording urging callers to buy season tickets for the recently ended 2007 football season.

In June, building owner “Downtown” Dennis Wagner filed an eviction summons against the Hawks in Snohomish County Superior Court, claiming it owed more than $6,400 for two months of unpaid rent and trash collection fees.

It’s unclear if Wagner is following through on the eviction. Wagner was out of town this past week and didn’t return a message left at his office. But team coach Walker said he expects a new front office to open in a different location in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Lowen said the whole experience has made him reluctant to deal with the Hawks. Rehberg said he’s also learned his lesson.

“I won’t do any more work for them, period,” he said.

Bob Mortenson contributed to this story.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or fetters@heraldnet.com.

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