Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1993-1997 Arizona Sandsharks

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Arizona SandsharksContinental Indoor Soccer League (1993-1995, 1997)

Born: August 3, 1992 – CISL founding franchise
Folded: December 23, 1997

Arena: America West Arena (15,505)

Team Colors: Red, Silver & Black


CISL Championships: None


The Arizona Sandsharks were an indoor soccer team that played four summertime seasons in the now-defunct Continental Indoor Soccer League during the mid-1990’s.

The ‘Sharks were originally formed by Phoenix sports mogul Jerry Colangelo in August 1992, to begin play with the CISL’s debut the following summer.  Colangelo owned the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in 1992 and would soon win the expansion rights to the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball.  He was also one of the key backers of the 15,000-seat America West Arena that opened in Phoenix in 1992.  With the arrival of the Arena, Colangelo assembled a stable of second-tier sports franchises to fill the dates in the building, launching the Sandsharks, the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League, and the Phoenix Smash of World Team Tennis within a 12-month period in 1992 and 1993.

The Sandsharks signed a number of indoor veterans.  While not household names to the casual sports fan or soccer mom, players like Wes Wade, Franklin McIntosh and Terry Woodberry were well-known to indoor diehards in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The Sandsharks also signed local product Mark Kerlin, who had played for the city’s previous indoor soccer teams the Phoenix Inferno and Phoenix Pride of the Major Indoor Soccer League back in the early 1980’s.

The Sandsharks never put together a strong side in the CISL.  In four years of operation, the team never  made the playoffs an finished in last place three times.  In 1995, Colangelo hired Ron Newman, the architect of the San Diego Sockers indoor dynasty of the 1980’s, to coach the team.  But Newman only got in one season of rebuilding work before Colangelo decided to dump the team.  New owners Kerri Dunne and Brian Weymouth stepped forward to keep the Sandsharks afloat, but the deal came together so late in the offseason, that the club sat out the 1996 campaign.   When the Sandsharks returned in 1997 (without Newman), they returned to their former ways and finished in last place with an 8-20 record.

The CISL folded amidst investor squabbling after the 1997 season.  Several ex-CISL franchises re-organized in 1998 as the Premier Soccer Alliance.  The Sandsharks were not among them, but a Phoenix-based entry called the Arizona Thunder joined the new league and played three more losing campaigns before folding in 2000.



Continental Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Continental Indoor Soccer League Programs




1992-1994 Phoenix Smash

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World TeamTennis (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – WTT expansion franchise
Folded: February 7, 1995

Arena: America West Arena (9,000)

Team Colors: Black, Purple & Teal

Owner: Jerry Colangelo


The Phoenix Smash were a top franchise in World TeamTennis for three summers from 1992 to 1994.  WTT features 4-person teams (two men, two women), a unique scoring system, and a laid-back atmosphere that encourages fans to cheer and yell.  The league is now in its second incarnation.  A bigger budget version went under during the 1970’s, but a scaled back league was revived in 1981 and is currently in its fourth decade of play.  Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been TeamTennis’ driving force since the original league debuted in 1974.

The Smash were owned by the Colangelo family, owners of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.  At this time, the Colangelo’s were in the midst of assembling a small menagerie of second-tier pro sports franchises to fill summer dates at the newly opened American West Arena.  Besides the Smash, the Colangelo’s also launched the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League in 1992 and would add the Arizona Sandsharks of the Continental Indoor Soccer League a year later.

During the first season in 1992 the Smash featured a typically anonymous TeamTennis roster of pro tour journeymen, such as the immortal Dinky Van Rensburg.  But thanks to the pro sports expertise and infrastructure of the Colangelo family, the Smash established a new attendance record for the 13-year old TeamTennis league with announced average crowds of 3,823 per game.

In December 1992 the Smash added a big name, signing 39-year old American superstar Jimmy Connors.  In July 1993, the Smash hosted the Los Angeles Strings at America West Arena.  The Strings featured Bjorn Borg and the big attraction was the first set of competitive tennis between Connors and Borg since the 1981 U.S. Open.  The match drew a league record crowd of 7,693 fans.

Connors returned to the Smash for the 1994 season as well.  The Smash led the World Team Tennis in attendance in 1994 for the third consecutive season.

In early February 1995 the Colangelo’s gave up on the Smash after three seasons, citing the high operating costs of staging matches in an NBA arena.  They sold the franchise back to World TeamTennis management for an undisclosed sum.  This marked the end of the team, as TeamTennis was unable to find a new buyer and the Phoenix club was eventually deleted from the league’s 1995 schedule.



World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs



Written by AC

August 25th, 2013 at 7:40 pm


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