Downtown hotel, CIB sue developmental football league for nearly $1.4M

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Lucas Oil Stadium (IBJ file photo)

The manager of Lucas Oil Stadium and the owner of a downtown hotel have filed separate lawsuits against a developmental, quasi-professional football league, claiming nearly $1.4 million in bills have gone unpaid since the spring.

On Friday, B&D Associates, the ownership group for the Crowne Plaza Union Station, and the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County filed lawsuits in Marion County Commercial Court against Spring League LLC.

The suits allege the eight-team league accumulated a bill of $1.1 million during its stay at the hotel, along with another tab of nearly $235,000 for six games played at the stadium.

Indianapolis was one of two host cities for the 2021 Spring League season, joining Houston. The Crowne Plaza hosted players from the league’s four Northern division teams from April 20 to June 29, with games scheduled on May 6, May 15, May 20, May 27, June 3 and June 4.

The Spring League played its first season in 2017 and consists of eight teams. Players without recent NFL experience are required to pay $2,000 to participate, but all meals and lodging are covered during the season. The league, which has served as a testing grounds for rule changes by since-failed leagues like the XFL and AAF, has featured players like Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, Fred Jackson, Ben Tate, Greg Hardy and Ahmad Bradshaw on its rosters.

On its website, the developmental league touts that it has shared film and player data with various NFL teams, but that there’s not a formal relationship—although it “hopes to establish an ‘official’ relationship with the NFL in the near future.”

The Spring League is being sued by both B&D Associates and the CIB for breach of contract. The hotel lawsuit also alleges unjust enrichment against the football league.

According to the Crowne Plaza suit, The Spring League booked about 4,740 room nights over a two-month, one-week period. The bill also includes food purchased from the hotel’s convenience kiosk, parking, banquet room use, breakfasts and other meals.

Emails included with the hotel’s case indicate The Spring League requested more time to pay on multiple occasions.

According to the suit, league CEO Brian Woods told the hotel’s general manager in a mid-August email he expected the outstanding invoice to be paid by the end of that month. In September, Woods followed up with a phone call with that individual and then an email outlining a plan for payment, writing The Spring League planned on “closing a significant capital raise in the next 2-3 weeks. Accordingly, we will be using those proceeds to pay the Crowne Plaza on or before October 15 for the entire balance.”

But the suit claims no such payment was made.

The Capital Improvement Board says it sent a letter on Oct. 8 to reconcile the league’s outstanding balance for use of the stadium. 

According to the CIB’s suit, The Spring League indicated in an emailed response it planned to pay off its debt by Oct. 20. After no payment was received, the CIB sent a follow-up letter to The Spring League on Nov. 12, with no response from league officials.

General Hotels Corp., which manages the Crowne Plaza, and the CIB each declined to comment, stating they do not comment on pending lawsuits.

The Spring League’s Woods did not return a message requesting comment Monday morning.

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