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Copyright 2014 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Press - Telegram (Long Beach California)
Mike Guardabascio

Long Beach has a long history of failed pro sports franchises, but a group of businessmen with a dream are hoping to reverse that trend.

Making their task even harder is that the team they're starting will be playing a brand new sport, as well.

The sport is called grid, and it's a form of competitive fitness, which incorporates weight lifts, box jumps, rope climbs and other exercises into a series of races, pitting one team against each other. The Los Angeles Reign, who will be based out of the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State, are one of eight teams in the newly founded National Pro Grid League.

The league itself has high aims, as well - the teams aren't going to be traveling to contests via bus, with franchises in Los Angels, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington D.C., and others. They've already approved new franchises for next season in South Carolina and Baltimore.

"These are major cities and franchises," says Reign co-founder and chief marketing officer Jon White. "We're trying to introduce a brand new sport to the United States."

The sport itself is somewhat difficult to explain in detail, but very easy to understand once it's being watched, with the difference races clearly marked by giant numbers on the mat to make it easy for fans to follow the action.

White says one aspect of the league he really likes is the extent to which teams are going to interact with their fans.

"This is functional fitness - it's a very large, but curtained- off sport," he says. "Our athletes are literally going to tell their story over the course of the game and talk to the fans."

Each match will take two hours, guaranteeing a quick experience, and with matches taking place at the Pyramid, fans shouldn't have to worry about StubHub Center-esque parking lines to get in or out. The venue itself was part of the big draw for White and the other Reign owners.

"The venue is iconic, and Long Beach is a perfect city that crosses to Los Angeles and to Orange County - it's a central area where everyone can congregate," says White.

One selling point that White feels strongly will appeal to forward-thinking Long Beach is that grid will have men and women competing on the same team at the same time, playing against each other.

"It's all integrated, and we have one man and one woman over 40 on our team - plus there's no bench, so everyone has to play on the grid," he points out.

The Reign started their season last week in New York, where they dropped a 20-15 contest to the New York Rhinos at Madison Square Garden. The Reign will have two games at the Pyramid this season - this Sunday against the Phoenix Rise at 4 p.m., and Sept. 14 against the San Francisco Fire at the same time.

The NPGL's playoffs will begin in the last week of September and last until the semifinals and the championship, which will be held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from Oct 1-3.

While the task ahead will be difficult on the business side, there are positive signs. CrossFit and other functional fitness movements are growing at a rapid rate in America, and the NPGL already has a TV contract for its championship series events.

"I live in Long Beach and I love it for its diversity and because it's a large city with a small-town mentality to it," says White. "It's a tight-knit community and people care about it."

He's hoping that the community will come to care about the Reign, as well.


August 27, 2014




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