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Roughriders move closer to being sold

WHEELING — The West Virginia Roughriders have been sold. Well, almost.

According to franchise owner Gregg Fornario, he and a group — HMG Sports — have “signed an agreement deal.”

HMG also owns the Baltimore Lightning.

“We’ve been talking for a bit now,” Fornario said of the deal. “It (the franchise) isn’t theirs just yet. They have until the first week of January to make it official, but they are serious about the purchase.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In a post on the Baltimore Lightning Football Facebook page, the team acknowledged the deal in a statement.

“HMG Sports is moving forward with plans to return to indoor/arena football with its proposed acquisition of the West Virginia Roughriders.

“The possibility of having a pro arena team in the family will allow for some progression of our athletes,” Elba Castro, General Counsel for HMG Sports wrote.

HMG Sports has declared that it has no intention, or desire to move the West Virginia franchise which will play again in 2022.

Will Hanna, National Director at HMG Sports, said in the post, “We will keep the Roughriders in Wheeling, W.Va., but with its proximity to Baltimore, makes sense to use this opportunity to elevate and propel our guys to the next level and have the capacity to do it in-house. This will be big.”

The Roughriders only called Wheeling and WesBanco Arena home for one season, but what a season it was for fans of the Ohio Valley.

With a roster of talented players from various universities and a couple of local products in Bridgeport’s Cole Smelley and Madonna’s Connor Arlia, the Roughriders stormed to a perfect 13-0 record and the American Arena League championship when they defeated Carolina, 55-29, in 2019. The outscored the opposition by a whopping 49.2 to 15.5.

The team was supposed to join the National Arena League for the 2020 season but the global COVID pandemic shut that down, as well as the 2021 campaign.

The Roughriders began their existence in Richmond, Va., where they played two seasons inside the Richmond Coliseum. They won a Arena Professional League title in their initial season (2017) and finished runnerup in the AAL a year later.

The franchise was an amazing 26-2.

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