The former owners of the original Dodge City Law indoor football team — Ricky Bertz, Joi Ponder, and Sean Ponder — showed a lack of respect for the interests and legal rights of some fans, players, partners, and sponsors during the team’s four-season tenure from 2013 until 2017, according to numerous sources. From the beginning, the owners made legally binding promises to some individuals, partners, and sponsors that they didn’t fulfill. The 2017 season ended abruptly under mysterious circumstances. The Ponders left town shortly thereafter without returning funds owed to fans, players, partners, and sponsors.
On April 1, 2021, it was announced that the Dodge Law franchise would be revived for the 2021 season and beyond. In a CIF video released online, Richard Davis stated that he will be the managing partner of the franchise and the head coach of the football team. He said that the financial backer of the team is Craig Tirey of Oklahoma City, OK. Davis stated that he is an “equity partner” who hasn’t contributed any money to the venture. According to Davis, only he and Tirey have financial interests as owners of the team.
Tirey, according to Davis and public documents, owns numerous companies including three indoor football teams in the CIF. His other business interests are spread mostly among entities that own oil and gas rights.
Documents filed with the Kansas Secretary of State show that Tirey has designated Bertz to serve as the registered agent of the team. A registered agent is responsible for filing documents with the government on behalf of the business. The new business, CIF Sports & Entertainment, LLC, is based in Oklahoma City as well as locally in an office at United Wireless Arena. The documents, signed by Tirey, state that Bertz’s local address is at the arena.
Bertz asserted via a Facebook message that he has no ownership of the new team. He said that he is lending his services to Davis and Tirey in order to help them set up the team. His involvement has included helping the two navigate the process for securing insurance and filing the appropriate paperwork with the state. He has also connected Davis and Tirey with potential partners who will enhance the gameday experience.
Bertz is currently the CEO and part-owner of the Omaha Beef in Ralston, NE. Tirey is also a partner in the franchise. Bertz has previously been a partner or full-owner of the Fairbanks Grizzlies, Dodge City Law, and Salina Liberty, as well as the commissioner of the CIF.
Davis and Tirey supposedly had been approved by the CIF to revive the Dodge City Law for the 2022 season. They decided to field the team during the 2021 season only weeks ago after deciding that a team they own in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Flying Aces, wouldn’t take the field for the 2021 season. Their reasoning for suddenly idling the Oklahoma team was that workers’ compensation insurance rates for the players suddenly rose from around $5,000 to approximately $157,000. Davis has stated that he and Tirey hope to work with the state of Oklahoma to lower the rate. Furthermore, Davis claims that the franchise was financially solvent and maintained good relationships with the managers of its arena, local officials, and, most importantly, its fans and sponsors.
In March 2020, Red Dirt Sports & Entertainment, the business entity owned by Davis and Tirey, applied for and received a PPP loan of $57,500, which was issued in order to save three jobs. The Oklahoma Flying Aces, which is owned by Red Dirt, didn’t play in 2020 because the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team was idled before the 2021 season due to the previously described rise in insurance costs.
Many former Dodge City Law fans have expressed excitement about the new iteration of the team. Others are wary of supporting the team and putting their faith in the new owners because of their previous experiences.
Davis has stated that he is aware that some Dodge Citians are skeptical about the new team’s owners. He has said that he and Tirey were aware that some people would be hesitant to trust them because of the actions of the previous owners. In order to earn trust, Davis has suggested buying tickets through the arena instead of the team. According to him, the team won’t receive any funds until they have rendered the service of hosting the games the tickets were purchased for. He has also stated that prospective sponsors can enjoy the benefits of sponsorship without paying for them until the end of the season.
“Jump on board with us now, see how it goes, and we won’t bill you until next year — after we’ve put our money where our mouth is and earned your trust,” Davis said.
It benefits Dodge City for there to be sporting events and other attractions. They increase tax revenue and improve the quality of life for all residents. Hopefully, the owners of the latest Dodge City Law franchise will give the people of southwest Kansas a team that they can be proud of and a business that provides a public good for a long time to come.