Just as they packed the Spokane Arena for years, Spokane Shock fans filled the second-floor room of the team’s downtown office space Friday as championship trophies, game-worn jerseys and other equipment and memorabilia were auctioned to the highest bidders.
The Indoor Football League terminated the Shock in February after former Shock owner Sam Adams – a former Seattle Seahawks player – missed the deadline to produce a $128,000 surety bond to secure the Arena for the 2022 season.
The termination was “due to multiple issues in the Spokane market, including a dispute with the arena,” according to the league’s news release.
Jerel Hight, a fan since the Shock started and a season-ticket holder, purchased two jerseys, footballs, shirts and decals at the auction for about $210. Some of the items were for himself and others were for friends and family who wanted Shock memorabilia.
One of the jerseys Hight purchased was of JR Hensley, an offensive lineman for the Shock. Hight cheered for Hensley because he played at the University of Hawaii – Hight’s alma mater and the state his family resides.
Hight called the auction “bittersweet” because it was exciting to buy cool Shock gear, but sad to see it sold at cheap prices.
“It’s frustrating because we’re such a big sports-minded town in Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area and Arena football – it works here,” he said. “There’s proof of that. We gotta get better ownership.
“We gotta get somebody that can come in and do that kind of stuff and run it properly.”
He said the team proved to be championship-caliber, and “there’s nothing more fun than that.”
“We got Gonzaga for basketball. We got Spokane Shock for football,” he said.
Adams and his businesses are named in complaints and lawsuits in Washington dating to 2015 involving football teams and other business arrangements, including a guilty plea by Adams’ prior business on a felony theft charge related to unpaid taxes and wages, and a federal bankruptcy that was still active when he signed the first contract to bring the Shock back to Spokane in 2019.
Adams was accused by dozens of season-ticket holders of failing to provide refunds for their 2020 season tickets. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the season’s cancellation.
TicketsWest refunded season-ticket purchases for the 2022 season.
Mark Sheldon purchased jerseys for his son-in-law, former Shock lineman Bill Vavau, and other former Shock players who asked if Sheldon could buy their jerseys for them. He said four jerseys went for $130, another for $75 and some for $8 apiece.
Sheldon bought Vavau’s orange, blue and white jerseys. He also bought Adams’ 2005 NFL Pro Bowl player’s trophy for $1,500, he said.
“Just trying to get some of the boys’ stuff back,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon said the end of the Shock era and the issues surrounding it were difficult for sponsors, the Arena, players and mostly fans.
“We had the best fan base in Arena ball and this is the result, and it’s pretty sad,” Sheldon said. “The guy (Adams) has just proven to be a terrible business person.”
Carson Wilkinson, 17, said he and his sister, 14-year-old Keira Wilkinson, were big Shock fans and season-ticket holders growing up, so they had to get their hands on memorabilia .
Carson Wilkinson got two jerseys – one of Hensley and another of running back Davonte Sapp-Lynch.
He said Hensley gave him his first football at a Shock game and he’s spoken often to Sapp-Lynch, brother of former Seahawks running back and fan favorite Marshawn Lynch. The younger Wilkinson bought a Shock shirt. Carson Wilkinson called the jersey prices a “steal.”
Both Wilkinsons, however, said they’d much rather be going to Shock games.
While some fans bought a handful of items for themselves or loved ones, others, like Eastern Washington University football representatives, bought items in bulk for their team. Those items included about 30 helmets, 55 shoulder pads, towels and even body wash.
Brady Nelson, who founded the Shock in 2005 before selling the team in 2014, purchased the 2006 Arena Cup championship trophy – the team’s inaugural season, the 2009 Arena Cup championship trophy, the 2008 conference championship trophy, a 2007 team-signed helmet and a box of footballs for about $5,500.
Nelson, who lives in North Carolina, was not present for the auction but watched through FaceTime as his sister and brother-in-law bid for him.
He said they are all items he sold with the team in 2014, but he wanted them back.
“There was a decade in Spokane where the Shock were a really important piece of the sports landscape and I felt it was important to preserve some of those items,” Nelson said.
He said the Shock sold out the Arena when they started in 2006, except for the first game, starting a sell-out streak of about 6½ seasons.
“It just got to be a really cool and fun and just an awesome experience with the fans,” said Nelson, who is from Spokane.
Nelson said he has not spoken with Arena officials, but he would like to display the trophies he bought for fans to see.
Nelson said he is sad to see the Shock franchise terminated and the controversy that has surrounded ownership.
“Ultimately, bad management and bad decisions destroyed the chance of being successful,” he said.
“I don’t view it as the Shock failed. It’s the guy that ran the business that ran it into the ground, unfortunately.”
He said he would support anyone who wanted to bring the team back to Spokane.
“I would cheer them on because it’s a tender spot in my heart, of course,” Nelson said.
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