The National Arena League confirmed on July 20th, four new expansion cities for 2018. Also, the league confirmed the teams that will be returning from last season.
Teams Returning from 2017:
-Columbus Lions (Columbus Civic Center/7,573)
-Georgia Firebirds (Albany Civic Center/8,436)
-High Country Grizzlies (George M. Holmes Convocation Center /8,325)
-Jacksonville Sharks (Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena/13,011)
-Jersey Flight (Sun National Bank Center/10,500)
-Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (PPL Center/8,500)
-Monterrey Steel (Arena Monterrey/17,599)
Teams Not Returning from 2017:
-Corpus Christi Rage (American Bank Center/10,000)
New Teams for 2018:
-Richmond Roughriders (Richmond Coliseum/11,088)
-Boston ( TD Garden/17,565)
-Providence ( Dunkin' Donuts Center/11,075)
-Orlando ( Amway Center/17,192)
An Inside Look at the Expansion Cities:
Richmond, VA (Richmond Roughriders)
-Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond Region. It was incorporated in 1742, and has been an independent city since 1871. In 2016, the population was estimated to be 223,170, the fourth-most populous city in Virginia. The Richmond Metropolitan Area has a population of 1,260,029, the third-most populous metro in the state.
The Richmond Roughriders will join the the NAL, as champions for the 2017 APF Season. The Roughriders follow former arena/indoor teams that have played at the Coliseum such as the Richmond Speed (af2, 2000–2003), Richmond Bandits (AIFL, 2005–2006), and Richmond Raiders (AIFA/SIFL/PIFL) (2010–2015). The Richmond Coliseum, the venue where their home games are played at, can hold 11,088 for arena football.
-Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 673,184 in 2016, making it the largest city in New England and the 23rd most populous city in the United States.
The NAL Boston franchise is expected to play their home games at TD Garden in Boston. The venue can hold 17,565 for arena football. The Boston franchise is set to become the first arena football team to play in the TD Garden. TD Garden is the home arena for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. It is owned by Delaware North, whose CEO, Jeremy Jacobs, also owns the Bruins. It is the site of the annual Beanpot college hockey tournament, and hosts the annual Hockey East Championships. The arena has also hosted many major national sporting events including the 1999 and 2003 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball regional first and second rounds, the 2009 and 2012 Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, the 1998 Frozen Four, the 2004 Frozen Four, the 2014 United States Figure Skating Championships, the 2006 Women's Final Four, and the 2015 Frozen Four. It hosted games 3, 4, and 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals for the Bruins, and games 1, 2, and 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals and games 3, 4, and 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals for the Celtics. The venue has also previously had a arena lacrosse team, that folded in 2011.
-Providence is the capital of and most populous city in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, founded in 1636 and one of the oldest cities in the United States. The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River at the head of Narragansett Bay. The city is located in Providence County and is the third most populous city in New England, after Boston and Worcester. Providence has a city population of 179,154; it is also part of the Providence metropolitan area which extends into southern Massachusetts. The Providence metropolitan area has an estimated population of 1,604,291, which exceeds that of Rhode Island as a whole by about 60%. This can be considered, in turn, to be part of the Greater Boston commuting area, which contains 7.6 million people.
The NAL Providence franchise is expected to play their home games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, a venue that seats 11,075 for arena football. The Dunkin' Donuts Center (originally Providence Civic Center) is an indoor arena located in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. It was built in 1972, as a home court for the emerging Providence College men's basketball program, due to the high demand for tickets to their games in Alumni Hall, as well as for a home arena for the then-Providence Reds, who played in the nearly 50-year-old Rhode Island Auditorium. Current tenants include the Providence Bruins, of the AHL and the Providence College men's basketball team. The NAL Providence franchise will become the second arena football team to call Providence home in arena football history. Previously, the AFL had a team called the New England Steamrollers, who played for only one season in 1988.
-Orlando is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and the county seat of Orange County. Located in Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,387,138, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in March 2016, making it the 24th-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. As of 2015, Orlando had an estimated city-proper population of 270,934, making it the 73rd-largest city in the United States, the fourth-largest city in Florida, and the state's largest inland city.
The NAL Orlando franchise is expected to play in the Amway Center, which seats 17,192 for arena football. The Amway Center is a sports and entertainment venue in Orlando, Florida, located in the Downtown area. It is part of Downtown Orlando Master Plan 3: a plan that also involves improvements to the Citrus Bowl and a new performing arts center. The arena is home to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, and hosted the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, plus the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game.
The most recent arena football team to play in the Amway Center was the AFL Orlando Predators. The team was founded in 1991 as an expansion team of the AFL. The team advanced to the playoffs 19 consecutive seasons between 1992 and 2011, becoming the ArenaBowl champions in 1998 and 2000 during that span. The team suspended operations after the 2016 season. The new NAL Orlando franchise will look to now rebuild the great fanbase the former team had.
More 2018 Expansion News to Come?:
-The National Arena League has set the expansion deadline for August 15th, 2017.
Commissioner Gregory quoted:
“We feel that all member teams must be ready to go by mid-August in order to maintain a sound business model, Gregory continued. We are aiming for an October 1 schedule for our teams to maximize season ticket and group sales opportunities. It is football and we all love arena football, but it is the business of football and we must implement these strategies to maintain a strong foundation for success.”
More markets are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks, as there are many expansion candidates in the works for the 2018 season!
The Spokane Empire have announced on a recent news post that they'll be ceasing operations...
Spokane will lose arena football for the first time since 2005 when the team was established. The Empire, originally known as the Spokane Shock, played in af2 from 2005 to 2009. The Shock then moved to the AFL in 2010 and played in the league until 2015. On Sept. 1, 2015, the team left the AFL for the IFL. However, the Shock could not carry over their name and had to re-brand. Finally, on December 9, 2015, the Empire name, logo and colors were unveiled.
The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena was the home of the Shock/Empire from 2005-2017. The 10,771 seat venue always had pretty decent attendance for home games, and that is probably not why the Empire have decided to fold.
The announcement the team made, came as a shock to many fans as they quoted:
"After much deliberation, we have made the decision not to play football for the 2018 season to allow ourselves time to explore our alternatives including identifying potential local partners who would like to join in the effort to continue indoor football in Spokane or an outright sale of the team. We will be refunding all 2018 season ticket deposits to the legion of faithful fans who continue to support the team."
From what it sounds like, Spokane could potentially return in the future, as they mentioned they are "taking off the 2018 season to explore all alternative options". The future is uncertain for arena football in Spokane, and many fans are devastated, as they had a great fan-base. Losing your favorite team is tough, but there's always room to have hope for a new one in the near future.
In an interview with News Channel 6 Now (Wichita Falls, TX), Wichita Falls Nighthawks owner Drew Carnes discussed the possibility of the Nighthawks joining another league. They have been playing in the Indoor Football League (IFL) for the past several seasons.
However, Carnes has said that the problem with playing in the league is that it is too spread out geographically. He then went on to talk about a league with three teams in Texas that would make it easier and cheaper to travel. That league is the Champions Indoor Football (CIF).
While it would make it easier for travel for the Nighthawks, it would also be easier to win. The IFL is a stronger league than the CIF. Wichita Falls would dominate opponents on a path to a title. They would be much better off in the National Arena League. They would have better competition and it would still be easier to win a title than it would in the IFL.
Another reason, outside of the geography, the Nighthawks are exploring other options, according to Carnes, is that the Sioux Falls Storm continue to dominate the IFL, making it harder for the other teams to succeed the way they want to.
In the National Arena League, Wichita Falls would be the third, possibly second best team in the league. They would most likely be able to outplay the Jacksonville Sharks and could definitely take down the Columbus Lions. The only team they would need to beat is the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks in order to win a title.
Carnes should consider how he wants his team to succeed - dominate everyone or show your strength - before deciding to join a new league.