By Toph Kopchak
Head of Arena Football League Coverage
Anyone reading this remember that picture? If so, today will make you and myself oh so happy!!
The worst kept secret in spring sports has been announced. The Columbus Destroyers, (ok, I think they will call them that) which played in Ohio's capital city at Nationwide Arena from 2004-2008, are back!
I remember as a youngster begging my dad to get tickets for this spring football team coming to town, as people all around gave me odd looks and asked, What!? But only after they double-checked their calendar to make sure Ohio State did not have a game on the schedule. I remember seeing sharp looking ads with the likes of Buckeye greats Joey Galloway, Chris Spielman, and Earle Bruce that made the arena league and the team look so exciting. I mean it's football in Columbus, where its sacreligious to not talk about the pigskin daily, so if there's actually football in town you gotta give it a chance.
In 2009 it all stopped. The Arena Football League declared bankruptcy. The following year the league returned to action, but Columbus did not.
The Destroyers franchise started in Buffalo New York, where from 1999 to 2003 the team played its home games at HSBC Arena.
The Arena Football League is entering season # 32 ... which should be a sentence for massive bragging. But given the recent history of the AFL, it's natural to wonder if this thing will work. A league that played last season with the same number of teams as it did in its very first season in 1987 (4), originated and grew from a crude little drawing by Mr. James Foster.
On January 22 of this year, Atlantic City was announced as an expansion team becoming the fifth team working towards playing arena football this season.
Well, if this will work for team number six, it's going to work in Columbus. This is a football loving city where blood is not red, it's scarlet. A city where that same blood has been known to boil the weekend after Thanksgiving for some reason...
Even in this college football loving town, the first time around for the Destroyers in Columbus, they were an instant hit. Following a five season run in Buffalo where they once saw a crowd of 4,203, the Columbus version had an average attendance of 14,306 fans per game. Side note, The Columbus Crew had 1,859 less fans per game last season compared to the Columbus Destroyers all time average. During the Destroyers first season in the Buckeye state, the crowds were good enough for the second best attendance in a nineteen team league. The only team above them that season was the Philadelphia Soul, a team now managed in part by Ron Jaworski, a man playing a major role in keeping the AFL alive. The Columbus Destroyers never saw a crowd smaller than 10,306 in their history. There are four NBA teams this season with average attendance figures within 1,000 fans of the Columbus Destroyers' all time average attendance for home games.
Arena football magic was created in Columbus during the short time the Destroyers were there. In 2007 the team went 7-9 and still sneaked into the playoffs. Columbus won 3 road games in a row to advance to ArenaBowl XXI where they came up short against the San Jose SaberCats. In that season Matt Nagy (current Chicago Bears Head Coach) threw for over 3,500 yards and 75 touchdowns. So yeah, this city made some noise and had strong talent.
Columbus has shown that they love it when Arena Football comes to town. In the league's history and certainly now, there have been football leaders who have had made the arena game a successful venture. If this is going to work anywhere it will work now in Columbus, Ohio.
Stats from Arena Fan, ESPN, and Major League Soccer