BY DEREK HARPER
All this downtime with no sports got me thinking about the various leagues and everything that could possibly happen in the future. While this article is an editorial and assumes the right ownership and management is in place, it'd be very neat to see this happen. The AWFC got off to a bit of a rocky start in 2019 and changes have continued to occur since, leaving the league with only three teams having a venue with the outdoor semi-pro team, Tri-City Rage filling in for the now defunct Tri-Cities Fire. This got me thinking...what if the AWFC had the right ownership and was a smaller regionally based league with teams in smaller to midsize markets in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming? My thought is having a nine team league with new expansion franchises as well as existing teams from the current AWFC. Since it'd be an odd number of teams, one team would have a bye week while the remaining eight each had a game.
The current teams would all remain the same with the Nampa based Idaho Horsemen, Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks, and Yakima Canines. However, the outdoor travel team, Tri-City Rage filling in for the now defunct Tri-Cities Fire would be replaced by a new Tri-Cities franchise that would call Kennewick's Toyota Center home. The venue seats 5,694 for hockey so it'd seat roughly the same for arena football. The venue has a history of indoor football with a total of thirteen seasons having been played there with the Tri-Cities Fever who played in the AF2, the Arena Football League's then minor league which is now defunct, as well as the also defunct National Indoor Football League (NIFL), finally the Indoor Football League (IFL). Then in 2019 the Tri-Cities Fire played a lone season in the current AWFC.
The next expansion franchise would be placed in Kent, Washington at the accesso ShoWare Center. The venue seats 6,500 for hockey games so it'd be roughly the same for arena football. Kent also has a history of arena football at the venue with two seasons of the IFL when the Kent Predators/Seattle Timberwolves called the venue home.
The third expansion franchise would be placed north of Kent in Everett, Washington and Angel of the Winds Arena. The venue seats 8,149 for hockey so it'd be roughly the same for arena football. Like Kent, Everett has a history of arena football with a total of four seasons having been played there before. For three seasons from 2005-2007 it was the Everett Hawks who played in both the NIFL and AF2, two leagues that both don't exist any longer. Then in 2012, the Seattle Timberwolves relocated to Everett where they rebranded as the Everett Raptors and remained in the IFL for one lone season.
The fourth expansion franchise would be in Butte, Montana at the Butte Civic Center. The venue seats 5,100 for hockey so it'd be roughly the same for arena football. The franchise would be the first arena football team to call Butte home and the main tenant for the venue.
The fifth expansion franchise would be placed in Billings, Montana at First Interstate Arena. The venue seats 12,000 people for events so it'd be roughly less than that given what it takes for a hockey/arena football setup. The venue has a history of indoor football with a total of thirteen seasons having been played there before. First, it was the Billings Outlaws from 2000-2010 and then the Billings Wolves from 2015-2016.
The ninth and final expansion franchise would be placed in Casper, Wyoming at the Casper Events Center. The venue seats 8,395 for hockey and football and has hosted a total of fourteen seasons of indoor football in the past. The Wyoming Cavalry called the venue home from 2001-2014 while competing in various leagues including the now defunct NIFL and American Indoor Football Association (AIFA), and most recently the IFL.
The new reimagined AWFC would see a five team Western Conference and a four team Eastern Conference. The Western Conference would consist of all the Washington teams with Everett, Kent, Yakima, Wenatchee Valley, and Tri-Cities while the Eastern Conference would consist of Idaho, Butte, Billings, and Casper.