By RJ Ciancio
Every year indoor and arena football leagues start up, fold, merge, and possibly most interestingly, put teams in locations to expand a leagues geographical footprint. Arena Football Talk (AFT) looks at ten of the best markets not being used by the Arena Football League (AFL), National Arena League (NAL), Champions Indoor Football (CIF), Indoor Football League (IFL), American Arena League (AAL) and Professional Arena Football (PAF).
The first market AFT will look at is Erie, Pennsylvania, which is home to the 150th largest TV market in the United States. Indoor football in Erie can be traced as far back as 1999 when the original IFL placed the Erie Invaders in town. The Invaders lost in the first round of the playoffs and folded after the 2000 season. In 2005 the American Indoor Football League (AIFL) put a charter team in Erie called the Freeze. The team only made the playoffs twice before folding after the 2007 season but Erie was given a new team the next season as the RiverRats had moved from Pittsburgh. The team made the playoffs every season before folding after 2015 with the exception of the 2009 and 2015 seasons. Erie won two Continental Indoor Football League championships in 2013 and 2014 respectively. The two league footprints that would most likely include Erie are the AAL and PAF. Possibly the best venue for a new team in Erie to play in is Erie Insurance Arena as the RiverRats/Storm/Explosion played there from 2008 to 2015. With a winning culture established Erie seems like a strong choice for expansion.
Atlanta is another major market without an indoor/arena football team with the ninth largest TV market in the United States. Indoor/arena football in Atlanta only dates back to 2013 (AFT is only including teams that used the Atlanta name) with American Indoor Football (AIF). Play started in 2014 but the Sharks were only a travel-team and left the AIF after 2015 but planned to play in the Indoor Football Alliance (IFA) in the 2016 season; however, the IFA never materialized and the Sharks folded. To replace the Sharks the AIF put a new team in Atlanta called the Vultures. The team only lasted one season and they folded after the 2016 season. Tim Veins brought indoor football back to Atlanta for the inaugural AAL season in 2017 with the Havoc. The Havoc became inaugural AAL champions beating the Richmond (now West Virginia) Roughriders. The Havoc moved to Florence, South Carolina for the 2019 season. So why would Atlanta work if it has a bad track record? It’s simple: most of the these previous teams played in failing leagues or didn’t play home games in the city of Atlanta. One of the best locations for an Atlanta expansion team to play would be at State Farm Arena. The PAF, AFL and NAL geographical footprints’ best fit Atlanta, which is prime for expansion.
Another market that is sorely missing an indoor football team is Casper, Wyoming. The city had hosted the Casper/Wyoming Cavalry from 2000-2014 playing in the original Indoor Football League, National Indoor Football League, American Indoor Football Association, and the Indoor Football League. Casper has the 198th largest TV market in the United States. The league footprints that would best encompass Casper belong to the CIF and IFL. Arguably, the best venue for the Wyoming/Casper expansion team is the Casper Events Center as that is where the Cavalry played their home games.
San Antonio, Texas
Arena football first arrived to San Antonio in 1992 with the Force. The team only lasted one season but they left their mark on the game by becoming the first team in AFL history to lose via shutout (50-0 to the Orlando Predators). Arena football wouldn’t return to San Antonio until 2012 when the Tulsa Talons relocated to San Antonio. The Talons only made the playoffs once on San Antonio before folding after the 2014 season. San Antonio would be a good expansion location because it has the 31st largest TV market in the United States. The city also falls in the CIF’s and IFL’s footprint. One of the best locations for a San Antonio expansion team to play is the AT&T Center. With the Dallas Marshals folding, Texas is down to two teams, so there is room for another team to prosper in the Lone Star State.
Colorado and arena/indoor football go all the way back to 1987 when the AFL was founded. The Denver Dynamite played from 1987, 1989-1991. The sport would not return to Denver until 1998 when the Colorado Wildcats joined the Professional Indoor Football League. This was the first time indoor football was played in the state of Colorado. Sadly, the team only lasted one season before folding. However, arena football returned to Denver in 2003 with the Colorado Crush. In 2006 the National Indoor Football League (NIFL) added the Colorado Castle Rocks who folded after on game where they were defeated by the Wyoming Cavalry. In 2007 the NIFL placed the Denver Aviators in town, but the team only lasted two games before folding. That same season United Indoor Football (UIF) placed the Colorado Ice in nearby Loveland. Sadly, the Crush folded due to the AFL foregoing the 2009 season leaving only the Ice to fill the market. The Ice would survive the Intense Football League-United Indoor Football merger that formed the IFL and in 2016 changed the team name to the Crush. The Crush folded after the 2017 IFL season leaving the 17th largest TV market in the United States vacant. With the Pepsi Center available the IFL has a great city for expansion sitting in its geographical footprint.
Lexington has only had one indoor/arena football team in the city’s history but the Lexington/Kentucky Horsemen left an impact on the city that can not be denied. The Horsemen joined the NIFL in 2003 and in 2004 won Indoor Bowl IV, defeating the Sioux Falls Storm. In 2005 the Horsemen became charter members of the UIF where they would play until 2008 when they joined Arena Football 2 (af2). The Horsemen folded after the 2009 af2 season. Lexington is the 63rd largest TV market in the United States and could help expand the PAF or IFL’s geographical footprint. With Rupp Arena available it makes sense to put a new team in Lexington.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis got its first taste of indoor/arena football in 1995 as the St. Louis Stampede joined the AFL. The Stampede only lasted two seasons before folding after the 1996 season. In 2001 the Indoor Professional Football League put a team in St. Louis as the Renegades were put in town. The team changed names to the RiverCity Renegades and jumped to the NIFL where they would play until 2007 when they joined to the UIF. They would survive the Intense Football League-United Indoor Football merger. And play in the IFL in 2009 where they fell to the Billings Outlaws in the United bowl. After the season, RiverCity folded. In 2012 the Ultimate Indoor Football League put another team in Missouri. The Monsters first played in the 2013 season where they went five and five. After the season they jumped to X-League Indoor Football and rebranded themselves as the St. Louis Attack where they would keep the name until 2016 when they became the River City Raiders and joined the AIF. After 2016 campaign the AIF folded so the Raiders joined Arena Pro Football, where they folded after the season ended. St. Louis is the the 21st largest TV market in the United States. With the CIF and IFL having St. Louis in their footprints and St. Louis Arena available now seems like a good time to expand there.
When the West Virginia Roughriders were looking to relocate from Richmond, owner Gregg Fornario mentioned looking at Norfolk as a possible location to move to. The city has the 47th largest TV market in the United States. The city hosted the Norfolk Nighthawks of the af2 from 2000-2003. Though the team folded after the 2003 season, Gregg Fornario considering the city as a viable location and with the Norfolk Scope as a viable venue it would makes sense for the NAL or AAL to expand there as the city falls into both leagues geographical footprints.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Another former af2 city that deserves another chance at indoor football is Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2000 the af2 put the Arkansas Twisters in town. In 2010 the team rebranded as the Arkansas Diamonds and they joined the IFL. In 2011 the Diamonds became the Allen Wranglers and later the Texas Revolution who joined the CIF in 2015. Though the Twisters never won the ArenaCup they made the playoffs all of their seasons in the af2 (with the exceptions of the 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005 campaigns). With the 57th largest TV market in the US and Barton Coliseum to play at, Little Rock would be a gould way to expand the CIF’s footprint.
The final location Arena Football Talk will look at is Chattanooga, Tennessee. Though the city has never had a team before, with the 89th largest TV marked in the United States and Mckenzie Arena to play in. The PAF, AAL and NAL all could use Chattanooga as a way to expand their respective league footprints.
These are just ten cities Arena Football Talk thinks would be good to help expand the sports of indoor and arena football. We would like to hear your opinions on the locations we have chosen and what ones you think would work or where you want teams.