BY DEREK HARPER
One way to grow the game of indoor and arena football would be playing a game or two a season in a city within the geographic footprint of a league that might feasibly be able to host a future team. This idea comes from something the Junior-A British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) does where they play two games during the season in a city without a team. However, that city is also fairly far away from any others in the league. This article will look at cities in the National Arena League (NAL), Champions Indoor Football (CIF), and Indoor Football League (IFL) that could potentially host a game or two for a Road Show and possibly a team one day.
NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE (NAL)
Let's take a trip down memory lane to Allentown, PA and a city that hosted an NAL franchise for a short time when the NAL was first founded. The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks existed in multiple leagues, but most recently the NAL for two seasons from 2017-2018. The PPL Center has a seating capacity of 8,500 for arena football. It hosted the now defunct Philadelphia Soul of the also defunct Arena Football League (AFL) for late regular season games and playoff games in 2016. The venue currently hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL). In total, four seasons of arena football have been played in Allentown and would be a perfect city for an NAL Road Show matchup. The most likely teams geographically to take part in a game in Allentown would be the West Virginia Roughriders and Jersey Flight. Geographically, the Jersey Flight would be the home team, being only an hour and twenty minutes from Trenton, home of the Flight.
Next up is Reading, PA which has hosted eight seasons of indoor football inside the Santander Arena. The Santander Arena seats 7,160 for ice hockey so it'd be roughly the same for arena football. In 2015, the venue hosted the ASI Panthers of American Indoor Football (AIF), but before that it hosted seven seasons of the Reading Express who played in multiple leagues from 2006-2012. Roughly an hour and a half from Trenton, the Flight could again play host to the West Virginia Roughriders.
A third city that'd be a good host for an NAL Road Show and potentially a team is Albany, NY. The Times Union Center has hosted 21 seasons of arena football in the past with the Conquest, Firebirds, and Empire. The original Firebirds franchise existed from 1990-2000 in the original AFL. The Conquest/Firebirds existed from 2002-2009 in what was the AFL's minor league, the AF2. The now defunct Albany Empire played two seasons from 2018-2019 in the AFL. The Empire always brought in a good crowd for each game and would be a great market for the NAL to explore. The TCU seats 13,785 for arena football and is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes from Worcester, Massachusetts where the Massachusetts Pirates play. The Pirates could potentially host the Jersey Flight in a Road Show matchup.
Another market that could host an NAL Road Show matchup is Greenville, SC. Bon Secours Wellness Arena has hosted five seasons of indoor and arena football. The venue is currently home to the ECHL's Greenville Swamp Rabbits. From 2000-2002 the venue hosted the Carolina Rhinos of the AF2, then in 2009 it was the South Carolina Force of the AIFA, and finally the Greenville Force of the Southern Indoor Football League (SIFL) in 2010. The venue seats 13,951 for hockey so roughly around that for arena football. The Carolina Cobras in Greensboro are just over three hours from Greenville while the Columbus (GA) Lions are four hours from Greenville. The Cobras could potentially host the Lions in an NAL Road Show matchup.
Another South Carolina city that could host an NAL Road Show matchup is Charleston. North Charleston Coliseum seats 10,537 for ice hockey and arena football. The venue currently hosts the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays. It's previously played host to five seasons of arena football. First from 2000-2003 the Charleston Swamp Foxes played four seasons in the AF2 and in 2006 the Charleston Sandsharks played a lone season in the now defunct National Indoor Football League (NIFL). The Carolina Cobras are roughly four hours and forty-five minutes from Charleston while the Columbus (GA) Lions are just barely under six hours away. Like in Greenville, the Cobras could potentially host the Lions in an NAL Road Show matchup.
Another market that could host an NAL Road Show matchup is Norfolk, VA. Norfolk Scope currently hosts the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals. The venue has played host to four seasons of arena football in the past with the AF2's Norfolk Nighthawks from 2000-2003. The venue seats 8,701 for ice hockey so it'd be a similar number for arena football. The Carolina Cobras are just over four hours from Norfolk while the West Virginia Roughriders are just under eight hours away. The Cobras could potentially host the Roughriders in an NAL Road Show matchup.
INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE (IFL)
One potential city that could host an IFL Road Show matchup is Bakersfield, CA. Mechanics Bank Arena seats 8,751 and currently hosts the AHL's Bakersfield Condors. The venue previously hosted two editions of the Bakersfield Blitz, one that moved to Fresno and another that later folded after four seasons. In total, the two editions of the Blitz played six seasons of arena football in Bakersfield both as members of the AF2. Bakersfield is roughly just over a three hour and fifteen minute drive from San Diego, where the Strike Force play. The Oakland Panthers meanwhile are roughly just over four and half hours from Bakersfield. The San Diego Strike Force could potentially host the Oakland Panthers in an IFL Road Show matchup.
Another city that might be a good host for an IFL Road Show game is Billings, MT which has previously hosted two IFL franchises for a total of 13 seasons. First, it was the Billings Outlaws from 2000-2010 and then the Billings Wolves from 2015-2016. First Interstate Arena seats 12,000 people for events so it'd be roughly less than that given what it takes for a hockey/indoor football setup. The Bismarck Bucks are barely just over a six hour drive from Billings while the Spokane Shock are just under an eight and a half hour drive. The Bucks could potentially host the Shock in an IFL Road Show matchup.
A third city that could possibly host an IFL Road Show matchup is Reno, NV. Reno previously hosted the Reno Barons of the Western Indoor Football Association (WIFA) for one season in 2011. Most recently, the Reno Express played one season in 2019 as members of the American West Football Conference (AWFC). Reno Events Center seats 7,000 for events so it'd be around that capacity with how the venue is configured. Reno is about a three and a half hour drive from the Oakland Panthers and about nine hours and forty-five minutes from the San Diego Strike Force. So while not ideal for San Diego, they're currently the second closest team to Reno. Oakland could potentially host an IFL Road Show matchup against the Strike Force.
A fourth market that previously played host to the IFL that could host an IFL Road Show matchup is Bemidji, MN. The Bemidji Axemen played two seasons from 2014-2015 inside the Sanford Center which seats 4,700 for ice hockey and would be roughly the same for indoor football. The Bismarck Bucks are just over five and a half hours from Bemidji while the Sioux Falls Storm are just over six hours away. The Bucks could potentially host the Storm in an IFL Road Show matchup.
CHAMPIONS INDOOR FOOTBALL (CIF)
A city the CIF could go to for a Road Show matchup is Cedar Park, TX. H-E-B Center at Cedar Park currently hosts the NBA G-League's Austin Spurs and the AHL's Texas Stars. It sits 6,778 for hockey so it'd be roughly the same for indoor football. The West Texas Warbirds are just barely under five and a half hours from Cedar Park while the Oklahoma Flying Aces are seven hours and fifteen minutes away. The Warbirds could potentially host the Flying Aces in a CIF Road Show matchup.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU THE FANS
In this time of absence without sports, we'd like to hear from you the fans, on which markets within each league's geographic footprint could potentially host a Road Show matchup and even possibly a team. Obviously a lot of factors including distance to competition, past markets that've been burned, future expansion that's already known to us, as well as arena size went into choosing the listed cities. If you think we left a city out that should be considered or disagree with certain choices we made let us know and maybe we might consider them in a future article.