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What's Next for Grand Rapids?

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On December 7, 2009, a bankruptcy judge in Chicago awarded the assets from the former Arena Football League to a new league, Arena Football One, or AF1. The assets include all of the former AFL team names, logos and records, including those of the Grand Rapids Rampage. The new 15-team AF1 is an amalgamation of six former Arena Football League teams, eight teams from its developmental league, arenafootball2, and one team from the American Indoor Football Association.

Grand Rapids is not one of the former AFL teams that will be joining the AF1 this year. Rampage owner Dan Devos and Chief Operating Officer Scott Gorsline are all that remain of the team that won ArenaBowl XV in 2001 before a national TV audience. Thus far, they have publicly stated that they have no desire to join AF1 and are working with other former AFL owners to bring back a new AFL, possibly in 2011.

I can understand that joining the AF1 could be considered a step down for the Rampage, but I also think it would be a good fit for the franchise. With nearby AF1 teams in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Chicago, Grand Rapids could be the fourth team in a strong Midwest division. The games would be close enough for fans of all four teams to travel with their team to away games as they have done many times in the past. The AF1 is the only league playing Arena Football right now and if a new AFL never gets off the ground, Grand Rapids will have no other choice but to join the league if they want to continue to play Arena Football.

And who’s to say that the AF1 won’t find an ownership group willing to resurrect the Rampage without Devos and Gorsline next year? Where would that leave them? If the Van Andel Arena signs an agreement with an AF1 team, they certainly would not have room on their schedule for a second team in a new AFL. Grand Rapids simply is not big enough to support two Arena Football teams.   

So, where does that leave Rampage fans who have supported the team through 11 seasons? The best they can hope for in the foreseeable future is a trip to Ohio on Saturday, July 17 to see former Rampage head coach Steve Thonn, who is now coaching the Cleveland Gladiators, when they take on the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz who are led by another former Grand Rapids head coach, Sparky McEwen.

It is entirely possible that the AF1 will be adding more teams in 2011. Will Grand Rapids be one of them? Let’s hope so.



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