af2 Expansion Taps Indoor Leagues
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Thursday, December 14, 2006
There was a lot of franchise movement this past off-season in all the indoor and Arena football leagues. A significant number of the moves came in the form of teams and markets gravitating to arenafootball2. The af2 will field a total of 30 teams in 2007, an increase of seven teams from the 23 teams fielded during the 2006 season.
Teams have left other leagues before to join the af2, and vice versa, but this off-season was more active than usual.
In 2001, the one-year-old af2 purchased the two-year-old Indoor Football League. However, only two teams from the IFL went on to play in the af2, the Peoria Pirates and the Lincoln Lightning. Wichita, another IFL market, also fielded an af2 team the following year. The Lightning left the af2 after just one season and joined the National Indoor Football league in 2002, where they were known as the Lincoln Capitals. The Pirates were part of the league until 2004, winning the ArenaCup in 2002 and losing in the 2004 championship game. The Pirates then left the af2 to help form United Indoor Football in 2005, where they became known as the Peoria Rough Riders. The team finally folded after the 2006 season.
In 2005, the Amarillo Dusters joined the af2 after spending the previous season in the newly formed Intense Football League. The Intense league disbanded after the 2004 season with the majority of teams joining the NIFL. But in 2006, the league reformed with several original teams leaving the NIFL and returning to where they began.
After spending just one season in the NIFL, the Everett Hawks left the league to join af2 in 2006.
The Tennessee Valley Vipers were members of the af2 from 2000-2004, then left to join United Indoor Football in 2005 as the Tennessee Valley Raptors. A new Vipers team returned to the af2 in 2006 after the Raptors moved to Illinois to become the Rock River Raptors.
So, as you can see, franchise movement is nothing new in the world of indoor and Arena football. Here is a look at what happened just this past off-season in the af2.
The Tri-Cities Fever, a member of the NIFL for the past two years, is joining af2 for the 2007 season. The Fever won the NIFL Championship in 2005.
The Katy Copperheads were an expansion team last year in the Intense Football League, but for 2007, they have moved to a larger arena and become the Texas Copperheads. They will be replaced in their original arena by a new Intense league team, the Katy Ruff Riders.
Two teams in other indoor leagues were basically forced out by their respective arenas in order to make room for new af2 expansion teams. The NIFL Cincinnati Marshals, who played in the U.S. Bank Arena the last two seasons, will be replaced in 2007 by the af2 Cincinnati Jungle Kats. The arena was also home to the af2 Cincinnati Swarm in 2003. The Intense Football League's Corpus Christi Hammerheads lease was cancelled at the American Bank Center and now the af2 Corpus Christi Sharks will take their place. Both the Marshals and the Hammerheads have found new arenas for the 2007 season.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the War Memorial Coliseum had been home to the Fort Wayne Freedom for four years. The Freedom was a member of the NIFL in 2003 and 2004 and then the UIF in 2005 and 2006. After attempts to sell the Freedom failed, the team was suspended by the UIF. This opened the door for an af2 expansion team to move in, the Fort Wayne Fusion.
The Lubbock Renegades are another af2 expansion team for 2007. In 2004, the Lubbock Lonestars played in the Intense Football League. In 2005, the team joined the NIFL and changed its name to the Lubbock Gunslingers. The Gunslingers were idle in 2006 and an af2 ownership group acquired the arena rights earlier this year.
Another new af2 team in Texas, the Laredo Lobos, played the 2006 season in the Intense league, but will be joining af2 in 2007. The af2 had previously fielded the Laredo Law in 2004.
The af2 also saw two teams fold since the end of the 2006 season, the Macon Knights and the Memphis Xplorers. The Boise Burn, in Idaho, and the Mahoning Valley Thunder, in Youngstown, Ohio, were also added to arenafootball2 as 2007 expansion teams.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
The Alaska Wild was originally announced as an af2 expansion team earlier this year, but they failed to raise the required franchise fee by the established deadline. The team has been resurrected, however, as the newest member of the Intense Football League for 2007.
Teams and arenas in other indoor leagues and markets have had their share of problem in the last few years, but then so has arenafootball2. However, af2 is viewed by many to be much more stable in its league operations and ownership. With the backing of the Arena Football League, the af2 makes a much more attractive option for markets, and arena operators in particular, that may be struggling to bring in fans.
af2 CHANGES FOR 2007
af2 will begin its eight season this spring. In all, the league has added four teams for 2007 that previously played in other leagues and expanded into three other cities that had teams in other indoor football leagues last year.
Boise Burn - expansion team
Cincinnati Jungle Kats - expansion team
(2006 NIFL city)
Texas Copperheads - former Intense
Football League team
Macon Knights - folded