League relaunches after one-year hiatus with some familiar faces and some new places
After a one-year hiatus, the Arena Football League (AFL) is poised for a triumphant return, league executives said while unveiling the revitalized league during a teleconference on Wednesday. But that return doesn't include Nashville.
Nashville's original AFL franchise was the Kats, who called the city home from 1997-2001 and 2005-08. The team was quite successful, earning four wild card berths, two division titles and two conference titles — though losing both appearances in the league championship game, the Arena Bowl, in 2000 and 2001.
The team's return in 2005 was not as fruitful — the Kats failed to post a winning record in three seasons, despite making the playoffs in 2006 with an 8-8 mark.
While Nashville will not return to the new-look AFL, the league is keeping 'legacy' teams — Arizona (Phoenix) Rattlers, Cleveland Gladiators, Chicago Rush, Dallas Vigilantes (formerly the Desperados), Orlando Predators, Tampa Bay Storm and Utah (Salt Lake City) Blaze.
The regular season will kick off with a full slate of games the weekend of April 2-4. The 15-team league will play a 16-game schedule leading into the playoffs and the Arena Bowl the third weekend in August. A television contract with NFL Network is reportedly in the works as well, according to officials with the league.
In 2008, fans embraced the AFL at a record pace. Games were played before an average crowd of almost 13,000 and 2008 was a record year for revenue.
"The financial trouble the former league ran into was not due to a lack of fan interest and support," Commissioner Jerry Kurz said. "The demise of the former AFL was more a function of a severe recession and rising league and team operational costs. Once we had the opportunity to work as a cohesive group of owners in developing the plan to retool the business model, it was an easy decision for the league to relaunch."
The new cities include the southern locations of Huntsville, Ala.; Bossier-Shreveport, La., and Jacksonville.
Owners include former head coach and NFL Legend Mike Ditka, a returning Chicago Rush co-owner, and former NFL quarterback Danny White , who will serve as the team president of the Arizona Rattlers.
"We're back and we're not going anywhere," Kurz said. "We are tremendously excited to bring back Arena Football to our ardent following of fans across the country. With a restructured business plan, we are poised to come back stronger than ever."
Just not in Tennessee.