Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Arena Football League’ Category

1991-2017 Tampa Bay Storm

one comment

Tampa Bay StormArena Football League (1991-2017)

Born: November 15, 1990 – The Pittsburgh Gladiators relocate to Tampa Bay, FL
Folded: December 21, 2017

Arenas:

Team Colors:

  • 1994: Black, Silver & Royal Blue
  • 1998: Midnight Blue, Metallic Gold & White

Owners:

Arena Bowl Champions: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996 & 2003

 

The Tampa Bay Storm were arguably the greatest franchise in the 30-year history of the Arena Football League(s). The Storm played for 26 seasons and won 5 Arena Bowl titles. For many years the team was among the most popular box office attractions in the AFL. The Storm’s closure, four days before Christmas of 2017, reduces the Arena League to just four remaining franchises and may mark the final nail in the league’s coffin after many near-death experiences.

The Storm started out as the Pittsburgh Gladiators, one of Arena Football’s four original franchises, in 1987. The team moved to Florida in the spring of 1991 under owner Bob Gries. The Storm made their debut at the Florida Suncoast Dome on June 1, 1991 with a 51-38 loss to the Orlando Predators in front of 10,354 fans. The game marked the start of Arena Football’s greatest rivalry. The “War of I-4” would last for a quarter century until the Predators went out of business in 2016. The Storm and the Preds combined for seven league championships during that time.

Tampa Bay Storm Arena Bowl VAfter that 0-1 start, the Storm lost only one more game that season. Crowds grew at the Suncoast Dome as the season went on. Built for baseball (and known today as Tropicana Field, home of MLB’s Rays), the seating could expand well beyond the capacity of an NHL and NBA arena. The Storm’s final two regular season games in 1991 drew announced crowds of more than 20,000 fans. On August 17, 1991 the Storm traveled to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena and defeated the Detroit Drive 48-42 to win Arena Bowl V.

The great stars of the early Storm years were former University of Louisville quarterback Jay Gruden (Storm ’91 – ’96) and offensive specialist Stevie Thomas (Storm ’91 – ’99) out of Bethune-Cookman. The Storm would win four Arena Bowls between 1991 and 1996 with Gruden and Thomas fueling the offense.

The Storm also had the winningest coach in Arena Football history. Tampa Bay won their first two Arena Bowls under Fran Curci (1991) and Larry Kuharich (1993). In 1995, the Storm hired Tim Marcum as the team’s third head coach. Marcum already had four Arena Bowl titles on his resume as chief of the Denver Dynamite and the Detroit Drive. Under Marcum, the Storm would win back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 and another in 2003. Marcum coached the team through 2010, before a scandal related to content on the Storm coaching staff’s work email accounts forced his resignation. Marcum passed away in 2013.

The Storm passed through many ownership hands over the years. Founding owner Bob Gries won two titles with the team. In a sign of just how small potatoes the AFL was in the early 1990s’, he sold the team to minor league baseball investor Woody Kern in 1994 for just $447,000. Kern oversaw the Storm’s growth and relative stability for 13 years from 1994 to 2007. During that time, the team won three more titles and moved from the Suncoast Dome to the St. Pete Times Forum in 1997. In 2007, Kern sold the Storm to Tampa orthopedic surgeon Robert Nucci for $18.8 million. And then …. hoo boy.

Nucci, a professional sports novice, made a spectacularly ill-timed purchased. His deal with Kern called for a $9.6 million down payment in 2007 to acquire 51% interest in the team and additional installments through 2011. Nucci would own the team for just one season (2008). He never made the additional payments, as the Arena Football League’s house-of-cards financial model collapsed in late 2008. The league closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy in August 2009. Nucci soon filed for personal bankruptcy. He has spent much of the next decade filing lawsuits against Storm and AFL officials and his own legal advisors. Nucci alleged that by the mid-late 2000’s, the Arena Football League was little more than a “disguised Ponzi scheme” with a broken business model that was dependent on expansion fees from unwitting investors to fund its massive debt.

There was no Arena Football in 2009 as the original league moved into bankruptcy. In 2010, a group of former AFL investors and operators from its small market Arena Football 2 developmental league purchased the old league’s intellectual property and trademarks from the bankruptcy court. A new original football league launched in 2010, with a revived  but lower-budget Tampa Bay Storm re-taking the field under Marcum’s direction. The following year the owners of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning acquired the Storm and brought the team under its Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment umbrella. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Derrick Brooks was tabbed as President to run the team.

The new Arena Football League struggled badly over the next six seasons. The Storm were a relative beacon of stability, but Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment finally gave up on the league in late 2017. The Storm folded on December 21, 2017.

 

Tampa Bay Storm Memorabilia

 

Storm Video

The Zubaz era. Tampa Bay Storm vs. Detroit Drive. Arena Bowl V at Joe Louis Arena, August 17, 1991.

Arena Bowl X. Tampa Bay Storm vs. Iowa Barnstormers at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa.

 

In Memoriam

Lineman Al Lucas (Storm ’03) died of spinal cord injury suffered during an Arena Football League game on April 10, 2005 while a member of the Los Angeles Avengers. Lucas was just 26 years old.

Wide receiver Chandler Williams (Storm ’12) died of a heart ailment during a flag football game on January 5, 2013. He was 27.

Head Coach Tim Marcum (Storm ’95-’10) passed away on December 5, 2013 at the age of 69. Tampa Bay Times obituary.

Storm owner Woody Kern (Storm ’94 – ‘) died on January 7, 2014. Kern was 66 years old. Tampa Bay Times obituary.

Fullback-linebacker Cedric McKinnon (Storm ’95-’00) passed on May 23, 2016 at age 48. Bethune-Cookman University obituary.

Head Coach Lary Kuharich (Storm ’92-’94) died of brain cancer at age 70 on November 13, 2016.

 

Downloads

2013 Tampa Bay Storm Media Guide

2014 Tampa Bay Storm Media Guide

2016 Tampa Bay Storm Media Guide

2017 Tampa Bay Storm Media Guide

February 2015 Court Complaint Robert C. Nucci vs. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC – Sheds light on final days of original AFL circa 2007-2008.

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

 

1993-1995 Miami Hooters

one comment

Miami Hooters LogoArena Football League (1993-1995)

Born: March 4, 1993 – The Sacramento Attack relocate to Miami, FL.
Moved: 1996 (Florida Bobcats)

Arena: Miami Arena (14,600)

Team Colors: Orange, Black & White

Owner: Dave Lageschulte, et al.

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

This short-lived Arena Football League franchise was named after the Hooters restaurant chain. Owner Dave Lageschulte was one the early franchisees of the Hooters wings-and-boobs empire and developed the chain’s many South Florida restaurants.

Arena Football players of the early 1990’s earned about $500 per game with a small bonus for victories. Given the low pay, most of the league’s players were unknowns, even to hardcore NFL draft junkies.  By comparison with other Arena League teams, the Hooters signed up a good number of familiar names. Miami Dolphins cult hero Jim Jensen, a wide receiver and special teams warrior in his NFL days, came out of retirement to play quarterback for the Hooters. Former New England Patriots Pro Bowl running back Tony Collins played both ways as a Running Back/Linebacker in 1993. Ex-Dolphins All-Pro wide receiver Mark “Super” Duper joined the Hooters for their second season in 1994.

The team also signed a few notable ex-Miami Hurricanes players, including wide receiver Leonard Conley and quarterback Bryan Fortay.

The Hooters lasted for three seasons at Miami Arena. In late 1995, Lageschulte sold the Hooters to South Florida real estate developer Bruce Frey. Frey moved the team to West Palm Beach and re-named it the Florida Bobcats (1996-2001).

Six years later, Lageschulte would return for a second try at Arena Football as owner of the Indiana Firebirds franchise (2001-2004).

 

Hooters Video

Brief clip of the Hooters hosting the Cleveland Thunderbolts at Miami Arena in 1993.

 

 

In Memoriam

Miami Hooters owner David Lageschulte died on March 11, 2014 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.

Offensive/Defensive Lineman Jon Roehlk (Hooters ’94) passed away on March 13, 2016 at age 54. Quad City Times obituary.

 

Links

Half the Distance to the Bustline“, Todd Anthony, The Miami New Times, June 9, 1993

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

Written by AC

December 16th, 2017 at 6:57 pm

2006-2008 Kansas City Brigade

leave a comment

Kansas City BrigadeArena Football League (2006-2008)

Born: October 3, 2005 – Arena Football League expansion franchise
Folded: August 2009

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners: 

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

The Kansas City Brigade were the first of several attempts to establish the sport of Arena Football in Kansas City. Former Kansas City Chiefs star Neil Smith and his agent Tyler Prochnow were the team’s original investors.  They bought into the Arena Football League for a reported $16M – $18M in October 2005.  The duo’s expansion bid appeared stalled during the summer of 2005. But then Hurricane Katrina struck and devastated New Orleans. The AFL’s popular New Orleans Voodoo club would be unable to participate in the 2006 season as the city rebuilt. The disaster gave the AFL expansion committee new urgency to get a deal done with Prochnow and Smith. Kansas City was announced as the AFL’s 18th city in October 2005. The league stocked Kansas City’s roster with 15 refugee players from the homeless Voodoo franchise.

The club announced it’s name and logo a month later in November 2005. Going for a military theme, the team oddly misfired by pairing an Air Force-derived stealth bomber logo with a team name

Within a matter of months Prochnow brought local mortgage baron Chris Likens into the ownership group. Over the course of the next year, Likens would assume control of the franchise. Prochnow’s original group departed and Likens installed various relatives into what became effectively a family-run business.

Neil Smith’s former Chiefs teammate Kevin Porter was installed as Head Coach. The Brigade’s debut season in 2006 was brutal on the field. Voodoo holdover Andy Kelly struggled at quarterback and the Brigade shipped him out midseason. The position never solidified, contributing to a 3-13 last place finish. The team was a popular draw at Kemper Arena though. Announced attendance of 15,234 per game for eight home dates was third best in the 18-team AFL.

The 2007 season saw a dramatic turnaround. Porter returned for another season at the helm. The Brigade finished 10-6 and earned their first and only postseason appearance. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Colorado Crush. But the novelty of Arena Football appeared to wear thin in Kansas City. Attendance dipped 24% to 11,632 per game.

In 2008, the Brigade left Kemper Arena and moved into the brand new 17,000-seat Sprint Center. The team reverted to its expansion season form and lost its first six game en route to a 3-13 season.  The franchise earned a bit of national media attention late in the season by signing former Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Quincy Carter. Carter started the final three games of the season for the Brigade.

The Arena Football League collapsed suspended operations following the 2008 season and later filed for bankruptcy in August 2009. A low-budget spinoff of the league re-emerged in 2010 and gradually lured back a few of the original AFL’s former owners. The Likens family revived the Brigade in 2011 with a slight re-branding “Kansas City Command”). The Command played to paltry crowds at the Sprint Center for two more seasons before shutting down for good in 2012.

 

 

Kansas City Brigade Video

Short highlight reel from the Brigade’s 2006 debut season at Kemper Arena

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

 

Written by Drew Crossley

November 15th, 2017 at 12:28 am

2011-2012 Milwaukee Mustangs

leave a comment

Arena Football League (2011-2012)

Born: January 27, 2011 – Re-branded from Milwaukee Iron
Folded: October 11, 2012

Arena: The Bradley Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Chris Rebholz, Todd Hansen & Dave Bahl

Arena Football League Championships: None

 

The Milwaukee Mustangs of 2011-2012 were a failed brand revival of Milwaukee’s popular Arena Football League franchise of the 1990’s.  The original Mustangs often drew capacity crowds to the Bradley Center in the mid-1990’s before building lease problems doomed the team in 2001.

The “new” Mustangs started play in 2009 as the Milwaukee Iron in AF2, a lower-budget version of Arena Football played primarily in minor league markets. That same year, the original major-market AFL filed for bankruptcy and went out of business. A new investment group led by the poorer AF2 owners purchased the AFL intellectual property rights from the bankruptcy court and re-organized the Arena Football League in 2010. AF2 went out of business in the process. The Iron joined the new AFL as a founding member in 2010. The franchise re-claimed the old “Mustangs” name prior to the AFL’s second season in 2010.

The re-branding failed miserably. The Mustangs announced 2011 attendance average of 3,953 for 9 dates at the Bradley Center was the worst figure in the 18-team Arena Football League. After a grim 5-13 season in 2012, the club effectively went out of business that October. The league tried to save face by spinning the Mustangs’ departure as an indefinite leave of absence. But in reality indoor football was dead in Milwaukee.

The Mustangs’ league membership was transferred to Oregon trucking magnate Terry Emmert in the fall of 2013. The former Mustangs franchise became the Portland Thunder for the 2014 season.

 

Milwaukee Mustangs Memorabilia

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

Written by Drew Crossley

December 28th, 2016 at 11:52 pm

2003-2007 Las Vegas Gladiators

leave a comment

2004 Las Vegas Gladiators Media GuideArena Football League (2003-2007)

Born: December 20, 2002 – The New Jersey Gladiators relocate to Las Vegas
Moved: October 16, 2007 (Cleveland Gladiators)

Arenas:

Team Colors: Red and Black

Owner: Jim Ferraro

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

The Las Vegas Gladiators were the second of three Arena Football League franchises to try to set up shop in Sin City. The Glads followed the Las Vegas Sting (1994-1995) and preceded the laughable Las Vegas Outlaws debacle (2015) headed by Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil.

The Gladiators traced their lineage back to the New Jersey Red Dogs franchise, founded in 1997. The team was originally named after Red Dog beer, then became the New Jersey Gladiators in 2001 after Miami attorney Jim Ferraro purchased the franchise. Ferraro, who made his fortune in asbestos litigation, moved the franchise to Vegas in late 2002.

In Vegas, the Gladiators played their first four seasons at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. Announced attendance held steady around 10,000 per game at the Thomas & Mack from 2003 through 2006. In 2007, the team made an ill-fated move to the Orleans Arena at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. Attendance cratered to 5,383 per game, which was by far the worst figure in the 19-team Arena Football League that season.

During the Glads final season in Las Vegas in 2007, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King handled most of the duties under center. King was the most famous football player to suit up for the Gladiators during their five season run in Nevada.

Ferraro moved the team to Cleveland in October 2007. The franchise plays on in Cleveland today and is now operated by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

 

Las Vegas Gladiators Memorabilia

 

Gladiators Video

Miscellaneous Gladiators promo roll from the mid-2000’s.

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

Written by Drew Crossley

November 2nd, 2016 at 2:47 am

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: