Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Arena Football League (1987-Today)

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1987 Arena Football League Media GuideThe original Arena Football League was a patented 50-yard indoor football game system developed by a former NFL employee named Jim Foster.  Foster first came up with the idea while watching a Major Indoor Soccer League match at Madison Square Garden in 1981.  It took six years for Foster to fully develop the concept and launch the league in 1987. The first season was modest but Arena Football had an ESPN contract for that first campaign, which helped Foster’s strange little league gain a modest measure of national attention.

The league muddled along in fits and starts through the rest of the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s.  Towards the end of the Nineties a sequence of events came together to raise Arena Football’s profile.  In 1998, ABC broadcast Arena Bowl XII to a national broadcast audience on Wide World of Sports.  Two years later, a former grocery store clerk and Arena Football star named Kurt Warner rose from obscurity to win first the St. Louis Rams’ quarterback job and then MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXIV.

As the 2000’s dawned, Arena Football franchise valuations shot upwards.  Expansion fees increased from $250,000 in 1993 to $16.2 million by 2003.  A national broadcast contract with NBC made the league sexier to speculators, as did the influx of investment from the National Football League.  Eventually six NFL ownership groups would purchase Arena Football franchises in the early 2000’s: the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans.

1991 Arena Football League Media GuideFor a time the league gorged on fat expansion fees and trumpeted rising attendance, which helped to paper over large operational losses. But by the mid-2000’s, the expansion pipeline began to dry up.  The Lions, Saints and Titans shuttered their Arena League franchises. The bubble burst when the 2009 season was cancelled as league attempted a financial restructuring. The effort failed and the original league closed down and filed for bankruptcy in August 2009.

Throughout the 2000’s, the Arena Football League had an affiliated “minor league” known as AF2, which ran lower-budget clubs in small markets like Shreveport, Spokane and Tulsa.  A group of AF2 investors plus a few of the non-NFL investors in the original Arena League banded together to purchase the intellectual property rights to Arena Football from the bankruptcy court for $6.1 million in late 2009.

This group of owners re-launched the Arena Football League in 2010 and claims the records and history of the original 1987-2008 league.  In a few cases, franchise names and owners carried over between the two leagues. But for the most part, the new league is substantially poorer and less disciplined than the original organization.  Today, Arena Football’s attendance, sponsorship and media prospects are markedly diminished from where the sport stood a decade ago. In effect, the sport has returned to the “muddling along” status of the early 1990’s.

Arena Football League Directory

1987-2008 Franchise List

Franchise Years Active Arena Bowl Champions
Albany Firebirds 1990-2000 1999
Anaheim Piranhas 1996-1997 None
Arizona Rattlers 1992-2008 1994-1997
Austin Wranglers 2004-2007 None
Buffalo Destroyers 1999-2003 None
Carolina Cobras 2000-2004 None
Charlotte Rage 1992-1996 None
Chicago Bruisers 1987-1989 None
Chicago Rush 2001-2008 2006
Cincinnati Rockers 1992-1993 None
Cleveland Gladiators 2008 None
Cleveland Thunderbolts 1992-1994 None
Colorado Crush 2003-2008 2005
Columbus Destroyers 2004-2008 None
Columbus Thunderbolts 1991 None
Connecticut Coyotes 1995-1996 None
Dallas Desperados 2002-2008 None
Dallas Texans 1990-1993 None
Denver Dynamite 1987 & 1989-1991 1987
Detroit Drive 1988-1993 1988-1989-1990-1992
Detroit Fury 2001-2004 None
Florida Bobcats 1996-2001 None
Fort Worth Cavalry 1994 None
Georgia Force 2002-2008 None
Grand Rapids Rampage 1998-2008 2001
Houston Thunderbears 1998-2001 None
Indiana Firebirds 2001-2004 None
Iowa Barnstormers 1995-2000 None
Kansas City Brigade 2006-2008 None
Las Vegas Gladiators 2003-2007 None
Las Vegas Sting 1994-1995 None
Los Angeles Avengers 2000-2008 None
Los Angeles Cobras 1988 None
Maryland Commandos 1989 None
Massachusetts Marauders 1994 None
Memphis Pharaohs 1995-1996 None
Miami Hooters 1993-1995 None
Milwaukee Mustangs 1994-2001 None
Minnesota Fighting Pike 1996 None
Nashville Kats 1997-2001 None
Nashville Kats 2005-2007 None
New England Sea Wolves 1999-2000 None
New England Steamrollers 1988 None
New Jersey Gladiators 2001-2002 None
New Jersey Red Dogs 1997-2000 None
New Orleans Night 1991-1992 None
New Orleans Voodoo 2004-2005 & 2007-2008 None
New York Cityhawks 1997-1998 None
New York Dragons 2001-2008 None
New York Knights 1988 None
Oklahoma Wranglers 2000-2001 None
Orlando Predators 1991-2008 1998-2000
Philadelphia Soul 2004-2008 2008
Pittsburgh Gladiators 1987-1990 None
Portland Forest Dragons 1997-1999 None
Sacramento Attack 1992 Tagged Posts
San Antonio Force 1992 None
San Jose Sabercats 1995-2008 2002-2004-2007
St. Louis Stampede 1995-1996 None
Tampa Bay Storm 1991-2008 1991-1993-1995-1996-2003
Texas Terror 1996-1997 None
Toronto Phantoms 2001-2002 None
Utah Blaze 2006-2008 None
Washington Commandos 1987 & 1990 None


2010-Present Franchise List

Franchise Years Active Arena Bowl Championships
Alabama Vipers 2010 None
Albany 2018-Present None
Arizona Rattlers 2010-Present 2012-2013-2014
Baltimore Brigade 2017-Present None
Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings 2010 None
Chicago Rush 2010-2013 None
Cleveland Gladiators 2010-2017 None
Dallas Vigilantes 2010-2011 None
Georgia Force 2011-2012 None
Iowa Barnstormers 2010-2014 None
Jacksonville Sharks 2010-2016 2011
Kansas City Command 2011-2012 None
Las Vegas Outlaws 2015 None
Los Angeles Kiss 2014-2016 None
Milwaukee Iron 2010 None
Milwaukee Mustangs 2011-2012 None
New Orleans Voodoo 2011-2015 None
Orlando Predators 2010-2016 None
Philadelphia Soul 2011-Present 2016-2017
Pittsburgh Power 2010-2014 None
Portland Steel 2016 None
Portland Thunder 2014-2015 None
San Antonio Talons 2012-2014 None
San Jose Sabercats 2011-2015 2015
Spokane Shock 2010-2015 2010
Tampa Bay Storm 2010-Present None
Tulsa Talons 2010-2011 None
Utah Blaze 2010-2013 None
Washington Valor 2017-Present None

Written by AC

March 25th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

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