By Derek Harper
Founder and President
The Discovery of Trademarks and Possible AFL Expansion
This year while searching for possible Arena Football League (AFL) expansion teams the staff here at AFT came upon some trademarks by Arena Football One LLC from 2019 for names of former AFL teams. We’ve seen the AFL, National Arena League (NAL), and Indoor Football League (IFL) bring teams back with names of former AFL franchises so it’d make sense if this happens. The potential franchises we found were the Grand Rapids Rampage, Austin Wranglers, Utah Blaze, Los Angeles Avengers, and the Las Vegas Sting and Las Vegas Outlaws. If all four of these cities were to receive teams the only question with the teams listed is whether a potential Las Vegas team would be named the Sting or Outlaws. With potentially two-four new teams set to hit the circuit in 2020 which could bring the number of teams to eight or ten you have to wonder how soon any of the five markets listed above could happen. Knowing most leagues like an even number of teams I’d expect four of those five markets to happen unless a market comes in and surprises everyone to where there could be a total of six new teams.
Grand Rapids Rampage
The Rampage played 12 seasons in the AFL, making the playoffs six times in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2009. In their 2001 season they’d advance to the ArenaBowl and claim their only title in their 12 seasons of existence. The franchise played at Van Andel Arena which is currently home to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL). Van Andel Arena seats 10,618 for arena football so it’d work perfect for AFL crowds. The Rampage went a combined 63-101 in regular seasons games in 12 seasons while compiling a record of 5-5 in the playoffs for a combined total of 68-106 in the regular season and playoffs.
The Wranglers played four seasons in the AFL before playing a single season as members of the AFL’s Developmental League, Arena Football 2 or AF2 for short. The Wranglers went 28-36 in the four seasons they played in the AFL and went 0-1 in their only playoff game, a Wild Card loss to the Philadelphia Soul by the score of 52-35 in 2006. As members of AF2 the Wranglers finished 8-9 including a first round playoff loss to the Spokane Shock by a score of 42-14. Combining their AFL and AF2 days the franchise went 36-44 in the regular season, 0-2 in the playoffs, and a combined 36-46 in regular season and playoff games. Right now the only venue where an AFL franchise could play is the Frank Erwin Center where the past edition of the Wranglers played. However the University of Texas has plans to replace that building with a new and slightly smaller arena in time for the 2021 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons. So if an AFL franchise decides to call Austin home it most likely won’t be until the new building has opened and everything is running smoothly. Something else to factor in with Austin is that the AFL usually likes an arena that can hold at least 10,000 for games. The current Frank Erwin Center seats 16,700 for basketball and sat 14,990 for arena football so if the new arena will seat 10,000 for basketball so it’d be under 10,000 for arena football which probably gives Austin less of a chance to get a team than the other potential markets.
The Blaze played seven seasons in the AFL splitting time between EnergySolutions Arena (now Vivint Smart Home Arena) and the Maverik Center in nearby West Valley City, Utah. Vivint Smart Home Arena seats 14,000 for arena football while the Maverik Center seats 10,000 for arena football. In their seven seasons the team went 62-70 in the regular season, 1-5 in playoff games, and a combined 63-75 in regular season and playoff games. Since the Blaze shuttered operations the Utah market has only had one season of indoor ball with the now defunct Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the IFL. With two venues available that each seat over 10,000 and a hungry passionate fan base this would be a prime market for the AFL when they decide to move west.
Los Angeles Avengers
The Avengers played nine seasons in the AFL, making the playoffs five times in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007. In their 2005 season they won the Western Division. The team played at Staples Center for all of their nine seasons which seats 16,096 for arena football. The Avengers went 65-73 in regular season matchups, 1-5 in playoff matchups, and a combined 66-78 in regular season and playoff matchups combined. The Los Angeles area hasn’t seen arena football since the KISS called Anaheim’s Honda Center home for three seasons from 2014-2016. The Staples Center is one of the busiest venues in the nation with multiple tenants calling it home so if the AFL does eventually return to the L.A. market it begs the question of whether they go back to Staples or follow the path of the KISS and go to Anaheim where the only other main tenant would be the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League (NHL). L.A. does have two National Football League (NFL) teams, but the AFL season runs during the NFL’s off-season so count L.A. as a prime market should the AFL go that far west in the future.
Las Vegas Sting and Las Vegas Outlaws
Las Vegas has seen AFL teams come and go with the Las Vegas Sting who played two seasons from 1994-1995 at both the MGM Grand Garden Arena which seats around 17,000 and Thomas & Mack Center which seats 16,606 for arena football. The Sting finished with a combined record of 11-14 in two seasons including a Quarterfinals loss in 1994, their first of two seasons to the Albany Firebirds by a score of 49-30. Then came the Las Vegas Gladiators who played at Orleans Arena which seats less than 10,000. The Gladiators were in Las Vegas for five seasons from 2003-2007. That franchise is now the Cleveland Gladiators who are coming back from hiatus in time for the 2020 AFL season. The Las Vegas Gladiators finished with a combined record of 31-50 including a Wild Card loss to the Arizona Rattlers by a score of 69-23. The Gladiators were in town for five seasons making the playoffs their inaugural season in Vegas. Then came the Las Vegas Outlaws who played a single season in 2015 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Outlaws finished with a record of 5-12-1, good enough to clinch a playoff spot. However with the league taking over operations they folded the franchise after the regular season ended prior to the start of the playoffs. The Portland Thunder were awarded the playoff spot in place of the Outlaws. With the NFL’s Raiders kicking off play in Las Vegas in 2020 and the success of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights the city of Las Vegas would be a prime market with the growth of sports in the Southern Nevada city.