Category Archives: Expansion

Deep Routes: The Definitive Guide to Expansion Speculation

“Deep Routes” is a weekly series that will look in-depth at AFL stats and present weekly updates to my AFL model.

By Anthony Reinhard

Personal News

I did not write a post last week as I was on my honeymoon in Jamaica with my wonderful wife Gina. Here we are on July 20th at our wedding:

Arena Bowl XXXII

Philly and Albany will collide in the ArenaBowl Sunday night after convincing playoff wins. I’m giving Albany a 70.1% chance to take home the championship. This makes them an 8.4pt favorite on their home field. With one pick to go, my model has been 28-12 so far this season. My model is 2113-1066 (66.5%) all-time.

Expansion Rankings

I want to spend most of this post on something that I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about since the regular season ended: expansion. Commissioner Boe announced that there would be around two to four expansion teams that would join the league for the 2020 season. With my team out of the running for the ArenaBowl, I got to thinking about what cities might be added to the league next year. I proceeded to gather some data and here is what I came up with!

Let’s start with the basics. You need an arena to have team! So who has an arena? I found a list of arenas in the United States so we’ll begin with that.

Remaining Arenas: 327

Can all of these arenas house an AFL team? The max capacity of an arena is maybe 2,000-4,000 more than what it could hold for an AFL game. The league average attendance in the regular season was about 7,600 and the smallest arena now (Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City) is listed at a max capacity of 13,800, so let’s say we need arenas with a max capacity of at least 10k.

Remaining Arenas: 145

It is also fair to ask what regions of the country are in play. As for next year, I’d be surprised to see an expansion team west of the Mississippi River, so we’ll limit ourselves to arenas in the eastern United States.

Remaining Arenas: 83

Some of the arenas that remain are already occupied by teams in the AFL or other arena leagues. We’ll assume that the AFL will not adopt or supplant any of these existing teams. We’ll also knock out a venue in DC and a venue in Columbus as no team would be added there.

Remaining Arenas: 64        

Let’s assign each of these 64 arenas to a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as defined by the 2010 US Census. There is only one arena on our list that is not located inside or near a metropolitan area so we’ll toss that one. Sorry Tupelo, Mississippi!

Unique Metros Remaining: 49   

So now that we’ve defined the 49 cities that could potentially host a team, how do we compare them? I’m going to pull together a bunch of different factors, standardize them among all 49 cities, weight them as I see appropriate, and then take an average of the weighted standardized factors to form a composite score. The composite score will be a number between 0 and 100 and will allow us to rank all of the potential expansion sites.

History (40%) – Let’s start by gathering some details about cities that have hosted AFL or af2 teams in the past. Attendance is our probably the best available proxy for fan engagement in arena football. It is also probably relevant how many years a metro has hosted a team and how recently that team left.

Location (20%) – Columbus is the only non-East Coast team which leads me to believe that a metro’s vicinity to other existing teams would be a plus. Because I am lazy, I am going to estimate distance by taking using longitude and latitude on a bird’s path.

Venue (15%) – A city that has a larger venue or more options for a suitable arena is probably more likely to land a team.

Proximity to Untapped Markets (15%) – Metros that are located near other high-quality markets that do not currently have teams could be more attractive than metros that don’t expand the league map.

Sports Betting (5%) – The AFL has branded itself as being forward on sports betting and any municipality that is located in a state that has passed or is working to pass legislation related to sports gambling could have an edge.

Metro Population (5%) – Obviously bigger cities are more appealing than smaller ones, but the effect is likely marginal in this case. This all conjecture and I have no inside information about how the AFL has been evaluating new opportunities. There are many ways to slice this. If you’d like to take a stab at it, check out

This all conjecture and I have no inside information about how the AFL has been evaluating new opportunities. There are many ways to slice this. If you’d like to take a stab at it, check out my dataset on google sheets. A summary of the standardized data by category is below.

My method probably overrates New York and Chicago who are stronger than most cities in every category, but may not be markets the AFL wants to wade into. I suspect it underrates Louisville, KY and Scranton, PA who both have great locations and had long records of success in af2. Indianapolis, IN is another that may belong in stronger position after a short AFL run in the early 2000s.

It goes without saying that nothing above should be taken as gospel. I would however be surprised if a team outside my top 30 were named as an expansion location. Ultimately, we won’t know who the new expansion teams are until the league makes an announcement this week.

BattleStations Episode 19: Whatcha’ Doin’ This Weekend

A rambling episode this week that discusses the Destroyers, and the future expansion of the Arena Football League.

The articles discussed can be found at https://aflfanzone.com/.

If you have a chemical addiction and need help please call 1-800-729-6686

BattleStations: a Columbus Destroyers podcast in conjunction with AFL Fan Zone. 
Follow Frank Walker on Twitter at @BStationPod and at https://battlestations.pinecast.co

New Horizons: Five Former AFL Franchises that Should Return Soon

by Richard Martin

Earlier this week, executives in the Arena Football League announced that during this year’s ArenaBowl broadcast on August 11, the AFL would be announcing their expansion plans

This is huge news for all Arena Football fans as the league looks to take more steps forward into former glory. At one point the AFL had teams all across the nation and even a minor league, the af2, before collapsing and cutting down to just four teams at one point.

While fans will welcome expansion teams with open arms, look at the crowds at Albany Empire games, several fans are wanting their former favorite teams to return.

Let’s take a quick look at five potential AFL franchises that could return next season or in the future.

Nashville Kats

The league is looking to expand in the Northeast, but hear me out.

If the AFL adds the new Northeast franchise and then adds the Nashville Kats, you could have two divisions, east and west, of four teams each.

Also, adding Nashville breaks the league back into the South without going too far away from the most Western team at the moment, Columbus.

Finally, Nashville is a bustling metropolis with a lot of fun music and downtown life. Just look at the crowds at the 2019 NFL Draft and for the NHL Stanley Cup games a few years ago. The Titans have also been successful and have a passionate fan base. Why not do that with the Kats?

This feels the least likely of all expansion teams because it hinges on the announcement in August. But it would be fun to have an AFL team back in the South.

New York Dragons

New York has been successful with many AFL teams calling the state home

Albany has been able to draw crowds and produce, but unlike Atlantic City and Philadelphia or Baltimore and Washington, they don’t have a great geographic rival. So why not a cross state rivalry with Albany and Long Island?

Plus, the Dragons uniforms and color scheme were amazing and I would love to see a modern approach to the original design.

Chicago Rush

The Rush have a perfect set up in one of the best sports cities in America, that it makes too much sense not to bring them back.

There are about 14 sports arenas in the Chicago area it seems. In reality, the team succeeded in Rosemont, Illinois, with large crowds and a fun team to watch.

This could also bring the AFL more into the Midwest and become a gateway of possible Western expansion for the league.

Grand Rapids Rampage

After the XFL and AAF announced their team locations, several fans in the Detroit area were disappointed that their city wasn’t announced as a finalist. A small, but passionate fan base did bring up a possible return of the Grand Rapids Rampage.

While not the largest city in the AFL, Grand Rapids wouldn’t have much competition and seem to have a solid fan base.

Add in a potential rivalry with Columbus to create an old school Ohio vs Michigan feud.

Cleveland Gladiators

This makes the most sense out of all of these teams.

The league was successful in Cleveland, and with one team already in the state of Ohio, the league could look to going back to Cleveland.

It’s a safe move, which would be good for the league’s future. The Cleveland-Columbus rivalry could be fun and the return of the Philadelphia-Cleveland battles will be a treat for long time fans.

Whether the league looks to resurrect an old franchise, add a team from another league, or add their own expansion team in a completely different city, Arena Football fans should be excited about the future of the AFL.

Pros and Cons of bringing back the Georgia Force

by Richard Martin

It’s an exciting time for the Arena Football League. The League has expanded to Baltimore, Washington D.C., Atlantic City and Columbus over the past few years, and fans are anticipating  the return of more former franchises and more expansion teams in the next few years.

One team that I believe should return is the Georgia Force. The Force were a very successful franchise, winning the AFL’s Southern Division three times, appearing in ArenaBowl XIX and finished with an all-time record of 90-69.

Great players also stepped onto the turf at the Philips Arena and Gwinett Center, such as Matt Nagy, Maurice Purify, Tiger Jones, Carlos Martinez and Troy Bergeron.

The Force were an exciting team, and could be exciting if they ever make a return. However there are some expensive reasons for why the team shouldn’t return. Let’s look at a couple pros and cons of bringing back the Georgia Force.

Pro: Football in the South is successful

Football is king in the south. With the national success of the SEC and teams such as Clemson, UCF, Kennesaw State, and other colleges in the South, and the huge fan bases of teams like the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, the South is a hotbed for football.

Fans in the South will support football year round. Looking at the new AAF, the Atlanta Legends have been solid in attendance, averaging 10,000 fans a game in their first season at Turner Field.

There’s also a lot of talent located in the Atlanta area. A large school like Georgia Tech and smaller schools such as Kennesaw State, Clark Atlanta and Morehouse produce great talent, while several high school stars could come back home and chase their professional aspirations.

The Force were very popular in their heyday, averaging over 12,500 fans at their peak at Philips Arena. And while the crowd sizes diminished in their two year return at the Gwinnett Center, the crowds were energetic and fun. Probably because of the next pro…

Pro: Arena Football is affordable fun or all

Atlanta is expensive. Being one of the biggest cities in the South, the sports are aplenty, but can be expensive. A Braves baseball ticket for a weekend game can run up to $40 for a nosebleed seat, a ticket for the Hawks can be pricey, and with the success of the Falcons and the United, forget about easy tickets to the Benz.

Looking around the rest of the league, good season tickets can go for roughly $45-$60 for the whole season. Single game tickets for Arena Football games are usually fairly priced where you can get good seats and concessions without breaking the bank.

Plus, with the fast paced action of the AFL, younger fans can stay focused on the play on the field and enjoy the game.

Pro: The Infinite Energy Center is outside of Atlanta

If the Force returned, they probably wouldn’t play in the newly renovated State Farm Arena, but rather the Infinite Energy Center, formerly the Gwinett Center, just a few miles outside of Atlanta.

The arena is smaller and is away from Atlanta, meaning people coming down I-85 South wouldn’t have to deal with too much traffic.

The arena is successful at drawing crowds. UFC has hosted a couple of Fight Nights in the arena, and the Georgia Swarm lacrosse team of the NLL averages some of the largest crowds in the league.

The arena’s location is helpful, but it can also be a hindrance.

Con: The Infinite Energy Center is outside of Atlanta

While the traffic on I-85 South towards Atlanta isn’t too bad, the traffic on I-85 North from Atlanta can be a nightmare. This would add a lot of travel time if a game were on a Thursday or Friday night. Even on the weekends, this stretch of road is nightmarish.

Also, unlike SunTrust Park which has multiple restaurants and bars in the area, or like Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena which is in downtown Atlanta, Infinite Energy Center is kind of in a business section of town, away from everything without having to get on the interstate. It’s kind of a nit-pick, but it could be a reason fans wouldn’t show up.

Con: No local rivals and expensive travel

In the two runs in the AFL, the Force always had classic Southern Division rivalries with teams such as the Orlando Predators, Jacksonville Sharks and Tampa Bay Hurricanes.

In the Arena Football League now, there are no teams south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The closest team to Atlanta now is the Columbus Destroyers, which are 567 miles away. This would make it hard for die-hard fans to travel to games or to build rivalries with close teams.

This would also be expensive on the team, as flying to such far away destinations multiple times a season could be a strain on the pocketbook on whoever is in charge of travel expenses for the Force.

The league could maybe ask teams such as the aforementioned Sharks and Predators to return to the AFL, and could look to bring back teams such as the Tampa Bay Hurricanes or even the New Orleans VooDoo. But as for now, this could be a reason for the team not coming back for a while.

The Verdict

As of right now, the Georgia Force shouldn’t return. While the affordability and local stars will help out with attendance and fan support, the lack of a central Atlanta location and the travel expenses could be enough to hurt the team. Maybe in a few years if the AFL adds more teams in the southern United States, I could see it working. But as for now, us Southern folk will need to either buy plane tickets or plan road trips to go see high quality Arena Football.