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.
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.