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
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
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.
The date was July 7, 2007. It was supposed to be a somber day for the AFL team from Columbus. The Columbus Destroyers were playing one of the best teams to ever suit up in the Arena Football League. The Dallas Desperados were having a record breaking year and finding new ways to win each week. One of the best quarterbacks in AFL history, Clint Dolezel, was having a season to remember piling up record after record and win after win. The Destroyers with a record of 8 wins and 9 losses were supposed to go on the road and get absolutely destroyed by the Desperados, who were coming off a first round bye with a record of 15 wins and only 1 loss. Except, it did not happen like that at all.
The Destroyers, led by Matt Nagy, trailed early on and even got down by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter. Everyone on ESPN thought that the game was over and that Dallas would be one more win away from the ArenaBowl. Being a diehard Columbus fan, I never lost any hope as I sat next to my living room TV wearing my Columbus Destroyer jersey. Nagy would lead the team on an incredible run as Columbus would score 31 of the next 34 points. The Destroyers leading receiver for the year, Damien Groce, would end up having a career game and the team from Columbus ended up with a 66-59 victory in Dallas.
This game shocked the whole league and the entire state of Ohio. Columbus had a team advancing to the National Conference Championship game. If you are from Ohio, you eat, you sleep, and you breathe the game of football from an early age. There is way too much history in the state of Ohio not to be a football fan. The game originated in the great city of Canton. There are two of the most storied high school football teams in the country in Massillon Washington and Canton McKinley. The capital of the state has one of the most successful collegiate football programs in the history of the NCAA in The Ohio State Buckeyes. The list goes on and on, so having an Arena Football Team make a conference title game is more popular than most of any state’s collegiate team. The Destroyers ended up beating the Georgia Force seven days later, as they would advance to their first ever ArenaBowl. The city of Columbus and the state of Ohio was in a frenzy. Two weeks later, the San Jose SaberCats would put the Columbus Destroyers to rest as they dominated the ArenaBowl winning by a margin of 22 points.
Everyone thought that this team would be back in the thick of the playoff race the following year, but the Destroyers could never gain any momentum throughout the season struggling to a 3 and 13 record. The city knew in their mind that the Destroyers would rebuild and be back sooner than later until the AFL released devastating news in 2009. The 2009 Arena Football season would be suspended and play would resume back up in 2010. When 2010 came around, the Destroyers would not return to the league. Arena Football in Columbus was over. Gone. The pain of losing a team, that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into every weekend, was gone and all that was left were the memories. All in a blink of an eye, the Columbus Destroyers left and all hope was gone.
Flash forward to February 7, 2019. I am sitting at work when suddenly my phone vibrates. BREAKING NEWS: THE ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE WILL ADD A TEAM IN COLUMBUS, OHIO FOR THE 2019 SEASON. I could not believe what I read. I read it again and again, dumbfounded, staring at my phone like a little kid on Christmas morning. Arena Football is officially back in the city of Columbus. My childhood memories will become a reality once again as I get to watch the best sport in the world in the best city in the country. As the season approaches, I, along with every other Columbus Fan, find ourselves reading about the Columbus AFL TEAM everyday. All of us Columbus nuts are counting down the days until April 27th and our team returns to Nationwide Arena. I think I speak for the entire fanbase in saying that AFL football is back in Columbus, so why not win an ArenaBowl title this year? The clock is ticking closer to the season, the countdown has begun, and the anticipation for AFL football is back in the great city of Columbus!