It has been quiet on the Arena Football League expansion front. Too quiet.
But with the Arena Bowl set for this weekend, what better time than your biggest game of the year for the leaks about new teams to start leaking out?
Buried way at the end of this story from the South Philly Review is this nugget:
Sources have revealed the Arena Football League is expanding with teams in Albany, N.Y. and Newark, N.J.
Hey now, that’s a pretty big scoop, and two interesting markets.
We’ll start with Albany, which has a rich history with the Arena Football League an AF2. The original Firebirds played in the AFL from 1990 to 2000 before relocating to Indianapolis.
Over those 11 seasons in Albany the Firebirds were 88-60, and captured Arena Bowl XIII in 1999 with a win over the Orlando Predators. Perhaps more impressive, the Firebirds averaged 11,221 fans per game over their existence in Albany (per ArenaFan.com) and never had a crowd of less than 7,800.
After the Firebirds left, an AF2 team, the Albany Conquest (later the Firebirds in the 2009 season) played from 2002 to 2009, and averaged about 5,000 fans per game over those years.
My guess is that if this team is in fact real, they will return to the Times Union Center, which holds just under 14,000 fans for its Arena Football configuration.
The other market in this is a big one, literally, with Newark being the second biggest city in the New York metropolitan area, and home to plenty of pro teams like the New Jersey Devils, New York Red Bulls, and is pretty dang close to the Meadowlands where the NFL’s Giants and Jets play.
Newark only has a population of 277,140, but is very close to New York City. When it comes to big markets that the Arena Football League could have jumped into, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. I’d also venture a guess that the team will be named New York, to try to appeal to TV viewers. They will likely play at the Prudential Center.
Both of the arenas in these towns are owned by the people who own the New Jersey Devils, so this also matches up with the AFL wanting owners who are established in other pro leagues.
This is also a big blow to the National Arena League, who had previously announced that Trenton was getting a team for the 2018 season.
This news lines up with everything I’ve read and seen in regards to rumors that the league wants to be based on the east coast for now, and have steady owners before it begins westward expansion again.
But these two teams only brings the AFL to seven at the moment, which also makes me think we aren’t done with expansion talk. Ted Leonsis, owner of the Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor, had previously said he’s like to see the league have 8 to 12 teams for 2018.
So it will be worth watching to see where the eighth team might pop up. Previously the league said it had been eyeing St. Louis as a potential expansion candidate, especially after the Rams left town.