Arena Football Season Begins
It is hard to believe that it has been almost 20 years, but the Arena Football League is still kicking.
The Arena Football League begins its 20th season tonight with Las Vegas at Austin. There are 18 teams in major cities around the country and some of them are worth a great deal of money. The league has celebrity owners, a nice TV deal, and a growing fan base. Who would have thought it?
Jon Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, John Elway, Mike Ditka, Jerry Jones and Arthur Blank are some of the big names involved in ownership. The TV deal has NBC and FSN as partners. The league is looking at Washington, Boston and San Francisco as possible expansion sites, and attendance is up 41 percent since 2001.
"Our league has survived three times longer than any other professional football league in America other than the NFL," Commissioner David Baker said. "Arguably we are growing some of the finest ownership in sports. We have had in the last six years_ four of which are since 9/11 and have been tough years economically — nine teams join at the AFL level.
"In addition, we have developed af2 in the last six years, brought on some real strong regional development ownership. That is 35 teams, really, in the last six years. I don't think anybody else has grown like that."
"In the next 20 years, you'll see us way ahead of where we are now," said John Elway. "There's no question we needed it to strive to get exposure for the league. Myself and Jon coming on, it gave us credibility." In the next three or four or six years, the players are going to carry this game. The fans are going to recognize these players and relate with the players," Elway said. "For us to take the next step, we have to continue in that direction."
"This is a very personal interactive sport," said Baker, "Autographs, balls into the stands that fans can keep, the proximity of fans to the action. And we've barely begun to scratch the surface of what we can be."