Six months after the city’s minor league hockey team departed, arena football is returning to Albany for the first time since 2009. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at Tuesday’s announcement at the Times Union's Hearst Media Center.
Business and government leaders say "the good times are back in Albany," hailing the Arena Football League’s return as a "family-friendly, affordable, high-tech sporting experience." It also means a second anchor tenant for the Times Union Center, along with Siena basketball.
Former NFL coach Dick Vermeil is one of the owners of the new group in Albany. "Here's a place that young kids, Mom and Dad, take them to the game, and they can watch people play football and they leave there with a great feeling about football, the game that it really is."
Previous incarnations of the Arena Football League were initially hugely popular in Albany, which lost the Albany Devils minor league hockey team earlier this year. The Times Union Center hosted the Albany Conquest and the Albany Firebirds at two different levels of arena football. But Albany hasn’t had a team at the top level since the Firebirds moved to Indianapolis after the 2000 season. Now, the local ownership group is partnering with the Philadelphia Soul.
AFL Commissioner Scott Butera: "You're in for something that you've never seen before. This is a whole new brand of excitement and marrying a traditional sport with state-of-the-art technology, and you're in for a real treat."
Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber is happy that Albany can once again support an AFL team. "Little did I know that we'd be able to not only bring a team back, but we've have shared ownership from the AFL Arena Bowl Championship team in Philadelphia in back-to-back years, where they're actually going to own a piece of Albany and our local Albany group will also own a piece of the Philadelphia team."
Belber is confident the merger will help attract national brand sponsorship and control costs on uniforms, for example.
The league enters its 31st season in 2018. The Albany team is conducting a search for a head coach who will be charged with assembling a staff and roster. Mayor Kathy Sheehan is a huge sports fan. "I was a season ticketholder for our hockey team. I love football, I've always loved football. I was the commissioner of my son's Pop Warner team and really loved the involvement of everything and all of the excitement, and so I go into withdrawal when the football season ends, and so it's so exciting to know that it's gonna be extended and we're gonna have this opportunity."
Beside Albany, teams slated for 2018 include: Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Washington. CBS Sports Network broadcasts AFL games each week, culminating with the ArenaBowl.
The person that submitS the team name that Is ultimately selected will receive a special team prize pack.
Fans can secure their season tickets for the new Albany arena football team now with a $50 deposit per seat ($75 for VIP seats) by calling 518-533-2200 or by going to AlbanyAFL.com. A team representative will contact those that have submitted a deposit in the upcoming 1-2 weeks to select their specific seats, which will be done in the order in which deposits were received.