Indoor football coming to Tucson in '11

2010-06-14T00:00:00Z Indoor football coming to Tucson in '11Ryan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 14, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Take heart, Tucson sports fans.

We're actually getting - and not losing - a sports franchise.

Tucson has been awarded an expansion franchise in the Indoor Football League, with the first game scheduled for March. The yet-to-be named team (see box) will hold a news conference this afternoon at Westin La Paloma.

Owner and president Dart Clark believes Tucson is large - and passionate - enough to support a professional team.

However, the city's recent track record is disastrous: The Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders left town following the 2008 season, while the Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks all have abandoned the Old Pueblo for new spring training digs near Phoenix.

"With Tucson losing baseball, we thought it definitely needed something," Clark said. "Tucson's a sports town. We feel like Tucson is definitely large enough to house a professional football team."

Here's what you need to know about Tucson's team to be named later:

The league: Tucson's team will play in the 25-team Indoor Football League, a smaller rival of the Arena Football League, now in its second season. Tucson will be the linchpin of a new Southwest Division, one that could include teams from Prescott; Fresno, Calif.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Albuquerque; or El Paso.

All five cities have been offered expansion franchises.

"We'd really only need three or four teams in the division to make it work," Clark said. "Ultimately, we'd like to see seven or eight teams in the Southwest Division. That would make it more of a 'bus league', which would cut our travel costs significantly."

The season: The Indoor Football League's season runs from March until July.

Teams play on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Playoffs are a 16-team, single-elimination tournament culminating in the United Bowl. The Billings (Mont.) Outlaws defeated the River City (Mo.) Rage 71-62 to win last year's championship.

The roster: Team officials will mine the CFL, AFL, European Football League and - of course - the UA to fill out its roster.

A handful of former Wildcats, including record-setting quarterback Willie Tuitama, could still be available next spring.

"There are a lot of players from the U of A," Clark said. "We're going to bring in some very good talent."

Tucson's franchise should have a coach in place in the next two months, Clark said.

The arena: Tucson's new team will play its home games at Tucson Convention Center, home of the Arizona Icecats hockey team.

"There's a 6,300 seating capacity at TCC. If we have 2,000 people a game, we're going to be successful based on the business plan we have now," Clark said.

The vibe: Though arena football typically brings out a lusty crowd looking for quick scoring and big hits, Clark said Tucson's franchise will focus on families.

That means cheap tickets and food and kid-friendly promotions.

The West Texas Roughnecks offer single-game tickets ranging from $5 to $35. Season tickets start at $136. Tickets for the Corpus Christi Hammerheads range from $7 to $37.

Tucson's tickets should be in the same price range.

"It'll be very family-based," Clark said. "But at the same time, it'll be very competitive. … This will be a great place in the off-season for people to get out and watch football."

 

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