Thompson and Rhone are co-owners of the Maryland Reapers, who will begin play in April with home games at Gardens Ice House in Laurel. The Repaers are part of a newly formed league, American Indoor Football, which has six teams. The league has plans for East and West divisions, with additional East division teams based in Fayetteville, N.C., Harrisburg, Pa., and Fredericksburg, Va. Prescott Valley, Ariz., and Rancho Cordova, Calif., also will have teams.
When they begin play in 2012, the Reapers will be the county’s third indoor football franchise in a span of six years. The Chesapeake Tide played at Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro in 2007 and 2008. The Maryland Maniacs were based at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House in College Park for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The Tide and Maniacs struggled to gain a following in a metropolitan market saturated with college and pro sports, as well as other diversions. Thompson said he is confident the Reapers will succeed where the Tide and Maniacs did not.
“First off, we have a stronger ownership group,” said Thompson, who played eight seasons of minor league football. “Secondly, we’re out in the community and we are a community-based league.”
The Reapers will have at least one tie to the county’s previous indoor football franchises. Matthew Steeple, who coached the Tide and Maniacs, will guide the Reapers. Steeple said the Reapers have an edge that will allow the organization to have some staying power.
Thompson acknowledged the team will have to work hard to make its presence felt in the region. He said Reapers’ players and cheerleaders will be out in the community, making appearances at shopping centers to let area residents know about the team.
“We just have to market,” he said. “We have a marketing director. “We’ve already been in the community.”
The team has signed eight players, including indoor football veteran Steve Savoy, a wide receiver who played for the Arena Football League’s Kansas City Command last year and is a native of Washington, D.C. The Reapers also signed quarterback Mike Fitzgerald, who played with the Tide and Maniacs.
Thompson said the team will hold a tryout in January and two more in February, but the dates and locations have not been determined. The Reapers plan to begin preseason practice the first week of March with 40 players, before cutting down to 30 before the season begins. Twenty players will suit up for each game in the 8-on-8 league, with 10 players inactive for each game.
The Reapers will play on the Gardens Ice House’s Patrick Rink, which is the largest of the facility’s three surfaces. The rink can accommodate about 1,500 spectators. Ice will be removed from surface April 11, and the Reapers play their first game April 14. The team has additional home dates April 21, May 5 and May 27. Thompson said the league has not released an official schedule that includes road games.
General admission seats will be $12 while priority seating ranges from $18 to $25. Thompson said renting Gardens Ice House will cost between $5,000 and $8,000 per game. He added that he has purchased a turf field from another indoor football team for about $20,000.
“I’ve played on teams that folded,” he said. “The important thing is taking care of your players and handling all of the business issues. Our goal is just winning and giving the fans what they want and being people friendly while making the kids feel that they had something special. We want to show them that there’s other ways to be a professional athlete.”
Original Article: New indoor football team prepares for 2012 season. Maryland Reapers will play at Gardens Ice House in Laurel