Indoor football league to play game at York City Ice Arena, test York as 2013 expansion market
Professional indoor football in York, organizers hope, could be about moments like this:
An 8-year-old girl and her mother sat so close to the field that a player joked with them during the middle of a game - then snagged a handful of their popcorn.
The girl giggled.
The mom was hooked.
It's a scene officials in American Indoor Football say is part of the attraction of their game that will get a one-night stand in York - and maybe a permanent home here not long after. The AIF has announced it will hold one of its league games at the York City Ice Arena at 7 p.m. on April 14 to gauge interest in possibly making York a regular member the following year.
The game will feature the Harrisburg Stampede and the Virginia Badgers from Fredericksburg. Tickets are $10 per person with packages costing $30 for a family of four.
League CEO John Morris lives in Bel Air, Md., and is the co-owner of the Harrisburg team. His league also features a team in Laurel, Md., and will start another in Baltimore next year. He credits the interest of York Mayor Kim Bracey, the support of Stampede sponsor WellSpan Health and even the success of the York Revolution baseball team with fueling his expansion ideas here.
The league is all about cheap ticket prices, non-stop action and player accessibility. If a football accidentally flies into the stands during a game, fans keep it. Players often will throw T-shirts to the crowd and engage in autograph and picture-taking sessions on the field.
"We try to weigh everything and, quite frankly, I haven't seen any cons in the York area," Morris said. "People of Pennsylvania absolutely love their football. That's what we're banking on. The success of the Revolution and the love of football.
"My goal is not just to come into the city but be successful."
Morris said he is "very optimistic" of York getting a permanent team, which would play homes games either at the ice rink or at the Toyota Arena on the York Expo Center grounds. League officials are hoping to draw around 1,000 fans for the April 14 game in York. Morris said he would like a permanent facility here to have a seating capacity close to 3,000.
For at least one day, the ice arena will be transformed into a 50-yard football field. The hockey rink glass will be removed, the dasher boards will be padded, artificial turf will be installed and goal posts will be suspended from the ceiling. Earlier that day, a youth football clinic will be held at the arena. For $25, kids will get drill instruction from players, a T-shirt and a ticket to that night's game. "To me it's a no-brainer," said Mike Cleveland, general manager of York's ice arena. "For the type of places they host events at, I thought this was a natural fit."
He added that portable seating could push the ice arena to a capacity of 2,000 or more as a regular indoor football home. "I'm extremely excited. The (football) season matches up well with the downsizing of when we take one of our ice sheets out. It works perfect for what we do with the rink and what they try to do."
The 12-team AIF includes a western division with teams in California and Arizona. League play begins in March and runs into June with a title game in July.
Some of its players saw time in the NFL or the Canadian Football League. Most all played on Division I or Division II college teams. Harrisburg, which is entering its fourth season in the league, plays its games at the Farm Show Arena and draws anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 fans for games, Morris said.
"What a great rivalry that would be, to have the Harrisburg Stampede come to York and play their team," Morris said. And with two other teams in Maryland, York "would be right in the middle of everything."
York's future with the league should be decided by mid-May, Morris said.
For more information and to purchase tickets for the game or to register for the clinic, go to www.harrisburgstampede.com.
Original Article Copyright: York Daily Record
By FRANK BODANI
Daily Record/Sunday News