Arena Football League looking at Pittsburgh
By Karen Price, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The Arena Football League is rebooting in April, and new commissioner Jerry Kurz said Wednesday he's confident Pittsburgh will be part of a planned 2011 expansion.
"It's pretty far along (in the process)," Kurz said. "We're hoping for them to be a 2011 team, but there are a lot of things it depends on, building availability, things like that. ... But it is a place we will be."
Kurz declined to name the ownership group the AFL is in talks with, but confirmed that it is not the Penguins.
"We've had two groups apply, but only one serious group, and it's a well-known local business family that has expressed interest before," Kurz said.
Part of the reason Kurz is so secure in saying a team will play in Pittsburgh is because of the anticipated opening of the Consol Energy Center. Kurz said it wouldn't make sense to have a new building not being used as much as it should.
Yet, Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the hockey team, which owns the building and would lease the space to any other teams that played there, has not been contacted by anyone involved with the Arena Football League.
"With the new arena, we're obviously looking to bring lots of new and different events to Pittsburgh, so if there's an owner who wanted to talk to us, we'd certainly talk to them," McMillan said. "But we haven't heard from anyone at this point."
Pittsburgh hasn't had an arena football team since 1990, when the Gladiators moved to Tampa after four years at the Civic Arena. The Gladiators were one of the league's original four teams.
The AFL will return after folding in December 2008. The league will begin play in April with a 16-game schedule and 15 teams from both the former AFL and arenafootball2, with plans to expand in 2011 to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Southern California and Denver.
This isn't the first time there's been talk of an AFL revival in Pittsburgh.
Steve Greenberg, former Pirates vice president and current professor of sports marketing at Duquesne, said that with the city's appetite for football and the opening of the Consol Energy Center, an AFL franchise could be successful.
"For any team playing in a new facility, I think there's a benefit," he said. "People will want to go see the hockey team play, but people will also go to see football, especially if they won't have the availability for hockey tickets. The new facility will be a draw as well as the sport itself."
Former Penguins president Tom Rooney, a first cousin to the Steelers' Rooney family, said he does not believe the local NFL team is involved with any potential AFL ownership group. But he also isn't surprised that talk of playing in Pittsburgh has resurfaced.
"It did very well for a short time here," Rooney said. "You know how football-crazy Pittsburgh is. It could be successful."
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