Springfield, Mo., awarded Arena League football team

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 12:14 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:41 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Arena League awarded Springfield a franchise for the football league beginning in 2024.

NFL Hall of Famer and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown announced the decision on Thursday. He will serve as the league’s commissioner.

“We are excited to bring an innovative form of this great game to communities across the country,” said Brown. “We are ready to shake things up!”

The new team in Springfield will play in an arena under construction at the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds.

Springfield is the first-of-four teams that will comprise the league with three other teams to be named in the coming weeks.

The other cities that have been in the running include Little Rock, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Waterloo (Iowa), Rockford (Illinois), Dubuque (Iowa) Duluth (Minnesota), Wichita Falls (Texas) and Rochester (Minnesota). League officials say they want to keep the other franchises in the same region to cut down on travel expenses.

As to why Springfield was chosen as the very first member of the new indoor league?

“After visiting with different Chambers of Commerce groups and mayors and touring potential arenas, the reception that we got from the good people of Springfield was by far the most welcoming,” said Tommy Benizio, an Advisor for The Arena League.

The new league has so far made a three-year commitment to have the Springfield franchise play its games at the Wilson Logistics Arena which is currently under construction at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. The new multi-purpose facility, which replaces the old livestock arena, will seat around 4,500 fans for football and the chance to host AL games has officials there excited.

“It’s amazing,” said Ozark Empire Fairgrounds General Manager Casey Owen. “We’re fair people so we know we can do cattle shows, expos and things like that. But we never thought we’d get the opportunity to do something like this. Our eventual goal is to have something going on there 52 weekends a year.”

Here’s a look at the league:

  • June-August schedule
  • 10-game schedule (8 regular season, 2 pre-season)
  • 50-yard field
  • 6 Players on the field with a 15-player roster
  • 20-second play clock
  • Interactive fan experience

Brown explained that the interactive fan experience means fans will be able to listen in on the play-calling between the coaches and the players.

“And then there’s my favorite part because I’ve had some problems with officials over the years,” he added. “At the end of the game the fans are going to be able to judge the officials. As players and coaches we get judged so let’s put them in the spotlight too.”

The new Springfield franchise will be unveiling a logo, team colors and uniforms in the coming months but from now until the beginning of April you can vote on what the mascot should be.

CLICK HERE to enter a contest for the new name.

“I want everyone to vote on what the team should be called,” Benizio told the crowd. “Does anybody know about the great cobra scare of 1953? I thought that was cool. And I love Route 66. Or how about ‘The Cashew Chickens’? Maybe not a good football name?”

The Arena League says it will be looking for young players coming out of college who are looking to get noticed by the more-established leagues.

In other words it’s a developmental system much like minor league baseball.

“You have the Canadian Football League that’s probably the equivalent of AAA baseball compared to the NFL,” Brown explained. “Then you’ve got the XFL and the USFL out there as well. So we’re trying to help get our kids to that next level.”

“There’s just a lot of great players who were on an NFL team briefly and went through a training camp before being released,” Benizio added. “Here is a second opportunity to get those statistics and put together a highlight reel that will help them use The Arena League as a stepping stone to get back towards the NFL.”

Over the years there have been a host of indoor and outdoor football leagues that have come-and-gone and there’s even another entity named Arena League that starting in 2024 with 16 members.

So the new indoor football effort that includes Springfield will face plenty of competition in its attempt to survive and thrive.

But the message being delivered at the initial news conference was about the potential for the community.

“This is about tourism,” said Springfield Team Advisor Kirk Elmquist, a long-time administrator for several sports operations in the Ozarks. “The more bodies we bring here, the more revenue we’re going to create for our marketplace. We have visionaries putting together this arena and we need to get behind them. We all need to be plow horses in this effort. Don’t sit in the wagon.”

The team is now accepting deposits (starting at $10 per seat) on season tickets which start at $90. Tickets to an individual game will run around $15 for adults and $12 for kids 12-and-under. You can go to www.ALspringfield.com for more information.

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