The men in suits approached the Tucson Arena podium one at a time. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, indoor football legend Kevin Guy and the others spoke about how excited they were to be starting the Tucson …
Tucson’s Indoor Football League squad is the team to be named later. Those in search of name recognition, however, won’t have to look far.
Guy, championship-winning coach of the IFL’s Arizona Rattlers, and his wife, Cathy, will serve as the team’s primary owners. Tucson attorney Ali Farhang, founder of the Arizona Bowl, is a minority owner. Mike Feder, a longtime Tucson sports figure, will serve as the team’s executive director.
The local feel will make it “Tucson’s team,” Guy said, even if he’ll stay coaching the Rattlers (more on that later).
Tucson becomes the seventh franchise in the IFL, with an eighth team expected to join the league soon. Tucson’s expansion team joins franchises in Phoenix; Des Moines, Iowa; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Sioux Falls, Iowa; Grand Island, Nebraska and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Ownership considered joining Champions Indoor Football, which includes teams in Texas and Nebraska. It’s unclear if it discussed playing in the Arena Football League, former home of the Rattlers. The AFL’s status (and footprint) have shrunk in recent years. Its four teams — Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and Albany, N.Y. — are all driving distance from each other.
The IFL’s regular-season schedule will run from late February until June, with once-weekly games taking place on Friday or Saturday nights. The United Bowl, the IFL’s championship game, is typically held in early July.
IFL commissioner Mike Allshouse said the length and timing of the indoor football season should fit perfect with a college sports market like Tucson.
“It’s an untapped market,” he said. “This is a niche product that’s going to fill the lull season in the sports world from March to April and running until (UA) football starts up again in the fall.”
Thursday’s announcement capped a year of negotiations between Guy, the IFL and — recently — the city. Last month, the Rio Nuevo board unanimously approved the $400,000 necessary to transform Tucson Arena from a hockey venue to a football one during the offseason. The football team will join the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League and the UA club hockey team as the arena’s main sports tenants. The three teams’ seasons will overlap, albeit briefly.
Guy sought out — and received — approval from his Rattlers bosses to own the Tucson team, even though he’ll continue to coach the Phoenix franchise. The juggling likely won’t last forever; Guy’s daughter is a high-school junior who plans to attend the UA in two years. Kevin and Cathy Guy could conceivably follow her to Tucson.
“Mama’s not going to be far from daughter,” Kevin Guy said. “We feel like this is the perfect fit for our family and our community.”
Allshouse said the league has rules in place to prevent collusion between franchises. He said arrangements like Guy’s are “not unique in the indoor and minor-league industry,” and that the league was willing to permit the move in part because of the coach-slash-owner’s reputation. Guy has been involved with indoor football for 23 years as a player, assistant coach, head coach and general manager. He is 128-45 as a head coach and has won three Arena Bowls and one United Bowl.
“If it was any lesser of a person than Kevin Guy,” he said, “I don’t think they’d be able to accomplish it.”
Guy said he’s already found Tucson’s first coach, the identity of whom will be announced in the coming weeks. The club is hosting a name-the-team contest. Fans can submit up to two names per person on tucsonindoorfootball.com; whoever is the first to select the winning entry gets two sideline season tickets, worth about $400.
Farhang, the minority owner, has a name in mind. Speaking Thursday, he called the community’s recent successes — a bowl game, a hockey team, a revamped arena and a revitalized downtown — part of a Tucson renaissance.
“Tucson Renaissance,” he said, “isn’t a bad name, either.”
“To consistently serve our Guests (Ticket Holders), Partners (Sponsors), and our Homes (Teams Cities) with the highest level of professional indoor football, and to do so with integrity, affordability, and passion, both on the field and around the communities in which we play.”
The Indoor Football League was founded in 2008, and has just concluded its 10th season in 2018.
Tucson Convention Center Arena in downtown Tucson has been host to a variety of shows and events. TCC is operated by SMG. SMG is the “gold standard” in public facility management and they have the programs, systems and talent in place to ensure that all SMG-managed facilities run smoothly and every event they host feels like a celebration.
The Tucson Convention Center / Arena is host to more than 500,000 guests annually, and is home to the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners.
The team name and team colors have yet to be announced.
For more information visit www.tucsonindoorfootball.com or you can follow the team on Twitter at @tucsonindoorfb, Facebook at Tucson Indoor Football.