Nothing is finalized, but there are growing indications that the Spokane Shock soon will be part of the top tier of a revamped arena football league.
“I’m as excited as I’ve been in four years, which is saying a lot because we’ve had a lot of exciting times,” said Shock majority owner Brady Nelson, whose team won two arenafootball2 titles in four seasons.
“I was asked every single year: Would you ever join the AFL? And I always said, ‘No, it wouldn’t make any sense.’ Under the new scenario, it does make sense and I think we’re going to have a chance to play in a little bigger pond and have the big boys come to town and see what it’s like to play in our building.”
Nelson said he can’t discuss specifics because details are still being worked out, but the new league could have 12-15 teams, including four former af2 franchises, several from the defunct AFL and a few expansion teams.
Former af2 teams could include Spokane, Tulsa, Iowa and Milwaukee. Utah, Arizona, San Jose, Orlando, Tampa Bay and Chicago – all part of the AFL, which folded after the 2008 season – have been mentioned as candidates for the new league.
“It’s possible we won’t know 100 percent of the teams, but if we get to a point where we have the necessary commitments we would probably make the announcement that it’s a go,” Jeff Lamberti, a principal owner for the Iowa Barnstormers, told the Des Moines Register.
There’s also expected to be a lower-tier league that would include Boise and Tri-Cities, Spokane’s rivals in the af2 West Division. At this point, crossover games aren’t anticipated.
Players in the top-tier league likely would make $400 per game for the first season, up from the $200 (plus $50 for a win) per-game salary in af2.
An official announcement isn’t expected for at least a week or two. The new league hopes to announce a schedule sometime in October.
Spokane is actively recruiting players, Nelson said. The new alignment could prompt more Shock players to return in 2010. Nelson also hopes to retain head coach Adam Shackleford, who led the Shock to a 19-1 record and ArenaCup championship last season.
“It’s like the Wild West right now,” Nelson said. “Previously our players were under contract until Oct. 15. Now, anyone can talk to anyone. We’re recruiting and telling players we’re going to be playing arena football at the highest level in the country.”