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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Shock officially announce return beginning in March 2020

Spokane Shock majority owner Sam Adams smiles during a news conference at the Spokane Arena announcing the return of the arena football team on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Dozens of orange-clad patrons lined up in front of the Spokane Arena on Friday, a few excitedly hollering about the impending confirmation.

Former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro defensive tackle and new Spokane Shock majority owner Sam Adams formally announced the team’s return to a group of reporters and fans, bringing indoor football back to the Lilac City after a two-year hiatus.

The Shock will be a member of the Indoor Football League and will begin their season in March 2020.

The Shock’s former affiliation, the Arena Football League, ceased operations earlier this week after 32 seasons.

“I believe Spokane is the best market in the country,” said Adams, who previously owned indoor football teams in Everett and Cincinnati. “It has the best fans, and it’s always had the best teams.

“We’re going to build something special here that you can be proud of, our families can be proud of, and we’re going to go across the country and demonstrate what Spokane is, how you play football and how you win championships,” Adams said.

The Shock previously existed from 2006-15, winning af2 championships (the AFL’s second tier) in 2006 and 2009 before bumping up to the AFL in 2010 – winning the ArenaBowl in their first year.

The organization rebranded itself as the Spokane Empire in 2016, playing two seasons in their new league, the IFL, before ceasing operations after the 2017 season.

The team averaged 10,000-plus fans at the Arena from 2007-11, but that figure faded to 4,682 per game by 2017.

Bringing back the Shock brand to Spokane was vital, Adams said.

“When I think of Spokane, I think of the Shock,” Adams said. “The name is very important. This team has a rich history of being the Shock. It was unfortunate what happened with the Empire. I’m thankful for everyone who helped pave the way for us, and we felt that the Shock name was only thing we could pick for Spokane.”

Former Shock and Empire owner Nader Naini attempted to acquire the Shock trademark from the AFL but declined, with the price tag in excess of $300,000, resulting in the Empire name.

Naini acquired the Shock trademark about a year after the franchise folded, trading the Empire name to the AFL in exchange for the Shock trademark. Adams “worked it out” with Naini to acquire the Shock brand.

“I sweet-talked him a little bit,” Adams said.

The IFL had 12 teams in 2018, including longtime arena football organizations Arizona Rattlers, Iowa Barnstormers and Sioux Falls Storm.

Joining Adams in the Shock’s front office is general manager and president David Gravenkemper, whose career in sports management ranged in marketing and sales in the MLB, NCAA, NBA and minor league baseball. Real estate developers Kevin Taylor and Zuri Hector are also Shock owners and investors.

The Shock also announced some personnel for their 2020 team, including new head coach Billy Back.

Back, who was the head coach of the National Arena League’s Carolina Cobras before resigning in September, has an overall 106-38 arena record, including five championship seasons.

Back is bringing along his Cobras quarterback, Charles McCullum, one of the IFL’s most decorated signal callers. McCullum, a two-time IFL MVP in his previous stops, is roughly 1,000 yards short of breaking the IFL’s all-time career passing mark.

Another former Cobra, All-IFL receiver Jordan Jolly, is also joining the Shock’s roster.

Adams said the Shock’s 25-man roster is being pieced together but will feature a few players who played in NFL training camps, some ex-Empire players and players from local colleges.

Former Empire offensive lineman Jonah Austin, a Spokane resident, was among the new Shock players at the introductory press conference.

“The team that we’re building could probably smack 90 percent, if not all of (the recently folded Arena Football League teams) right now, and we’re not even full yet,” Adams said.

The Shock’s 14-game regular-season schedule, which has yet to be released, will feature seven home games at the Arena.

Season ticket information can be found at

Spokane Shock fans line up at the Spokane Arena before a press conference announcing the return of the arena football team on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Shock fans line up at the Spokane Arena before a press conference announcing the return of the arena football team on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo