Rockford had an arena football team about a decade ago. Might the city land another arena team at some point?
The Rock River Raptors played here for four seasons from 2006 through 2009 first in the United Indoor Football League and then in the Continental Indoor Football League. The attendance was good in 2007 when the team averaged 3200 fans per game. That did drop off to 2200 per game in 2008. The action was highly entertaining, but the team went dormant in 2010 and that was the end of it.
I bring this up because a new arena football league called the National Gridiron League (NGL) is starting up in 2019. It will begin play in March and the season will run through early August. 12 teams will compete in two divisions in mid-major to major size cities.
So far three locations have been announced for franchises Evansville, Indiana, Topeka, Kansas and Roanoke, Virginia. The league is currently advertising for players from the Rockford area who might be interested in playing with its teams.
I reached out Thursday to the NGL director of football operations William Alford in an email to see if there is any interest in putting a team in Rockford. His response was, “As of now, there are no plans to place a team in Rockford. We are looking at players in the area but the city has been discussed about a potential expansion team in the future.”
I then reached out to BMO Harris Bank Center Executive Director and General Manager Troy Flynn in another email to see if there is any interest in pursuing an arena football team. He indicated that he has not had any contact with the NGL but he says he would welcome a conversation with league officials.
Flynn also stated in the email that an arena football team, “Could be a nice compliment to the IceHogs.”
Once the IceHogs season ends the BMO Harris Bank Center through much of the spring and summer remains quiet with the exception of a few concerts and conferences.
I would expect some sort of conversation to take place soon between Flynn and NGL officials. There are some embers of interest flickering. Perhaps we will one day will see arena football back in Rockford.
During my 5 p.m. sportscast Thursday I conducted an interactive poll with the viewers to gauge how much interest there is in an arena football league team. 57% indicated they are interested, 29 percent said they are not interested and 14% said they don’t care.