Greensboro is back in the arena of indoor football. Officials from the National Indoor Football League announced earlier this week that Greensboro has been awarded an expansion franchise that is set to take the field in March. This will be the Gate City’s second attempt at fielding a successful indoor football franchise. From 2000-2003, the Greensboro Prowlers of the Arena2 League called the Coliseum home. That team, owned by local attorney Art Donaldson, could never establish a solid financial footing, finally calling it quits in ’03.
NIFL officials are hopeful that Greensboro will take to the new team as they did during the Prowlers first season when the that team averaged nearly 6,000 fans per game. Interest wand in the Prowlers in subsequent seasons. Greensboro’s new franchise will be faced with the challenge of keeping the interest of the Gate City’s oft time fickle sports fans after the initial excitement about the team fades away.
More details about the team, such as the team’s name, schedule and ownership will be forth coming. Here’s what we do know: The NIFL game is similar to the indoor game played by the Arena2 League. The 50-yard field is the same and the league will feature a 14 game schedule. Also, Greensboro is set to play in a division with in-state foes Fayetteville and Charlotte. Officials hope that such a pairing might generate the same sort of natural geographic rivalries that Greensboro’s hockey teams have enjoyed in the past with such cities as Charlotte and Raleigh.
Speaking of hockey, if the Greensboro Coliseum’s Matt Brown has his way, 2006 will also see the return of hockey to the Old Barn on West Lee. Discussion are ongoing with both the ECHL and UHL about placing a team in Greensboro for the upcoming season. Greensboro has proven in the past that it can support hockey and in a big way. The Greensboro Monarchs had a very successful run in the ECHL in the late ’80s and early ’90s. After an unsuccessful transition to the AHL and a higher level of play, interest in hockey began to sag. The Greensboro Generals brought ECHL hockey back town at the beginning of this decade but the Generals could never ignite the excitement that the previous ECHL Monarchs had produced.
After a rocky financial go of it, the Generals ceased operations in 2004. Along with the demise of the football Prowlers, these events seemed to signal a bleak future for minor league sports in Greensboro. In 2005, the city’s minor league sports outlook took a turn for the better as Greensboro minor league baseball team, the Grasshoppers, moved into their new downtown stadium. Under the leadership of GM Donald Moore, the Grasshoppers proved their critics wrong and the new stadium was an attendance success as more than 400,000 fans flocked to the new “Ball Yard of Bellemede” last season. .The Hoppers success seems to have inspired the folks at the Coliseum to get back into the game. The trick will be to get the fans of Greensboro inspired about returning to the Coliseum. The right mix of promotion, affordability and on field (ice) product should get people motivated. The larger concern might be finding the right ownership and management who can get it right and come up with a winning formula both on and off the field. If so, the Coliseum’s new tenants can enjoy the same level of success that Moore’s Grasshoppers achieved this past season.