Over the past few seasons we’ve seen the Indoor Football League (IFL) expand westward with the addition of the Arizona Rattlers, Tucson Sugar Skulls, and San Diego Strike Force. This year it was announced the IFL would be heading to Oakland, California in 2020 headed by California native Roy Choi who also owns two other IFL franchises, the Cedar Rapids River Kings and San Diego Strike Force. The IFL expanding westward is also key because it’s a race against the Arena Football League (AFL) for territory and markets. The AFL has found stable footing again and has already started talking about heading west again in the future.
There are many great markets on the west coast that have hosted teams before and could potentially do so again. Looking at where the IFL is right now and addition of Oakland next season let’s talk about markets that have hosted a team before and why it’d make sense to return to that market under the right owner. Markets we’ll look at are Salt Lake City, Boise, and Stockton.
Salt Lake City, Utah has a rich history of arena football with the Utah Blaze of the AFL and most recently the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the IFL. The Utah Blaze existed from 2006-2013 and the Screaming Eagles lasted for just one season in 2017. A potential Salt Lake City franchise would have two main options for venues, either Vivint Smart Home Arena where the Blaze used to play for most of their existence. The other venue being the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah just about twenty minutes from SLC. The Blaze brought in a large amount of fans each game. The Screaming Eagles brought in a good amount of fans for an IFL franchise in their lone year of existence.
Boise, Idaho would be a prime market for the IFL. The FanChise team that turned out to be the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles could’ve been in Boise when fans were choosing the city of a potential team for the FanChise group where fans called almost all the shots. Right now the Idaho Horsemen are the only team in the Boise area. The Horsemen play at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa about twenty minutes from Boise and compete in the four team American West Football Conference (AWFC). The IFL being one of the bigger leagues out there would almost certainly cause the demise of the AWFC either by the Horsemen joining the IFL causing the other three teams to close up shop or the Horsemen and AWFC not being able to compete with the IFL. The Ford Idaho Center previously hosted the Idaho Stallions of the now defunct Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL) in 1999. A potential Boise IFL franchise could play in CenturyLink Arena which hosted the Boise Burn of the now defunct Arena Football 2 (AF2). The Burn played three seasons from 2007-2009 when the AF2 ceased operations. A benefit for a Boise franchise would be not having much competition aside from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads and the Boise Hawks baseball team of the Single-A Short Season Northwest League. They’d only have to share the building with the Big Sky Conference basketball tournament and the Steelheads. For most of the spring they’d be the main tenant in the building since the ECHL season ends in April and IFL starts in February.
The other prime market we’ll examine which would be a great rival for the incoming Oakland franchise is Stockton, California. Stockton Arena has hosted teams before with the Stockton Lightning of AF2 from 2006-2009 when AF2 shut down operations. The venue also hosted the California Eagles of the now defunct American Indoor Football (AIF) and the independent Stockton Wolves. The now defunct AFL franchise, the San Jose SaberCats played ArenaBowl 28 in Stockton Arena where they defeated the Jacksonville Sharks by a score of 68-47. A potential Stockton franchise would have to compete with the Stockton Rush of the MASL 2 or M2 for short for a portion of their season as well as the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Stockton Kings of the NBA G-League. Even with three other minor league franchises calling the venue home there should be no issue with fan support as fans in that area have the shown the ability to turn out for their team in the past. Some Oakland fans could make the trip to support their team when the two rivals go head to head as it’s about an hour drive between the two cities.