Talks going on between Memorial Coliseum and another indoor football league

The Fort Wayne Freedom's Luther Stroder scores a touchdown in the final home game of the 2010 season, the last time the city had an indoor football team. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

Upon further review, there might be another down for indoor football in Fort Wayne.

Memorial Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown said this week he’s having discussions with representatives of the National Gridiron League which hopes to start play in March with 12 teams. The league will be owned by a single person with potential local investors, whom Brown said it was premature to identify.

“The structure seems to be good,” Brown said. “It’s a single-ownership league with local investors which is very important for a number of reasons, the cost of insurance, anti-trust and other things related to that. So you have a consistent voice from an owner across the whole spectrum of the league.”

Roanoke, Va. announced Monday it was getting a franchise in the league. A Roanoke Times story said the league has teams set to go in Topeka, Kansas; Norfolk, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Evansville; Shreveport and Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas. Brown said the eventual goal is to reach 20 teams.

The Times reported the teams will play from March 15 to July 13 and players will make roughly $20,000 for a 16-game season. A neutral-site championship game will be held between conference winners, and the league will hire a president for each of the teams.

“I told the ownership group you need to have the right local people involved,” Brown said. “That just means people with football connections, solid business people, it’s all about credibility. Let’s face it, our last two go-arounds were problematic.”

Fort Wayne has actually had several previous tries at indoor football. The Fort Wayne Freedom of the National Indoor Football League started in 2003 and lasted until 2006. The team drew very well, usually between 7,000 and 8,000 fans per game, but there were financial and business issues, and the team folded and canceled its lease.

The Fort Wayne Fusion tried to recover the fumble and compete in arenafootball2 starting in 2006, but that was a disaster. After a 5-11 season, the league rescinded the Fusion’s membership after averaging 4,300 fans per game. No local investors stepped up to rescue the team.

A second version of the Freedom tried to compete in the Continental Indoor Football League in 2008. The original owner kicked out his management staff, and then was kicked out himself by the league. Despite not having a practice over the last month of the season, the team rallied in 2009 to reach the league championship game where it lost.

That should have been the end, but the Fort Wayne Firehawks tried again in the CIFL, but by then the fans had given up. The final home game was canceled (because the opponent went out of business), the team made the playoffs with a 5-5 mark and lost.

There was talk of a Fort Wayne team in the Stadius Football Association in 2012, but very few noticed.

A new indoor team would add another squad looking for weekend dates in March to compete with the Komets and Mad Ants. That’s unlikely to happen, meaning a long early-season road trip will be necessary so a potential team will need substantial early funding until it can play some home games.

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