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Arena Football Returning to Music City

Arena Football Returning to Music City

AFL Revival sees Nashville adding another pro team in 2024

This past weekend’s release of the Tennessee Oilers’ retro jerseys only added to fan excitement that has been building since the spring. The hotly debated $2.2 billion stadium, along with last week’s signing of DeAndre Hopkins, has made the Titans one of the most newsworthy NFL franchises this offseason.

Just as we thought “football” and “Nashville” could not possibly strike headlines again until Kickoff Sunday in September, Sports Illustrated decided to make a splash by revealing the much anticipated list of cities that will host teams for the Arena Football League relaunch.

Following a second collapse in 2019, most thought Arena Football was gone forever. The market was becoming saturated with the XFL, USFL, and a failed attempt by the AAF to provide spring football. Talent had been stretched thin and hopes for the most entertaining pro football league outside of the NFL making a comeback seemed next to impossible. However, the investment group known as F1 Sports & Entertainment had other ideas.

In February, the announcement was made that the AFL was officially back under new ownership and these folks were going ALL IN! Six team league? Eight team league? Hell no! The league is going balls-to-the-wall, body-to-the-board with rolling out a whopping 16-teams which nearly matches the most the AFL ever had at its peak of 18 squads.

The investment is a wild risk, but if marketing and entertainment can fuse together to put a quality product on the field the league might actually work as it did in the early 2000’s when leadership secured a multi-million dollar deal with NBC to broadcast nearly a half-dozen games every week of the season. This time around cities such as Nashville, Orlando, San Antonio, Philly, and Cincy will be joined by smaller markets like Odessa, TX and Lake Charles, LA in a hodgepodge that could either be a stroke of genius, or result in total disaster.

Nashville itself has seen the ups and downs of Arena Football when the Kats had two stints between 1997-2001 and 2005-2007. Despite producing a consistent winner, and courting above average attendance in Bridgestone Arena, the organization could not reach an agreement with the arena’s management team and moved to Georgia in 2001. Seeing the success of the team, Titans’ owner Bud Adams stepped in and purchased the naming rights prior to a relaunch four years later after finally striking a deal with the Preds to bring the Kats back to town.

The second go-round, however, lost its magic quickly. A struggling team saw ticket sales dwindle and Adams folded the Kool Kats after just three seasons. Years later, another minor league indoor team popped up as the Nashville Venom won the Professional Indoor Football League championship in its only year of existence in 2014. As quick as the Venom arrived, an antidote wiped out the entire league. 

Now, after nearly ten long years of waiting, Arena Football is back and so is Nashville. Many details must still be ironed out, such as team name, logo, colors, and venue; but for now… we can all rejoice in knowing 50 yards of wall to wall action is returning to the Music City in the spring of 2024.