Monumental Sports & Entertainment All in on AFL; Adds Second Team for 2017
The Arena Football League was hit with a major spark earlier today as Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced in a press release that it has agreed to field a new team in Baltimore that will start play in the upcoming 2017 season.
This will be MSE’s second new team to start in the AFL in 2017 as it will also be operating the Washington Valor, located in Washington DC.
“We think that Baltimore is a great market and that we can leverage our business infrastructure to work with fans, the city, and the building operator to make for a successful launch of the team,” said MSE owner Ted Leonsis. “We are going to have a competitive wall built up because we want the teams (Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia) to be competitive with each other all the time.”
The announcement comes as a shock to fans following the league as it has been widely publicized that the league would proceed with as few as four teams for 2017.
MSE expects to announce the name of the new AFL franchise, which will play in the Royal Farms Arena, within the next 30 days. The agreement by MSE to own a second team in the league was only reached within the past ten days, but Leonsis says that he believes in the AFL product.
“I do believe in the players and the talent that is out there,” said Leonsis in an interview to ArenaFootball.com. “I was blown away by the level of talent when we had our tryout day (for the Valor) and I think that the state of play for Arena Football in the respect that we can showcase players will be very high. I also believe that the game needs rivalries and there just seems to be this beautiful opportunity to have DC and Baltimore and Philadelphia and, maybe in the future, an east coast set of rivalries.”
There are other rumors of potential expansion cities in the works, but nothing has been solidified or announced at this time.
While there is a continued need for expansion in the AFL, it is something that should be taken slowly, Leonsis believes, and is best run by ownership groups with expertise in indoor sports.
“It really plays to our collective belief (the AFL and its owners) and my belief that the best ownership will have infrastructure either in ownership of another professional sports team and/or a building. Those are the ownership groups that are in best position to help grow the league (etc). I would like for us as a league to have very smart and controlled growth and do it where the fans, the communities that we serve, the league, the players, and the unions are all in it together.”
This sends the AFL in a positive direction after seeing more than half of the teams that played just this past season walk away from the league for a number of various reasons, something that Leonsis believes was not a bad thing.
“I was surprised, but not disappointed,” Leonsis stated. “In the work leading up to our initial investment (in the Washington Valor), we saw a lot of positives for the league. The AFL can be like the NBA and the NHL in that it is non-stop action, and because it is indoors, can be metriced and monitored via analytics. The NBA and NHL are ascendant sports right now because of their state of play and the way that it is presented in this real time social media friendly way has great appeal to young people. The hope and belief is that the same can be done with the AFL.”
The organizations will have two separate football operations that Leonsis says will be highly competitive and be innovative in the development of the presentation of the game.
“There is this incredible movement to big data and analytics and OTT (over the top) programming”, he said. “Monumental Sports Network is going to be a leader in regional OTT streaming programming and for our network to have two AFL teams and to able to offer that programming to a wider base of customers is very, very important and will be populous in our approach.”
“We can also innovate, and I am hoping that whole league can become a bellwether if you will, for football analytics,” he continued. “And it is simply easier to control in an indoor setting as opposed to an outdoor setting with wireless connectivity, high speed cameras, and high speed digital photography and video because you do not have to deal with the elements (of outdoor sports).”
The Arena Football League may have just found the person that can bring it back from its near six-foot demise. It shows that the current owners are on board with this unique commitment and are ready to head in a positive direction. With the promise of fast paced action, the ability to have games streamed with metrics and analytics, and social media involvement, the Arena Football League may have just gone through the Fountain of Youth.
Jeff has been writing for ArenaFan.com since 2004. Originally from New York, Jeff has been living in the Chicago area for the past ten years and is an avid football fanatic. He holds a BA in communications from Hofstra University in New York and a sports management certificate from Loyola University in Chicago.