January 8, 2008 - American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) - Erie Explosion
(Erie, PA) - The American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) will be returning to Erie, PA. The Pittsburgh RiverRats, a second-year franchise in the AIFA, announced today that it is relocating to Erie, effective immediately, starting with the upcoming 2008 season. The team will retain its nickname and be known as the Erie RiverRats. The RiverRats have entered into an agreement to play its home games at the Louis J. Tullio Arena with the first home game scheduled for Sunday, March 9, 2008 against the Carolina Speed.
"The decision to move our team from the Mon Valley in Pittsburgh up to Erie was simultaneously the hardest decision and the easiest decision for me personally." commented team President and CEO Jeff Hauser. "Our team was born in the Valley, we recruited great local football talent there, we had the most dedicated front office staff you could imagine, and I have ties to the area. But while we had a core of dedicated fans, their numbers weren\'t large, and we were never able to garner the financial support from the local business community for reasons we still don\'t understand. We have no debt, but without business support going forward, team finances would have eventually become a problem."
Hauser continued "The Tullio Arena is a better venue for the RiverRats, and is closer in size and amenities to the other venues throughout our league. We brought our team up to Erie last year and we have several Erie residents on our club, so we know the local fans to be passionate and knowledgeable, and they have proven they will support winning football. Our goals have been, and will continue to be, to contend for championships, provide a family-friendly gameday experience, participate in our local community, and to help promote our sponsor partners. We believe that Erie gives us the best chance to do all of that, and we can\'t get wait to get started."
The Erie RiverRats will be led on the field by Shawn Liotta, entering his second season as the team\'s Head Coach and Director of Football Operations. In 2007, Coach Liotta led the RiverRats to a 7-7 regular-season record and a playoff spot in the team's first year of existence. In recognition of his successful year, he was selected as the Head Coach of the North Squad for the AIFA's All-Star game, which the North won by a score of 58-45.
The highlights of the RiverRats' 2007 season included a convincing 62-33 win over the defending league champion Canton Legends, and a 86-72 victory against the Erie Freeze, where Coach Liotta's club set the record for most points scored in an AIFA game.
The tentative roster for the 2008 Erie RiverRats includes several players who will be well-known to Erie and AIFA football fans. Quarterback David Dinkins returns for his second season leading the RiverRats offense. Dinkins, who starred with the Erie Freeze in 2005-06, is generally recognized as one of the most electrifying players in the AIFA. Two of his wide receiver targets joined Dinkins as AIFA All-Star selections last season, including Marko Thomas and Quenteen Robinson, one of the most accomplished receivers in indoor football during his five professional seasons. The RiverRats offense will be bolstered with the recent additions of WR/QB Darmel Whitfield and PK J.R. Cipra, both former standouts with the Freeze.
The RiverRats defense includes four AIFA All-Star selections, including LB Roosevelt Benjamin, LB T.J. Carden, DT Phil Tillman, and DB Chris Blackshear. Benjamin and Blackshear both came to prominence in Erie, and the RiverRats defensive backfield will have a decidedly Erie feel with Blackshear along with former Erie Freeze standouts Eugene Padgett, Reggie Blanchard, and Sam Reynolds.
For ticket and sponsorship information on the Erie RiverRats, please call (888)RIV-RATS. To keep up with the latest RiverRats news, please visit us at our home on the web at www.erieriverrats.com.