Firebirds move to Indianapolis

by AFL Press Release
October 19, 2000 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)

INDIANA FIREBIRDS MAKE AFL DEBUT IN 2001

AFL Press Release

INDIANAPOLIS (October 19, 2000) – The Arena Football League (AFL) Board of Directors has approved the relocation of the Albany Firebirds from Albany, NY, to Indianapolis, AFL Commissioner David Baker and Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Donnie Walsh announced today.

The team will be named the Indiana Firebirds and will begin competing in April, 2001 at the new Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, the nation's 12th largest market, which is also home to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and WNBA’s Indiana Fever.

"This is an important step for the emerging sport of Arena Football, making another footprint in a big-time major league sports city," Baker said. "Indianapolis is a terrific fit for Arena Football, supported by first class ownership and marketing partnerships, as well as one of the nation’s premier professional sports facilities."

The AFL’s popularity has exploded, as an ESPN/Chilton Sports poll recently concluded that Arena Football is one of the "hottest new sports" that has emerged over the last 10 years. Not only will the AFL continue to expand in the United States, but it is also discussing plans for further expansion into Canada as well as Europe, Mexico, and the Pacific Rim.

The AFL will kick off its 15th season with an all-time high 19 teams, including expansion teams in Detroit and Chicago. This past Tuesday, the AFL announced its first team in Canada, the Toronto Phantoms, who will play this season in the Air Canada Centre. For the fifth consecutive season in 2000, attendance exceeded one million fans. For the third consecutive year, the AFL’s championship game, ArenaBowl XIV, was broadcast live on ABC to more than 1.5 million viewers, with the Orlando Predators defeating the Nashville Kats, 41-38, to win their second title in the past three seasons.

The Firebirds spent 11 seasons in Albany, qualifying for the post-season nine times. In 1999, the Firebirds defeated the Orlando Predators 59-48 in Arena Bowl XIII. In their 11-year history, the Firebirds have a combined 88-59 record, fourth most wins in Arena Football League history.

"We’re very excited about bringing another professional sports team to Indianapolis," Walsh said. "The Firebirds have a history of great success in the Arena Football League and we look forward to continuing that tradition in Indiana."

"The addition of Arena Football is yet another example of Conseco Fieldhouse’s ability to remake the sports and entertainment landscape in Indiana," said Pacers Sports & Entertainment General Manager David Kahn. "In less than a year we will have added two teams - our WNBA team, the Fever, and now the AFL team, the Indiana Firebirds - who would not be here without the Fieldhouse and all its benefits."

The AFL remains the second-longest running professional football league in United States history, behind only the National Football League. On February 8, 1999, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the NFL agreed to purchase an exclusive option to acquire an equity interest in the Arena Football League. The alliance between the NFL and the Arena Football League originated on May 22, 1998, when an amendment to NFL rules was adopted allowing NFL owners to invest in AFL teams in their own markets.

"I am very happy that the Firebirds are moving to Indianapolis. Albany has been a great city with supportive fans, sponsors, and business partners, including the management of Pepsi Arena. However the economics of our game has forced me to move," said Firebirds owner Glenn Mazula. "Indianapolis is a fantastic city with great football fans. I’m confident that the relationship between the Firebirds, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, and the Arena Football League will be a success and one that our fans will be proud of for many years to come."

"The Firebirds are looking forward to making an impact in our new home," said Firebirds General Manager Joe Hennessy. "We intend to bring a winning organization to an already very successful sports market. We are actively working on signing free agents and continuing to build a solid team."

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