New York Dragons join AFL

by AFL Press Release
November 1, 2000 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)

NEW YORK DRAGONS JOIN AFL

AFL Press Release

Arena Football League Comes to Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The NHL's New York Islanders ownership group of Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, as well as business associate Russell Artzt, have been approved by the Arena Football League's Board of Directors for the sale and relocation of the Iowa Barnstormers from Des Moines, Iowa to Uniondale, New York, AFL Commissioner C. David Baker announced today.

The Dragons, who will begin regular season play in April of 2001, will play their home games at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The arena is also home to the Islanders and New York Saints of the National Lacrosse League. The Dragons logo and uniforms will be unveiled in the next few weeks.

“This group has helped shape the future by serving New York fans through the development of fan-friendly, year-round football,” said Baker. “Arena Football is emerging as a big-time, major league sport and Mr. Wang and his partners are going to play a large part in that development.”

The Dragons will retain Head Coach and Director of Football Operations John Gregory, who is ranked No. 4 all-time with 61 career victories, as well as newly re-signed quarterback Aaron Garcia, who threw a league-record 92 touchdown passes and was named First-Team All-Arena last season. In six seasons with Iowa, Gregory's teams earned five trips to the playoffs, including consecutive ArenaBowl appearances in 1996 and 1997 with future NFL and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner.

The Dragons are transitioning from the smallest market in the AFL, and No. 70 in the nation, into the nation's largest, joining the New Jersey Red Dogs. Last month the AFL also announced the Albany Firebirds' relocation from the 53rd ranked market to Indianapolis, the 12th largest, and the Hartford Sea Wolves' move from the 27th ranked market to Toronto, the largest metropolitan city in Canada.

The AFL will kick off its 15th season in April, competing with 19 teams, an all-time high, including expansion markets Detroit and Chicago. Last year, twice as many fans watched games than ever before, with the AFL exceeding one million fans for a fifth straight season, and arenafootball2, the AFL's minor league, surpassing 800,000 fans in its inaugural season.

The Arena Football League is the second-longest running professional football league in the United States, behind only the NFL. On February 8, 1999, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced that the NFL agreed to purchase an exclusive option to acquire an equity interest of 49.9 percent in the Arena Football League, subject to the approval of NFL owners. The alliance between the NFL and Arena Football originated on May 22, 1998, when an amendment to NFL rules was adopted allowing owners to invest in AFL teams in their own markets. Currently, four NFL owners, including the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, Washington Redskins’ Daniel Snyder, New Orleans Saints’ Tom Benson, and Detroit Lions’ William Ford Jr. have been approved for teams. Several other NFL owners have applied and are in the approval process.

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