Professional indoor football is coming to the San Gabriel Valley
The National Indoor Football League, which kicks off its seventh season next month, is expanding throughout the country, including the West Coast.
Among the expansion clubs making up part of the new five-team California Division is the Los Angeles Lynx, who will play their home games at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the facility's arena, The Grand.
Joining the Lynx in the California Division are the Pomona Cool Riders, San Bernardino Bucking Bulls, San Diego Shockwave and Tri-Valley Ranchers (based in Pleasanton). Overall there are 26 NIFL teams set for the 2007 campaign.
The Lynx are slated to play 14 regular-season games over 17 weeks with the opener March 17 at San Bernardino (in the Orange Pavilion) and the first home game scheduled for April 14 against Tri-Valley.
"The idea is to bring a new brand of entertainment to the community and what better way than fast-action football?," said NIFL regional vice president Anthony Bartley. "This is something we're really looking for the community to support and we're going to do everything possible to make that happen."
Bartley, 33, is a man wearing many hats these days.
Not only is he overseeing all five California NIFL teams, he's also serving as general manager and head coach of the Lynx, as well as handling the team's public relations.
Bartley, a CIF-Southern Section Masters champion in the triple jump while at Lynwood High School in 1991, played semi-pro ball and in the German American Football League, and has coached at the high school, semi-pro and professional levels, the latter as a head coach in the Women's Professional Football League.
A top priority for Bartley currently is filling the teams' rosters and much of that will be accomplished Saturday when the NIFL holds a combine at Glendale Community College,giving prospective players a chance to try out for the California Division teams.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the tryouts open for players at least 19 years old.
Following the tryouts, those who make the cut will be drafted onto the five California teams and invited to camp, which Bartley says should include 30-40 players per team. Rosters will be trimmed to 25 for the regular season.
For more information on the combine, players can call Bartley at (323) 215-8875.
"We've gotten very good response," said Bartley about the tryouts, who he estimates will be attended by 250-300 players with varied experience, including college, semi-pro and some indoor. "Basically we're looking for athletes.
"What we're hoping is that playing in the (NIFL) could be a stepping stone for a lot of players who have been overlooked. This is an opportunity for players to make it to the next level. We want to give players that opportunity."
The NIFL's season will pretty much run parallel with that of the well-established Arena Football League, which celebrated its 20th campaign in 2006.
One of the AFL's franchises is the Los Angeles Avengers, now in their eighth season, who play their home games at Staples Center in downtown L.A.
The hope is that local fans who have the desire to watch indoor football will opt to stay within their community, rather than drive a longer distance.
While there are many similarities with the AFL - such as a 50-yard field and no punting - there will be differences in the NIFL game. For example, there will be no nets, up to three offensive players will be allowed in forward motion before the snap, the defensive lines can drop back in pass coverage, and, Bartley adds, they'll be more emphasis on the running game.
The NIFL has had its struggles, mostly financial, due to unsteady ownership which has caused many teams to fold over the years, during the season or, in some cases, even before their seasons could begin.
Former Los Angeles Ram, Cleveland Gary, has taken over as the NIFL's President of Football Operations and has established strict guidelines for owners to avoid previous problems, including lack of funding to keep their franchises afloat.
Many of this season's teams, including the Lynx, are owned by the league, which has signed a major sponsorship deal with Pepsi. Teams will only play games within their own division, making it more cost-efficent as they'll cut down on travel costs.
The league has also announced plans for the NIFL Broadcast Network (NBN), which will carry regular-season and playoff games, and the Indoor Bowl, the league's championship contest.
As for the facility the Lynx will call home, The Grand is covered, but open on all four sides. The arena has hosted a wide variety of events, including rodeo, equestrian, dog shows, motorcycle racing, music festivals, boxing, wrestling and roller derby. But not indoor football.
"We're excited because we've never done this before," said Industry Hills Expo Center operations manager Carol Perez. "It's not a traditional field, but we have no problems accommodating it. Size is not an issue. We're just providing the facility. They're (NIFL) very self-sufficient. They're bringing everything in, turf and all."
"We're very focused on family events and community-based entertainment," said Expo Center marketing director Raul Landino. "As far as bringing in indoor football, a lot of people that time of year are hungry for football. We're hoping we can satisfy their appetites while showing them that there's a nice venue right in their own backyard.
"I think the fact that our arena is not fully enclosed is what they (NIFL) liked about it. It'll give that outdoor feeling even though you're indoors."
Bartley is hoping the community soon embraces the Lynx and flocks to see the new team in town.
"We're talking to a lot of people in the community, going to a lot of schools. We're looking at different types of entertainment, bands at halftime, whatever we can get," Bartley said. "Right now the main thing is getting the word out and letting everyone know we're here."
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National Indoor Football League Stories from February 9, 2007
- Professional indoor football is coming to the San Gabriel Valley - Los Angeles Lynx
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