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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:00 am

Indoor football

Indoor football might again return to Coliseum

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Indoor football may see a return to the city as the National Gridiron League has identified Fort Wayne as a potential market to expand.

The league has been in talks with Memorial Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown about using the facility, which has played host to a few indoor teams in the past.

“It's a start-up league. That's not uncommon in indoor football,” Brown said, “They're doing their due diligence. They've been in to review the marketplace, talking with people who would have an interest in being involved with the football team locally.

“We're still in the very early stages of this process. I've shared with them what past leases will look like, cost of renting the Coliseum, services related to renting, suggested various organizations that they might want to talk to.”

The plan for the National Gridiron League, which was founded in 2017, would be to start play next March.

The league is currently set at 12 teams, with Eastern and Western divisions. It identified Fort Wayne as a potential market in a May news release on its website.

The city has had several previous indoor football teams, with the Fort Wayne Freedom in the National Indoor Football League from 2003 to 2006. The Fort Wayne Fusion started in arenafootball2 in 2006 but folded after an 5-11 season that drew an average of 4,300 fans.

The Freedom tried again in 2008 in the Continental Indoor Football League and, despite internal management issues, managed to advance to the 2009 championship game.

The Fort Wayne Firehawks followed in the CIFL with a 5-5 record, losing in the playoffs.

“In some cases, you look back when we started with the Fort Wayne Freedom, we had amazing crowds in the early years,” Brown said. “(The owners) got complacent. They weren't paying attention to business and were making decisions where they were losing money. They lost credibility within the marketplace.

But Brown insists that indoor football “can work,” especially if the franchise can connect with the community.

“The first three years, we were running 7,000 or 8,000 in attendance,” he said. “We need a couple things. We need an organization that comes in with a good business model, has good crystal-clear credibility, totally above board that does everything right, that has a connection with the local business community.

“When they come in here, if they decide that Fort Wayne is a market, it's going to be important to guard your credibility. That's ultimately what's going to make it work.”

The inaugural season of the NGL will run March 15 through July 13. Players will be paid based on different tiered compensation packages that range from $6,000 to $20,000, and teams will sign players for one-, two- or three-year contracts.

Coaches can sign up to 35 players to invite them to a team minicamp, according to a release, but only 22 can remain on the active game-day roster with six additional to remain as inactive players.

areichel@jg.net