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Arena Football League (AFL)

Arena Football got its start on February 11, 1981, when James F. Foster diagrammed the outline of a miniature football field over a hockey rink on a manila envelope while at an indoor soccer game.

Five years later, on April 26, 1985, the first test game was played in Rockford, Ill., between the Rockford Metros and the Chicago Politicians. Nearly a year later, on February 26, 1987, a "Showcase Game" was held between the Chicago Bruisers and the Miami Vise before 8,257 spectators.

Arena Football League - Original LogoBy June of 1987, the inaugural four-team league became official. The four original Arena Football League teams were the Chicago Bruisers, the Pittsburgh Gladiators, the Denver Dynamite, and the Washington Commandos. In front of more than 13,200 fans and a live ESPN audience, Denver became the league's first ever champions, beating Pittsburgh 45-16. Click here to see a complete list of Arena Bowl champions.

The league expanded in 1988 with the Los Angeles Cobras and the Detroit Drive, who claimed their first of four championships in their first season. In November of 1989, Arena Football went international when Detroit and Chicago played in the "Arenaball Transatlantic Challenge" in London--the league's first European exhibition game.

The Albany (Indiana) Firebirds, the league's current longest running team, entered the league in 1990, the same year that the Arena Football Game System received a U.S. Patent, making it the only sports league in history to play a patented, rival-free game.

In 1991, the league expanded from six to eight teams, including the Orlando Predators. The Gladiators moved from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay and became the Storm, and set a new single game attendance record with 24,445 fans, a record that they would break again the following year. The league averaged an all-time high of almost 13,000 fans per game.

1992 marked the first year of divisional play in the Arena League as the Phoenix (Arizona) Rattlers joined the league, introducing former Dallas Cowboy Danny White as their coach, a position he still holds today. The league also returned to TV on ESPN after a one-year hiatus, and the Predators' Barry Wagner won the first of six consecutive Ironman of the Year awards.

After losing a perfect 1994 regular season by one point in the final game of the season, the Predators were upset by third-seed Arizona in ArenaBowl VIII, the lowest seed ever to win the championship. The Milwaukee Mustangs joined the league in 1994, and averaged 14,232 fans per game despite going 0-12 in their first season. The following season marked the debut the Iowa Barnstormers, owned by Jim Foster, who missed an Arena Bowl appearance in their first season by eight points.

The league continued to grow in size and popularity throughout the late 90's, eclipsing the 1 million mark in league attendance for the first time in 1996, and introducing four more teams in 1997, the same year they inducted the first class into the Arena Football Hall of Fame.

August 23, 1998, marked the national network debut of Arena Football, as Orlando beat Tampa Bay 62-31 in ArenaBowl XII in front of more than two million viewers. The league took another step forward on February 8, 1999, when the National Football League agreed to purchase an exclusive option to acquire an equity interest in the AFL. The option, which could be exercised anytime over three years, would give the NFL a minority ownership of up to 49.9% in the league.

In 1999, the Arena Football League fielded an all-time high 15 teams with the addition of the Buffalo (now Columbus) Destroyers. The Firebirds celebrated their 10-year anniversary by beating defending champion Orlando in ArenaBowl XIII by a score of 59-48. The AFL Board of Directors also approved the creation of a Triple-A Arena Football League--known as arenafootball2. The League also saw former Iowa Barnstomer QB Kurt Warner take the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, winning the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP along the way.

Arena Football LeagueIn 2006, the AFL will feature 19 teams, with Kansas City landing an expansion team, which will be stocked with players from the New Orleans VooDoo, who have suspended play for the year due to Hurricane Katrina.

Arena Football League on the web...
Official site of the Arena Football League

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