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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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