WASHINGTON — Regardless of where the Washington Redskins relocate when the FedExField stadium lease expires, there will be professional football played back in the nation’s capital.
On Friday, media and sports mogul Ted Leonsis announced that his Monumental Sports & Entertainment will add an Arena Football League team to the mix beginning in 2017.
The yet unnamed team is an expansion franchise, making it the ninth announced team in operation.
“We’re extremely excited to acquire an AFL team for Washington, adding Arena Football to the mix of the best sports teams in town,” Leonsis said via the press release. “D.C. is a ‘Super City’ with a fan base that spans across the DMV region, and being able to provide another family-centric sports option to our community is an important endeavor.”
League commissioner Scott Butera praised D.C. and Leonsis as reasons for expanding to the Verizon Center.
“The group combines high-quality sports team operations with world-class facilities management to produce exceptional entertainment,” he said. “In addition to their success in one of the nation’s largest markets, they also are proven leaders in sports marketing and entertainment technology. I am quite confident that the AFL will benefit greatly from their involvement.”
“In addition to their success in one of the nation’s largest markets, they also are proven leaders in sports marketing and entertainment technology. I am quite confident that the AFL will benefit greatly from their involvement.”
Arena Football, as the name might suggest, is played strictly indoors, using mixed-use facilities where hockey and basketball are played.
The smaller playing surface and modified rules (including allowing receivers to be in full sprint from behind the line at the snap) makes for an exciting, high-scoring product. Fans in the front rows have a good chance of becoming part of the action as players get flipped over the boards.
While few players have made the jump from the AFL to the NFL, former Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong is a notable local connection. He played for the Dallas Desperados for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, earning a practice squad spot on the Miami Dolphins before coming to Washington.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is one of the most accomplished AFL alumni, having won four championships as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm and the league’s MVP in 1992. He followed that with a pair of championships coaching the Orlando Predators and a 93–61 overall record.
The 2016 league year runs for 18 weeks (16 games with two bye weeks), beginning on April 1.