ATLANTIC CITY — Fast-paced, high-scoring indoor football is coming to Atlantic City.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to bring an Arena Football League team to the resort for the upcoming season. As part of the three-year agreement, the authority will make available $500,000 in capital expenditures to buy equipment to convert Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for six to 10 games a year, said Deputy Executive Director Marshall Spevak. The improvements include sidewall padding, nets and goal posts.
“It’s a pretty exciting game,” said CRDA Board Chairman Robert Mulcahy, who said he has attended several and knows some players. “It’s an additional offering to diversify opportunities to come to Atlantic City and Boardwalk Hall.”
It will also provide more work for stagehands, carpenters and other union workers who prepare the hall for events, said board member Richard E. Tolson.
Mayor Frank Gilliam said local youth football teams will benefit from the expertise of the league’s players.
“It will be an opportunity for Atlantic City to come together and cheer for one thing,” said Gilliam.
City resident Bill Cheatham said it will be important to get the broader community of Absecon Island and beyond to support the team, if it is to be a success.
The first game will be in mid to late April, said John Adams, president of the Arena Football League, who attended the meeting. Tryouts will be late February to early March. Adams said players are often those cut from NFL rosters, from small colleges who weren’t discovered, or who were kept from professional careers in American football by injuries.
But there will also be a chance for locals to try out, he said.
“A handful of our players move up to the NFL,” said Adams.
Adams said the league’s Philadelphia Soul team attracts about 9,500 attendees per game, as does a year-old team in Albany, New York.
That’s about the attendance figure needed for a success, Adams estimated.
Boardwalk Hall’s capacity is 14,770, according to its website.
Atlantic City had a football team, the CardSharks, that folded after one season in 2004. The team played in the now-defunct National Indoor Football League.
To submit a suggested name for the team, which will be operated by Trifecta Sports and Entertainment, or apply for a job or buy tickets, visit atlanticcityafl.com.
Tickets will range from $15 to $100 per game, said Adams.
Ron Jaworski, 67, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who owns Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Galloway Township, is chairman of the AFL’s executive committee and a majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul.
Jaworski did not attend Tuesday’s meeting but released a statement later that evening.
“We are going to bring a family-friendly, affordable entertainment product to AC, and bring a team that will become an integral part of the community, giving people in the area a team to be proud to call their hometown team,” said Jaworski.
The new team is conducting a search for a head coach, who will be announced in the coming weeks. The coach will be responsible for assembling the rest of the team’s coaching staff and roster. The time, date and location of open player tryouts will be announced soon.
“We are thrilled that Atlantic City will be the next great arena football town,” said Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chairman and CEO Ted Leonsis. “Arena football is a game that’s tailor-made for an integrated sports betting experience, and Atlantic City is a perfect fit to help realize our vision for the AFL as the next frontier in sports betting and gaming.”