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With Two Teams Added, AFL Poised For More Competitive Season

May 15, 2019
By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal

With five games against the Washington Valor last season, Baltimore Brigade fans had plenty of opportunities to catch a matchup featuring their regional rival.

This year, as two new competitors join the growing Arena Football League, just three meetings between the teams are guaranteed. That's a good thing, says Jeff Bowler, vice president of business operations for Monumental Sports, the Ted Leonsis-led sports and entertainment group that owns the Brigade and the Valor as well as the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics.

"Frankly, the league has been dealing with a credibility issue," Bowler said.

Last year, each of the AFL's four teams made the playoffs, and the Valor -- which had the worst record of the regular season -- ended up winning the championship with a 69-55 win against the Brigade.

Now that there are six teams in the league, not every team will make the four-team postseason tournament.

"We feel like that will add a little bit more competitive nature to the season," Bowler said.

The two teams joining the AFL this season are the Atlantic City Blackjacks and Columbus Destroyers. The Destroyers formerly played in the AFL, first as the Buffalo Destroyers and then as the Columbus Destroyers, until 2009 when the league suspended operations due to financial difficulties.

Bowler hopes the AFL's expansion will generate some buzz and interest in the new season that kicked off for the Brigade April 26. This season, Monumental Sports is dedicating a sales and marketing team exclusively to its Arena League properties. 

While the Brigade saw its attendance hold steady in 2018 compared to its inaugural season in 2017, Bowler is hoping to grow crowds during the team's third season. Last year's AFL championship game at Royal Farms Arena was the best-attended Brigade game yet, with about 8,800 spectators.

The team has grown its number of season-ticket holders by 104 percent year over year, he said. More than 80 percent of inaugural season-ticket holders are still season-ticket holders today.

Photo Credit: Ned Dishman

Issue 254: May 2019