Pro indoor football league enters market
A town in the region is getting an indoor pro football team in an established league.
Details for a Muskegon expansion team for the American Indoor Football league, or AIF, were released this week.
The team is slated to start next March, with a team and coach in place by January. A competition to name the team runs through Sunday.
The league said this summer a team could come to Muskegon.
Possible team names include the Ironmen, River Rats, Melee, Marauders and Breakers. Fans can go to wmarenafm.com to vote.
The league said it has worked with Oakridge-native Terrance Williams, a former player, since last year to bring a team to Muskegon.
The team will carry Western Michigan as the team location.
“We proudly welcome Terrence to the AIF,” said John Morris, commissioner, AIF. "This is a development that will elevate the AIF to new heights."
The league said the Great Lakes region is “home to more than 19 million people,” and it looks forward to “intense rivalries.”
Muskegon as home
Williams owns an entertainment and sports agency, currently moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta, but he chose his home community of Muskegon as the franchise’s home. There’s already an AIF team in Atlanta.
AIF teams are required to carry at least nine players from within a 120-mile radius of the franchise.
"I've had some opportunities to do things in other places," Williams said. "Ultimately, I believe in what Muskegon can be. Every other day, I'm on social media, and I see posts about this bad thing happening and that bad thing happening. If that's all that's happening, then the narrative is going to continue to be that. It's not until somebody decides to do something good that the community can change for the good. I want to be a part of that."
The team will share the 5,000-seat L.C. Walker Arena with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL.
"There are some big markets in the league,” Williams said. “It was definitely a point of conversation with the league, wondering if this community can support a franchise. I laid out my belief in this community and the support I would get from this market. I hope they prove me right and not wrong."
The AIF was founded in 2005.
Play is similar to the Arena Football League — which the Grand Rapids Rampage played in from 1998 to 2008 — with eight players on a field 85 feet wide and 50 yards long.
The Western Michigan team will be one of 15 teams to play in the AIF next year.
There are teams in other small markets and some in major markets, such as Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
"I've always liked the small markets and those are ones that flourish," Morris said. "They're not competing with NFL. The fans can call it their team. I think it's going to be a great addition. I'm really excited about it.
"One of the biggest things, he's entrenched in that community. He wants to make it work there. To make it work, you need success on the field and from a business standpoint. You have to have both."