Just when the Arena Football League were taking steps forward in building new franchises, the Cleveland Gladiators announced that they will suspend play until the 2020 season.
The surprising news came late Tuesday afternoon, after the Quicken Loans Arena released a statement that they will undergo construction in the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Gladiators.
“The Q Transformation project will bring many positive impacts and improvements for decades to come,” Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena CEO Len Komoroski said in a press release. “The Gladiators have established a strong level of support, but it is important for our community and the long-term future of the Q as an important community asset.”
The Gladiators finished last season at 5-9 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Storm. QB Arvell Nelson had a career year by throwing for 3,084 yards, 61 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions.
Arena Football League Commissioner Scott Butera, who will be entering his third season at the helm, realizes the effect of Cleveland not playing for two years – but remains optimistic on the future of the league.
“The Gladiators are a historic AFL team and remain an important part of the AFL,” Butera said. “We remain committed to continued growth for the 2018 season and beyond.”
Two months ago, the league announced that Albany will be the newest franchise to join next season. The name has yet to be announced, but would have been the sixth team in the league before the Glads temporarily folded.
For an indoor football league that has lost 12 teams and only gained three (Baltimore Brigade, Washington Valor, Albany) since 2014, Butera understands the fans’ frustration, but ensures that the building process will only improve.
“Last year we made a strategic decision by focusing on building ownership,” Butera said at media day before ArenaBowl 26 between the Tampa Bay Storm and the Philadelphia Soul. “Although we had fewer teams, we had better teams. I think in terms of the quality of play, the excitement, and the fact that so many games came down to the end, we’re really seeing the league grow.”
Butera also stated that they are in talks with other cities in bringing the 50-yard sport to their town.
“I think we’ve built the foundation so it’s just going to be all about growth,” Butera said. “The AFL has significant expansion opportunities and strategic initiatives which are currently under discussion.
We believe the future of the AFL is very bright.”