By: Eleanor Kennedy, July 10, 2018
Are you ready for some arena football?
The National Arena League, an indoor football league formed in 2017, is eyeing Nashville as a potential expansion market, Jeff Bouchy, the league’s expansion chairman, confirmed in an email Tuesday. The league recently filed a trademark application for “Nashville Kats” to ensure a potential team would bear the historic name, Bouchy said.
Music City has been home to two different versions of arena football teams called the Nashville Kats, and the brand still prompts enthusiasm and nostalgia among longtime Nashvillians.
“We do not have an ownership group at this time, but we are working to secure one,” Bouchy said in an email. “We wanted to have the trademark, though, so when we are ready, they will be named the Kats.”
To be sure, the trademark application has not yet been approved and does not guarantee the team will launch, particularly without an ownership group secured. The league has also sought a trademark for the New York Dragons, another team that has yet to form.
Bouchy did not immediately respond to additional questions about the potential franchise, including who its owners could be and where the team would play. In addition to the trademark applications, Instagram and Twitter accounts were recently created for the Nashville Kats, but it is unclear if those are tied to the efforts to launch a team.
Should the team return to Nashville, it would add another sports option in a city that is increasingly building its brand on sports-related events, and which recently leapfrogged several competitors to secure a forthcoming Major League Soccer team.
That said, arena football ventures, in Nashville and elsewhere, have been relatively short-lived. And the proliferation of sporting events in the city could increase competition for a new entrant.
The initial iteration of the Nashville Kats, majority owned by real estate investor Mark Bloom, played in what is now Bridgestone Arena from 1997 to 2001. After the 2001 season, following unsuccessful lease negotiations with the arena’s primary tenant, the Nashville Predators, the team was sold, relocated to Altanta and renamed the Georgia Force.
In 2005, a second iteration of the Kats — controlled by the late Bud Adams, then owner of the Tennessee Titans — began playing at Bridgestone, which was then known as the Gaylord Entertainment Center. That team folded in 2007.
Both versions of the Nashville Kats were part of the Arena Football League, which now includes four teams, down from a high of 19 in 2007.
Most recently, the Nashville Venom, part of the now-defunct Professional Indoor Football League, played two seasons at Municipal Auditorium in 2014 and 2015.
David Kells, senior vice president of entertainment and marketing for the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena, provided the following statement in response to questions about the potential for arena football in the venue: “Bridgestone Arena takes great pride in being a home for events that excite and entertain everyone in Middle Tennessee but we only discuss events after they have been announced.”
Bob Skoney, general manager of the Municipal Auditorium, said he has not had any conversations about arena football being played in the venue, but he’d be open to discussing the idea.
The National Arena League, which evolved from the Arena Development League, currently includes six teams, and its schedule runs from April to August. In a February interview with Arena Football Insider, Bouchy discussed his vision for growing the league and the potential for ownership structure in which expansion teams “may be owned 50 percent by current operators and 50 percent by outside investors.”