By: Leif Skodnick Updated 9:12 pm, Thursday, December 21, 2017
The Tampa Bay Storm became the second member of the Arena Football League to suspend operations in less than a month, announcing on its website that the team wouldn’t be playing in 2018.
The Storm’s suspension of operations leaves the league with just four teams including the yet-to-be-named expansion franchise that will play at Times Union Center. On Nov. 28, the Cleveland Gladiators announced they would suspend operations for two seasons while $140 million in renovations are made to the Quicken Loans Arena, home to the Gladiators and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, over the next two summers. The Arena Football League season generally runs from early April to late August.
“We have informed League Commissioner Scott Butera, and the remaining members of the Arena Football League, that we will not operate a franchise in 2018,” said Steve Griggs, the CEO of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, the team’s corporate owner, in a statement posted to the team’s website. “This was not an easy decision, but after deep consideration, evaluation and introspection, we have elected to reallocate the resources dedicated to arena football for other uses within our organization, including the growth of Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties.”
Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties also operates the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and AMALIE Arena, the home of both the Storm and the Lightning.
“Rising league costs and reduced league revenues forced the organization to re-evaluate the team’s financial situation and its continued operation in a shrinking AFL,” the team’s statement said.
Founded in 1991, the Storm won five Arena Bowl championships, most recently in 2003, and lost Arena Bowl XXX 44-40 to the Philadelphia Soul on Aug. 26.
“The Storm have been a key member of the AFL since the very beginning and we look to bring them back in the near future,” Butera said in a statement emailed from the league office. “We are committed to our vision of continued growth in the coming years. The AFL remains steadfast in building our organization to be stronger than ever.”
The remaining teams are the Soul, with whom the Albany expansion franchise shares several common owners, and the Baltimore Brigade and the Washington Valor, owned by Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to being part of the building process to make the Arena Football League stronger than ever before,” said a statement emailed to the Times Union and attributed to Albany AFL team owners Ron Jaworski, Dan Nolan, Ed Swyer, and George Hearst. Hearst is the publisher of the Times Union.
“We are as committed today as the day we announced the team coming to Albany to bring this community a professional sports team they will be proud of, including a tremendous entertainment experience option, a competitive football team and a great community asset for years to come,” the statement continued.
The statement said details regarding the 2018 AFL season were being finalized and would be released.
“I believe in the game’s design, in the players and in the great positioning the league has as a sport,” Ted Leonsis, owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment and the Washington and Baltimore AFL teams, wrote on MonumentalSportsNetwork.com shortly after the news of Tampa Bay’s suspension of operations broke.
“We invested much last season, I am proud of our organization for what it accomplished — we carry on,” Leonsis wrote. “We go forward, we will make this work.”