By Brady Fredericksen
Michael Taylor has a good feeling about this. Although no indoor football team has operated for longer than three seasons in Lakeland, the Florida Tarpons head coach and team president is optimistic about his team’s move to the RP Funding Center.
The team, which has played out of Germain Arena in Estero since 2012, will migrate north and be the third indoor football team to call the center home over the past 12 years.
Taylor has an established team, one that has played for championships and operated successfully for six years. He hopes to figure out a formula for success in Lakeland, something the Tarpons predecessors could not do.
“Anytime you go in to a market where another teams been you have to prove yourself over again,” Taylor said. “Us entering our seventh season, I think that’s different from those teams starting their first, second or third season.”
The Tarpons will play in the American Arena League, an 11-team league that will begin play in 2012. Florida has won two league championships over the past six seasons, compiling a 38-9 record over that span.
The team has played in three leagues including the X-League, which was run by longtime Florida Marine Raiders owner Michael Mink. The Tarpons beat the Marine Raiders 65-23 in the 2015 title game
“I just felt that the RP Funding Center was going to be a better fit for us long term,” the 42-year-old said. “We’re very familiar with the facility and building management. I think that helped the decision. The improvements being made to the facility helped the decision.”
The Lakeland Thunderbolts, Florida Marine Raiders and Central Florida Jaguars have all called the RP Funding Center home. Each struggled to sustain business for longer than three seasons. The Jaguars lasted just one year before fading away.
But center director Tony Camarillo sees the Tarpons’ past success and sustainability in Estero as a big reason they can be successful in Lakeland.
“They were established and always performed well when they were here, primarily,” he said. “We’re going to try opportunities, try things. People still came out for the (Jaguars) games. We think the product is something that’s viable still. It falls in line with what we’re doing”
The Tarpons will operate on a one-year deal this season, as most teams (excluding the Lakeland Magic) do at the center. If both sides are happy with how the 2018 season goes, they can continue to operate on a year-to-year basis — or ink a multi-year extension.
Florida will open play at the RP Funding Center on April 14.
“We’ve been successful every year on the field and I anticipate that to continue,” Taylor said. “We’re bringing back a core of veterans, our quarterback (Chris Wallace) that’s played for us all six years. We’re bringing back key veteran guys.”