On March 12, 2020, the newest entrant to the local sports scene, the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League (IFL), will begin their inaugural season against the Duke City Gladiators from Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Comerica Center.
Frisco is already home to the National Football League’s (NFL) Dallas Cowboys headquarters, the Dallas Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse (MLL), the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Dallas Stars, FC Dallas of Major League Soccer (MLS), Minor League Baseball’s (MLB) Frisco RoughRiders and the Texas Legends of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) G-League.
However, Frisco Fighters President and General Manager Stephen Evans wanted a name to distinguish the team from other local sports franchises. “Number one, we want to be different. We do not want to do the same things everybody else does. In North Texas, there is a big industry of producing fighter jets with Lockheed Martin being in Fort Worth, so we just did a tribute to that,” Mr. Evans says. “Plus, it allows you to bring in military to your games. We are going to have ties to the local military, and we will honor military people during every home game. We did not want to be named ‘Texas’ or ‘Dallas.’ We wanted to make sure we are ingrained in the Frisco community. Frisco is becoming a national community and we wanted to represent Frisco.”
The Frisco Fighters are coached by native Texan Clint Dolezel, an ex-quarterback at East Texas State and with the Dallas Desperados, the former Arena Football League (AFL) team owned by the Dallas Cowboys which once called American Airlines Center home. His most recent gig was coaching the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul, a franchise once co-owned by rock star Jon Bon Jovi.
However, after last season, the AFL folded and Mr. Dolezel, who also previously coached the AFL’s Dallas Vigilantes, found himself without a job. So, when the owners of the Frisco Fighters, a group he knew well, called with the chance to return to his home state, he jumped at the opportunity. “I said I wanted to get back home to Texas anyway, so it was perfect,” Mr. Dolezel says. “I have known Stephen Evans a long time and he has been in arena football forever. He was the GM when I was with the Vigilantes, so we have a lot of ties here.”
Is the Fourth Time the Charm?
The Frisco Fighters are the fourth different indoor football team to call Frisco home in recent history. The first was the Frisco Thunder, who played in the Intense Football League and called Dr Pepper Arena home in 2007 and 2008. The Frisco Thunder, owned by former NFL wide receiver Jake Reed and his wife, folded in 2009 after just two seasons in operation. Frisco’s second indoor team, the Frisco Falcons, was founded in 2011 and set to begin playing in 2012 in the Lone Star Football League, but folded before playing a single game. The most recent indoor team was the Texas Revolution, which relocated from Allen prior to the 2018 season. The Texas Revolution, which played in Champions Indoor Football, played their first season in Frisco at Dr Pepper Arena before shifting to The Ford Center at The Star for 2019. However, three games into last season, the Texas Revolution abruptly cancelled a May home game and then announced the franchise had folded.
Of course, these previous failures of indoor football in Frisco have nothing to do with this group bringing the sport back to Comerica Center, which seats just more than 5,000 people for these games. In fact, Frisco Fighters Owner Steve Germain extended an olive branch to former Texas Revolution season ticket holders left hanging by that franchise’s abrupt departure last spring, offering them free season tickets to the Frisco Fighters. All those fans had to do was get in contact with the team. “It is just something he offered to do,” Mr. Evans says. “He did not have to do it. We have no affiliation. It is goodwill and it is the right thing to do. It was no fault of those season ticket holders, and it is not our fault, but we want them to be our fans as well, so we are making this gesture. Quite a few of them have emailed in, and if they have not, they can still, and we will comp them season tickets for the 2020 season.”
50 Yards of Fun
In 1981, arena football was invented by a former NFL executive, and the first incarnation of the AFL began playing in 1987. The indoor game features nets on both ends of the field, which are in play during kickoffs and field goals. The Frisco Fighters will play on a smaller 50-yard field inside Comerica Center, a smaller venue than the AFL featured, but one with its advantages. “That is exactly what it is going to be – intimate,” Mr. Dolezel says. “If we can pack that thing out, you are talking about a home-field advantage that is tough to beat. Get a rowdy crowd, get a knowledgeable crowd … I think that says it in itself. It is going to be a home-field advantage that no one else has.”
Maybe the biggest selling point for the indoor game is the high level of fan friendliness. Any footballs which go in the stands can be kept by fans. Players and coaches are also much more accessible through postgame autograph sessions and other fan-centered events than their NFL counterparts are. “We are friends with the fans, basically,” Mr. Dolezel shares. “The coaches, the players … we are all friends. You cannot get that in the NFL. That is the uniqueness of the indoor game. We have a niche of guys we try to cater to.”
One thing most fans who have even cursory knowledge associate with the indoor game is that these are usually high-scoring affairs. That has usually been the case with the AFL and in other leagues. However, the IFL has fewer rules governing what defenses can and cannot do, making their rules closer to the college game. “It is easier to understand the rules. There is a lot more defense in play,” Mr. Dolezel says.
The Frisco Fighters will play a 14-game schedule, including seven at Comerica Center, in a season beginning March 12 and running through early June. And even though this is their inaugural campaign, Frisco’s newest sports franchise does not hide their lofty goals for 2020. “Championship,” Mr. Evans says. “Look at the coaching staff we hired – it is the best in the league. We are not going to spare any expense. Certainly, we are going to do everything we can to win.”
With an exciting product which is not only action-packed and puts being fan-friendly at a premium, the Frisco Fighters have the makings of being the next great addition to the local sports landscape.