SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Arena football may be making its way back to the Queen City, with familiar names attached to the project.
The Arena League (TAL) organizers are asking football fans to cast their vote to bring a new team to their city or area. Springfield was selected as one of the top 10 finalists.
To cast your vote, visit the TAL website.
Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown, The Arena League’s first commissioner, told The Heartlander he believes Springfield would be the perfect market for the league.
Brown enthusiastically had one question for residents in the Springfield market.
“Are you ready for some football?” he asked, echoing an old Monday Night Football theme song. “Come on guys, let’s go. Look, I don’t know what fun things there are to do in the summer in Springfield, but going to a football game on Saturday night has to be high on the list.
“Our players will be in the community doing incredible things and encouraging your kids to be better people and do what they can do in life. I think it’s going to be a great relationship if we can make it happen. Get your vote in and make sure you tell everybody you want to be a part of this, and we’ll go from there.”
Tommy Benizio, president and CEO of BeniZio Sports, made a trip to Springfield to visit with city leaders and Ozark Empire Fairgrounds CEO Aaron Owen to discuss the possibility of bringing a team to the new arena at the fairgrounds.
“They were absolutely phenomenal,” Benizio said of Springfield city and fairground leaders. “From the economic development folks and sports commission, it was really terrific to meet these people and to get a real sense that, ‘Hey, we would love to have a team.’ It was incredibly encouraging.”
The entrepreneur says Springfield was the most welcoming community he has visited yet, and that he’d love to see a team come to town. According to Benizio, if the city gets a TAL team, fans will experience top-notch players who are one step away from the NFL.
Benizio and Brown say they hope to encourage and inspire players to reach the next level in their journey toward football greatness.
Benizio has filled major roles within other sports organizations. Brown, who spent much of his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders, says he met Benizio when they both were involved in a Frisco, Texas arena football team.
“We’ve always kept in touch, and always talk about opportunities we could possibly do together,” Brown said of Benizio. “This one came up and he asked if I would be the commissioner. I was happy to oblige.
“I think this is a great opportunity for young kids to get that football out of them before they move on to real life. Maybe this is their last shot, maybe this is a stepping stone. Who knows? I think we’ll help people achieve their dreams, and that’s what it’s really all about.”
For those unfamiliar with arena-style football, games are typically played at a faster pace on a shortened 50-yard indoor field. AL teams consist of 15-man rosters who play 6-on-6 football. Additionally, players will play both offense and defense. Kickoffs are replaced with “throw-offs” and extra-point kicks are eliminated in favor of two-point conversion attempts only.
According to Brown, some spice will be thrown into his blend of arena football with the addition of a 20-second play clock, half the NFL’s, which will speed things up even more and keep players on their toes.
Benizio says games will provide fans a combination of fun for families of all ages and plenty of action.
“From the pregame tailgate parties to postgame autograph sessions, the incredible halftime acts and additional promotional elements that we intend on including at our events, the games are just fun even if you are not necessarily passionate about football. Everyone is going to enjoy being at these games,” Benizio said.
Other cities listed as potential hosts for a TAL team are Rochester, Minnesota; Little Rock, Arkansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Waterloo, Iowa; Rockford, Illinois; Dubuque, Iowa; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Duluth, Minnesota; and Wichita Falls, Texas.
The TAL plans to announce team sites sometime this spring, followed by a 10-game schedule for its inaugural season in summer 2024.