Arena League eyes Salt Lake for possible expansion
By Aaron Cole
Deseret Morning News
Among the bevy of current major-league franchise rumors in Salt Lake City, add one more: an Arena Football League team.
An AFL spokesperson confirmed Monday that an ownership group from Salt Lake City has contacted the league about a possible expansion to the Salt Lake area.
"We have received a preliminary inquiry from an ownership group in Salt Lake. We will be exploring Salt Lake as a possibility," AFL representative Chris McCloskey said. "Salt Lake is a good market for an AFL team and has a good track record with pro sports franchises, namely the Utah Jazz."
While Salt Lake will have to meet several requirements before an expansion team is granted, it does not appear to be beyond reach.
No indication has been given as to whether or not Salt Lake would be granted an AFL franchise or a developmental franchise in the AF2 league. The AF2 is the AFL's equivalent of baseball's minor leagues.
If placed in the AFL, Salt Lake would be a smaller market, but not the smallest. Current teams exist in Grand Rapids and Austin, both smaller than Salt Lake in relative size. The AFL currently has teams in seven of the 10 major markets in the United States, with several expansion options such as Washington, D.C., and Houston.
If placed in the smaller developmental AF2, Salt Lake would be bigger than most current teams, such as Bakersfield and Birmingham.
The AFL's popularity and attendance have grown over the past several years, prompting recent expansion to cities such as Denver and New Orleans, and attracting owners such as John Elway and Jon Bon Jovi.
Strong ownership is one of the stringent qualifications a potential franchise will have to meet before an AFL team is approved.
Although representatives from the AFL league office have said that contact from an interested party from Salt Lake has been preliminary, several additional steps will be necessary in the expansion process.
First, an informal inquiry needs to be made from a potential ownership group. Then the AFL will investigate its potential new market. Then, contingent on an approval from the AFL Expansion Committee and Executive Board, three-quarters of the Board of Directors must approve the bid.
There are 19 teams in the AFL and 25 teams in the developmental AF2 league.