- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are you ready for some football - in July?

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission on Wednesday introduced a new indoor football franchise that will play at the D.C. Armory, giving die-hard pigskin fans something to watch after the NFL and college football have wrapped up their seasons.

The D.C. Armor of the American Indoor Football Association will play seven games in the District as part of a 14-game schedule that includes games against teams in Baltimore and the Pennsylvania cities of Reading and Erie, among others. Games will be played mostly on Friday and Saturday nights, with the season running from March to July.

The sports commission, which is permitted by the D.C. National Guard to rent out the Armory’s vast floor space, will receive $5,000 per game and a share of parking and concession revenue. While the commission is responsible for basic maintenance, the team will supply its own turf field and goal posts. Because the games will be played in the spring and summer, the team also is expected to pay for air conditioning at the facility.

The AIFA is not affiliated with the popular Arena Football League, though the style of play is similar. Games are played on a field half the size of a typical NFL field and are usually fast-paced and high-scoring. The team will hold open tryouts at RFK Stadium on Nov. 29.

“The sport is competitive, it’s very exciting, it’s a wonderful game-day experience and it’s also very affordable,” said local venture capitalist and team owner Corey Barnette.

Players on AIFA teams earn $200 per game and have “open contracts” that allow them to easily move to teams in the AFL or other leagues if presented with an opportunity.

“If we can keep our players playing, and give them an opportunity to continue to get game film and move on to the next level, then we will have done our job as both owners and coaches in this league,” said John Morris, the AIFA’s co-owner and chief executive officer.

The Armor are the first pro indoor football team to play in Washington. Redskins owner Dan Snyder holds the rights to an AFL team in the area but has not exercised them.

“This is not something that will come in and compete with the Redskins,” said Brian Mitchell, a former Redskins running back who has been hired by the Armor as a consultant. “It’s to fill the void.”

The arrival of the Armor is part of a broader effort by the sports commission to attract more events to the D.C. Armory and adjacent RFK Stadium, and officials have focused heavily on football. The commission is sponsoring the Dec. 20 EagleBank Bowl and has had early discussions about moving local high school games to RFK and possibly hosting a game between two historically black colleges.

“Football for me and for the commission is one of the tent poles of what we’re trying to do,” sports commission CEO Erik Moses said.

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