Charlotte Gets A New Arena Football Team - The Carolina Energy
Charlotte now has another professional football team - but it's unlike anything you'd see in the NFL. The Carolina Energy will begin play next month indoors, in the newly formed American Arena League.
The Energy will play a 10-game season, March through June, with home games indoors at Charlotte's Bojangles' Coliseum. It's a high-scoring version of the game, with eight-person teams playing on a 50-yard turf field surrounded by padded walls.
"Arena football is a lot faster," said Energy head coach and co-owner Ervin Bryson, who introduced his team to reporters at the Charlotte Chamber Thursday. "The field in arena ball is so much smaller, that your mind has to think that much quicker."
Bryson has been coaching indoor football for two decades and said it's not a millionaires' game like the NFL.
"A player makes $200 a game. We have to house the ballplayers - they're from out of town. We have to give them two meals a day," he said. "And they're really playing for their families. It's not about the money."
Bryson is leaning heavily on local talent as he puts together his roster. He said most just want to stay in the game - and maybe get a shot at playing at a higher level.
"Guys from UNC Charlotte, guys from Catawba College, Lenoir-Rhyne, East Carolina. We have a lot of local guys that live directly here in Charlotte," he said.
Bryson is a South Carolina native. He was a college running back in North Carolina and Maryland in the 1980s - at North Carolina's Chowan University, North Carolina A&T and Maryland's Bowie State. He played briefly in the NFL and in arena football before a knee injury ended his playing career. He's been coaching indoor football ever since.
Last year, Bryson coached the Vermont Bucks to the championship of the Can-Am Indoor Football League. In the off-season, that league merged with Arena Pro Football to form the American Arena League, and league owners asked Bryson to form a team in Charlotte.
He and co-owner Daniel Rudmann, a South Carolina contractor and property manager, put down the $5,000 fee and started recruiting.
The team is currently seeking sponsors and selling tickets. Rudmann says the Energy will give football fans something to watch when the Carolina Panthers and the NFL aren't on the field.
"Our season is totally different from theirs. We're just going to be just another opportunity for them to enjoy sports entertainment," Rudmann said. He says the Panthers have given "a thumbs up" to forming an arena football team here.
Charlotte has had indoor football before - the Speed from 2007 to 2011, the Cobras in the mid-2000s, and the Rage in the 1990s. The launch of the new American Arena League comes as a similar big-money national league is organizing. Wrestling promoter Vince McMahon is planning a 2020 re-launch of the XFL.
The Energy's first game is Saturday, March 24, at Bojangles' Coliseum, against the Triangle Torch, from Raleigh.
Oh, and there's one other difference from the NFL: Tickets are a lot cheaper - $12 to $27.