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While the opening season of Arena Football in Kansas City was, for lack of better words, dismal, the team turned it all around their second year at Kemper Arena as they found their way to the AFL Playoffs. Renamed “The Hangar” by Brigade fans, Kemper Arena was a great venue for Arena Football as there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and there was plenty of room for what looked to be a successful venture. But the Brigade was lured away from Kemper Arena in 2008 for the new Sprint Arena, and the team’s success in 2008 pretty much defined the feelings of the fans who found Sprint Center to be less friendly and less of a value for their sports entertainment dollar. In fact, a number of Season Ticket holders were making it clear that they were either dropping their Season Tickets or 2009 would be a last chance for the venue and team to address the list of complaints Brigade fans had.
But there would not be a 2009 Season. The AFL would close for reorganization after the 2008 Season, and it would be 2011 before Arena Football would return to Kansas City as the Kansas City Command. Unfortunately for the Command, the changes in the AFL, the means of which the Brigade handled the shutdown of the league, and the return of the team to Sprint Center was clearly reflected in fan support as attendance dropped from an average of over 10,000 to less than half of that for the next two years. What were the primary complaints that kept the old Brigade fans from returning to support the Command? Sprint Center was not a friendly venue. The cost of attending the games jumped, the design of the arena had a lot of the fans who couldn’t afford lower level tickets setting a lot farther from the field. There was the parking situation where if you wanted to park close to the Arena you were looking at 10 to 15 dollars per event, and until the final season there wasn’t a place for tailgating.
Under the original AFL rules, players were to come out on the field after the game to sign autographs for the fans. However, after the team moved to Sprint Center, the KCP&L Entertainment district were luring players away to their businesses instead of appearing on the field. This didn’t settle well with old Arena Football Fans who couldn’t or wouldn’t take their children to the businesses that were pulling the players away. As fan support of the team dwindled, the support of the KCP&L businesses dwindled as well, and some started to speculate if there would be a 2009 Brigade Season, most fans not on top of the troubles the League was suffering.
After the reorganization of the Arena Football League in 2009, it would be 2011 before Arena Football would return to Kansas City under the new team name … The Command. Same logo, same uniforms, just a change of team name and some familiar faces missing. The new AFL had lost a lot of its top players. It was being reported that the players weren’t being paid as much as they had before the reorganization, and the level of play was suffering. In Kansas City, there was the memory of how the team closed it’s doors. Those Season Ticket holders that had decided to give the team one more season, those who had become Season Ticket holders after a substantial price cut, were not notified of the closure by the team, but found out through the media. Instead of the team notifying those who had purchased Season Tickets that a refund was due, the people who had paid for their tickets at the end of the season had to contact the team and all but demand their money back. Those who were willing to support the new team and return to the Sprint Center were significantly less than those who supported the Brigade. After two losing seasons, the Command closed their doors in 2012, to be replaced by new owners and a new look for the 2013 Season.
Returning as a part of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League, the Kansas City Renegades opened their only season at the Sprint Center. The team actually scored a season above .500 as a part of the new league, but once again failed to gain fan support. When the team was not supported by the Kansas City Sport Authority, the owner of the team said that he was closing operations and if he returned to Arena Football it would not be in Kansas City.
Over the next few years there was talk of bringing Women’s Arena Football to Kansas City. Now, before you become too intrigued as a Arena Football fan, look up the Lingerie Football League (LFL) and the Leather and Lace Football League (if it’s still around). This level of football is often referred as the panties and sports bra league. While the ladies try to be serious about the game, the fans are mostly men who are there for the scenery and not the game. I personally noticed that most of the girls that were being lined up for the Leather and Lace Football League being talked about were girls who seemed to spend a lot of time promoting local Gentlemen’s clubs. That’s right, the joke about strippers playing football was pretty close to being true. But the team never got off the ground.
Then, in 2016, talk started circulating about a new Arena Football Team coming to Kansas City. The most intriguing thing about the new team was that the team would be playing it’s games at the Independence Event Center, a small arena with an occupancy of around 8,500 seats. This would be perfect for a lower level league like the Champions Football League. The problem would be that many of the Arena Football Fans in Kansas City had been burned more than once, many of them had lost faith in the leagues. But this was in Independence. It was a nice arena with ample FREE parking, and like Kemper Arena, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. With former members of the AFL and the Indoor Football League (IFL), the Kansas City Phantoms took the field in March of 2017. Unfortunately, the team got off to a dismal start, going 1-8 before winning their final three games at home for a season record of 4-8.
Kansas City is a fickle market. We have been disappointed too many times by losing Arena Football Teams that simply close their doors. Attendance struggled through the season, and the team was running a lot of promos to get people to attend games. Tickets being handed out by a radio station, premium seats being sold for $10 for the final game to get people in the doors. Some of us were concerned that there would not be a 2018 Phantoms Season. But word came out during the final three games that there would be a 2018 Phantoms season, and that the cost of Season Tickets would be a lower price.
One can hope that the 2018 Season will be an exciting one. Not only for the Phantoms but for the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF). A team that dropped out of Arena Football, the Quad-City Steamwheelers are returning to the League. Unfortunately, the Dodge City Law are dropping out. But there are rumors of two IFL teams joining the CIF, and that there are five more teams that are in the application process. These rumors talk of several IFL teams joining the more localized CIF in 2018, and that will change the CIF, hopefully expanding the short 12 game season to 16 games. The question is, if this happens and the Kansas City Phantoms become a successful franchise, will the cost of tickets rise back up to some of the highest in the CIF?
Yes, when you look around the league, the ticket prices for the Phantoms are above average. I followed the team to Wichita and Omaha in 2017. At the original ticket prices for the Phantoms, I was getting better seats and a lower price at both venues than I was at home. So I was pleased when it was announced that ticket prices would be going down for 2018.
I have my season tickets for 2018. My last three games were spent front row (on the wall) at the 25 yard line. Incredible seats, had a lot of fun. I will be returning to those seats, leaning on the wall and making my voice heard during the games. My only concern is the class of characters that will end up in my section. Being an old AFL fan I appreciated the family friendly rules that the AFL demanded. It was an environment that I didn’t mind taking my children to, unlike the insanity that Arrowhead Stadium has become known for.