Will Spring Football League Bring a Need for More Facilities?

Major League Football (MLFB), a new, professional spring football league scheduled to kick off in 2016, charged onto the scene a few months ago. After holding tryout camps in October and November, it announced cities in which it intends to place franchises, including:

  • Akron, Ohio
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Norfolk, Virginia

Notice a pattern emerging here? MLFB says it is purposefully avoiding putting franchises in cities with existing NFL or Major League Baseball teams. Wes Chandler, the former UF and NFL wide receiver, who is president of MLFB, says his league has no wish to be adversarial to other pro teams by moving into their markets.

Chandler told the Orlando Sentinel the ultimate goal of MLFB is sustainability, not to compete against the NFL, and to avoid what happened with ill-fated spring leagues such as the USFL, World League of American Football, XFL and United Football League.

Chandler said that after years of studies aimed at finding markets most likely to support franchises, the league is forging ahead with dual missions of growth and development.

“There are a lot of people on the street today, both players and coaches, that can still play but need a little bit more growth,” Chandler said. He also noted the league could serve to grow the pool of qualified officials, trainers and marketing people, too. He said community service and life-skills training will be key components of the league.

But of course, the question then becomes this: There is plenty of spring action on fields in those cities already, thanks to college lacrosse and more. And while MLFB will start with a manageable six teams, will it be able to find enough facilities if it takes off as planned? And how will it balance the need for practice facilities and space to accommodate its off-season training camps, when those venues are already in use by college football teams who are in bowl contention?

And it’s not just fields and training facilities that may be in short supply. Tourism is on the rise in Sarasota and Manatee counties – which is great for hotels, restaurants and other tourism-focused businesses — but this upswing in visitors is posing a problem for the MLFB, which has chosen the region for preseason training.

According to the Herald-Tribune, MLFB officials have even flirted with the idea of docking a cruise ship on the Manatee River to house 800 players and coaches.

“With workouts scheduled in February and March, peak tourism time in Southwest Florida, the MLFB’s Frank Murtha was having a hard time finding a hotel to accommodate the athletes and coaches who will be invited to participate in the startup professional league training at the Premier Sports Campus,” wrote Katy Bergen for the Herald-Tribune.

Accordingly, the area is currently weighing the possibility of new hotel construction; should sports tourism in the region (MLFB as well as various other pursuits) continue to grow, such accommodations will be in constant use.

And while much remains to be decided, the potential for growth is there. If the league gains traction, expect ASBA members to reap the rewards. After all, it won’t be long until a pro league needs more, and bigger, facilities, and until quality design and construction services are needed.

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