AFL's Albany expansion team named "Empire" Jan 24, 2018 17:00:34 GMT -8
Post by David on Jan 24, 2018 17:00:34 GMT -8
ALBANY, NY - Amidst an uncertain future for the Arena Football League, the expansion Albany, New York franchise announced on Tuesday that its identity would be known as the Albany Empire.
The “Empire” name was one of four choices voted upon by the Albany community. The poll was posted on the website for Albany’s newspaper, the Times Union. According to the AFL and the Times Union, over 11,500 unique votes were submitted and the Empire name won with 44% of the votes. The other names up for consideration were the Phoenix (21% of the vote), Fire (20%) and Machine (15%).
In the league’s press release, the Empire name represents Albany as the Capital of New York, which is known as the “Empire State.”
The Empire’s primary logo consists of a red-orange and navy blue battle mask and shield, with a football lace design incorporated into the lower shield portion. According to the AFL’s press release, the logo “encapsulates strength, versatility and boldness with an attractive display of the Empire battle mask and shield, as well as a football.” Designed by The Martin Group, which has existing clients such as New Era Cap and Under Armor, the logo is described as “bold, yet attractive design” that “conveys the inherent power of both the team, the sport and the city it now represents.”
“Nobody is more excited than me to have a name that will be consistent with the brand of football we plan to put on the field,” stated Rob Keefe, the Empire’s Head Coach. “We will look tough and play tough, there’s no question about it.”
“It was clear the people wanted to see Empire,” said Albany co-owner George Randolph Hearst III, who also is the Publisher and CEO of the Times Union. “It feels good. The Machine was kind of cool, but I ran into the mayor and she said ‘Don’t call the team the Machine!’”
Hearst is one of three members of the local ownership group located in Albany. The Albany group is partnered with the ownership group of the Philadelphia Soul, which includes ex-Eagles QB Ron Jaworski and Head Coach Dick Vermeil, as well as ex-New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston and current Green Bay Packers OL Jahri Evans.
“This is a historic moment for the city of Albany. We will make this city be proud of the Empire that the organization, fans, and partners are going to build together,” Jaworski stated in the team's press announcement.
Jaworski was asked by the Times Union which name he preferred, but he did not answer, stating that he “stayed out of” the naming process.
The team’s uniforms will be unveiled at a later date. One date that was confirmed by the league was the team’s inaugural game was scheduled on April 14, 2018, against the Philadelphia Soul at the Times Union Center. Kickoff for that game is tentatively set at 7 PM (EST).
With a name attached to the city, the Empire are the third arena football team based out of Albany and the second franchises associated with the AFL.
The first Albany franchise, the Firebirds, played from 1990-2000 and had a successful run, making the playoffs in 9 of its 11 seasons, winning six division titles and winning ArenaBowl XIII against the Orlando Predators. After the conclusion of the 2000 AFL Season, the Firebirds moved to Indianapolis, IN, retaining the Firebirds moniker. The Indiana Firebirds would play four seasons in Indianapolis, making the playoffs its first two years before eventually folding after the 2004 season.
The second Albany franchise, the Conquest, began play in 2002. Unlike the Firebirds franchise, the Conquest were members of the AFL’s developmental league, arenafootball2 (af2). After two successful 13-3 seasons that included Northeast Division Championships, the Conquest missed the playoffs for the next five seasons. To draw fans of the old Firebirds team, the Conquest acquired the rights to the Firebirds name and logo and re-branded itself prior to the 2009 af2 Season. Despite making the playoffs, the team, much like the af2 itself, folded after the 2009 Season.
Despite the popularity of the Firebirds name, the name was unavailable to the new Albany ownership group. The Firebirds trademark currently belongs Gridiron Enterprises, which is owned by James Foster, the original founder of the Arena Football League (AFL), as well as attorney William Niro, and ex-AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz. Alternative names, such as the Phoenix and Fire, were listed as name finalists as tribute to the Firebirds, but ultimately was not selected.
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