When officials with the Arena Football League were in town last year for their sport’s championship game, the ArenaBowl, the action on the field at the New Orleans Arena wasn’t the only thing that captured their attention. They were also sizing up the city as a location for future championship games and what they saw was enough to earn New Orleans the right to host the game once again.
Though the competing teams in the upcoming AFL championship aren’t yet determined, the selection of New Orleans to host ArenaBowl XXII means thousands of fans headed to the city right in the middle of the seasonal tourism slump. The game is scheduled for July 27 in the New Orleans Arena and will be broadcast on ABC.
“It was such a good experience last year, people were so appreciative that we were there, from the doorman at the hotel to the retailers, it was clear this event meant something to the people of New Orleans,” says David Baker, commissioner of the New York-based AFL.
After Hurricane Katrina, the AFL decided to cut short a deal with Las Vegas to hold ArenaBowl XXI in the nation’s casino capital for three consecutive years and instead move it to New Orleans in 2007. The move would coincide with the return of the local AFL franchise, the New Orleans VooDoo, after a one-year hiatus forced by the disaster.
Last year’s ArenaBowl marked the first time the league enjoyed a sell-out at its championship game since adopting the pre-determined location format used by the NFL for its own Super Bowl.
Previously, one of the two competing teams hosted the game, which brought out an intense local fan base but also seemed to create a competitive advantage for the home team. With the performance of the New Orleans ArenaBowl in 2007, however, Baker says an appealing destination is proving this new format makes sense in the box office as well. The sold-out New Orleans game last year brought the AFL $900,000 in ticket sales, he says, approximately three times the gate ring the league saw at its first pre-determined location championship three years earlier.
“Last year we wanted to send a message; last year was about doing the right thing,” says Baker. “This year it’s about good times and good business.”
Pre-game activities for ArenaBowl XXII will include a free concert at Spanish Plaza on July 26 featuring Huey Lewis and the News. For more information, visit www.arenabowl.com.