After 25 seasons in the Arena Football League, the Orlando Predators have announced that they are suspending their operations.
There has been much uncertainty surrounding the Arena Football League. Reports were indicating that the circuit’s number of number of teams would be dropping, which was confirmed when the Predators and Jacksonville Sharks announced their respective departures. In their announcement, the Predators expressed concern about the league’s current direction.
“The Orlando Predators have chosen to suspend team operations today due to the reduced number of teams remaining in the Arena Football League as well as pending disagreements with the League,” read a statement from the team. “Over the course of the past several years we have focused on building and growing our winning franchise, despite significant issues at the league level that have impaired our ability to be successful.”
The Sharks expressed similar grievances with the league but, unlike the Predators, are expected to continue their operations. The team has said it will be moving to a rival league in 2017, with more details to be announced next week.
For the Arena Football League, the loss of the Predators marks the departure of one of its longest-running franchises. Beginning play in 1991, the Predators won the league title twice and their division nine times. Of the league’s current teams, only the Tampa Bay Storm had a longer-running Arena Football League operation in their current city than the Predators.
During the Predators’ peak, they managed to be a big part of the Orlando sports scene. More from the Orlando Sentinel:
The Preds were their most popular in the mid-1990s when they filled the old Amway Arena, drawing an average announced attendance of 15,638, a team record, in 1995. Amway Center opened in 2010, and the Preds began playing there the following year. They spent three seasons at the downtown facility, but after a lease disagreement, they moved their home games to UCF for one season.
Attendance sagged, and after [owner David] Siegel bought the franchise, it returned to Amway Center in 2015. The Preds averaged 11,683 fans per home game last season.
Now the team’s future is fuzzy.
“I was completely distraught,” said Preds fan Jacob McCoy, a student at Valencia College in Orlando. “I couldn’t believe it.
“We are a big city, and we only have the Orlando Magic, and now we have the soccer team. I go to a lot of the [Orlando City] Lions’ games. We need sports. Taking away the Predators is really hurting us.”
As it stands, the Arena Football League stands to gain one team for the 2017 season, which is the expansion Washington Valor.