The Grand Rapids Seminoles, above, play in the Great Lakes League, but now a local nonprofit is in contact with the XFL about placing a franchise in Grand Rapids. Courtesy Preston Sain
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Could a professional football team re-emerge in Grand Rapids?
Only time will tell, but the question is beginning to float around after Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports — a nonprofit organization that supports the development of at-risk youth through sports education — received a reply to an email inquiring about the recent announcement of the revival of the XFL.
“Appreciate the note,” the email read. “Evaluating our approach now, but will be in touch as opportunities arise. Thank you for opening up a dialog. Very impressive reading about your work in Michigan.”
That email was sent Feb. 2 by representatives of Alpha Entertainment a week after Vince McMahon, the chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced the return of the XFL. The XFL is owned by Alpha Entertainment, which McMahon founded.
Preston Sain, co-founder of Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports, said the return of the XFL, which launched in 2001 but lasted only one season, is an opportunity for what was his organization’s original goal of bringing a professional football team to the Grand Rapids area.
“The idea existed for about two years since we started out with our own semipro football team (Grand Rapids Seminoles),” Sain said. “The goal was to always play a couple years in the small league (Great Lakes League) and then present it to city officials to make it a major team for the city. When the XFL announcement came in late January, that was an opportunity.”
In a televised press conference, McMahon said the XFL would be different from the NFL, noting there will be eight teams, 40-player rosters, 10 regular season games, two postseason games and a championship game.
McMahon also said the XFL will be a single entity. There will be no franchises; the XFL will own all eight teams and control every aspect of the league, including the type of players who play in the league, the broadcasters and the promoters.
According to CBS Sports, McMahon sold $100 million in WWE shares to fund Alpha Entertainment.
With two years until the beginning of the season in February 2020, McMahon said the league hasn’t decided on any cities, but there are certain qualities he is looking for in potential cities.
“(We) want to play football where football is played, in stadiums,” McMahon said at the press conference. “There may be a situation where we’ll play at baseball stadiums or something like that if a football stadium is not available in that market, but nonetheless, the intent is to play, more specifically, where a lot of the other NFL teams play.”
Sain said he messaged the president of the West Michigan Whitecaps to potentially allow the Grand Rapids Seminoles to play some of their home games at Fifth Third Ballpark. He also mentioned the possibility of playing their home games, if Grand Rapids were selected as a city for an XFL team, at Grand Valley State University’s Lubbers Stadium.
Sain said Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports is trying to get people excited about the possibility of hosting a professional football team.
“We are just working on getting the buzz out there and the city excited, and then we’ll sit down with the mayor, city officials and sponsors, and see if there is a shared interest,” Sain said.
Sain said there are a few reasons he’s optimistic about the possibility: Grand Rapids already has a semipro football team and McMahon also is familiar with the city of Grand Rapids.
“They bring Monday Night Raw (also known as WWE Raw) to Grand Rapids like twice a year at the Van Andel Arena,” Sain said.
The Grand Rapids Rampage were the first football team in West Michigan. The Rampage played in the Arena Football League for 11 years before the team stopped playing in 2009. They won the 2001 Arena Football League Championship.
Alpha Entertainment did not propose a date of when it’ll begin to select cities.
Grand Rapids Business Journal reached out to Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, but she declined to comment.
The Business Journal also reached out to Alpha Entertainment but did not receive a reply before press time.