Just in the nick of time, the Duke City Gladiators have a pro indoor football league to call home.
Franchise co-owner/general manager Matt Caward said they will be joining the Champions Indoor Football league and have an 11-game schedule for the 2015 season. Included are six Albuquerque dates.
Caward said the Gladiators will play their home games at Tingley Coliseum this season – most of them, anyway – beginning with an exhibition March 28 against a foe to be determined. It’s the first of five consecutive home weekend dates for Duke City.
The Gladiators’ season opener is set for March 20 in Allen, Texas, against the Texas Revolution.
In the season finale June 6, the availability of Tingley is uncertain for the Gladiators’ scheduled home game against the Salina (Kan.) Bombers. The Gladiators are investigating other Albuquerque options just in case.
Caward has scheduled a news conference at 1 p.m. today at Hotel Cascada to address the new league and schedule. He said the final step on his end with the CIF was to forward a letter of credit to commissioner Darlene Jones. He said that was done Monday morning.
“I’ve been doing this till 2 in the morning literally for the past three weeks,” Caward said with a sigh of relief after getting the expansion team on its feet at such a late date. “I’d rarely go to bed before 2 a.m.”
Whereas the Gladiators are still three days from their first practice, four other CIF teams already have opened league play.
The CIF is the league that the Rio Rancho-based New Mexico Stars were a member of until their owners opted to call off the season Feb. 21 and restructure. Their first game was to have been last night.
The Gladiators, meanwhile, originally were flirting with the 10-team X-League, based in the southeastern U.S. But after the Stars disappeared, the Duke City franchise began talks with representatives of the Champions league.
“I would have felt pretty confident playing in either league,” Caward said. “Both were very helpful in trying to negotiate a deal for us into their league. I have the upmost respect for the X-League and (commissioner) Mike Mink, and for the CIF and (commissioner) Darlene Jones and their franchise group.
“The CIF just seems like a better fit since we can help the other indoor teams. For them to lose all those games against the Stars and have a team drop out like that, it’s detrimental to them – catastrophic actually. It’s not that this league is better (than the X-League) by any means, it’s just a better fit.”
The Gladiators, however, weren’t merely able to slip into the void in the CIF left by the Stars, because the league had already revamped its schedule and because Tingley will be tied up for much of May and June. Still, four games/dates are the same as the Stars had, including the opener at Texas.
The CIF’s Jones didn’t get much sleep, either.
“Oh my gosh, it’s been a nightmare,” she laughed regarding the seemingly non-stop adjusting and readjusting of the league schedule.
The next order of business is for Gladiators head coach Dominic Bramante to gather up his players for camp.
“On Thursday the players report and Friday will be the first day of practices,” he said. “And since we’ll be outside, we need the football gods to smile on us with good weather.”
Bramante said 35 players are scheduled to be on hand, including about a dozen former members of the Stars.
And they had better be quick learners, because game rules aren’t what they were accustomed to in the Lone Star Football League the past two seasons. Among key differences are an extra defensive back and the allowance for two offensive players in motion at once.
DANCE/CHEER TRYOUTS: Tryouts will be conducted Saturday at 5 p.m. at Hotel Cascada for those interested in joining the Duke City Oracles dance/cheerleader team.
There also will be auditions for national anthem singers, the team mascot and all other entertainment personnel, such as VJs to those who throw souvenir footballs into the stands and who help orchestrate halftime programs.
For more information, check the team’s website at dukecitygladiators.com