Tingley Coliseum has been abuzz with activity this week as the arena at Expo New Mexico is transformed into a football venue in preparation for Saturday’s pro indoor exhibition game between the Duke City Gladiators and an all-star team from Mexico.
It will be the home debut for the expansion Gladiators, who are a member of the Champions Indoor Football league.
Although the 58-year-old facility has been home to the Central Hockey League’s Scorpions and the NBA Development League’s Thunderbirds in the past decade, Tingley officials can’t recall football ever being played in the building.
Work began in earnest on the grid setup when dasher boards were built and erected by a construction company formerly owned by Gladiators GM/co-owner Matt Caward.
And Monday, the newly purchased playing turf, at a cost of $40,000, arrived. But the carpet wasn’t going to unspool on its own and spill out over the concrete floor. So the Gladiators’ players jumped in.
“I got a phone call Monday from Matt,” coach Dominic Bramante said before Wednesday night’s practice, “and he said, ‘Do you want to practice at Tingley (Tuesday)?’ I said, ‘Of course.’
“He then said, ‘Well, then you need to see if you can get the players to come over and roll it out on the floor.’ So I called the players and asked if they wanted to practice in the arena and they all went ‘Yea!’ No one complained. They were all fired up about playing inside the walls.”
Until Tuesday night, all the Gladiators’ drills had been held outdoors on grammar school or community center fields. Their lack of indoor practice time played a role in a season-opening road loss to the Texas Revolution, 56-16, last Friday.
Bramante said about 20 players took part in laying the turf. All that remains is for trims to be made along the boards, for a portion in the end zone to be smoothed out and for the field to be lined.
Dan Mourning, GM of Expo New Mexico, said the biggest hurdle Tingley faced in playing host to the Gladiators this year was clearing playing dates at the 11th hour. It wasn’t until a month ago that the team was even born.
“We have a full crew here and there’s no challenge we can’t meet,” Mourning said. “It’s all worked out great so far. We’re very happy with Matt. They’re doing the work, and my crews make sure the stuff is safe and meets codes.”
Bramante was still marveling over the setup Wednesday.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “Me and Matt were at midfield (Tuesday) and we were just kind of in awe and saying, ‘Wow, we did it.’ I think what Matt’s done – I don’t want to throw around the word miraculous, but we’re on a big green field now at Tingley Coliseum and it’s great.”
The Gladiators plan to practice at Tingley each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30-7 p.m. through April. The public is welcome to attend.
TICKETS: Gladiators single-game and season tickets may be purchased through Hold My Ticket and on the team website at dukecitygladiators.com. General admission seating is $10.
TRYOUT: The Gladiators will be conducting a tryout at 2 p.m. Sunday at Tingley. There is a $50 fee and is open to anyone who would like to make the team’s roster this season.
UPCOMING: Saturday’s exhibition will be the first of four consecutive Saturday nights of Gladiators action in Tingley.
On April 4, the team will face San Angelo, the first of three straight CIF foes. April 11 brings in Dodge City, followed on April 18 by the Gladiators’ archrival, Amarillo.