New league, new team to give indoor football another go at Arena

By: David Friedlander

Published: October 17, 2013

DULUTH — After three previous attempts to establish a foothold for an indoor football team at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, owners of a team in the new X-League are hoping the fourth time is the charm.

Representatives from the league and the new team, called the Georgia Stealth, announced the intention Thursday to play as one of at least six teams so far for the 2014 season.

“First of all, I’d like to thank the Gwinnett Arena for allowing us to play here,” said Lameir Slaughter, the team’s owner. “And thank you to the (X-League), for allowing us to enter their league.

“I’ve been involved in football from midget league to … a semi-pro league. So, this is another phase of football. It’s been kind of like a dream and an opportunity for me. With the Force gone, we’re up here establishing this team.”

There will be quite a few differences between the X-League’s Stealth and the Arena Football League’s Georgia Force, who had three different stints at the arena between 2002 and 2011.

For one thing, with the league being smaller than the AFL, the X-League’s season will be considerably shorter, with the Stealth playing four of its eight games at the arena.

And there are other noticeable logistic differences between the X-League, which will begin its inaugural season in 2014 with the Stealth, other expansion teams in Birmingham, Ala., and Reading, Pa., plus three teams that operated in the Ultimate Indoor Football League the past two years — the Georgia Rampage, based at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton, the St. Louis Attack and the Florida Marine Raiders based in Lakeland, Fla.

“What we did with the X-League is, X stands for excitement,” said league president and co-founder Kacee Smith. “Basically, (league co-founder) Mike Mink and I got together and just talked about indoor football and its history. … To me, it’s a little bland. A lot of people promote excitement and high-scoring. It is to a point, but it’s kind of the same old, same old. What we did was kind of put outdoor football concepts with indoor football concepts, and threw some excitement in there with it.

“We have X-rules, which are a little different. Instead of a coin toss (to begin the game), we took that out and have what is called an X dash, where a player from each team will race for the ball (placed at midfield), and whoever comes up with the ball gets the ball for his team, plus two points. We have the X bonus. In the NFL, you’ve got the two-minute warning for each half. Ours is going to be the one-minute warning in each half, and you can double the points scored in that period. And then we have the X spot, a 6(-foot)-by-6 spot in the end zone. If you catch the ball in that spot, it’s an additional two points. So, those are things we threw in there to change it up a little bit to make it more like outdoor football.”

Other differences fans will notice from the AFL are the fact that linebackers will be allowed to move around, and stunting by the defensive lines will be allowed, plus the offense will be allowed only one forward-motion receiver compared to two in the AFL.

But the biggest difference will the be absence of the giant nets on either side of the goalposts that were so prominently featured in the AFL, which will drastically alter kickoffs.

Instead of being able to play the ball off the net, any ball that goes out of the end zone will be considered a touchback, with the opposing team getting the ball at its own 15-yard line, while a kick that goes through the uprights will be worth a point to the kicking team.

Slaughter is hoping the new features to the game, plus an aggressive marketing strategy in Gwinnett County and beyond into metro Atlanta, will help make the Stealth a success, where the Force did not — at least in its last two incarnations at the Arena.

“Of course, we’re not the Force,” Slaughter said. “We’re going to market like no other. We know this is a football county — a football area. We just want an opportunity to show the people that we’re reaching out to the community. … We are a team that is here to say. We’re not wavering. We won’t leave. This is the place to be, and we really appreciate the Gwinnett Arena for allow us to come here and accepting us.”

Details of the marketing plan and ticket plans — which Slaughter said will range from as little as $12 to $50 per game for premium seats — will be announced in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, the task of building the team will fall to general manager George Duker.

While he said Thursday he is still in the process of hiring a head coach, he will oversee several tryout camps — including one at Silverbacks’ indoor soccer facility in Suwanee from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday — to get a look a players that could potentially be invited to training camp in February.

“We do have a couple of coaches on board right now, but we have not signed a head coach yet,” Duker said. “Starting the team, we’ll have 24 (players) on the roster, with 19 on the active roster. . … The time frame to put everything together is February.”