An Arena Football League team could be a key tenant of a proposed 6,500-seat arena near the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville, a principal of the development company working on the project said Tuesday.
Tom Doyle, principal of Rockville-based D&A Sports and Entertainment Group, said he has been in ongoing talks with AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz about bringing an indoor football team to the area.
His company is also negotiating with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which owns about 8 acres that is now a parking lot for the Shady Grove Metro station, on leasing that property for the arena.
The Metro negotiations are going well, he said, with parties “close to having a contingent agreement.” There would need to be studies of engineering, traffic and environmental matters, along with other processes, so an exact groundbreaking date would be hard to pinpoint, he said.
But his talks with Metro and county officials had Doyle encouraged to the point that “it’s looking more like a reality that the arena will get built so we wanted to get a commitment from the Arena Football League,” he said. “It’s more than just a letter of interest [from Kurz]. We’ve been having ongoing talks for several years.”
BJ Pickard, director of communications for the AFL, which has its headquarters in Chicago, said in an email that he does not “have any further information” on a potential team in Montgomery County.
Doyle, an attorney and lifelong Montgomery County resident, said he has a group of investors lined up for a potential AFL franchise. His partner at D&A Sports is another longtime Montgomery resident, Bill Askinazi, an attorney and former assistant secretary with the state Department of Business and Economic Development.
Doyle is no stranger to sports leagues and franchises, having owned the Maryland Nighthawks, a pro basketball team that played in North Bethesda, and co-founded an interactive sports television network and the Premier Basketball League, a professional hoops league. He has also founded the charitable organization Green Hoops for Hope.
The AFL has been around since 1987 and is a “major sport with a national [CBS] television contract,” Doyle noted. “It’s a very exciting game that puts fans close to the action.”
The AFL’s season runs from March to August. The games feature more scoring, with the Arizona Rattlers outscoring the Philadelphia Soul, 48-39, in the recent ArenaBowl XXVI.
There are 14 teams, with another, the L.A. Kiss, scheduled to begin next year. The Los Angeles franchise is partly owned by members of the hard-rock band Kiss. It will not be the first AFL team to have noted musical owners, as Jon Bon Jovi was an owner of the Philadelphia Soul for a few years.
The AFL last fielded a team in the area in 1990, the Washington Commandos, which played at the Patriot Center, a 10,000-seat arena on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The franchise was called the Maryland Commandos in 1989 when it played at the old Capital Centre in Landover. It formed in 1987 as one of four teams during the AFL’s inaugural season but did not field a team in 1988.
The Capital Centre, which had a capacity of 18,130 for Washington Capitals hockey games and almost 19,000 for NBA basketball contests, was demolished in 2002 to make room for The Boulevard at The Capital Centre shopping mall.
The proposed Shady Grove arena would be designed to allow up to 8,000 or so seats with suites, floor seating and standing area, Doyle said. “I’m confident it will be an adequate size,” he said.
The AFL championship game played before more than 12,000 in Orlando, and L.A.’s new team will be in the Honda Center in Anaheim, where the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks play. That venue has a seating capacity of 17,174 for hockey and more for other events.
The arena would take 13 to 15 months to build at a cost of $35 million to $50 million, Doyle said. It would be entirely privately funded, he said.
“That’s not the norm for these types of facilities,” Doyle said.
Besides sports events, the multipurpose arena could house trade shows, conventions, graduation ceremonies and concerts. The American Red Cross would also be able to use the space as an emergency shelter and storage for relief supplies, Doyle said.