Game on…with Rob Kriete – SEPTEMBER 9

I love when professional sports get it. For years, sports were built around the game itself with fans being a general afterthought. Yet, in the last twenty years, we have seen leagues and teams getting it by creating a rich experience for those that make the team a team, the fans. Now, we in Tampa Bay are getting a new team with fan’s interactions and experiences at the forefront of modern sports team building; welcome the Tampa Bay Tornadoes!

“The fans will be involved in every aspect of [the Tampa Bay Tornadoes] experience. We are trying to build the team from the outside in, rather than the inside out…from our fans to the water boy,” Alton Walker, the proud owner of the new Tampa Bay Tornadoes Arena League football team, told ItsSportsMagazine.com emphatically this week. The inaugural Tampa Bay Tornadoes will join the National Arena League (NAL), as it expands from six teams in 2019 to ten, and possibly more, for the upcoming 2021 season beginning in April. Walker oozed enthusiasm for his new team and the fantastic experience for fans he is creating. Alton Walker plans all sorts of fun for the fans, including concerts, special guests, Buccaneers player visits, and even a behind-the-scenes look at the Tornadoes training camp starting in February.

Beyond crafting an unforgettable experience for Tampa Tornado fans, Alton will have hard-hitting, great arena football as he serves also as the Tornadoes general manager. “I believe we will have the best or one of the best receiver corps in the league. I know for a fact we will have the fastest,” Walker boasted about three Tornado receivers who run a 4.3 or better 40 time! On defense, Walker believes this team can hold opponents to under 50 points a game, no small feat in the action-packed arena league. I could not help but get excited for this team and upcoming season while talking with Walker about the fan experience, crisp routes, hard hits, and exciting football about to be brought to Tampa Bay’s great fans.

“The Brawl-For-It-All,” as Walker explains, will replace the “War on I-4” from the old arena league. This state rivalry will include the Tampa Tornadoes as well as the teams from Orlando and Jacksonville. There is nothing quite like an excellent in-state rivalry. The Tornadoes plan to kickoff their season at the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds with Stevie Thomas as head coach. Thomas is an Arena Football Hall of Famer who played for the Tampa Bay Storm from 1991 trough 1999, leading his team to four Arena Bowl Championships.

As a Tampa Bay sports junkie, I cannot wait to get my “game on” for the inaugural season of our new, exciting, fan-centric Tampa Bay Tornadoes! I hope you can join us at the Tampa Bay Fairgrounds this spring as we kickoff a new sports tradition in Tampa. Be safe, everyone.