Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

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Thomas & Mack Turns 25:

No. 23: Fade pattern

Two failed franchises, poorly attended title games leave penalty flags for indoor football in Las Vegas

Beyond the Sun

Editor's Note: In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Thomas & Mack Center's opening on Nov. 21, 1983, the Sun is celebrating the building's colorful history with a top 25 countdown - to No. 1 on Nov. 21, 2008 - of the biggest events held inside the arena located on UNLV's campus.

What do you do with a perfectly good basketball arena that isn't being used in June?

Turn it into a perfectly good indoor football arena.

The Thomas & Mack Center literally rolled out the carpet for the Arena Football League in 2005 as the ultimate 50-Yard Indoor War -- ArenaBowl XIX -- invaded Las Vegas.

It was the first time the ArenaBowl was held at a neutral site. The game was less than a success, as a modest crowd of 10,822 -- the smallest in ArenaBowl history -- turned out to watch the Colorado Crush edge the Georgia Force, 51-48.

The gate for ArenaBowl XX, also held at the Thomas & Mack Center, was better as 13,476 were on hand to watch the Chicago Rush defeat the Orlando Predators, 69-61.

The following year, the league took its end-zone nets and men in motion and celebrity owners such as Jon Bon Jovi and moved it all to New Orleans, where the ArenaBowl sold out in both 2007 and 2008.

The ArenaBowls played in Las Vegas were the culmination of the Thomas & Mack's long and checkered past with indoor football, which saw it host two failed franchises -- the Sting and the Gladiators -- as well as the two championship games.

While indoor football did not make it in Las Vegas, it provided a lot of affordable enjoyment for a lot of local fans over the years -- not to mention players hailing from dots on the college football map such as Otterbein and Illinois Benedictine and C.W. Post and Colorado School of Mines, who took perverse pleasure in slamming each other into the boards.

As one of the ArenaBowl coaches put it, "We're all in Arena football for a reason. A lot of guys here were told they weren't good enough by somebody."

They were good enough for the Thomas & Mack Center, if only for a little while.

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