Last year Dallas Hartwell was granted a future expansion team to his now hometown of Sacramento, California, where he would return the Sacramento Bandits, one of the SFL’s original franchises. However, in order for Hartwell to be granted his expansion he needed to find an expansion partner to keep the franchise count even, and secure new ownership for the Dallas Six-Shooters, which he would be giving up to run the Sacramento franchise along with the Omaha Express.
After some debate whether the league should stay at 30 teams for another year or two or just expand to the 32 teams that the league is headed two anyway, it was decided by league owners than expanding right away was the better option and a new second expansion franchise was founded, at the same time a new owner was found for the Six-Shooters.
Ryan Clark is the man for both. Clark will take over the Six-Shooters next season and was also granted his own expansion team, the first expansion team the long-time SFL owner has ever had in his 17 years of involvement.
Clark has announced he will place his new expansion team in Jacksonville, Florida where they will play in the 67,814 seat TIAA Bank Stadium. The team will be called the Stingrays and will have a Deep Atlantic Blue, Navy Gray and White color scheme. Martin Mayhew has already been announced as the team’s Vice President of Football Operations and Steve Spurrier has already been hired as the team’s first head coach. The Stingways will contract with Florida State, Florida Atlantic and Florida A&M as their territorial schools.
“I’m thankful to Commissioner Corey Johns for making this a reality, as well as Dallas Hartwell and Chris Dunn for their roles in my return to the Spring Football League,” Clark said. “There are more thanks and acknowledgments that I’ll get to in my official team release. That said, it’s a thrill and a pleasure to announce that I’ve brought the Spring Football League back to Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville was always at the top of the list and history has shown that the city and region loves its football. … We’re looking forward to hitting the ground running and bringing a winning franchise to North Florida.”
Jacksonville is the 40th-ranked city in the United States with a population of 1,504,980. While Jacksonville also hosts the NFL’s Jaguars there are no other major professional sports teams n the city, and nothing to counter the spring schedule of the SFL. Jacksonville goes have a few minor league teams, including the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Baseball), Jacksonville Giants (Basketball), Jacksonville Icemen (Ice Hockey), Jacksonville Sharks (Indoor Football), and Jacksonville Armada FC (Soccer).
With Clark taking over the Six-Shooters and getting his new expansion franchise, he will relinquish ownership of the Houston Wranglers, which he took over midway through last season. The Wranglers new owner starting in 2020 will be Alberto Garcia, who returned to the league this season with the Oklahoma Roughnecks expansion franchise. Garcia has committed to keeping the team in Houston despite much speculation that he may move them to his home state of Colorado to bring the Scramblers back into the SFL.
“I am delighted to take over the Houston franchise next season and continue the impressive work started by Ryan Clark,” Garcia said. “The Houston area has a rich football tradition, from the high school games played Friday nights in places like Galena Park and Texas City, to the passionate college football fans who gather on Saturdays. This same enthusiasm extends to the professional game and the great fans of this area deserve a successful and competitive professional football franchise. I commit to the Houston area that I will work tirelessly to give you a winning team and as long as I have the pleasure of owning this club, they will remain in Houston, Texas. As a Texas native, there’s no way this franchise is moving under my watch.”
Other ownership and team movement coming next season will be Chris Hernandez joining the league after winning the D-League Championship with the Fresno Fighters in his first year. Hernandez, a native of California, will take over the Los Angeles Stars franchise, which was previously owned by Eric Murray for the past three seasons.
“We are absolutely excited and honored to be the next in line in taking over the Stars,” Hernandez said. “Los Angeles is one of the most prestigious cities, not only on the west coast, but in the entire world; filled with superstars, luxury and pristine. However, the biggest one that sets us apart is winning. Championship City will reign true and we’re excited to continue to enjoyment of football to the wonderful people of LA. Welcome to the era of Xcellence!”
Murray made the sacrifice to bring in a new, committed owner. He still has his Iowa franchise, but as part of the agreement for bringing in a new owner, Murray has been granted approval to move his Threshers franchise to his native Buffalo, New York. A new name will be announced later. Murray gave Iowa a very good chance, but the limited population in Des Moines and Ames both last year and so far this year.
“It’s sad to see us move from Iowa so quickly. We have learned in our short time there that the fans are very passionate about football and I think we’ve proven that professional football can be successful in the heartland of America,” Murray said. “That being said, we are excited about our move to Buffalo. It’s a city that’s on its way up and deserves a team that is successful.”
The SFL will look to continue partnering with Iowa in some sort of fashion moving forward.
With regards to his expansion to Sacramento, Dallas Hartwell said in a release: “We gonna burn this fucker down. We will conquer our enemies. And hear the lamentations of their women.”