ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The news came as a shock to fans and players alike. The Albany Empire may never play another game at the Times Union Center.
It appears to be at no fault of their own.
“This isn’t a team leaving for greener pastures. This is a team that, if it does end up being done, had absolutely no other option,” said Jeff Levack.
Levack is the on-field Master of Ceremonies for the Albany Empire. He saw first hand the passion the Arena Bowl champions had for the game and the genuine connection they shared with the community.
“They did it right and they won. It was awesome. I was able to sneak into post-game celebration with bottles popping thinking this is going to be the first of many,” said Levack.
Now, it seems that the sins of the past are ripping away their chance to defend their title. Arena Football League Commissioner Randall Boe said they are ceasing operations for several teams, including Albany. The AFL cited financial constraints linked to a multi-million dollar insurance lawsuit regarding an issue under the previous administration between 2009 and 2012.
The thousands of fans that packed the TU and block parties week after week were left frustrated and in utter disbelief.
“The amount of people that went to the games and the support they had… I was shocked,” said Devan Weis.
Not to mention, many of the players picked up their families and moved to Albany.
“You’re a free agent after every season and guys wanted to come here because of the fan support,” said Levack.
Empire fanatic, John Kane, said he and his family never missed a game — home or away — in the last two years. They even had a chance to have the Arena Bowl trophy and belt at their home for a weekend. They, too, have developed close relationships with many of the players.
Kane said he’s not even thinking about his pre-paid season tickets right now. Instead, he’s holding onto hope.
“The league employs a lot of great people and my thoughts go to them first,” he said.
The team posted that tryouts have been postponed until further notice. As far as season tickets go, they will address that once a final decision is made in a few weeks.