Business owners bank on arena football's return

October 24, 2017 06:46 PM

ALBANY - In the past, when Arena Football fans were freaking out inside the Times Union Center, the excitement was spilling into the streets of Albany, and into the cash drawers of downtown business owners.

"Things are crazy down here on game nights," says Sal Sapienza, of Pizzeria Sapienza on South Pearl Street, directly in front of the TU Center. "We'll have a line out the door, four or five more people working, and we'll be in front serving slices and beer."

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The Times Union Center's General Manager Bob Belber says he too sees a return to the sights and sounds of the Albany Firebird glory years.

"You didn't just have season tickets, you had season tickets and you had to go," Belber says, "You felt like your friends were going to be there and it was the place to be seen."

One of the local owners of the team is Daniel Nolan, a partner at Hugh Johnson Advisors. He says he was in love with arena football the first time he saw it and he's equally enthused when he looks into a crystal ball.

"I see a very competitive football team with an amazing coaching staff, amazing players, and amazing fans," Nolan says, "I see filling the Times Union Center. I see parties in the streets. I see the repeat of the Firebirds at their zenith."

Michelle Vennard, of the Albany County convention & Visitors Bureau, says the community is hospitality saavy.

"You're adding to the vitality, the quality of life, and the economic importance and impact of this city," Vennard stated.

There is perhaps no greater impact then on the people who are banking on an arena football windfall.

"All the business owners downtown, they're excited," Sapienza says, "They've been waiting for this renovation (of the TU Center), waiting for this announcement for months now. I think it'll bring a new energy back to downtown Albany."

There's also an indication some people are convinced this arena team won't be a flash in the pan. George Hearst III, publisher and editor of the Times Union, whose also one of the local owners, said, "This team will be a pillar in the community for years to come."

A news conference Tuesday morning confirmed what NewsChannel 13 first reported last week.


More information:
Arena Football League: Name the team


WNYT Staff

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