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Arkansas has not had an indoor football league franchise for almost a decade, but it's the state's previous run with Arena Football 2 that enticed a fledgling league to establish a team in the state.

The 12-team National Gridiron League, which is set to debut in March, will have a franchise in Arkansas called the Twisters, a nod to the Arena Football 2 (af2) franchise that was in North Little Rock from 2000-2009.

Like the previous Arena Football 2 franchise, the Twisters -- which will be owned by the National Gridiron League -- will play their home games at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. The contract between the arena and the league is for one year, Verizon Arena General Manager Michael Marion said.

National Gridiron League President Joe McClendon III said the market and past history of arena football helped North Little Rock join the league.

"It's a valuable asset to the league," he said. "They're excited about the product coming back. It will be great for North Little Rock and Little Rock."

When the Twisters played in Arena Football 2, they set a single-game attendance record of 16,058 in their inaugural season in 2000. During their 10-year Arena Football 2 run, the Twisters averaged 7,344 fans per game.

"Arena football was the most successful tenant we had," Marion said. "Sometimes, when you bring something back, it's got a good chance to be successful."

The former Twisters franchise was renamed the Arkansas Diamonds in 2010 when it moved to the Indoor Football League, then moved to Allen, Texas, in 2011.

According to the National Gridiron League's website, Arkansas will play in the Western Conference along with franchises in Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and St. Louis. The Eastern Conference is comprised of teams from Georgia and Pennsylvania, and two teams apiece in Indiana and Virginia.

The Twisters will report for training camp March 10. The league's regular season is scheduled to begin March 29, with the Twisters' season opener set for March 30, McClendon said. A full schedule will be released Feb. 11. McClendon said the Twisters will have six Saturday home games and two Friday home games.

Season-ticket packages are available on the Twisters' website, twistersfootball.com, ranging from $85 to $640. Single-game tickets are not on sale yet, Marion said.

Matt Diniak, a former college and pro assistant coach, will be the Twisters' head coach. Former University of Arkansas defensive back De'Andre Coley and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff defensive end Nick Williams are part of the Twisters' roster. The NGL's active rosters will have 22 players, and six players will be assigned to the practice squad.

McClendon is looking forward to the inaugural season.

"It's going to be a high caliber of football," he said. "Our game will follow more traditional rules. There won't be any 90-point games. There will be more RPOs [read-pass option plays] and more running schemes involved."

With the NGL season lasting from March until the summer, Marion believes the Twisters can fill a void for football fans in the state.

"It will be like, 'Gosh, there's no football on TV,' " Marion said. "I'm a Mississippi State fan. How many times can I rewatch a Mississippi State game?

"People will really enjoy it."

Sports on 01/31/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas Twisters to be part of National Gridiron League, play games at Verizon Arena

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