IFL Spotlight: Bay Area Panthers

Justin Turpin
Pirates Writer
September 30, 2021

SAN JOSE, CA- Like many, 2020 was a strange year for the then Oakland Panthers. The Panthers were set to take on the Iowa Barnstormers on Saturday, March 14th 2020, when their season was canceled just 24 hours before kick-off due to Covid-19. Following the cancelation of the 2020 season, the Panthers went dormant, with intentions of playing in 2021 or 2022.

The Panthers were founded in 2019 and were set to play their inaugural season at the Oakland Arena but when the team shut down, it caused the organization to reevaluate, as they began to search for ways to best grow the organization while being cost efficient. Panthers’ owners Roy Choi and Marshawn Lynch, yes “Beast Mode”, as well as team President Scott McKibben had a big decision to make.

On August 16th 2021, at a press conference held outside of the SAP Center, home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, the Panthers announced they will be relocating 35 miles south to San Jose, and will be playing their home games at the SAP Center. The move came before the team ever took the field in Oakland. The team also announced that they would be changing their name to the Bay Area Panthers. Head Coach Kurt Bryan says the team decided on the name “Bay Area Panthers” because they still expect to draw fans from the Bay Area.

Teams relocating out of the Oakland area is nothing new to Bay Area sports fans, as the Raiders just moved from Oakland to Vegas in 2020. When asked about how the fans in Oakland will react to the team moving Coach Bryan said “I think a little bit of both [emotions]… you are going to have some fans that are obviously not happy and won’t support the team, but we’ve received a lot of great feedback from fans. You know, they are sad that we had to move down the freeway, but they are thrilled we didn’t move out of the Bay Area”.

The Panthers, named after The Black Panther Party, an African American Revolutionary party founded in 1966 in Oakland, expect to build off the strong base the San Jose SaberCats, formerly of the AFL, left behind. The SaberCats played in the AFL from 1995 to 2015, they played their home games at the SAP Center, now the home of the Panthers. From 1995 to 2008 the SaberCats averaged 11,864 fans per game. The SaberCats did not play 2009 and 2010, but returned in 2011 before playing their final season in 2015. From 2011 to 2015 the SaberCats averaged 99,235 fans per game. Coach Bryan says the Panthers expect the SAP Center to be rocking this season “The SaberCats were there for almost 20 seasons, and they built up a really good fanbase, a group of people, and new fans, that appreciated indoor pro football. So we expect it to be loud, rocking and rolling, and a lot of fun”.

The process of the Panthers coming together was very serendipitous, according to Coach Bryan. “I had never been to an arena game or indoor game live before the whole interview process started, but I had always been intrigued by it… During the interview process, Roy Choi took us down [to Arizona] because he wanted us to see a top flight organization in a top arena… so we went down and saw Nebraska Danger play the Arizona Rattlers… and at the end of the first quarter, I turned to Roy and said I’m in, I just loved it”.

That same day, team president Scott McKibben and owner Roy Choi met Marshawn Lynch at the game. The five-time NFL Pro Bowler was there watching his brother, Davonte Sapp- Lynch play for the Nebraska Danger, and the rest was history.

Coach Bryan’s Bay Area Panthers are one of four teams that will be playing in the IFL this season that didn’t play last season.

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at Phoenix Field at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA, 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508)452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available now at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For 2022 season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard