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New football league eyes Ranch for headquarters

Major League Football is scouting the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch for its headquarters and training facilities.

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  • | 8:40 a.m. May 27, 2015
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — East County residents, are you ready for some football? Major League Football Inc., a new professional spring league, announced last week it may locate its headquarters and training facilities to the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch. 

MLFB’s announcement follows the Manatee County Commission’s May 19 approval of an economic development package for the league, which includes a $147,000 county economic development incentive grant and a $61,896 transportation impact fee incentive. MLFB anticipates it could create roughly 49 jobs over the next five years. 

“We were very excited,” said Frank Murtha, senior executive vice president for Major League Football. “The commission and all of the folks in various roles and capacities have been most aggressive in reaching out to us and trying to convince us to come there by helping us overcome other obstacles.” 

MLFB initially began looking at cities in Florida and Arizona that once had a Major League Baseball team that left behind a larger piece of land and building structures in place.

But along the way, MLFB discovered Premier — with its 22 fields, nine of which are lighted — and began looking into the possibility of moving its headquarters to Lakewood Ranch. The number of fields is what initially drew MLFB to Lakewood Ranch. The league’s goal was to find a facility where all 10 of its teams could conduct their training camps, which will run from February through mid-March, in the same area.

It’s not a done deal yet, though.

Although the commission approved the incentive package, MLFB is still considering other locations for its headquarters and training facilities, including sites in Orlando, Arizona and Texas. 

One of the largest obstacles for the league is finding an area with enough hotels to accommodate the 800 players, along with their families and the approximately 200 coaches, staff and other personnel who will need housing and office space throughout training camp. 

“We can’t have a bunch of guys sleeping in tents, so that is the next hurdle,” Murtha said.

MLFB also has been looking at whether it will be able to feed roughly 1,000 people three times a day through full-service hotel restaurants and catering facilities. 

Murtha said the league hopes to have a final decision in place in the coming weeks. 

“The approval of the grant has accelerated our pace,” Murtha says. “I think we are hopeful that we’ll be coming up with a concrete decision fairly soon.” 

MLFB is scheduled to kick off its first season in spring 2016. Each of the league’s 10 teams would bring 80 players to training camp. Players will be selected through both a regional draft, in which a team will have preferential rights to a certain number from the surrounding area, as well as a regular allocation draft. 

Rosters will eventually be cu from 80 to 45 active players with an additional eight or so practice squad members. 

“I think there’s a big demand for really good football,” said former Southeast High School and Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson, who now plays arena football for the Los Angeles KISS. “There are a ton of really good football players out there.”

For players, it’s all about finding an opportunity in the right system at the right time, McPherson said. More options for players are a plus. 

“If you get to a team and there’s a really good player ahead of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t play,” McPherson said. “It’s all about getting in the right situation to showcase your skills.” 

GLC Athletics Founder and CEO Rodrick Miller, a former arena football league wide receiver, agrees. 

“It could benefit a lot of players who may have gotten overlooked or may not have taken advantage of previous opportunities,” Miller said. “It all depends on who is behind it and supporting it, but that brings to the community a lot of guys just looking for that one last shot.” 

Teams will play at least 10 games, with the possibility of 12 games, beginning in mid-March and ending in June. MLFB also will have at least one round of playoff games with a championship game to wrap up the season. 

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected]

“I think there’s a big demand for really good football. There are a ton of really good football players out there.”


– former Southeast High School and Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson




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