AFL announces Arena Bowl will return to New Orleans in 2008

Updated: December 16, 2007, 1:15 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The Arena Bowl, which came to New Orleans last summer as part of the Arena Football League's efforts to help the city recover from Hurricane Katrina, is returning next summer.

This time, officials said, they're coming back because it makes good business sense.

"It's great to have that blind date the first time, but you know you're serious if you go out again," AFL commissioner David Baker said during Sunday's announcement that Arena Bowl 22 would be in New Orleans.

"We were impressed," Baker said. "Everybody who was here thought it was a success."

Baker said the decision to return stems in large part from the city's exceptional fan support for the league.

The local team, the New Orleans VooDoo, was dormant for one season after Katrina hit, flooding much of the city and causing minor damage to the New Orleans Arena.

But the VooDoo sold out every game upon starting up again last season in the repaired arena, which holds 16,021 for arena football. The team also set a league record for season tickets sold with more than 13,000.

Arena Bowl 21, featuring teams from San Jose and Columbus, also sold out, while festivities tied to the game around the city also were well-attended.

"It's very important to our community because our community needs a lot of support," said Tom Benson, owner of both the NFL's New Orleans Saints and the VooDoo. "This is just one of the things that the VooDoo and the New Orleans Saints are doing to keep this community on the right track. ... The commissioner and all of the other owners recognize that this is a great place."

Although the city still covets a 10th Super Bowl, the Arena Bowl's return represents another victory for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, which works to lure large sporting events here.

The Sugar Bowl returned successfully last year and this year is expected to sell out with Georgia and Hawaii in the game. A week later, the Louisiana Superdome will host the BCS national championship. In February, the NBA All-Star Game comes to the New Orleans Arena, where the NBA's Hornets also have returned full time this season. In March, the arena hosts a regional round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

"The most important aspect of this is that the [AFL] made anther decision to come back to New Orleans based upon the business of doing an Arena Bowl in New Orleans," Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation president Jay Cicero said. "That's a great message that we want to send out to the rest of the country ... around the world, that you can bring your event to New Orleans, it can be successful. People are going to have a great time here."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press