By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – Arena football will return to Florence for the first time since 2009. It’s in the form of the American Arena League champion, Atlanta Havoc.
Make that, when next season starts: The Carolina Havoc.
Havoc general manager Josh Resignalo, who confirmed the move to the Morning News on Thursday, said the team has signed a one-year lease with the Florence Center.
“Everything is done. I’ve got all the turf and everything moved there this past weekend,” said Resignalo, who was offensive coordinator last season but will also take over as coach after the team relocates to Florence. “Ultimately, they gave us a great deal as far as being a tenant there with our arena lease.”
The 2019 campaign will be the second overall for not only the Havoc but the league. It has a 12-game regular season, from March until June, with a two-game postseason.
The Florence Phantoms (2006-09) were the last arena team to play in Florence, winning the American Indoor Football Association championship in 2008. And in 2016, a South Carolina Ravens American Indoor Football League squad tried to gain traction in Florence. But it never came to fruition. The team is now in Charleston and part of the Supreme Indoor Football League.
The Havoc made their championship run with their home field being the Buford City Arena, in Buford, Ga.
Resignalo said the team had two other new sites to choose besides Florence: Little Rock, Ark., and Pensacola, Fla.
So why Florence?
“It’s strictly business,” Resignalo said. “They were talking about raising our rent. And going into the second year there in Buford, we had already paid quite a bit of money per game. It did not fit the business model for the owners.”
The team’s owner when last season started was former XFINITY and Truck Series driver Tim Viens. But Viens resigned midway through the season, leaving the ownership to Heath Tate, Kelli Powers and Chris Duffy. Those three remain the co-owners as the team moves to Florence.
“When the new owners assumed majority ownership of the team, they found that remaining in Buford was not necessarily the best business decision,” Resignalo said. “So for them to keep operating a team, they needed a better city to go to that’s more in line with their business model, and we felt Florence is that in all aspects for us.”
Resignalo also explained why the team agreed to just a one-year lease.
“We wanted a multiple-year lease,” Resignalo said. “But we want to get situated and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Playing in Florence is also a treat for Resignalo, since he played against the Phantoms during the 2006 and ’07 seasons with teams based out of North Carolina. And he lives one state over.
“My home is right outside of Raleigh, N.C., in Garner,” Resignalo said. “So, it’s much closer for me to go to Florence than the other two cities we were looking at.”
The 2019 campaign will be Resignalo’s 13th overall in the league. After coaching the High Country Grizzlies in 2017, he resigned before the 2018 campaign and joined the Havoc under then-coach Gerald “Boo” Mitchell, a former Vanderbilt football star. Mitchell will remain an assistant at North Gwinnett High School, in Georgia.
Now that Resignalo will be the coach next season, as well as G.M., he thinks his team can quickly gain a lot of momentum.
“I think (being the league champion) will create a buzz in our favor in showing we’re not an expansion team,” he said. “A lot of our success in Atlanta came from the product we put on the field.”
And Resignalo thinks this team will make a bigger impact than the Phantoms did.
“It’s about our ownership group and the business model,” Resignalo said. “Arena football itself is entertainment. It’s about putting on a show, being involved with the community. On game day, it’s basically going to be a show, and then a football game breaks out.”
A youth arena football league and cheer team are among the team’s goals.
“We’d even like to start a reading program with the elementary schools,” Resignalo said. “We think if we can prove to the city and the Pee Dee area that we’re there for the right reasons, we’ll get the support we want.
“We won’t last without the support from the area.”