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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND GLADIATORS

CLEVELAND GLADIATORS

The CLEVELAND GLADIATORS, a member of the Arena Football League, is the city's representative in the Mitsubishi Eastern Division in the National Conference. The team moved to Cleveland for the beginning of the 2008 season going 9-7 during the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs, losing the AFL title game to the Philadelphia Soul.

The team started as the New Jersey Red Dogs in 1997, and remained as such until 2000. For the 2001 and 2002 seasons, they changed their name to the New Jersey Gladiators after Cleveland and Florida lawyer Jim Ferraro purchased the team. Prior to the 2003 season Ferraro moved the Gladiators to Las Vegas, where they struggled to post a winning season. In October of 2007 he chose to move the Gladiators to Cleveland, to be more involved with the daily workings of the team. The move to Cleveland also brought Boardman, Ohio, native and former CLEVELAND BROWNS quarterback Bernie Kosar into the team¿s fold. Kosar is president and minority owner of the Gladiators, where he oversees football operations and player decisions.

The Cleveland Gladiators were the city's first entry in the AFL since 1992 to 1994, when the Thunderbolts played in Richfield Coliseum. The Gladiators were led during their inaugural season in Cleveland by General Manager Mike Levy and Coach Mike Wilpolt, named AFL coach of the year in 2008. Second year receiver Otis Amey set a franchise record with 48 touchdown receptions and led the AFL in 2008 with 302 points. The Gladiators played their home games in QUICKEN LOANS ARENA, and drew 112,225 fans during their eight regular season games, for an average of 14,028 per game. This was a franchise record for attendance.

During the 2008 season there were 17 teams in the AFL, including the intrastate rival Columbus Destroyers. The AFL plays on a field that is 50 yards long and 85 feet wide. Goal posts are nine feet wide, with a crossbar height of fifteen feet. Games include four 15 minute quarters and a 12 minute halftime.