Corey Galloway stood at the steps of the Westchester County Center and looked up at video boards showing the helmet logo of the New York Streets and the home games scheduled to be played in White Plains. All the Streets owner could do is smile after years of hard work with his wife Tamara to bring an Arena Football franchise back to New York after an eleven year absence.
“I’m excited to see it all come to fruition,” said Galloway at a press conference Tuesday to introduce the Streets to Westchester County.
Galloway watched his team begin their inaugural National Arena League season this past Saturday with a 52-41 road win against the Jacksonville Sharks but this Saturday, the Streets will play their home opener when they welcome the Orlando Predators to the County Center. With an intimate seating capacity along with the high-scoring, exciting and fan-friendly nature of the sport, the atmosphere is going to be crazy with the fans basically right on top of the field.
“We’re really excited and I think the closed-in atmosphere of this arena compared to other arenas in the league will be a big help for our team,” said Head Coach Rick Marsilio who assembled an expansion team that stunned the Arena Football world in Jacksonville.
“I think the bar has been set pretty high now. The expectation is there now and we just need to get better every practice.”
It’s been eleven years since New York has had an Arena Football team. After the 2008 season, the Arena Football League shut down for a season and when it returned in 2010, the New York Dragons did not creating an indoor football void in the New York area. The Dragons built a strong fan base playing at the Nassau Coliseum, but since they departed, there’s a new crop of young football fans ready to experience Arena Football.
Take my kids for example. My older son Bradley was just three years old when the Dragons played their final game and my younger Jared wasn’t even born yet. This Saturday, they’re going to be a part of history at the Streets’ first home game.
“There’s an entire generation who hasn’t seen Arena Football in this area so it will be great for the kids who will be close to the field,” said Galloway. “I think that’s going to be phenomenal.”
The NAL kicked off in 2017 and in just their third season has been able to award a team to New York and bring back a legendary Arena Football franchise like Orlando. The National Arena League has big plans in terms of expansion, but they have reached a major milestone by adding the Streets and the Predators.
“It’s absolutely crucial,” said NAL Commissioner Chris Siegfried. “We believe the New York Streets give us even more credibility than we thought we had. We’ve been trying to build this league for three years now and New York, along with Orlando, are two huge acquisitions for this league.”
Now that there’s a New York franchise again, there is an opportunity for local players like New Rochelle’s Ray Durrett to play for the hometown team. The Streets’ linebacker and defensive end is expected to make his NAL debut on Saturday night in a building that he’s been to so many times as a fan.
And he’s going to have a big cheering section of family and friends.
“I definitely have chills,” said Durrett. “This is going to be my first professional football game in a place where I’ve watched professional athletes play before like Westchester Knicks games. In an indescribable feeling.”
Indescribable is certainly how Corey Galloway felt this past Saturday when Head Coach Rick Marsilio gave the owner the game ball after the win over Jacksonville and it will certainly be his feeling this Saturday when he sees his team take the field at the County Center for the first time.
Galloway went to New York Dragons games and had a dream and a vision to bring Arena Football back to New York. That dream has been a reality.
“I’m excited to see (Arena Football) come to the County Center,” said Galloway. “We’re happy about this weekend and happy about every game as we continue to grow our product and continue to get the fans engaged.”
Eleven years is a long time but the waiting comes to an end on Saturday night when the New York Streets step onto their home field for the very first time. The Westchester County Center has a chance to be one of the great home field advantages, not just in Arena Football, but in any sport. It’s going to be loud in the building and the fans are going to be a big part of the atmosphere.
I worked for the New York Dragons for eight years and I always maintain that it was, along with working for New York Sports Day, the best job I ever had. Congrats and thanks to Corey and Tamara Galloway for the chance to experience this again.
Welcome back Arena Football. I’ve missed you.